Dark Chocolate Cake with Blood Orange Frosting

My husband once tried to set me up with a very short rodeo clown named Jed.

When we first met he was dating someone else and asked me to double date with his then—girlfriend and her cousin—the aforementioned cowboy. We met at an establishment famous for their baby back ribs, and I drank a lot of tequila. Like, a lot.

No one at the table talked but me and Matt—about what I can't remember—but needless to say there was no romance with the rodeo clown. 

Several months later, Matt was single and asked me to watch his band play. He played bass in a cover band and by this point I'd begun to think he was pretty cute. So I agreed, and when I walked in and watched him jamming it was basically over—ladies, amiright?

December 2, 2006 we had our official first date.

Drinks and a snowball fight in the park. 

Since that day I've known how he's felt about me. He's always respected me, supported me, been my equal. He was supposed to graduate that December—and thanks to a royal screw-up on his adviser's part—he had to stay an extra semester.

We always joked that we would invite his adviser to our wedding—thanking him as the indirect cause for the success of our relationship—but our wedding came and went and we forgot to invite Roger.

We lived apart for a year—I eventually joined him in Kentucky—and even though that year was tough (and really expensive traveling back and forth) it made us really strong.

We've now celebrated ten birthdays together, which feels like a lot of birthdays. That's ten different cakes. The first cake I made for him was German Chocolate and was it awful. But Matt doesn't care about stuff like that. To Matt, cake is cake. He's extremely balancing to me—thank god. To me, every meal feel like it needs to be special. And to Matt, as long as it makes him full, he's grateful. I need more of him.

If I'm ever on death row—not that I can ever think of an instance why I would be—and I need to pick a last meal, they better start the conversation with me at least two weeks before I'm set to die. 

My relationship with my husband is special. He climbs giant mountains, I like my feet planted right here on the ground, thank you very much. He prefers to do a lot of research about something before making a purchase, I'm much more impulsive. He's cool under pressure, I'm more of a firecracker.

But one thing is for sure, we love each other even when when we don't. I can always count on this one person in my life to love me and laugh with me—even when life feels so completely unfunny. I can always count on him to make me pretty and loved. And I can always count on him to leave his eBay searches open so I can see what hiking boots he wants to buy, but doesn't need.

This cake, his favorite combination of flavors, is in celebration of his 32nd trip around the sun.

TO MAKE THIS CAKE YOU WILL NEED

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup safflower oil
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Get prepped. I made a six-inch three-layer cake, but you can make a two-lay 9-inch cake if you'd like. This recipe has enough batter for either. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cake pans with parchment and grease lightly with oil. 

Dries and wets; wets and dries. In a medium mixing bowl add all dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. In a large mixing bowl add wet ingredients and whisk until combined. In several additions, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, making sure not to over mix.

Bake, bake, bake. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.

FOR THE FROSTING

(This was enough for a naked cake. Frosting is not Matt's favorite. But if you like a more even cake to frosting ratio, go ahead and double it.)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons blood orange juice
1 tablespoon blood orange zest
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat cream cheese and butter until completely smooth. Beat in juice and zest and neat until well combined. With the mixer on low, beat in sugar. Gradually increase the speed on the mixer and mix until frosting is smooth. Use to frost completely cooled cakes.

Adapted from Rooted Magazine, Winter 2015.

 

 

 

Biscuits (and Buzz Cuts)

I'm betting if you're here it's because you care about food on some level. You may not consider yourself a foodie—whatever that means—but on some level you have a connection with what you're consuming. You want to know where your ingredients come from, you have strong memories of the recipes you used to eat as a kid, or of your family eating together at the holidays—OR—my mom convinced you to read this thing—which is fine too; I could use the readers. Thanks, Ma. 

When I moved to Colorado in 2006 I was never more unsure of myself. I had been accepted to grad school and decided to take that route because school was the only thing I had ever been good at. I had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up—and quite honestly, I still have no idea—so it seemed like the natural next step. I remember moving day; standing in a parking lot—my dad squeezing me tight, both of us crying (he's more of a Jewish mother than my own)—and him whispering in my ear, "You can do this." Uh, I wasn't so sure. 

I moved to a tiny town—a blip on a map. I hated it. I lived with my friend and her toddler—who's going to be 14 later this year—yikes. I was lonely, had starting dating a schmuck, and was in an art program where I felt like I didn't fit in. 

And then two things happened that would change my life forever: I met the man with a buzz cut who would later become my husband (and who was actually my employee at the time—ay-oh!); and I bought a cookbook, called With a Measure of Grace, at the local bookstore.

This cookbook, from Hell's Backbone Grill, a restaurant run by two women in Boulder, UT—a blip on a map—is one of the most thoughtfully written books I've ever read. It made me think about cooking, and ingredients, and farms, and people, and the ways we gather together around food unlike ever before.

Sometimes it can feel silly to wax poetic about breakfast—but it's the meals we share with friends, the cookies we bake with our grandmothers, the local restaurants we grow to love—that shape our memories. 

I read the book cover to cover, engrossing myself in the stories of the Buddhist monks who visit the restaurant, the staff who've become family, and the farmers dedicated to growing and raising food. And then I got to cooking—and by this time I had brand new boy to cook and bake for.

This biscuit recipe is from their cookbook and it's one of my favorites. I've made some slight changes to theirs, but the gist is still the same buttery, flaky deliciousness you'd want in a biscuit.

Now get off your own biscuit and go make these.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
8 tablespoons butter, really cols and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of cold buttermilk

Cold meets hot. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. You want to keep your other ingredients really cold. It's the best way to get nice, flaky biscuits. Let your oven get really hot, at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile line a 9 x 11-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal.

Prepare your dries. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, soda, powder, and sugar until well combined.

Add the buttah. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixer resembles coarse crumbs.

Now the buttahmilk. Pour the buttermilk over the top of the mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold in the milk, rotating the bowl with each fold. The mixture should be moist and sticky with very few dry patches.

Turn out for what. Turn the dough out on to a floured counter and lightly flour your hands. Lightly press the dough into a rectangle about an inch thick. Then fold it in on itself in thirds, like a letter. Add a little flour to the stack and light roll or press the stack back down to an inch-thick rectangle. Turn the rectangle and repeat the folding process two more times, being gentle with the stack. End with a 1-inch high rectangle of dough. 

Slice 'n bake. Place the rectangle of biscuit dough on the prepared pan with the cornmeal. Using a knife, and hopefully better measuring skills than I have, cut biscuits into two-inch squares and leave attached to each other on the pan. Sprinkle with the other tablespoon of cornmeal.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for more than the 10 seconds I wait, to avoid scalding your fingers and tongue, then top with your favorite jam.

Asparagus, Eggs + Parmesan

Every season is my favorite season.

I guess this happens when you grow up with two seasons: summer and summerer.

I lived in southern California until about age 11 and then lived in the Phoenix area until 22. I didn't experience snowfall until 23 when I moved to Colorado for graduate school. I remember hearing for about a week that it was going to snow—the anticipation was killing me. I was sitting in my office, looking out the window, when it happened.

I ran outside like a child, face up to the sky, mouth open—ready for someone to have men in white coats take me away. But I didn't care. It seemed so magical to me. It covered every dirty, unattractive blemish. It still seems that way to me—almost ten years later.

Since that first snow I've seen how harsh the seasons can be. I've experienced destructive lightning, rain, flooding, ice, and snow. And I'm never more amazed than when—each March—the soil gives way to new growth, the trees sport their new buds, and we see just how forgiving the earth can be—just like people.

When asparagus makes its first appearance at our local market, we know that warmer weather and longer days are around the corner—the earth forgives yet again. 

This recipe is simpler than simple—calling it a recipe at all feels a little over the top. It does, however, make a beautiful breakfast that celebrates the season. So, grab some eggs and get to crackin'. 

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

12 asparagus stalks (thick ones), woody ends removed
6 eggs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved

Prepare-agus... the asparagus. Using a vegetable peeler, start at the top of the stalk and peel ribbons all the way to the end. You'll be left with a thicker piece, which is ok. Toss asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper.

Arrange asparagus in the skillet. Create little dams with the asparagus ribbons, building up the walls so that the eggs will stay inside.

Cook your eggs. Heat your pan with the asparagus over low heat for several minutes. Add a small amount of olive oil to each open space. Heat for another minute. Crack an egg, being careful not break the yolks, in each open space and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are runny, about 4-5 minutes. 

Remove from heat. And top with more salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Sugared Popovers with Goat Cheese

My grandma Sylvia—when she had her wits about her, as they say—was a chef. She was funny, creative, and little meshugganah. She owned her own restaurants, created innovative menus, and hosted dinners where she cooked elaborate meals for family and friends.

My grandpa—the chief dishwasher—adored her. My mom and I recently found stacks of letters they wrote to each other in the 30s. Back and forth, referring to one another as "my darling", they shared stories of what they were doing and how they missed each other. 

 

I've learned a lot about food from my grandmotherand I probably get some of my craziness from her too. I learned not to overmix cakes, the correct way to chop nuts, and the importance of presentation from her. And I like to think that if she had any idea what day it was—or what my name is—she'd follow this blog. "Bubbeleh," she'd say, "I'm so proud of you. Now, taste this chicken."

Learning from the greatest doesn't make me immune to kitchen mishaps. I have had some serious baking disasters in my day: Cakes that implode, pies that leak, bread loaves that could break windows. But I never feel more like a magician than when I make popovers. The ingredients and directions are simple and I've never had them... pop under. If you catch my drift.

They feel fancy and they taste like heaven. What more could you want out of a pastry? Calorie-free? Ain't gonna happen.  You can make them sweet or savoryor both—in this case. With a small dollop of creamy goat cheese and quick roll in sugar, these popovers are somethin' else. 

If the combination doesn't suit your fancy, you can omit the sugar, the cheese, or both.

Now, pop on down to the recipe.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. If you decide at the last minute that you're going to make popovers (like me), you can bring your eggs to room temp by placing them in a bowl of warm water for ten minutes and warm your milk until the chill is gone.

Preheat your oven and your pan. Having a hot oven and hot pan are crucial. Don't ask me to explain science, just trust me. So, preheat your oven to 425. Spread softened butter all over your popover pan (you can try a muffin tin, but I used a popover pan and can't vouch for a muffin tin). Heat the pan in the hot oven for two minutes.

Mix up your batter. In a large mixing bowl (I used an 8-cup measuring cup with a spout to make pouring the batter easy), combine the melted butter, milk, and eggs, whisking until well combined. Add in the flour and salt and whisk until the large lumps are gone.

Fill your pan. Pour batter into hot, greased tin, filling each cup a little over halfway full. Place a dollop (a couple teaspoons) of goat cheese into the center of each cup.

Bake on. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes on the nose. No matter how bad you want to see the magic: Do. Not. Open. The. Oven.

Marvel at the magic and give 'em a roll. Take the pan out of the oven and let popovers cool for a minute. Place sugar in a shallow dish. Carefully remove popovers from the pan and roll in sugar, coating each side.

recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties

 

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Ganache

I spent 23 years of my life hating cake. 23 YEARS! 

I was always the kid who had birthday cookies. Or birthday pie. Or birthday "something other than cake". Then, around my 23rd birthday, I made a red velvet cake for a friend and the world as I knew it had changed. The cake was the perfect combination of not-too-sweet, tangy (from the cream cheese frosting), and substantial—unlike the grocery store cakes I had tasted all my life.

I didn't grow up with a baking mom. But don't cry for me. My mom kicks ass at about a million other things. All it means it that I've had a lot of making up to do for the last nine years. A lot.

So much making up to do, in fact, that I even had a small cupcake business when we lived in Kentucky. Pretty big step for a kid who hated cake all her life. I just knew that I had to share this new-found love of cake with the world—or at least my town.

Recently I got to share my love of cake with some friends of ours who got engaged. My husband and I knew about the proposal before the question was popped and it was like knowing the best secret in the worldunless you hate love; in which case, forget you.

I was nervous all night, knowing what was about to happen. Then around 8:15 on February 13—when I felt like I was going to pee in my pants and couldn't take it any longer—he got down on one knee, in front of all their friends, and asked her. And she said, "Well, of course!" 

And then it was time for cake.

I guess the cake could've come in handy if she said no, too. Nothing like a whole chocolate cake to help you eat your feelings.

This cake may sound posh— as they say across the pond—but the flavors are simple and delicate. I had never had Early Grey and chocolate together, but this cake was so delicious that it might be my new go-to chocolate cake.

Earl Grey is black tea with the addition of bergamot oil. Yum. I topped the cake with a thick ganache made with more tea steeped in cream and bittersweet chocolate. Yum again.

And without further ado. Let's make a cake.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

6 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea
1 cup water boiling water
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream

FOR THE GANACHE:
1 tablespoon loose Earl Grey tea or 2 tea bags
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1 cup heavy cream

Prepare your pan: I normally wouldn't explain this so much, but my first attempt yielded a cake that wouldn't budge from the pan. Lucky husband. An extra cake! The second time I buttered the crap out of the bundt pan and then sprinkled cocoa powder over it until every nook and cranny and was covered. Do this. Trust me. It came out with ease.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Make the tea: Steep tea in water for 3-5 minutes.

Dries: In a medium bowl, whisk flour, soda, powder, and salt until well combined.

Wets: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one and at a time and continue beating until well combined, another couple minutes. Stir in melted chocolate. Add dries to wets and mix until just combined. Mix in tea and sour cream.

Bake a cake: Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto cooling rack.

Make the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and let the tea steep in the hot cream for a couple minutes. Place chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over top. Let stand for 10 minutes without stirring. Stir gently until chocolate is melted and combined with cream. It'll thicken as it cools. Wait until the cake has cooled and the ganache is of pouring consistency, but thickened, and pour it over top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Let's eat. 

recipe adapted from Real Simple.