Tag Archives: chocolate

The Cake Slice: Chocolate Marble Sheet Cake

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If you ever had even the remotest of urges to bake a cake from scratch, THIS is THE CAKE to bake.

Reason #1: All you need is a standard 13 x 9 pan. No fancy round pans, stacking, or balancing act needed.

Reason #2: It’s THAT good. As in, the stuff of dreams. Moist, delicious, marble crumb. Smooth, rich, chocolate buttercream.

Here is the link to the recipe: Chocolate Marble Sheet Cake

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This is THE CAKE that you want to bake for a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation…really any day of the week. Wednesday will do. Yeah…we made it half way through the week. Now, let’s eat cake.

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As I mentioned in last month’s post, I’ve joined a new gym and have embarked on a rigorous daily workout program. Cake has never been further from my mind. As proof: my 25 pound bag of flour has sat lonely in the cupboard, barely seeing the light of day over the past several weeks, only to appear briefly to dispense a cup or two here or there for a batch of pancakes for the kids. In earlier days, I could go through a 25 pound bag in a matter of weeks. On big baking days, I could burn through a good 10 pounds of flour without blinking. Notice my tiny 5 pound bag…isn’t it cute?!?!

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I’ve been on such a good roll with my new cake-less routine and healthy diet, that I almost skipped baking this month’s cake. But then, with only 2 days to spare until the monthly cake reveal, I decided to give the four options a quick look and decided that if I had everything on hand, I’d give it a go.

Boy, am I glad I did.

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This cake. THIS CAKE. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel about this cake. All I can say is that it’s just that good. It’s that good AND it’s easy. I literally mixed up the batter, plopped the white batter in the pan, plopped the chocolate batter on top, and baked it. Once it cooled completely, I whipped up the buttercream, sampled some, plopped it on the cake, sampled some more….it was SO good, and smoothed it with a spatula. And then…well luckily my camera was close because I barely got a picture of the finished cake snapped before I couldn’t resist cutting into it and carving out a huge chunk.

Needless to say, this cake did not last long in our house. Just make it. Trust me.

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Check out what the other Cake Slice Bakers made this month.

The Cake Slice: Espresso Cake with Hot Kahlua Syrup and Milk Chocolate Ganache

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It’s a miracle that I survived this month’s cake challenge. And that the cake actually did get baked…just in the nick of time. And that I actually have pictures to show you.

The forces were definitely against me this month.

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Notice how the majority of my pictures depict the ingredients rather than the final creation?

When I first learned of the chosen cake for March, espresso cake with hot Kahlua syrup, I was really looking forward to baking it. Coffee and chocolate are some of my favorite things. Add to that a splash of Kahlua, and now we’re talking.

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The first indication of trouble was when I read through the ingredient list in preparation for my next shopping trip. Flour, eggs, cocoa powder….all typical cake stuff.

And then, espresso powder. Hmmm???

First, what is it? And second, can I just substitute coffee grounds?

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So, I began by googling “what is espresso powder“ and quickly learned that it’s finely ground espresso beans, basically instant espresso, that is sometimes used in recipes to intensify the flavor of chocolate.

Ok. That made sense.

So, then I googled “espresso powder substitute” and that’s where things got interesting. There is no good substitute. Nothing.

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Long story short: three weeks passed, my baking deadline was imminent, four grocery stores in two states had been searched, and no espresso powder was to be found. Fortunately, I made a stop at a high-end grocery store near my office as a last ditch effort, and there it was. Espresso powder. Two lovely ounces for $4.39.

Espresso powder in hand, I made my way home, ready to bake. It was Friday night. The plan was to whip up a batch of homemade mac and cheese, watch a little TV with the family, and then get baking as soon as I put the kids to bed. That’s not exactly how it went.

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You see, this recipe requires a good amount of prep time even before it goes into the oven. First, you have to dissolve the espresso powder into boiling water and set it aside to cool. Then, you have to triple sift the dry ingredients – I cheated and only single-sifted. After more mixing, whipping, and sugar adding…one tablespoon at a time over the course of 6 to 8 minutes, per the recipe, the cake is finally ready for the oven.

The cake bakes for an hour. After that, you let it cool for 15 minutes in the pan, while you prepare the hot Kahlua syrup, and then the cake has to sit at least another hour while it drinks in the flavorful syrup until absorbed, and then, THEN…you can finally invert the cake onto a cake plate to remove it from the pan. Did I mention the ganache? Well, that’s the next step once the cake is finally out of the pan. You have to prepare the ganache, let it cool to thicken slightly, then drizzle it over the cake. At that point, you’re FINALLY done.

It’s a good thing I read through the recipe in its entirety before getting started with it on Friday night…or I would have been up all night. Just reading through it was exhausting enough, and convincing enough to reserve the project for Saturday.

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And so, Saturday was spent prepping, mixing, whipping, stirring, baking, syruping, and glazing, all for the love of coffee and chocolate, with the prospect of expanding my baking skills. Until…I grated my thumb along with the lemon and turned the lovely, fragrant lemon zest an unlovely shade of crimson. After all the yelping and cursing and throbbing, all I could find was a Spongebob band-aid, that lasted no more than a few minutes before soaking through…it was a very deep cut. Still, I persevered.

When the cake came out of the oven, I poked some holes in it to help the syrup tunnel through, which in the end weren’t very necessary because the syrup (a mix of Kahlua, water, and honey boiled until thickened) never got syrup-y. So, I poured the runny liquid over the cake and watched as it pooled on top and prayed that it would eventually soak in without creating a soggy mess.

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Five hours later (after errands and dinner out), I returned home to finish the project. I ran a knife around the edges of the bundt pan hoping it would slide right out easily. WRONG.

It shattered into several pieces, with some remaining pieces left to be coaxed out of grooves of the pan. SERIOUSLY. Again, I persevered.

I grabbed a plate, fit the pieces back together like an edible jigsaw puzzle, then made a double batch of milk chocolate ganache to drizzle over all the imperfections. The ganache was a mix of equal parts heavy cream and chocolate chips with a few splashes of Kahlua mixed in. Of course, the Kahlua caused the ganache to be a bit thin, so it ran down the cake more than I had hoped – honestly, would you expect any less at this point?

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When it was finally time for the first bite, I was so upset with this cake and this recipe and this whole ordeal that I wanted throw it at the wall. The cake, the espresso powder, all of it.

And yet.

I decided that if it was worth all this effort, than at least it was worth a taste. So, taste it I did.

And it tasted…heavenly.
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If you’d like to try your luck at baking this cake (good luck – you’ll need it), check out Carole Walter’s cookbook Great Cakes. Also, click the link below to see how my fellow cake club members’ cakes turned out.

Plain Ol’ Brownies

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My latest mission has been to try making more things from scratch. I have to admit, I’ve never attempted brownies without cracking open a box of brownie mix. It’s so easy to just rip open a box of mix, add in a few eggs and…voila!
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Although it takes a bit more time to make brownies from scratch, believe me, it’s worth it. What’s even better, is that if you line the pan with aluminum foil, you’ll even save time in the end.
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This recipe is an adaptation of “Brownies” from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. The original version uses 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate – not something I would keep on hand – so I use the more economical substitute of 6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with 2 Tbsp oil.
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After baking, simply lift the foil from the pan, allow to cool, then pop the sheet of brownies out onto a cutting board, slice, and serve. My older son and I had fun decorating these ones with toothpicks of fresh berries for our neighborhood picnic today.
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6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp cooking oil or shortening
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl. Mix in cocoa powder and oil. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gently stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla. Line an 8 x 8 pan with aluminum foil. Use the butter wrapper to grease the foil. Pour batter into pan, and bake for 25 minutes or until just barely set in the middle.