Ina’s (and Beatty’s) Chocolate Cake

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I feel like the world is made up of cake people and non-cake people, and then within the “cake people” category there are chocolate cake people and… other kinds of cake people? I’m not a huge cake person, nor really a chocolate person, so I certainly can’t claim to be a chocolate cake person.  I do, however, aspire to be a good hostess, so when we were having a big family birthday party for my brother-in-law last month and half an hour before people were scheduled to arrive I realized there was no dessert, I sought to rectify the situation. My brother-in-law is very much a cake person, and specifically, very much a chocolate cake person. So I did a quick google search for chocolate cake and this was the first recipe to pop up.  Since Ina would never steer me wrong, and since miraculously I had all ingredients on hand, I quickly whipped up the batter, greased and floured two round pans (the fact that I not only had all the ingredients but two matching round cake pans tells me that the chocolate cake gods were really on my side this particular evening), and slid the cake into the oven right as the guests were arriving.  And as it turned out, it was a huge hit with cake people and non-cake people alike, which I took to mean that it belongs on B&B (where as I’ve said before, we do things mainly for the accolades).

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For some reason, I read the name of the cake that night when I was a bit frazzled and just assumed it was named after Warren Beatty. So for a time I was calling it Warren Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, which makes no sense. As it turns out, in the episode where she introduces the recipe, Ina is making the cake for her friend Michael and is using his grandmother’s recipe – Beatty is Michael’s grandmother’s name. (Pronounced Betty. But you can understand my confusion). I just thought I should share that before we go any further, so that you don’t make the same mistake.

When I made this the first time, I used a vanilla buttercream frosting rather than the chocolate frosting Grandma Beatty uses (if there’s one thing I know about my brother-in-law, it’s that he loves chocolate cake with white frosting). When I made it again for another family birthday last week, I used Grandma Beatty’s version, to compare.  Both were delicious, although I will say (as a non-chocolate person), you definitely want some vanilla ice cream with the chocolate/chocolate version (and to be fair, even with the chocolate/vanilla I still wanted ice cream – possibly due to the fact that I’m more of an ice cream person than a cake person). Also, the chocolate frosting calls for a raw egg yolk – you could omit it without sacrificing too much, but if you follow the recipe as is just be mindful when serving to pregnant women or little kids.

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Since this is an Ina-approved recipe, it’s basically perfect as written, no need for me to give you any tips. I will say, DO use parchment as instructed – I didn’t the first time and had a hard time getting my cakes out of the pans; I used it the second time and they popped right out and then the parchment peeled right off (shown below, as I was pretty proud of myself). Ina doesn’t have you do a crumb layer, which I did just because I had the time and it always makes me feel like a real baker. If you have time (and freezer space), spread a very thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake and then pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. Then when you finish icing it you won’t have any bothersome crumbs messing up your beautiful frosting job. And along those lines, my final note is to consider investing in an offest spatula – I took a cupcake decorating class at Williams-Sonoma a few years ago and the instructor practically forced us all to buy one, but I’ve used mine probably 100 times since. They really make icing any kind of cake or cupcake (sometimes even cookie) so much easier, and make your final product look so much better.  Because like I said, we’re in it for the accolades. And because cake person or not, everyone needs a beautifully-frosted Grandma Beatty’s Chocolate Cake in their repertoire.

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One Year Ago: Crunchy Cabbage Salad with Peanut Ginger Dressing 
Two Years Ago: My All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cakes, previously: Pops, Pumpkin, Rum, Berry Bundt (I think this is the first basic cake recipe for B&B – only took two and a half years!)

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, from Barefoot Contessa

For the cake: 

Butter, for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

For the frosting: 

6 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, such as Callebaut
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

To make cake: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

To make frosting: 

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip!

To assemble cake: 

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

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Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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This recipe was first posted back in 2012, which means for three years I knew about it and didn’t make it. This blog was started in 2013, which means there’s been over two years (and specifically, two Fourth of Julys) where I haven’t made it. I don’t really have a good excuse, aside from the overwhelming number of patriotic-themed recipes on my “to make” list, and/or who really feels like turning the oven on when it’s 90 degrees outside? But inspired by the berries at the market this past weekend, I finally dug out my bundt cake pan (usually reserved for rum cake season) and whipped one up – a week ahead of schedule, even – and I’m so glad I did, because now I can encourage you all to make it this weekend. For in addition to being absolutely delicious, it’s the perfect cake for Fourth of July weekend – it’s simple, you can make it ahead of time, you can transport it anywhere pretty easily, it’s packed with seasonal summer berries, and of course it’s red, white, and blue, a prerequisite for any Fourth of July dessert.

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I love this cake as written (Deb’s version is one cup raspberries, one cup blueberries, one cup blackberries), and the way I made it (per Deb’s suggestion, I added a fourth cup of berries – you could increase any or all of her three, but I used a cup of chopped strawberries so as to make her “triple berry bundt” a “quadruple berry bundt”), but I also love the idea that you could use this cake batter and add literally any fruit that you like. The original recipe (before Deb tweaked it) was for a rhubarb cake, and a lot of comments on Deb’s post recommended making it with peaches (yum!!). I’m also tempted to try an all strawberry version. If only it was 1950 and people were allowed to bake a cake a week.

Deb’s main tip (aside from adding a fourth cup of berries) was to make sure you grease your pan really, really well.  I used PAM for baking and didn’t have a problem at all, but my bundt cake pan is nonstick – from the comments to her post it seems as though people without nonstick pans had problems regardless of how well they greased them. My only other tip is – and I’m pretty proud of myself about this – I recently read (in my new Huckleberry cookbook, recipes coming soon!) that in baking you should always double the amount of salt and vanilla the recipe calls for.  I don’t have a problem doing this with vanilla – I feel like most recipes only call for one teaspoon, which seems like such a small amount – but the salt is a little scarier. According to Zoe, though, adding the extra salt brings out the sweetness of the sugar. She also recommends using only kosher salt, which I intend to do going forward but forgot in this particular instance.

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I served this for dessert on Sunday and it was quite the crowd pleaser. So while I regret waiting three years to make it, I’m glad I finally did. Better late than never, right? Happy baking, and happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July, previously: Sugar Cookies, Flag Cake

Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake, from Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt*
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 cups mixed berries**

*the recipe as written calls for 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; I doubled both amounts as discussed above.

**recipe calls for only 3 cups berries – I loved it with 4 but if you only have 3 cups on hand you’ll be fine.

For the Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon
One tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make the Cake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour a 10 cup bundt cake pan, or spray with PAM for baking. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder and salt (reserving the 2 tablespoons flour); set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, another 1/3 flour, remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl as needed and beat as little as possible.

Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour and fold the berries as gently as possible into the cake batter. It’s virtually impossible to do this without squishing the berries, but do your best. My raspberries all squished but they made the batter a pretty pink color. Gently spread the batter into the well-greased pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 minutes so that it bakes evenly. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before inverting it onto a serving platter. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Glaze

Stir the butter and lemon juice into the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth (use more lemon juice for a thinner icing, less for thicker – I used a little too much, so while it still tasted delicious it didn’t look quite as pretty as Deb’s). Drizzle the icing over the cake and let it drip down the sides.

Cake is delicious the day of, but even better the next day, and will last 3-4 days if tightly wrapped.

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Holiday Rum Cake

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Happy Rum Cake Blog Post Day, everyone! This cake is one of my all time favorite things to make, and thus I had every intention of posting the recipe as soon as possible (or rather, as soon as seasonally appropriate)…but of course somehow this blog fell off my radar after Thanksgiving and all of the sudden it’s December 20. Yikes. (Let’s not even talk about how my Christmas shopping is going – double yikes).

But anyways. Let’s talk about rum cake, shall we? This recipe is courtesy of my friends Courteney and Kyle, or perhaps more accurately courtesy of their mom Cyndie, since of course they got it from her. I listened to Courteney talk about her mom’s rum cake all throughout college, but never actually tried it until Kyle served one at a Christmas party a few years ago. Alcohol in desserts isn’t usually my thing (weird, I know), but one boozy, buttery bite of this cake and I was hooked – as is everyone who tries it. It’s quick and easy and makes a great holiday dessert or hostess gift, which is why I meant to post this earlier in the season for everyone’s benefit – better late than never, though, right?

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Two recipes featuring boxed cake mix within one month, how embarrassing. I’m going to have to get a little more gourmet in January to make up for it. The “butter golden” boxes can be hard to find, though, so when I see them I have to stock up.

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This cake really could not be easier to make – start with the cake mix, add eggs and oil, a box of pudding mix to make it extra moist and yummy, and of course rum in lieu of water.

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Just blend all five ingredients together and pour into a bundt cake pan.

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Cyndie’s tip is to grease the pan really well with the “PAM for baking” spray – this ensures that the cake won’t stick to the pan at all, which will make it easier for the cake to soak up the glaze.

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Making the glaze is the fun part – just dump a little more rum in a saucepan, along with water, sugar, and a stick of butter. Heat until the butter is melted and then bring the mixture to a boil – make sure to boil for the full two-three minutes so that at least some of the rum cooks out (a quick google search re: how much alcohol remains in rum cake after baking was inconclusive, but at least some of it evaporates, right?).

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Pour the glaze over the cake and let it all soak in. Flip the cake, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and voilá, the easiest and most festive “semi-homemade” cake you could ever want or need.

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Cyndie O’Brien’s Christmas Rum Cake

For cake:
One box Duncan Hines Butter Golden cake mix
One small box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup Crisco oil (vegetable or canola oil will work)
1/2 cup dark rum, such as Meyer’s

For glaze:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup water
Powdered sugar (for dusting), optional

To make cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray bundt cake pan generously with “PAM for baking,” or grease and flour the pan well. Mix all cake ingredients well – I usually use an electric mixer and blend it for a couple minutes, but you can do it by hand if necessary. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

To make glaze:
When the cake is almost finished baking, melt the butter in a saucepan with the sugar, water, and rum. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for two to three minutes – watch carefully as it boils over easily if you aren’t stirring constantly.

To finish:
Once cake is out of oven, pour the glaze over the cake while it’s still in the pan – let the glaze soak into the cake and drain down around the edges where the cake will have pulled away from the pan a bit – this will allow the glaze to coat the sides of the cake and give the whole thing a nice buttery, rummy crust. Let the glazed cake cool in the pan for a minimum of 20 minutes (longer if possible). Flip the cake onto a cake stand or serving platter and dust with powdered sugar.

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I love making this cake in my mini bundt cake pan as well – one recipe makes six mini cakes, and they make the perfect dinner party dessert as well as great gifts. I’m also going to make bite sized cakes once I get my hands on this pan – anything for portion control! I’ll hopefully update with photos soon – there are six days left between now and Christmas (yes, I’m counting today and Christmas Day), which means there are plenty of opportunities for rum cakes of any size.

Update: bundt, mini bundt, and bite-size bundt:

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Wishing everyone a wonderful and relaxing holiday. Thanks to the lovely O’Brien ladies for letting me share their recipe! And happy rum cake baking to everyone!

Friday Faves

Hello again, Friday. It’s gray and rainy here in Seattle, and I’m loving every minute of it (I can say that only after confirming the forecast predicts a sunny 75 for my friend Jody’s wedding tomorrow). I fell asleep to a thunder and lightning storm last night, and woke up feeling more rested than I have in weeks. I know fall isn’t here to stay quite yet, but I love these first few hints of it. Between two weddings, Husky football, my fantasy draft (ESPN gave my team an A, if you were wondering), and the birth of my good friends Wes and Kyle’s new baby girl, there was a lot going on this week. A few highlights:

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{brunch at the Agua Verde Paddle Club on Lake Union}

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{beet and veggie juice at Tom Douglas’s amazing new “urban marketplace” downtown Seattle}

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{nothing better than the Sunday sports page after a huge Husky win}

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{gluten-free baking experiment from Love and Lemons}

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{nothing sweeter than a brand new baby – and nothing more fun than putting together treats for her and her family}

Happy Friday, everyone! No Husky game tomorrow, so I guess all I can say is Go Hawks!!