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It’s hard to believe that a year ago today I started my little blog. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it; after all, there are so many food blogs out there. I wasn’t looking for thousands of readers. What I was hoping for was a loyal following that would enjoy reading what I had to say and be inspired to cook something new. I was also developing as a food and travel writer and thought a blog would be a good forum for me to find my voice as one. Most of all, I wanted to really learn how to cook. To some end, I think I have accomplished these things. I’ve also made some wonderful friends who love food as passionately as I do. This was an unexpected benefit–icing on the cake, if you will.

Lately, I haven’t blogged as much as I would like to. Work, friends, family and the mundane details of daily life sometimes keep me away. Plus, there’s the book.

I have started a new novel. The last time I started a novel was ten years ago, in graduate school, when I was working on my Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I had been working on this novel on and off since then when a few months ago I met a man, an accomplished artist, who gave me this piece of advice: start something new.

At first, I balked. I had already started over again once before and was almost three hundred pages into the manuscript. How could I just start something new? It would feel like quitting. But after I thought about what he’d said, I realized he was right. The novel wasn’t working. Starting something new didn’t mean I would never finish it. Maybe one day I would be able to go back and look at it and figure out why it wasn’t working and fix it.

In the meantime, the new novel feels right. It’s still early days but it’s going well. Being my own worst critic and a perfectionist, I’m usually unhappy with whatever I write until I have revised it over and over again. But this is different. It’s only the first draft, but I like what’s on the page. The characters are alive, the story has layers. When it’s done, I think it will have guts. It’s already shaping into kind of story I like to read.

So I’m celebrating today–with chocolate cake. After all, what can be more celebratory than that? It seems to me that once you start baking, you’re always searching for the perfect chocolate cake. For me, a chocolate pudding cake is such a cake. Rich with deep chocolate taste and a center so moist it borders on gooey, it’s dessert nirvana.

This recipe is from Canadian Living. It’s one of those magazines where everything is tested a bazillion times, so the recipes are reliable. It’s simple yet delicious. I wanted something festive today, so I made a layer cake and frosted it with caramel icing, but you don’t have to do anything like that if you don’t want to. It’s delicious just as it is, or with a dusting of cocoa or icing sugar.

Chocolate Pudding Cake


Ingredients:

3/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar

1/4 cup (50 ml) cocoa powder

1 cup (250 ml) boiling water or hot coffee

3/4 cup (175 ml) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder

1/3 cup (75 ml) milk

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons (25 ml) butter

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

1/2 cup (125 ml) chocolate chips

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk brown sugar with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Whisk in boiling water or coffee until smooth.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and the baking powder. Add the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla. Whisk until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

3) Spread flour mixture in greased 9-inch cake pan. Pour liquid mixture evenly over top.

4) Bake in center of oven for 30 minutes or until the cake is firm when gently touched.

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chocolatecake

We are at battle, cake and I. Although I’ve tried a variety of cake recipes over the years, I can’t say that most of them have turned out the way I’ve wanted them to. I’m not talking about carrot cake, pound cake or other types of cakes that require a bowl, a pan, and a few simple ingredients. I’m talking about layer cakes, filled with delights such as cherries, custard, or cream. I’m talking about cakes decorated with edible flowers, marzipan, swirls of rich, buttery icing. Cakes that are feast for the eyes and make your knees buckle with the rapture in each heavenly bite.

I have always wanted to make one of those cakes.

My attempts have been less than satisfactory. Something always goes amiss; the cakes comes out lopsided, I run out of icing, the layers puff out so much while they’re baking that they look like hats. The cakes themselves usually taste okay, they just look nothing most people would want to eat. I’ve mastered pies and tarts, can make the most delicate crepes, but the beautiful layer cake eludes me.

I am convinced that there is a perfect-cake-making gene. Either you have it or you don’t. My friend Elissa at 17 & Baking is a prime example. This girl makes the most wonderful cakes and she’s only seventeen! Every time I read one of Elissa’s blog posts I want to run to the kitchen and reproduce her creations. They’re that divine. The fact that her writing is also exquisite shows what a talented soul she is.

I’m not one to back away from a challenge, though. I’ve been reading up on the science of baking and I’m in the middle of Michael Ruhlman’s new book Ratio. My reading brings to light a lot of things I hadn’t really considered before; for example, how the amount of protein in the flour you use can drastically affect how your cakes turn out. Michael’s book is all about the basics ratios used in cooking as well as in baking. Once you know one ratio, it’s like knowing a thousand recipes. It can also help you spot a recipe that just won’t work–which often seems to be my problem. See! It’s not me. It’s the recipe!

I’m going to keep working on the perfect layer cake. In the meantime, Donna Hay’s Easy Chocolate Cake is going to stay front and center of my repertoire. I love Donna’s books. Her recipes are always simple, producing beautiful results, and the pictures are exactly the type of photography I aspire to–clean and minimalist, with the food taking center stage.

Donna Hay’s Easy Chocolate Cake

easycake

 

Adapted from Off the Shelf: Cooking from the Pantry

Ingredients:

8 ounces (250g) butter

1 1/3 cups brown sugar

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup sour cream

8 ounces (250g) milk or dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup cream

edible flowers for garnish, if desired

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 325F (160C). Grease a 9-inch round cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the eggs and beat well.

2) Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa over the butter mixture. Add the sour cream and chocolate. Mix until just combined.

3) Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour or until set. Cool in the pan.

4) To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over and cook over low heat, stirring until smooth. Allow the glaze to cool for 5-10 minutes before spreading on the cake.

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  • Našla sem vso tvojo korespondenco, ne znam pa naprej ne nazaj. D 4 years ago

QUOTE

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child

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