Thursday, March 5, 2015

"the best ever" moist & delicious chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting


I had a hard time naming this post, because I  also call this "best ever chocolate cake" . . . "the Greatest & Easiest Chocolate Cake."

I discovered this amazing recipe several years ago, and it's been my "go to" chocolate cake recipe since then.

It yields a moist and delicious cake that actually tastes like chocolate! 

The recipe calls for a whopping 1 1/3 cup cocoa powder, which gives it a real chocolate flavor . . . the 5 eggs give it richness and a beautiful texture . . . and the buttermilk helps keeps it moist! It's truly an exceptional recipe!

I introduced it to you for the first time here, when I baked this special cake and cupcakes for our youngest son's Gentleman's Tea.




I also used the recipe to bake 'Color Bomb' Cakes for our youngest son's 5th Candy Crush inspired birthday. 





Our oldest daughter is a big fan of chocolate (just like mom!), so most of her birthday cakes are chocolate. Here's a photo of  her candy themed birthday cake from last year's celebration.  I frosted it with a light and luxurious cream cheese frosting. YUM!




And I recently made our oldest daughter's  American Girl inspired birthday cake using the same amazing recipe!


 



I'm not sure what's taken me so long to share this recipe with you, especially when it's one that I use so often.

So without further delay . . . . I introduce you to  . . . .

"the greatest & easiest chocolate cake"
.     .     .     .     .     .
3 1/3 cups flour
1 1/3 cups cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs, room temperature
.     .     .     .     .     .

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, gently whisk eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk to combine. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until its pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture, scraping down bowl as needed.

Mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.

Give batter a final stir by hand.

Pour into prepared pans or cupcake cups. Bake cakes for about 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, or bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes.


chocolate butter-cream frosting
.     .     .     .     .     .
1 pound bittersweet chocolate
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup egg whites (4-5 extra-large eggs), room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
.     .     .     .     .     .

Preparation
Chop the chocolates and place them in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan simmering water. Stir until melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

Mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Place the bowl of egg whites over the pan of simmering water and heat the egg whites until they are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Return the bowl to the electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes, or until the meringue is cool and holds a stiff peak.

Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate and vanilla, and mix for 1 minute or until the chocolate is completely blended in. If the butter-cream seems very soft, allow it to cool, and beat it again.





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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

an American Girl - inspired birthday!



We celebrated our oldest daughter's 7th birthday on Valentine's Day with lots of pink and red!








I was so excited when Charley was open to celebrating her birthday with friends by going on a Girls Movie Date, followed by cake & ice cream, and then crafts. 

Typically, we host big birthday celebrations . . . which are a lot of fun, but can be a lot of work. I love hosting and 'celebrating big,' but I'm becoming a big fan of intimate gatherings . . . and simple & classic party designs. For me, that means inviting CLOSE friends and family, instead of inviting everyone under the sun . . . and having/making fewer and more simple/meaningful decorations.





Our Charley asked me for an American Girl inspired birthday this year. Her only firm request was that I make a "chocolate cake with chocolate frosting." Done. And done.






We had so much fun!

I played chauffeur for a group of little ladies who all brought their American Doll, or favorite doll, to join in the festivities. I smile every time I think about walking into the movie theater with them (and their dolls). They walked in arm and arm, giggling with excitement. For most of them, it was their first time going to the movies without their parents. So I can only imagine how exciting the whole thing was for them (smile!).

I gave each of the girls a pink purse in the movie theater to hold their very own movie treats; and then I collected them before the party ended so that I could fill them with party favors . . . American Girl Stickers & activity books, heart-shaped lollipops, and lots of Valentine treats.




We headed back to our house after the movies to craft and enjoy cake! 

The girls were welcomed with a 6-foot table that I filled with a variety of Valentine and American Girl crafts. They sipped on Shirley Temples in fancy glasses with pretty paper straws while they all designed their very own American Girl cupcake. 

These doll-size American Girl place settings are crazy adorable! The girls (and their dolls) loved them, too!






After lots of crafting, we gathered around our dining room table to sing Happy Birthday . . . and then the girls (and their dolls) ventured to the backyard for a picnic.





I made the cake topper using hand-made tissue paper pom poms, pearl pink candies, and 3-D American Girl stickers that Charley and I glued to cake pops sticks so that we could insert them into the top of the cake. 






Charley asked me to make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting . . . and so I did!

I used my absolute favorite chocolate cake recipe to bake her cake. There are a lot of chocolate cake recipes out there, but this one is tops!

The recipe calls for a whopping 1 1/3 cup cocoa powder, which gives it a real chocolate flavor . . . the 5 eggs give it richness and a beautiful texture . . . and the buttermilk helps keeps it moist! It's truly an exceptional recipe!

And then I frosted her cake with a luxurious chocolate butter-cream frosting. I use Ina Garten's recipe, as I LOVE that her recipe calls for adding two kinds of REAL chocolate to flavor the frosting. It's so darn good!!




After hours of play, Charley's birthday celebration was finally done . . .

                and given her big smiles and happiness, I would say that her special day was a success!


Happy, Happy Birthday, Charley!
I love you, Mom





LET'S STAY in touch!










Sunday, March 1, 2015

tips for making the ultimate chicken noodle soup



One of my favorite meals growing up was my mom's home-made chicken noodle soup.

It was hearty, flavorful, and delicious!

I've tried many chicken noodle soups over the years, but none of them compare to hers. I'm sure that many of us feel the same way about our mom's soup.

As my palate has changed and matured over the years, I've added carrots, onions, celery, and herbs to the original soup recipe . . . making it even more flavorful.

It's still one of my all-time favorite comfort dishes!




Chicken noodle soup is also one of my favorite dishes to share with friends when they're in need of comfort.

One of my friends recently had a baby, so I brought her and her sweet family a big pot of soup and home-made bread . . . and just a few weeks after that our dear friend lost his mom, so we surprised him and his family with a comforting pot of soup and home-made bread, as well .

There's something heartfelt about sharing comfort foods with friends. 





We all have a unique twist on home-made chicken noodle soup, and I thought that I would share  a few tips on making my version  . . .
    .     .     .     .     .    
saute the carrots, onions, and celery 
add rotisserie chicken 
top with fresh herbs like Italian flat-leaf parsley
use fresh pasta!
Cast Iron pot
.     .     .     .     .




Home-made chicken stock
Great soup starts with home-made stock! If you've ever had soup made with home-made stock, then you would agree that nothing compares to it. Home-made stock gives soup incredible depth of flavor and body. You can see how I make my chicken stock here.

I recently learned that adding a splash of dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, to your broth can further deepen the flavor. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm excited to add a splash to my next batch!




Saute vegetables first
Saute your vegetables in a little olive oil and butter before adding them to your broth, and remember to season with salt & pepper, too. Sauteing them caramelizes them to a perfect tenderness, adding more flavor to your vegetables . . . and ultimately, the broth.

Rotisserie Chicken
Save some time and buy a rotisserie chicken from your local market to add to your soup. Rotisserie chicken is moist, tender, and flavorful.  Add the shredded chicken to your soup just before serving. It will help ensure that the chicken stays tender and moist. No one likes dry, stringy chicken in their soup!

Use fresh pasta!
I buy fresh frozen pasta called Grandma's Egg Noodles for my chicken noodle soup. Grandma's is an exceptional alternative to making your very own home-made pasta. Fresh pasta is a natural thickening agent, which creates a heartier soup.  Grandma's Egg Noodles aren't easy to find. So far, I've only been able to find them at an Albertson's market near my mom's house (50 miles North).  She buys several for me at a time, and then I keep them in my freezer for when I want to make soup for my family and friends (Thanks, Mom!); but you can check out their website to see if your local market sells them.




Top with fresh herbs
Don't forget about the power of fresh herbs! They add a delightful freshness to any dish. So be sure and have chopped Italian flat leaf parsley on hand to sprinkle over your soup.





And finally, cook your soup in a cast iron pot!
Never under-estimate the power of sauteing and cooking in a seasoned cast iron pot. There's something magical about cooking in one. So be sure and saute your vegetables and cook your soup in one for great flavor and a nostalgic look and feel . . . for food is an experience for all the senses, right!?





Do you have any special tips for making the 
ultimate chicken noodle soup?




LET'S STAY in touch!








Sharing with . . . .

Stephanie Lynn, It's Overflowing, Twelve O Eight, Carrie This Home, Baking in Pajamas, Huckleberry Love, Dwellings, Smart Party Planning,  The Dedicated HouseMod Vintage LifeLori's Culinary Creations, Home Stories, StoneGableAn Extraordinary Day, I'm Not a Trophy Wife, Karen's Up on the HillThree Kids and a FishBetween Naps on the Front Porch, Rustic Refined,  Tumbleweed ContessaA Stroll Thru Life,Life With GarnishElizabeth & Co,  My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Savvy Southern StyleThe Recipe CriticJanine HuldieCarolyn's Homework,  Fluster Buster   Designs by Miss Mandee,  Craftie Allie,  Wednesday morning The Blissful Bee,  The Newlywed Pilgrimage Chic California, Lamberts LatelyLive Laugh RoweSweet Bella Roos, The Charm of Home, From My Front Porch to ours, Delightsome Life.Posed PerfectionKatherine's CornerNancherrowThe Freshman Cook,  Jann OlsonHome  Maid SimpleAnderson + Grant,  Rooted in ThymeEveryday Enchanted Home, Pure Grace Farms A Dish of Daily Life, Bacon Time, Sunflower Supper Club, Tater Tots and Jello,  Cooking with CurlsMade from PinterestSimply Gloria



Thursday, February 26, 2015

mocha chocolate icebox cake . . . and a casual birthday brunch

 


It's been a whirl wind month for our family. February is always busy for us.

The month begins with celebrating our oldest son's birthday, followed by a birthday celebration almost every weekend through the end of month. Nick turned 21 this year, so I was sure to add personal (and special) touches to his birthday gathering . . .

         .     .     .     .         
mocha ice box cake
MOOSE sugar cookies (Nick's favorite animal!)
a mocktail bar with a signature grapefruit drink 
 * 21 gifts *
sparkler number candles!
delicious skillet dishes
spicy Italian strata & baked french toast
 .     .     .     .  


My favorite time of day to entertain is late morning, early afternoon. It's the perfect time for brunch, which I think is one of the best times of day to entertain! So we celebrated birthday after birthday over brunch, every Saturday . . . and I enjoyed every minute of it!
















So let's talk cake!

Have you ever heard of an old-fashioned Icebox Cake?

Well, I hadn't heard of one until I saw Ina Garten make one in an episode of the Barefoot Contessa last year. Ironically, the episode aired just days after hosting Nick's 20th birthday brunch; and after watching the episode, I knew that I was going to make it for his 21st birthday!




It has all of his favorite things . . . . chocolate chip cookies and mocha flavored whipped cream, layer upon layer upon layer. YUM!

They're so easy to make, and there's NO BAKING; that is, unless you choose to bake the chocolate chip cookies that go into layering this cake.





Ina uses TATE's Bakery chocolate chip cookies, which I was lucky enough to find at our local Wholesome Market . . . so I couldn't resist buying them for the cake.

It takes just minutes to whip the ingredients . . .  heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, instant espresso powder, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and coffee flavored liqueur . . . and then the layering can begin. It's so simple . . . and delicious!

I can't wait to make a Spring and Summer version using lemons and lemon cookies!

mocha chocolate icebox cake
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
2 cups cold heavy cream
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua (optional)
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies, such as Tate's Bake Shop
Shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish
.     .     .     .     .     .     .

Preparation
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch spring-form pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (I break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) 

Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. 

Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

courtesy of Barefoot Contessa





LET'S STAY in touch!






Sharing with . . . .



Stephanie Lynn, It's Overflowing, Twelve O Eight, Carrie This Home, Baking in Pajamas, Huckleberry Love, Dwellings, Smart Party Planning,  The Dedicated HouseMod Vintage LifeLori's Culinary Creations, Home Stories, StoneGableAn Extraordinary Day, I'm Not a Trophy Wife, Between Naps on the Front Porch, Rustic Refined,  Tumbleweed ContessaA Stroll Thru Life,Life With GarnishElizabeth & Co,  My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Savvy Southern StyleThe Recipe CriticJanine HuldieCarolyn's Homework,  Fluster Buster   Designs by Miss Mandee,  Craftie Allie,  Wednesday morning The Blissful Bee,  The Newlywed Pilgrimage Chic California, Lamberts LatelyLive Laugh RoweSweet Bella Roos, The Charm of Home, From My Front Porch to ours, Delightsome Life.Posed PerfectionKatherine's CornerNancherrowThe Freshman Cook,  Jann OlsonHome  Maid SimpleAnderson + Grant,  Rooted in ThymeEveryday Enchanted Home, Pure Grace Farms A Dish of Daily Life, Bacon Time, Sunflower Supper Club, Tater Tots and Jello,  Cooking with CurlsMade from PinterestSimply Gloria


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