May 4th, 2014

Ebinger’s Legendary Blackout Cake

Cooking April 26145-001

My cousin Cathy emailed me a few weeks ago, with a link to a story on NPR that stirred vivid memories for both of us. It told of a special dark dark chocolate cake that was the signature dessert of a beloved and long-gone bakery, Ebinger’s.

If you grew up in one of the New York boroughs before 1972, no doubt you were familiar with the Ebinger name. The family bakery opened on Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue in 1898; over its three-quarters-of-a-century life span, that 1 grew into a chain of 50 dotting neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and Queens.

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Our grandparents were Ebinger devotees. Whenever Cathy and I went to visit them at their Jackson Heights apartment, we knew we’d be treated to something special that Nana had purchased from the extraordinary bakery: Crumbcake showered with powdered sugar. Butter-rich danish. Yeasted almond rings. Chocolate domed cupcakes. Mocha buttercream torte with its name elegantly scripted across the top.

We’d gather around the dining room table in the morning for warmed coffeecake and milk. In the evening, after dinner, we’d enjoy a slice of one of the Ebinger cakes, sometimes with a scoop of ice cream. In between, that dining room table served as a stage for our art projects. I have a dim memory of us crafting fancy paper hats; Cathy remembers me scrawling “Felix the Cat” (my fave cartoon character at age 7) allover the hat rim.

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When Ebinger’s shuttered in 1972, (overexpansion, then bankruptcy) it left a rift in Nana’s world. She had no choice but to buy from the competition, Entenmann’s, and it simply wasn’t as good. Our subsequent visits were always marked with Nana’s lament of Ebinger’s demise, as she served up pieces of the less wonderful confections.

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Ebinger’s most famous, and universally longed-for dessert is the Blackout Cake–so-called for its deep dark chocolate flavors, its name further harkening to the wartime blackouts of the ’40’s. The three-layer beauty is distinguished with a rich pudding filling, bittersweet chocolate frosting, and a fourth layer that is crumbled to coat its top and sides.

NPR included a link to the recipe, as published in the New York Times in 1991. It’s been deemed the original. (although I have since found other, slightly different ones, while perusing the ‘net.)

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Cathy and I decided to make it—in part, nostalgia, in part, curiosity–next time we got together. Lucky for us, that opportunity soon arrived.

While not difficult to make, you need to allow at least two hours for the project. (For some secrets to great cake baking, check out this link at Cooking Light: 10 tips to ensure the desired results.)

There are three parts to the recipe, with many more steps. Cathy’s husband John, I’m happy to say, documented the process while we cousins collaborated. Cathy whipped up the batter with her old school electric hand-held. I stirred the pudding until it burped and bubbled. We chopped and melted a mound of Belgian chocolate, whisking in as much butter for the silky icing. So much chocolate! So much butter!

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And, when the time arrived–cake layers, cooked filling and frosting all sufficiently cooled–we assembled.

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It occurred to us that the curious crumbled layer could have been the result of a split layer gone awry: cracking and falling apart. Perhaps the Ebinger baker could not bear the waste, and created the distinctive crumb coating instead. Ingenious!

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When at last we sliced and served the cake, (after a marvelous meal, celebrating both Cathy’s and Bill’s birthdays) Cathy glimpsed a snippet of the past, of eating the Blackout cake with Nana at that dining room table.

Post-dessert verdict: What an indulgence. We decided that the name applied to the food coma you enter after eating a piece. Yep, you could black out.

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Serves 12 to 16

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3-4 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened slightly
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 3/4 teaspoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 375 F. Butter and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
Place the cocoa in a small bowl and whisk in the boiling water to form a paste.

Combine the chopped chocolate and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate melts — about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk a small amount of the hot chocolate milk into the cocoa paste to warm it. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the milk mixture. Return the pan to medium heat and stir for 1 minute. Remove and set aside to cool until tepid.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the vanilla. Slowly stir in the chocolate mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. Fold in until just mixed.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on racks for 15 minutes. Gently remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool.

Combine the cocoa and boiling water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the sugar and chocolate. Add the dissolved cornstarch paste and salt to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and butter. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool.

Melt the chocolate in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set on medium heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time.

Whisk in the hot water all at once and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for up to 15 minutes before using.

Use a sharp serrated knife to slice each cake layer horizontally in half to form four layers. Set one layer aside.
Place one layer on a cake round or plate. Generously swath the layer with one-third of the filling.
Add the second layer and repeat. Set the third layer on top. Quickly apply a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the remaining cake layer. Apply the remaining frosting to the cake. Sprinkle it liberally with the cake crumbs. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.



Cooking April 26141-001

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 21 Comments »

December 31st, 2013

To a Sweet New Year


There’s a huge pot simmering on my stovetop, (yet to be photographed!) filled with white wine, lemons, onions, celery, assorted peppercorns and bay leaf. I call it my spicy-winey lobster bath. Later this evening, my guests and I will be plunging our lobster tails into this heady bath, which will poach them into succulence.

I’ll also make drawn butter, spiked with lemon and cayenne, and place the bowls of that decadence within easy reach for dunking the rich meat. I think the term “gilding the lily” applies here. Oh, well–it is our farewell to 2013.


This is our communal lobster pot gathering, a tradition born a few years ago when we could no longer face going out New Year’s Eve, and, serendipitously, lobster tails happened to be on sale at the market.

Here’s the basic plan: Everyone brings his/her own luxuries–crustacean, and champagne, if that’s your pleasure . In the beginning of this new tradition, I would do a seated dinner. In addition to the spicy-winey bath, I’d make the accompanying courses, which I served at a leisurely pace. In more recent years, we’ve become less formal. We share the making of different dishes and set everything out buffet style. Graze as you will.


Tonight, Heather is bringing a big salad, and a plate of fruits and cheeses. Teresa is bringing some tasty hors d’oeuvres. She’s not sure what they’ll be yet, but our food styling friend always has some terrific ideas and ingredients on hand.

To insure the most good luck possible, I am making “Hoppin’ John” risotto with kale pesto.

But what I want to quickly share with you now is a dessert. I want to end this last day of 2013, which also is this humble blog’s 200th post AND 5th Year Anniversary, with something sweet. (I know! Time. Fleeting!)


It’s a flourless chocolate torte, adapted from this Cooking Light recipe, which caught my eye for its lightness. It has a lower caloric count, yet imparts a depth of rich chocolate taste–especially if you use high quality cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, like this bar from local artisan Olive and SInclair.

Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. I am serving it with my brandied cherries and a dollop of whipped cream. So, no, it isn’t Super Light, but it is gluten-free, and a sliver of this treat is all that you need to satisfy that one lingering need for a sweet bite, after a fine meal.

Here’s my wish to you for a very happy, healthy, creative, loving, peaceful, generous, and open-hearted new year. May it be filled with many delicious things, too.


adapted from Cooking Light
1 tablespoon butter
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa, divided
6 tablespoons ground toasted almonds
4 tablespoons brewed coffee
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment. Coat the sides and bottom with butter and dust with 1 teaspoon (or so) cocoa.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form, but not dry. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is light and lemon colored. Then, beat in the cocoa and ground almonds.
Place the coffee and chopped bittersweet chocolate into a small saucepan set on medium heat. Stir until the chocolate is just melted.
Beat this to the egg yolk-cocoa mixture.
Fold in the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan.
Bake on the middle rack for 25-30 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool on a baking rack for 15 minutes.
Serve the cake slightly warm, topped with brandied cherries and whipped cream.


I originally made these for my friend Wendy, who loves the Manhattan cocktail. She’s got the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, now she’s got the luscious brandied cherry to place into the drink. I kept a container to make into other things, like the sauce for this cake.


2 pounds frozen, pitted cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
1 cup brandy
2 ribbons orange zest
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt

Fill 2 glass jars with frozen cherries, dividing them evenly.
Place sugar, cinnamon stick, brandy, orange zest, water & salt in a pan and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Let cool for 10 minutes and pour equal parts over the cherries. Let cool with the top off then cover and refrigerate.
Allow the cherries to cure for a couple of weeks–but know that they will last for several months.


1 cup brandied cherries, drained from brandy mixture
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup brandied cherry juice

Place drained brandied cherries into a small bowl.
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, stir the cornstarch and brandied cherry juice together until the cornstarch is dissolved. Continue to stir as the mixture comes to a simmer. It will thicken and become glazy. Remove from heat, and pour over the drained brandied cherries.


Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Gluten Free, Recipes | 21 Comments »

August 23rd, 2012

A (Very) Local Honey Cake


Our friend Jennifer Barrie has been almost as busy as her bees.

This is the first year that she’s had success: her hives holding frame after frame of cured-and-capped honey. Fortitude and backbone are beekeeper requirements. It takes a full cycle of the seasons–sometimes longer— for a colony to build a large enough population to create a honey surplus, fit for harvest.

Time and weather, pollen and patience all worked in Jen’s favor. She’s extracted copious quarts of light amber honey from her backyard hives–enough to sell.

I was excited to purchase a jar, and couldn’t wait to taste it: the closest to home honey I’ve ever had.


What I came up with was a humble one-layer cake.
It incorporates the honey with restraint.
Caramel-browned butter deepens that flavor.
Fresh thyme leaves add an herbal undercurrent that seems right with Jen’s floral-forward nectar.

Not-too-sweet, it’s the sort of cake that you’d enjoy with a cup of hot tea or coffee.


Although you’d be proud to serve it to guests, sidled by a scoop of ice cream
I’m thinking Strawberry, Orange, French Vanilla,
or fresh fruit.
such as Peaches, a scatter of Blueberries,


I could have left the cake plain, or brushed it with a glaze of citrus and honey.

Instead, I whipped up a basic frosting–just butter, cream cheese, and honey. I split the single baked layer after it cooled, and spread it over the moist and fragrant crumb. I finished it with a top coat, strewn with pistachios.


Jen told me that she’s just extracted a new batch. This time, it is deep yellow-gold in color. It all depends on what is blooming in the summer cycle. I’m anxious to sample this honey, and compare the differences in taste.

Meanwhile, a piece of delectable, very local honey cake awaits—I’d love it if you’d stop by for a slice.



1 cup Brown Butter (slowly cook butter in a skillet on medium heat, occasionally stirring, until solids becomes toasty brown)
1 T. fresh Thyme leaves
1 cup Honey
2 1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
1 cup Milk
Juice from 1 Lemon (about 2 T.)
1 T. Vanilla
3 Eggs

equipment: stand or hand-held mixer, 9″ cake pan

Toss thyme leaves into warm brown butter.
Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.
Place lemon juice and vanilla into the cup of milk and stir. Let it stand and lightly thicken/curdle.
When butter is cooled, pour it into a mixing bowl and beat in the honey.
Beat in milk mixture.
Beat in flour mixture.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Pour batter into prepared 9″ cake pan. (bottom lined with parchment, sides and bottom coated with baking spray)

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

4 oz. (1 stick) Butter, softened
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
3-4 T. Honey
1/2 cup Pistachios–coarsely chopped to garnish

Beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
Beat in the honey, one tablespoon at a time. Mixture will be creamy smooth, and somewhat fluffy.

Spread onto split layer and top. Garnish with chopped pistachios.

Serves 10-12

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 28 Comments »

December 22nd, 2010

Two for “2” Italian Cream and Red Velvet Cake


Gifts! More Gifts!

It’s just days before Christmas, and the hustle is on to fill in the missing pieces of the present-puzzle. I have to navigate with care getting those last minute goodies, and quell those did-I-get-enough-maybe-I-should-get-just-one-more-thing feelings.

Whew. Stop! There’s more the enough.

As we like to say in the South, there’s Gracious Plenty.

But I didn’t want to forget you this season. Wouldn’t think of it! You’ve been so nice to come along with me on these little culinary forays. And, since this is the Two Year Anniversary of Good Food Matters, (whoo-hoo! we are 2!) it seems only fitting that I offer you not one but two cakes. Please. Yes, you deserve them.


This first cake, the lavish Italian Cream (sometimes called Italian Wedding Cake) has so many delicious elements–lemon zest, toasted pecans, shredded coconut–that combine to create a complex cake with terrific texture. People who do not like coconut like this cake. Layers are light, a little spongey–thanks to eggs that are separated, whipped, and folded throughout the batter.

I hadn’t made one in a long time, and remembered this tip, in preparation: Do not overbeat the egg whites—you want soft peaks that will fold with ease. Stiff egg whites will result in stiff (tough!) crumb. But otherwise, this is a simple recipe, elegant under a coat of lemony cream cheese. Enjoy.


And then there is the Red Velvet Cake, the Enigma. It elicits an initial Shock of the Red, and speculation of what its flavor could be.

It’s a flavor that has nothing to do with its color, (eek! red food dye!) and cannot truly be described as chocolate or vanilla, even though cocoa and vanilla extract are recipe ingredients.

Buttermilk and vinegar make major contributions to its alluring tang.

Created at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 1920s, Red Velvet was popular for its regal crimson layers. In the times of scarcity that soon followed, Red Velvet was preferred over chocolate cakes for its modest use of cocoa. Sometimes beet juice was used as a coloring agent. The butter roux icing mimicked whipped cream. Somewhat.

It never made sense to me that I should like this nebulous concoction, but it has a beguiling je ne sais quoi.

Once, I thought I had pinpointed its mysterious appeal. I was leveling the tops of some Red Velvet layers, which left some thin slices behind. I slathered them with the icing, and rolled them up to eat. In this fashion, the Red Velvet reminded me of a cherished childhood treat, like a “Yodel” or a “Devil Dog.” Hmmmmm. Somewhat.



1 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
5 Eggs, separated
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 cup Buttermilk
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 teaspoon Lemon zest
½ teaspoon Salt
1 ½ cups shredded Coconut
1 cup chopped toasted Pecans

3-8” or 2-9” cake pans, spray coated, bottoms lined with parchment

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla and lemon zest.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and beat into mixture. Fold in coconut and pecans. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold into batter.

Divide batter between the cake pans.

Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Cool, remove from pans, and frost with cream cheese icing.
Garnish with toasted coconut and pecans.

1 1b. softened cream cheese
½ lb. softened unsalted butter
1 T. Vanilla
1 T. Lemon Juice
2 plus cups Powdered Sugar (to taste!)

Cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon.
Gradually add powdered (confectioner’s) sugar, a cup at a time, until you reach desired sweetness.


¼ lb. softened Butter
½ c. Canola Oil
1 ½ c. Sugar
2 Eggs
3 T. Red Food Coloring
3 T. Cocoa
1 t. Vanilla
1 c. Buttermilk
2 ½ c. All Purpose Flour, sifted
½ t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Vinegar

Cream butter, oil, sugar, and eggs together. Make a paste of cocoa, food coloring, and vanilla, and beat into mixture. Beat in buttermilk and flour alternately, then add salt, baking soda and vinegar.

Pour batter into 2 -9” or 3-8” buttered and floured cake pans and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, if in 9’ pans, or 24 minutes, if in 8” pans. Allow to completely cool before frosting.

4 ½ T. All Purpose Flour
1 ½ c. Milk
1 ½ c. Sugar
2 t. Vanilla
12 T. softened Butter (1 ½ sticks)

Stir flour and milk together until lumps are removed, and cook in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, continuing to stir, until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap (so that it will not get a “skin”) and allow to completely cool.

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together. Beat in cooked milk/flour mixture until fluffy. Icing will become whipped cream-like.


Have lovely holidays, and we’ll gather again soon. x Nancy

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 25 Comments »

May 4th, 2010

The Strawberry Special

bills 60th b-day cake

Life is full of cycles and surprises.

Of late, my family circle has been experiencing a birthday cycle of the zero years, the “round birthdays,” as friend Lee calls them. It began with Madeleine’s 30th last September, followed by
my mom’s 80th in February, and now, gasp, Bill’s 60th.

For a man who 1. needs nothing and 2. is rather chagrined at the sound of …utter it in low, almost inaudible tones…Sixty, this particular birthday presented a bit of a challenge.

How to make something new…different…memorable?
A bonafide surprise party , that hadn’t been done for the man!

We did manage to pull it off, no easy feat. I had Bill convinced that while I had planned to give him a dinner party at our home on his actual birthday–a Monday—too many friends were unable to come that night. Jenn had to study for an exam, for starters. Wendy and Jim had to meet up with the relatives from Tupelo, no getting out of that.

” We’ll do it Friday, instead, when everyone can come. You don’t mind, do you?” I said.

A shake of the head. No.

“Roger invited us to the Indian restaurant,” I continued. “It’ll be fun.”

A smile and a nod.

Everyone was instructed to show up at said Indian restaurant at 6pm, with cars parked out-of-sight and a toast or a roast in hand. We’d arrive at 6:15.

It all worked like a symphony.

In the meantime, I had to furtively make this singular cake that ended up showcasing two of Bill’s faves: strawberry and chocolate.

To be truthful, I had started out to make a fresh strawberry cake, which would have been perfectly delicious in and of itself. But, then I remembered a lone layer of chocolate cake in the freezer—wouldn’t that be scrumptuous sandwiched between two strawberry ones?

Sometimes I surprise myself.

slice of strawberry cake

slice of strawberry cake

The strawberry cake is simple to make—and perfect timing:local berries are just now coming in. It is especially nice with cream cheese icing, recipe found here. If you add a chocolate layer, some chocolate ganache icing, and strawberries in syrup spread over the dense cake will push it over the top.

strawberry cake ingredients

Strawberry Cake
3 c. fresh Strawberries
11/2 c. Sugar
1 c. Butter, melted
1 c. Milk
1 t. Vanilla
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour, sifted twice
1 T. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
4 Eggs

2 9″ cake pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pulse strawberries in a food processor fitted with a swivel blade until pureed.
In a mixer, whip together strawberries with sugar, milk, vanilla. Beat in eggs., then flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour in melted butter and beat well. Pour into 2 (” cake pans that have been coated and lined with parchment. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove, cool on racks.

strawberry batter

upright strawberry cake slice

overhead strawberry cake

Post Script: What a difference a week can make: Nashville and surrounding counties have all been inundated by drastic rainfall–over 15″ in only two days. We had a flooded basement-about 8″ of water in Bill’s studio, but got it pumped out. Many, many friends have experienced much worse. A flood of historic proportions affecting unlikely, unforeseen places. All kinds of surprises in life—and all best thoughts to those who lost so much.

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 21 Comments »

February 10th, 2010

Fascinating and a little different: chocolate zucotta-domed chocolate cake

joanies cale

Wheeeee! This crazy, verging on Mardi Gras, merry-go-round of chocolate decadence, this Amazonian cupcake, was my creation for my mom’s 80th birthday–just celebrated Sunday. Its ingredients were inspired by her abiding love of chocolate in its myriad forms, and its wack-a-doodle look was inspired really, by her joyous take on life.

My mom has always had boundless energy and interests: watercolor artist, art and music teacher, girl scout leader, bowler, bridge player, NYTimes crossword puzzler. She turned her wedding dress into curtains, turned our garage into a craft cranny workshop, turned every picture in the house upside down to see if my dad would notice.

The little string of phrases underneath her senior picture (from the 1948 annual “The Crusader” Mary Louis Academy–an all girls Catholic high school in Jamaica, Long Island, New York) , particularly the last one, always makes me smile:

“pretty as a picture…plays a solid saxophone….laughing brown eyes…

…Fascinating, and a little different.”

Yes, ma’am. To honor this fascinating-and-a-little-different person, I made two cakes into one. The base was a triple-layered sour cream chocolate cake: dark, dense yet moist. The domed top was a chocolate-mousse filled zucotta–incredibly rich yet light: a spectacular (and simple) dessert alone.

From the Italian zucotto for “Skullcap”, a zucotta is a ladyfinger lined, mousse-filled bowl. When chilled and inverted, it makes a cool dome shape that can be further embellished with a smooth coating of ganache.

When placed atop an already over-the-top dessert it became a wild monument to chocolate: a monument whose assembly nearly ended in disaster . The dome almost toppled mid-flight before its precarious three-tier landing. And then, the construction reminded me of a thatched beehive hut we visited in Ethiopia. Yes, this creation was shaping up to be a contender for Cake Wrecks.

Be assured, there is much that can be remedied with more frosting, a long cake spatula, and a pastry bag filled with cocoa whipped cream. And the notion that, when something is meant to be ostentatious, More is Better.

The recipes that follow will make 1 large zucotta–which will serve 12-15, and 1 10″ layer cake to split or 2 9″ layers. Either Zucotta or Sour Cream Chocolate Cake is Lovely-Lovely by itself—you don’t have to go All Fascinating and Little Different if don’t want to!

giant cupcake cake

Chocolate Zucotta

one 4 qt. glass bowl
2 pkgs. plain Ladyfingers

9 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
12 T. unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
4 T. Espresso, or strong Coffee
2 T. Vanilla
3 T. Creme de Cacao liqueur
6 Eggs, separated
1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup Heavy Cream, lightly sweetened and whipped

Line the bowl with plastic wrap, with ends coming over the sides.
Then, line the interior of the bowl with ladyfingers. Brush with creme de cacao and set aside.

In a heavy 1 qt. saucepan under low heat, melt the chocolate and coffee together.

Whisk in the vanilla and creme de cacao. Then, stir in the butter, one chunk at a time, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Remove from heat.

Using an electric mixer and balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the yolks become really pale yellow and thickened, almost triple in volume. This will take several (at least 5) minutes. The yolks will cling to the whisk.

Your chocolate mixture should be warm, but not hot.
Beat it into the thickened egg yolks, and pour into another large mixing bowl.
Clean and dry your mixer bowl and whisk. Beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

Fold in whipped cream. Pour mixture into lined bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When well-chilled and set, unmold onto a platter or plate. Skim-coat with chocolate frosting and/or Cover with chocolate ganache. Decorate with fresh strawberries, whipped cream.

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 t. Vanilla

Heat cream gently–to a simmer. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until melted and glossy. Remove from heat. While warm, but not hot, pour over the zucotta. Chill and serve.

lining the bowl

I used a 4 qt. glass bowl, with a diameter similar to the cake. Short on time, I used packaged ladyfingers, although I have recipe posted here for them, if you’d like to make them yourself.

filled zuccota

This filling is similar to my basic wonderful chocolate mousse, although this recipe has whipped cream folded into the batch.

unmolded zuccota

After this sets up—-overnight is best—-it unmolds quite easily.

coated dome

Here, I “skim-coated” the zucotta with some sour cream chocolate frosting, left over from the cake. It’s now ready for the dark chocolate ganache.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
2 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
1/2 cup chopped Bittersweet Chocolate
1/2 cup Cocoa
2 sticks Unsalted Butter
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Coffee
1 cup Sour Cream
1 T. Vanilla
3 Eggs
2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

In a microwaveable bowl, place the first 5 ingredients and heat for about one minute–until chocolate and butter is melted. Remove, stir, and heat again for another 1/2 minute, so that sugar is dissolved.

Stir in coffee, vanilla, and sour cream. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Sift flour, soda, and salt together. Beat into wet mixture.

Pour batter into greased 10″ cake or springform pan or 2 9″ cake pans.
Bake in 350 degree oven 35-40 for the 10″/25-30 minutes for the 9″.

Cool. Split 10″ cake to frost.

Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting
1 1/2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup strong Coffee
2 sticks softened unsalted Butter
1 t. Vanilla
1 cup Sour Cream
3 cups Confectioners Sugar

Melt chocolate chips and coffee together–stir until smooth.
Beat softened butter with vanilla. Beat in sour cream, cooled (but not hard) chocolate. Beat in confectioners sugar, one cup at a time.
Taste for sweetness and adjust.

cutting into the cupcake

Crazy-Messy, and Oh-So-Good. Voted best cake ever—and best party ever—by the River Rest residents….

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 16 Comments »

December 22nd, 2009

Olive Oil Carrot Cake, belated blog birthday post

carrotcake 1

One Year Old. (not the cake….the blog!)

I hadn’t intended for this post to be a dessert one, but suddenly, in the whirl of The Season, I realized that this little Good Food Matters blog had passed a milestone. A whole year old on the 16th. (!)

So, in honor of It–the persistence of its existence—and You, the persistent dear reader, I present this most delicious cake, recently made for our friends visiting from Italy, and their guests.

Now, there are carrot cakes, and there are Carrot Cakes. I took my long-time, well-proven recipe and tweaked it by substituting fruity olive oil for the common, neutral vegetable oil. What a difference!

The result was extraordinary—the richness of the olive oil enhanced and deepened the spicing of the cake, while retaining moist texture.

That, coupled with raisins, organic carrots, which are sweeter, and you can effectively cut back on the sugar. (Had there been pineapple in the house, I would have included 1/2 cup of diced bits, too.) My original recipe called for 2 cups, but I found that 1 1/2 cups total, combining both brown and white sugar, was just right. However, if you like a sweeter cake, boost the sugar back up to 2. It’s okay.

This recipe will make two 9″ layers, or one 9″x13″ rectangle. For my friends’ party, I doubled the recipe to make this grand confection.

The cream cheese icing is rather silky, luxurious, and also not-too-sweet. Fresh lemon juice and zest, along with vanilla, enliven the butter-cream cheese blend. Be sure that both are soft before you cream them together—that way they will marry smoothly.

After the two are well blended, I add the lemon and vanilla. The flavors infuse better. Confectioners sugar is added last, which you are welcome to increase to your taste. I like that dulcet tang to come through, and so am judicious with adding the powdery stuff.

So, here’s to a blog birthday, and all the season’s best.

From here at Good Food Matters,
I wish you all love, health, and happiness,
and, of course,

good food and company.


yummy carrotcake slice

Olive Oil Carrot Cake

1 cup Olive Oil
3 cups shredded Carrots
1 1/2 to 2 cups Sugar—divide equally between Brown and White
4 eggs
1/2 cup Pecans
1/2 cup Raisins
2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Salt
2 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Nutmeg
1 t. Ginger
1/2 t. Cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly coat 2 9 inch cake pans.
Using a mixer, blend all the “wet” ingredients together. Add raisins and pecans, pineapple too, if you like. (These ingredients are optional. You can make it simply carrot.)

Add dry ingredients and mix until all are well-incorporated.
Pour into baking pans, and place into the middle of the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until center tests done.

Allow to cool. Remove from pans. Let cool further before icing.
Note: This cake freezes well. It also stays moist for a long time, wrapped, so you can safely make the cake in advance.

Cream Cheese Icing
12 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
4 oz. (1 stick) Butter, softened
3 T. (or more) fresh Lemon Juice
1 T. Lemon Zest
1 T. Vanilla
1 1/2 cups Confectioners Sugar

Using an electric mixer (I am fortunate to have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer–and I use the paddle attachment for this.) cream the softened butter and cream cheese together. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla and mix well. Add the confectioners sugar–about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until smooth.

Taste for lemon and vanilla, as well as sweetness; add more as you see fit.

carrotcake 2

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 16 Comments »

September 8th, 2009

Madeleine’s Mocha Fudge Torte

The Zero Birthdays are the BIG ones—there’s something about marking off the decades, these milestones, that stirs the ethers. Memories are conjured. People bubble up from the past. Karmic ties either unravel, or tighten. (We prefer unraveling…)

In a way–as a matter of reflection of life and times past–the event is as significant to family members and friends as it is to the birthday person. Herself.

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s 30th Birthday.
We threw a big wild wonderful party. With LOTS of family, friends, food.
And Gypsy Music. Dancing.

And this magnificent Mocha Fudge Torte.

When I first asked my daughter what kind of cake would she like, she told me she’d have to think about it and get back with me. A couple of days passed when she called,

“Momma, you used to make this really good chocolate cake that had coffee flavored icing. Sometimes you soaked the cake with a raspberry liqueur.”

“Ah! The Mocha Fudge Torte!” I said. I had totally forgotten about it. And, yes, sometimes I did brush some Chambord liqueur onto the layers. I recalled the little round bottle with the royal gold plastic banding and plastic gold crown top—so 1980s!!!!

“Yes! That’s what I want.”

This is such a delicious cake; how could I have forgotten it? The coffee cream cheese icing alone is divine enough to eat in great spoonfuls. Oddly, it’s about the only recipe where I use instant coffee. Trust me, this is what it takes to get that rich coffee flavor while still maintaining the integrity of the frosting. The Chambord is truely not critical to the cause. Madeleine and I sampled it on a piece of leveled cake while I was assembling, and decided it was frou-frou.

Three types of chocolate go into the batter.

Mix the batter by hand, if you like. I love being low-tech when I can.

I actually prefer making the cake in one deep pan, and then splitting the layer. The cake seems moister that way.


2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup cocoa
2 sticks butter
2 cup sugar
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
parchment paper to line 1 deep 10 inch springform pan, or 2 9 inch cake pans
baking spray

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut parchment paper into circles (trace around the cake pans). Lightly spray inside of cake pans, line with parchment and spray again.
Place both kinds of chocolate, cocoa, sugar, butter, coffee, milk, and vanilla in a microwaveable bowl and heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Stir, and repeat if chocolate is not melted. Stir until smooth and sugar is dissolved.
In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.
Whisk eggs into chocolate mixture, one at a time.
Finally mix in the dry ingredients.
Pour into cake pan(s). If using one 10 inch springform, bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes. If using two 9 inch cake pans, bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes.
Cool. Remove from pans. If using 10″springform, split the layer in half.

I rarely measure confectioners sugar, or vanilla, or the instant coffee—these are approximations that I think will work. I always add a little, and then sample, and then adjust.

12oz. softened Cream Cheese
4 oz. (1 stick) softened Butter
2 cups Confectioners Sugar
2 Tablespoons Instant Coffee dissolved in
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Dark Chocolate covered Espresso Beans (optional garnish)

Using a mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add confectioners sugar and
dissolved vanilla-coffee syrup. Beat well, and taste for coffee flavor and sweetness.
Adjust if necessary.

The Assembly
A Lazy Susan and long flat spatulas help the cause! Level the cake, by slicing off the little rounded top. Place a mound of frosting in the center of the first layer and spread out to the edges. Place second layer on top. Place another mound of frosting on the top, spreading out to the edges, and smoothing over the sides. Slowly rotate the lazy susan, while holding the spatula in place to bring the frosting evenly around the cake. Set in refrigerator to set up before decorating.

Note: I doubled my recipes for both cake and icing for my daughter’s cake to make it extra BIG with three layers (and the fourth layer is in the freezer…)

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 11 Comments »