Chocolate cake pairs wonderfully well with cello sonatas.

So proud!!

Okay so…

I know that generally speaking, you’re not really supposed to brag about how fabulous your cooking is. But that’s too bad, because I’m going to break that rule. Just for right now…

side view :)

Because I am SO PROUD of this cake! I made it for Ian’s Senior Recital on the cello (which was also beyond fantastic, congratulations, Ian! And thanks for playing Beethoven’s cello sonata in A, it’s my favorite :), and I just had to share it with you. Because it’s sort of like my child. That’s how proud I am! Besides, everyone deserves a little horn-tooting of their own every so often. I’ve actually already posted the recipe on this blog, but this version is like a classier cousin of the one I made before. If you want the recipe, it’s here! This is still one of my favorite cakes: malted chocolate cake, with malted buttercream! The stenciled patterns are done with malt powder. The pictures speak for themselves :)

Congratulations, Ian! You were BOMB.
mmm, frostingggg!
three layers of goodness.

Umpteen zillion ripe pears, and what to do about it.

Before I start, I just want to share this:

sad.

There is a disturbing lack of food in here… particularly veggies. Except the emptiness kind of makes me giggle… and makes me proud! No wasted food over the vacation to be found here. This, however, has been semi-rectified, and the Nerdaerie fridge looks a tad happier now. By the way, Nerdaerie is Kira’s and my nickname for our apartment… get it? We’re nerdy. We live on the second floor, like an nest or aerie of smarty eagles. Because eagles are smart. And we’re smart. And nerdy. And awesome :)

Whilst I was home, I of course had to do something besides bake pumpkin biscuits. Besides, what else was I going to do with umpteen fifty-zillion over-ripeish pears, and a new convection oven?! How can you resist? Answer: you can’t. I had to break the oven in somehow, right? Right. And the holidays = baking. Well, really anytime = baking, but that’s just a small technicality I’m willing to overlook.

mmmm, umpteen ripe pears!

So. I ended up using the remaining bits of flour (just enough, but I was SO NOT going to brave the madness that is Whole Foods at any time during the holidays. No cart roller derby for me, thanks… I really don’t prefer having to throw an elbow just to get to the broccoli) to make a cake! With pears. And chocolate. And things we already had lying around the house. Because THEN, Mutti, Vati and I could sit around and eat cake and watch the Civil War (Are YOU Duck enough?!). Because, as Vati so rightly said, all bets are off on game-day. One slice of cake per quarter? Done. And oops. We ate half the cake in one sitting. Whoopsie! Good thing it has fruit and is therefore good for me.

This cake is delicious. It’s not too sweet, with just the right balance of chocolate, fruit, and lightly sweet batter. Oh yeah. It goes perfectly with that leftover Fra Angelico spiked whipped cream you have sitting in the fridge. Because everyone knows that pear and hazelnut are a match made in heaven. Add in chocolate, and you can forget about eating anything else the rest of the day. Unless of course you’re Vati, in which case apparently beer is a nice accompaniment. But you’ll have to ask him about that one…Maybe I should have made him some beer spiked cream! Ew. No. We’re not even going to try to go there!

ANYwayyy, back to the cake!

Pear Cake with Dark and Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Adapted from The Pastry Affair, here!

  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tbsp (half a stick) of unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 c turbinado sugar
  • 4 or 5 smallish pears, diced, skin on
  • 3/4 chocolate pieces (I used about 1/2 semisweet choc chippies and 1/2 70% dark chocolate bar, chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9″ or 10″ springform pan (mine was 10″).

Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

Begin by browning your butter. Over low heat, melt the butter until it begins to foam up. Scrape the little bits off the bottom of the pan as you go. Watch it closely, since it burns quickly. When it’s finished, pour into a separate bowl to keep it from cooking.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs using an electric mixer. Beat until light, foamy and thick, about 8 minutes. Add sugar, and keep beating for a few minutes. Turn the mixer to low, and add about a third of the dry ingredients. Then add half the butter, then another third flour, then the rest of the butter. Add the last third of flour, and then the applesauce. Continue beating until incorporated, but avoid overworking the eggs, and stop when things are just mixed.

Pour batter into the pan, and top with diced pears and chocolate. The batter will creep up as it bakes. Bake for 40-50 minutes (mine was perfectly done at 40, but it was also thinner in a larger pan), or until a tester comes out clean.

Scarf, whilst watching the ducks do a dance on the beavers. buahahhha. Live green, yell o! (and yes, I do go to Willamette, but Oregon will always be my adopted school)

oops. Half of it mysteriously disappeared somewhere...

 

Pancake Thursday :)

Pfankuchen!!

I put something green in my pancakes again, teeheehee!

And no, this time it was NOT spinach, and I didn’t get to use my baby food processor. Any guesses? Anyone? Anyone? …Bueller?

I’ll give you a hint.

My pet donated it.

And by pet, I mean Watson.

And yes. He IS my pet. I put him outside every day and water him…. and talk to him. He’s cute! But. Since you probably can’t guess…

BASIL! mmmm… fresh basil… there’s nothing quite like it.

Meet Watson. Watson, you're famous!

I really don’t think Watson objected to donating basil for our pancakes…at least, he didn’t seem to, and we didn’t ask him (rude, I know), since we’d been grocery shopping and came home ridiculously hungry. Not my fault that WinCo is basically a workout in of itself, and we stopped at a bunch of other stores (mega YAYY for Salem finally having a Trader Joe’s!). So suffice it to say that we probably would have eaten Watson for dinner (I covered his ears, don’t worry, he didn’t hear that), except he didn’t seem very filling. Luckily, we had an alternate plan, namely… Pancakes! What else would we make on Thursdays? Besides, when we double fist the skillets, we can have pancakes in no time, which satisfies two mega hungry college-types (ok, one soon-to-be-not-college type and once recent college type).

These pancakes were fantastic! They were unlike any pancakes I’d ever had (and Kira gave them thumbs up too)—sort of almost savory, but with a distinctive basil flavor. They are made with ricotta, and the flavor of that really comes out as well. They go really well with pear (and we may or may not have had some Nutella lurking in the cupboard, muahah), and also with almond butter (of course!). I was eating them plain, they were that good. I’d definitely make these again (and I’m sure we will, provided Watson continues to flourish).

Besides… I really like having green bits in my pancakes. Or entirely green pancakes, either way.

Ricotta, Basil and Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Serves 2. Adapted from here!

Whatcha need:

  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta
  • 3/4 cup milk (we subbed in coconut milk beverage, which was deeeelicious. and because we could, says Kira!)
  • 3 tablespoons ish Earth Balance, melted and cooled. I say ish because it was a few spoonfuls, a very ‘ish’ amount.
  • 1 egg
  • choc chippies, for chucking into the pancakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil (FRESH, pleeease), finely chopped with your lovely chef’s knife.

Whatcha do!

Mix flour, salt, brown sugar, and baking powder. Sifting is probably a good idea… but obviously not crucial as I *ahem* didn’t. In a separate, cute small bowl, mix ricotta, egg, and milk type thing, along with melted buttahh. Mix wet into dry, and toss in basil from your trusty Watson pet.

Heat your skillet(s), preferably more than one in the interest of expediency, and make pfankuchen! Ideally speaking German whilst making them, because German is WAAAY more fun than English… wouldn’t you rather say Loffel for spoon? I know I would. And apparently moose is Amerikanisher Elk. Who knew?

Make pfankuchen. Add choc chippies according to your desired ratio… I like about 4 or 5 per pancake, carefully placed onto the top of the cooking pancake. So I’m particular… don’t judge!

Eat! Yayyy, this is the best part :)

Now Panic and Eat Cake!

The caking continues!

and cards!

Hello everybody! This is Kira, Hayley’s recently-arrived roomie. You might remember me from the banana cake issue preceding this. As the newest occupant of the Nerd-aerie (aka our apartment) I feel it is my solemn duty to make an appearance here in order to introduce myself, since I’ll be sharing in many of the cooking adventures to be featured in the coming posts. And what better occasion than the baking of a cake in celebration of my roomie/partner-in-crime’s 21st birthday? None, I say!

Let me just start off by saying that, while I do love me some good foods, and making them too, I have never been much of what you would call an instinctive or experimental cook. As a rule I find me a recipe and follow it! But living with Hayley (and reading her blog!) is challenging me to get a bit more creative, so for my first project I gave myself a little creative license and even improvised a bit.

I came across a recipe (in one of Hayley’s cookbooks) for orange cake, which sounded perfect, since we even had a lone orange that was lurking around the kitchen just waiting to be used (and the theme of this blog is cooking with what you have!), and since I wanted to make something a little different than just your typical chocolate birthday cake.

yummmm.

Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate and Orange Glaze

I found the original recipe in Hayley’s Moosewood Cookbook. That one calls for an orange glaze, but I thought that was much too boring, especially for a birthday cake. A birthday cake should have at least some chocolate! Plus the idea of orange with dark chocolate has been on my brain ever since a potluck I went to a few weeks ago where someone had brought candied orange rinds dipped in dark chocolate– heavenly! (And something on my list of future experiments)

What you need for the cake:

butter for the pan
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp grated orange rind (I upped this slightly, as I wanted it to be really orangey)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbs baking soda
Whisked together:
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 10-inch tube or bundt pan (I halved this recipe on account of not having enough butter, not having a bundt pan, and not having 12-16 people to share it with! The halved recipe still makes a respectably-sized cake that fits great in a 9×9 in. cake pan).

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Stir in the orange rind and vanilla. Set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter mixture
alternately with the combined yoghurt and orange juice, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix by hand after each addition–just enough to combine well.

Turn into the prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted all the way down comes out clean. (*Note: if you make a half recipe, like I did, definitely set it for 50 minutes first and make sure to check it–60 min would have gotten me a burnt cake for sure!) Cool for about 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate (if you’re using a bundt pan, otherwise ignore). Allow to cool completely.

Dark Chocolate Glaze with Orange

Okay, so this is where I got creative. The recipe calls for an orange glaze, but I’m going to give you my chocolate one instead, as I think it was superior.

What you need:

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs butter
small amount boiling water
grated orange rind

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan, then add the boiling water until you get the consistency you want–pourable but preferably not watery. Add orange rind to taste. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Pour the hot glaze onto the cooled cake and garnish with sliced orange peels. Let stand at least 10 minutes before slicing.

*Note: these are the glaze proportions I used for my half-recipe cake. If you go whole hog (in a manner of speaking) you might need to double this, depending on how much chocolatey goodness you want on your cake.

Also, food for thought–you could try adding 2-3 Tbs orange liqueur to the glaze mix as well! It would have been exceptionally fitting in Hayley’s 21st birthday cake, but sadly I had none to hand at the time.

In conclusion…

The cake was a delicious success, not too sweet and excellent with vanilla ice cream and fresh-picked blackberries, or (in the spirit of the thing) Kahlua!

Not a lush, I promise!

Keep Calm and Cake On!

old picture, from Wurstfest. But cute! Roomiesss!

The Roomie has landed! Our apartment is now officially EPIC. And the fridge is fully stocked with deliciousness, hooray! Be prepared to read about lots of shenanigans that will most likely ensue, in the kitchen and otherwise. Or, if you’d like to witness it yourself, you can come stay in the closet/guest room. Yep. We have a guest room sized closet, be jealous.You can be like Harry Potter, in his cupboard! Except more awesome,  since we’re WAY cooler than the Dursleys.

Because I was SUPER EXCITED that the Roomie (otherwise known as Kira, just so we’re all on a first name basis here…) was arriving, I decided to make… a CAKE! Of course. What else?!  The only problem was that I made it Saturday… and she wasn’t arriving until Sunday night… which meant that I spent all of the time between wanting to eat it. Oops. But I didn’t! Willpower wins, so there! Take that gremlins! Be satisfied with your muffins and stop bothering me.

Also, in the interest of my quest to utilize everything and not waste anything, I had my eye on some dangerously ripe buhhhnahhnnas (say it with a drawl or an accent, it’s much more fun!). Because why would you make anything else when you could make banana cake?! Besides, it’s only the BEST BANANA CAKE EVER, and who needs an excuse for that?! I certainly don’t. In fact, one of the besties at home (Michellleeee!!!) can vouch that this cake is epic. AND the Roomie like it. A lot. So YAY! Cake wins all around. Moral of the story: Make cake whenever possible. Or as the British government wisely said, Keep Calm and Carry On. Or, rather… in my case… Keep calm and cake on. Always!

adorable small cake

Fabulous Buh-naah-na Cake

Adapted from The Pastry Affair (a really fab blog!), here

This cake is delicious. It’s simple, requires mostly what you have on hand in the pantry, and comes together in snap. Not only that, but it’s surprisingly light—a nap is not obligatory after finishing a slice :) The banana and chocolate flavors come together perfectly, and there is a perfect banana to chocolate ratio. It’s excellent with vanilla ice cream, of course (what isn’t ?!), but also stands divinely on its own. I always refrigerate it, so the glaze stays hard, but it’s really good out of the fridge, so everyone wins.

Whatcha need:

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (or microwaved until soft. I’m always too impatient)
1/2 cup white sugar (or less. I always use less—maybe more like 1/3 c)*
3/4 cup brown sugar (also less. Like maybe 1/2 c. Depends on your preference for sweet)*
2 large eggs
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

*I’ve also successfully made this cake in a half batch, with 1/2 c coconut sugar in place of the brown+white. I LOVE it this way, but up to you!

Preheat the oven to 325. Grease two 8 or 9″ cake pans (alternatively, make half the recipe, like I did for Kira, and use two 6.5″ pans. Perfect for two roomies!)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon,  and salt.

Using a hand mixer, cream the sugars and softened butter together until fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla and mashed buhnahnas. Mix again.

Add in buttermilk and flour, alternating between the two, and starting and ending with flour. You can use your mixer for this too, which is obviously nice. Pour your batter into pans, and inhale the lovely banana aroma. Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. (It’ll be less for the 6.5″ pans–unfortunately I’m not sure how long mine took. I set the timer for 20, and watched them carefully from there. I’m thinking about 25 total). Let cool in pans for at least 10 minutes, and then let cool completely before frosting.

Keep Calm… and Sprinkle On? I think so.

Chocolate Glaze

In a double boiler, melt together 1/2 c of butter, and 2 c of chocolate chips. For a 6.5″ cake, I used a little more than half of this amount. I also threw in a little vanilla—it’s a nice addition. Let this cool a bit before frosting, otherwise it’s extremely runny. Which is kind of fun, but not exactly aesthetic…

Top with sprinkles! Of course. What else?! This is why my gremlins are technicolor.

Enjoy with a fab roomie, who you are super excited to live with, after a really civilized picnic-style dinner of good cheese, crusty bread, fresh basil, and fresh veggies. YUM.

din din!
I look like I’m about to fling the cake on the floor, oops!

AND THEN.

Do a happy dance because your lovely parents bought you a surprise for your 21st birthday on Friday! A RED Kitchenaide STANDMIXER! Happy, happy, HAPPY! Danke schoen, Mutti and Vati, you are quite possibly the BEST EVER!

Kitchenaide, you are my new pet!

It’s not easy being green…

that's right. GREEN PANCAKES.

Ok.

I just have to say, in my defense… I don’t normally make green food.

I mean… I EAT green food. You know, like that color produced by chlorophyll. Like plants. Mmmmm, plants. I do love them. Especially the green ones! Like broccoli, bok choy, celery, lettuces. Um. I could go on, but in the interest of holding your attention.. *ahem* Let’s move ahead!

So.

Since I’m currently roomie-less (but NOT FOR LONG, YAYYYY!!!), I’m purchasing and consuming for one stomach (and its resident gremlins). I’m discovering this to be an exceptionally fun challenge, not only to eat all the stuff in the fridge before it goes traveling southward, but also to eat a varied, balanced, and nutritionally sound diet. BUT. This diet also has to be interesting. Why would I EVER eat boring food? Boring food is, well…BORING. Life is too short and my stomach is too small (sadly I’m not a cow with five stomachs, why weren’t humans invented like that, I ask you?!) to eat lame food.

Right. Sorry, that was rather tangential. ANYway. As I was saying, before I so rudely interrupted myself about boring food… In my travels through the recesses of my fridge, I happened upon some spinach. I knew it was in there, of course, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to use it. I also have three lonely mushrooms, just in case anyone cares. And NO, they are NOT going into pancakes, ewwy ew ew.

As I was staring down the spinach, I had  a BRILLIANT PLAN! (Because anything involving your adorable and tiny *PURPLE* food processor is a brilliant idea) I decided to make spinach puree and… wait… ADD IT TO PANCAKES! Can you say nutritional value, all in one tidy little yummy package? Because I can. And there’s more, ooohhhh yes. They were DELICIOUS! Spinach is so totally going into my pancakes from now on (except with a certain Pancake Friday buddy–you know who you are!)

So. Without any further babble, here is the recipe! You’ve seen it before in other forms, although the base for this is the most basic.

down at pancake level

Spinach-Oat-Buttermilk Pancakes (Serves one with a cow stomach, or one normal human plus leftover breakfast!)

Hugely adapted from Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book

Do the pancake shtick! Mix dry:

  • 3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • very scant 1/2 tsp salt

*Tasty add-in: I chucked in about 1/4-1/3 c rolled oats. I highly recommend this! It gives them a bit more body and lovely chewiness.

Mix wet in a separate bowl:

  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • some melted something (I used Earth Balance… the original recipe calls for 3 tbsp, I usually put in a spoonful or so… or not. Sometimes I leave it out. Butter or olive oil are fine too)

*To the wet ingredient bowl: ADD YOUR SPINACH! I’m not sure how much I actually used, probably about 2 c? I had about 2/3 or so of a bag left, and I used mostly all of it. It’s not very exact, but however much you want is probably fine.

You see? Healthy and delicious.
BABY PURPLE FOOD PROCESSOR!!

Mix wet into dry! I threw in a finely chopped banana, as per usual, which I also highly recommend. I may have even added a few frozen huckleberries and choc chippies to one or two but shhhhh don’t tell!

Pour. Cook. Drool. Photograph. Discover, whilst on the phone with a bestie, that you have GREEN SPRINKLES that match your pancakes. Freak out just a little bit and pour them on a wee bit over enthusiastically… then find out that the sprinkles have soaked into the pancakes while photographing, and that you now have sprinkles on your dinner. Secretly do a happy dance for sprinkles.

Watch Voyager. Eat and LOVE your green food. And NO, it did NOT come out of a replicator (though I wish it had!).

“At ease, Ensign Kim, before you sprain something” -Kathryn Janeway.

Do it.

oh. and ps: I just wanted to share this too!! I tested out my personal cake pans (size 6.5″) by making a half batch of Crazy Chocolate cake! It was EXCELLENT. I just made a few changes to the posted recipe, namely brown sugar instead of white or turbinado. Yummy! And sooo cute.

Perfect thirds!