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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

CokeCake

During the last few weeks of my brief relocation to Atlanta, I craved Coca-Cola cake. Not because I saw it on a menu or because somebody mentioned it, but because you can’t travel an entire block in Atlanta without seeing some sort of reminder that it’s the home of Coke, and my mind heads off in unpredictable directions when it gets a prompt.

Atlanta, the home of Coke, leads to Coca-Cola cake. Why not?

I remember eating Coca-Cola cake on a pretty regular basis when I was a kid. It’s pretty easy to throw together, and since you bake it in and serve it from the same pan, the presentation is simple, too.

I’ve had a copy of Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola for years, apparently always meaning to make this cake, but I got very confused when I tried to look up the recipe. I found three recipes for chocolate cakes containing Coke, but none of them called for the 13-by-9-inch pan that I specifically remembered. Online, Southern Living linked to a recipe that called for a good bit more sugar than the one in my book (not that I’m trying to make a low-sugar cake, because LOL low-sugar cake, but I didn’t want a chocolate cake in which the sugar overwhelmed the chocolate). Finally, I flipped through my copy of The Mississippi Cookbook, figuring that the Southern classic would surely hold the recipe I was looking for. I found that the sugar-cocoa ratio in its version was even more unappealing than the one in the online recipe.

Other than the sugar discrepancy, the online recipe’s ingredient list was nearly identical to one of the recipes in Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola, AND the online recipe gave me instructions for baking in a 13-by-9-inch pan instead of a sheet pan, so I figured my baking time would be about the same. And it was.

As I remembered, the cake was at its best the day after I made it. As the icing sits overnight, it hardens into a fudgy topping – not quote a hard coating, but not a soft frosting, either.

Admittedly, this cake was not the ambrosial concoction I remember from my childhood, but it was quite delicious. I think cake, like sandwiches and salads, is simply one of those treats that always taste better when somebody makes them for you.

One regular can of Coke is enough to make the batter and the icing, provided you don’t drink the leftover soda while the cake is baking. I’m not judging, either way. And seeing as I have NEVER purchased a carton of buttermilk, I always have to use the standard substitution: 1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk. I also understand you can use yogurt or buttermilk powder.

Start making the icing a couple of minutes after the cake comes out of the oven. You’ll want to pour it on top of the cake after the cake has cooled off for about 10 minutes. Also, the original recipe indicated that the pecans in the icing were optional, and pecans are SO not optional for this cake. In fact, I might try to work some pecans into the batter AND the icing next time.

Coca-Cola Cake

  • 2 cups plain unsifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. (Note: I didn’t sift anything because I kind of hate to sift. I had to mash down a few flour pellets in the batter with my stirring spatula, but that was the only consequence.)

In a saucepan, bring the butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola to a boil. Pour this mixture over the flour and sugar and stir until the batter is mixed thoroughly. Stir in the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, vanilla and marshmallows; mix well.

The batter will be extremely thin, and the marshmallows will float to the top. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and move the floating marshmallows around until they’re spread out reasonably evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. (Note: None of the recipes I consulted tell you how to tell that this cake is done, which was a little scary because the batter is so weirdly thin. The toothpick test worked, though. After 35 minutes, the toothpick came out with a few moist crumbs on it.)

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then pour the icing on top. It should spread itself out pretty evenly over the cake. Let the iced cake sit for at least an hour to let the icing firm up a little before you cut it, or risk scraping icing run-off out of the bottom of the pan with a spoon (which, really, is not such a terrible thing).

Coca-Cola Icing

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 6 or 7 tbsp. Coca-Cola
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, heat the butter, Coca-Cola and cocoa until everything is melted and mixed together. Pour over the powdered sugar and mix well. (Note: I broke out the mixer for this.)

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Six-week-old craving for a hand-dipped ice cream bar from Costco: satisfied.

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I spent several hours last Friday making a sweet potato pie, only to discover that my husband really doesn’t like sweet potato anything. I found the pie cloyingly sweet, and certainly wasn’t going to finish it by myself anyway. The only household member who liked it was Yang, who snagged a morsel that I dropped on the floor. He looked up at me like I had dropped the rarest, most delicious piece of fish he had ever eaten. Alas, aged cats do not have sweet potato pie on their list of dietary allowances.

Monday, I spend 30 minutes halfheartedly dipping some unsalted pretzels that were nearing their expiration date into leftover chocolate coating from the grand cake pop experiment. I sprinkled each one with the tiniest bit of kosher salt and laid them out on waxed paper to dry.

Little did I know they were to become the snack of the week. The husband and I both love them, particularly with a little peanut butter smeared on top.

Yang has shown no interest in them.

So, hours of effort yield a pie that no one likes, while a last-minute attempt to clean out the cabinet without trashing food yields delicious goodness. You never know.

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I got cake balls right this year. I followed Bakerella’s instructions, for the most part, but I also scouted around on a few other food blogs to try to improve on my last effort.

I discovered four secrets:

  1. Chill the undipped cake balls in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to get them firm enough for dipping. If you’re in a hurry and decide to pop them into the freezer instead, prepare for cracked cake balls. I only used the refrigerator for this last batch, and I had exactly ZERO cracked cake balls. More than half of the previous batch, which all went into the freezer so I could dip them more quickly, cracked within an hour after dipping. Plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time.
  2. Put the refrigerated cake balls on lollipop sticks before you dip them into the melted chocolate coating. This technically turns cake balls into cake pops. Go with it. Dip the tip of each stick into the melted coating before inserting it into a cake ball, then put the cake balls back into the refrigerator for at least five more minutes. The lollipop sticks make the coating process a lot easier, and, if you heed the advice in steps 3 and 4, they give you a more professional-looking product.
  3. Melt the chocolate coating in the microwave if you like, but hold it over simmering water in a double boiler to keep it thin enough while you’re dipping the cake balls. This will make the dipping process go faster, since you won’t have to worry about thickened chocolate that has to go back in the microwave every few minutes. Maintaining the melted coating at the same consistency throughout the dipping process simply results in prettier cake pops, too.
  4. After dipping the cake balls in the melted chocolate coating and letting the excess drip off for a few seconds, drizzle the wet cake balls with colored sugar or sprinkles — if that’s your decor of choice — and stick the clean end of the lollipop stick into a sturdy piece of Styrofoam (you may want to poke tiny holes in it before you start so the sticks will go in easily). This eliminates the flat spot and messy melted chocolate spread on the bottom of the finished cake balls.

I covered the business end of most of the cake pops with a small, clear treat bag and secured it with a small piece of Christmas ribbon, quickly tied into a simple knot (you can also just use twist ties). This made the cake pops fancy AND portable and helped keep them fresh for the better part of a week.

I won’t lie. These take forever and a day to make, and you’ll be cleaning chocolate smears off your stove and countertop and sweeping colored sugar off your kitchen floor for days. But well-made cake pops are beyond delicious and will impress the heck out of most people. Especially the 5-year-old princess fanatics in your life.

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It’s good to have friends who help you maintain a positive attitude and healthy habits. It’s also good to have friends who urge you to make questionable choices every once in a while.

When I emailed a photo of a surprising food find — Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls — to a former colleague earlier this week, he responded immediately:  “My professional advice to you is to buy two boxes of them right now. Why two? Because you’ll eat one box on the way home from the store.”

How could a girl resist?

I grew up eating Little Debbie products at my grandparent’s house in South Mississippi — my brother and I could always find a box of the treats on top of the refrigerator. I am the Forrest Gump of Little Debbie products, with a readily accessible running list of the different varieties taking up valuable space inside my brain. Ask me about nearly any of the company’s products, and I can run down a quick review for you. Here are just a few that popped into my head this very minute:

Devil Squares: Their substantial filling and sort of weirdly textured chocolate coating combine for a unique and delicious culinary experience that made me, as a child, feel slightly more sophisticated than my tomboyish habits generally merited. (more…)

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Kids love routine. You may think it’s exciting that you never know what you’re having for dinner until you pull it out of the freezer or the drive-through worker’s hands, or that you can make it to work/school on time only if you miss that first critical red light, but trust me, children want a degree of predictability.

Growing up, my brother and I had a few entirely predictable Christmas gifts, and I, for one, loved the routine. They were all candy items, and they didn’t stop until we had probably grown too old for some of them:

  • DeMet’s Turtles: Our maternal grandparents would give us each a box of these rich goodies every year. They were pretty basic: caramel-covered pecans coated with chocolate, in a vaguely turtle-like shape. They were also huge: If you ate more than two at a time (and just try to stop us), you could potentially suffer from that mythical stomachache that adults always warned us about. Meh. We were hardy children. No candy-induced stomachaches for us.
  • Chocolate mint patties: My paternal grandmother used to wrap up a box of these for each of us every year. You’d think that, given the popularity and year-round availability of the York Peppermint Pattie, these wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but they were thinner than Peppermint Patties and just more Christmas-y. (My in-laws still give my husband a box of them every year.)
  • Chocolate-covered cherries: My mom always made sure I got a box of these – not sure if my brother ever liked them. I loved biting through the thin chocolate shell to release the liquid surrounding the cherry. Looking back, I’m not sure how I ever ate so many — they may be the richest, sweetest Christmastime treat I remember.
  • Lifesavers Storybook: It was just a little cardboard box, hinged to resemble a book, but it held six or eight rolls of Lifesavers in different flavors and I was ALL about different flavors. Imagine. My favorite flavor was pineapple. I recently stumbled across a Lifesavers Storybook filled with gummy Lifesavers. We would have scarfed those down in minutes — maybe our paternal grandmother knew it would take us awhile to get through a box of hard candy.

We had other holiday traditions. We always went to my paternal grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve to unwrap presents, and left when the weatherman announced that Santa was getting close. My maternal grandmother always put walnuts in our stockings hung by the chimney with care, and we always dumped them back into the walnut bowl on Christmas morning. At some point, my grandmother started making fruitcake cookies every year, despite the face that nobody seemed to like them.

It’s funny that the goofy little things are the ones you remember the best. I can’t recall the “big gifts” that I got from year to year, but I can assure you that I would trade them all for one more Christmas with all my grandparents, swapping turtles and chocolate-covered cherries around the tree.

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It should not be this easy to satisfy a chocolate craving, and yet it is.

It’s not pretty by any means (thus the lack of a photo for this post), but this recipe for Gooey Chocolate Mug Cake actually makes a pretty passable one-serving instant brownie, using only powdered sugar, cocoa and an egg. Best of all, you mix it and microwave it in a coffee mug, leaving little mess behind.

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We don’t eat a lot of cake in the Haggerty household. It’s just the two of us, and we don’t particularly eat a lot of anything, especially sweets. Which is too bad, because I love to bake and can be quite good at it.

So when I DO decide that a cake is forthcoming, it needs to be out of this world.

This cake, alas, was not that memorable.

I found myself with zucchini remaining in the fridge last week, despite the fact that the CSA ended a few weeks ago. (I actually found more zucchini in the fridge yesterday. I fear it has become sentient and is reproducing at will.) I decided to end the season with a bang after I found a recipe for Zucchini Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting at Seriouseats.com. The recipe promised me a “triple-threat of complementary flavors,” including zucchini, chocolate and cream cheese.

It was … OK. The cake itself was kind of dry, and the chocolate frosting couldn’t make up for it no matter how rich it was. I would have been better off making plain old zucchini bread and wrapping it for the freezer while I made a more fabulous cake.

The cream cheese frosting is pretty delicious by itself, however. After I took the photo above I scraped it off, ate it and threw the cake away. Baker’s prerogative.

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A former co-worker told me about Huntsville’s Trade-Fair Marketplace months ago, and I finally wandered in today. The non-profit store, run by volunteers, offers an eclectic array of handcrafted jewelry, baskets, rugs, pottery and toys, along with an assortment of coffee and chocolate. The goal of the store, and other fair-trade organizations, is to ensure that the artisans and farmers producing the goods earn between 15 and 20 percent of the retail price.

It’s certainly the place to go if you’re looking for gifts and accessories you won’t find anywhere else. I found this resin ring for only $5 — all their prices seem very reasonable.

Trade-Fair Marketplace is located at 817 Regal Drive in the shopping center next to Parkway Place Mall.

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Too late for a New Year’s resolution? Fine. I sort of started this one in November, anyway.

I’m tired of disposable bags. I have a few of those hip reusable “green” bags that I do my best to keep in the car and use, but I don’t always want to or remember to drag them around with me. What I am aiming for is to reassess how I transport purchases and take some responsibility for decreasing the distribution of single-use bags.

I realize that some bags double as marketing. You can’t walk around Bridge Street without seeing a half dozen women and teens/tweens toting those distinctive pink Victoria’s Secret bags. The statement: I buy underwear. It may be risque. Or cotton.

Several weeks ago, I took a post-Gap trip to Victoria’s Secret. On a whim, I told the cashier that I would just put my purchases in the Gap bag. She hesitated, holding my undies over the pink tissue paper that is also part of the Secret overpackaging, so I gently took them from her and put them in the first bag. Still not really happy with myself for having a plastic bag for one pair of jeans, but I’m making one change at a time.

My next move is to stop accepting bags for small purchases. I was fast enough to stop the Pier 1 guy from giving me a plastic bag for five easy-to-carry chocolate bars (fancy, on clearance) this week, but I wasn’t quick enough to keep the used bookstore lady from putting two paperbacks in an oversized plastic bag. I’ve learned that if you tell cashiers you don’t need a bag AFTER they’ve already put your purchases in one, most will remove your items from the bag and throw it away. (I won’t insist that this action is taken out of spite, but it would be if I did it.)

I can’t change the world, but I can change how I treat it, even if it’s just the smallest of actions.

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