I wrote this post as part of the Plugrá Butter Brigade. Thanks, Plugrá, for sponsoring this chocolatey amazingness and for making my favorite butter!
Let’s talk COFFEE. I need advice.
To preface, I’m new at this whole coffee thing. I started drinking coffee in May because I was in Europe with a group of 9th graders and absolutely exhausted (I know, poor me! Gallivanting around Italy with all expenses paid! Tiny violin.) It also just seemed to be the European thing to do, right? To sip a cup of strong espresso alongside my breakfast of hard boiled eggs and cheese. And I’m nothing if not très European (just ask the waiter who tried his hardest not to laugh at my French-with-a-Southern-accent.)
If you could be any dessert, what would you be? Are you a sweet but tangy lemon meringue pie, with a sarcastic edge to every quip? Are you a cloying maraschino cherry cupcake, sweetening the day of everyone you encounter? Are you a simple vanilla scone? A boozy rum cake? An organic paleo gluten-free granola tart?
An intense chocolate mocha cake?
Baker’s Joy® just created the sweetest (ha ha pun intended) “Which Sweet Treat Are You?” quiz to help you figure out your dessert alter-ego. Each personality result is a delicious “sweet treat” recipe — if you’re super amazing, you might even get my Intense Chocolate Mocha Cake as a result. As a bonus, you can take the quiz as many times as you want, and each quiz is an entry into their giveaway. Daily winners will win $50 Visa gift cards and a year’s supply of Baker’s Joy®. One Grand Prize winner will win $500 Visa gift card, a KitchenAid mixer, and a year’s supply of Baker’s Joy®. Whoa nelly. That’s a lot of good stuff.
The quiz starts today and you can keep quizzin’ until May 5th to try and win.
I think I’m out of the running for the prizes ’cause Baker’s Joy® is sponsoring this post, but I still had to take the quiz to see which dessert matches my baking personality.
I’ve been sick and cranky all day, so I wonder if there’s a sick-and-cranky dessert result? Maybe this cake?
Thankfully, I ended up with something a little cuter. My result was On-the-Go: “Nothing can slow me down! I love a challenge and am always on-the-go. […] I’d much rather be the captain of the team than sitting on the sidelines.” Given by current crazy to-do list, I’d say that’s about right.
No matter what results you get, you have to make this incredible snack cake. It’s so quick to whip up (the longest part of the recipe is waiting for the frosting to reach peak spreadability!) and is seriously, hands-down one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. YOU GUYS, I don’t say that kind of thing lightly. Okay, so I have one more cake post coming this week that I’m going to say that about, too, but that’s just because the recipes are both SO stellar. Really!
This easy snack cake packs an intense mocha punch! The espresso powder deepens the already fantastic chocolate flavor of the cake and smooth-as-silk frosting. Be sure to pour a tall glass of milk with this cake (or maybe a nice cup of coffee?)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
7 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
7 tablespoons warm water
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
coffee ice cream (for serving)
Directions: Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with Baker’s Joy® nonstick cooking spray. Place a square of parchment in the bottom and spray this with Baker’s Joy® as well.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt together and set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, vegetable oil, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and water to a boil, whisking to mix. After it boils, whisk it into the dry ingredients until combined. Whisk in the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs (a clean toothpick means a dry cake, so be sure to pull it out before then!) Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes before cooling the rest of the way in the fridge. When your cake is completely cool, invert it onto a square plate or platter.
Make the frosting: In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa, espresso powder, and warm water. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the melted, cooled chocolate and the cocoa mixture. Let this sit for exactly 30 minutes (no really, exactly 30!) before you use it to obtain the perfect spreadability. Pile the frosting on the top of the cake and smooth it out to an even, thick layer. Cut into slices and serve with coffee ice cream.
Thanks, Foodie, for sponsoring this post showcasing the BEST Valentine’s Day Recipes from Willow Bird Baking.
Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite food holidays. Everything’s so CUTE and CHOCOLATE and CUTE and PINK. Since it’s my fave, I go all out on heart day recipes. See the caption under each recipe for a description and difficulty level.
I need the Care Bear Stare, no joke. The past couple of weeks have been rough, and I know the trouble I face is nothing compared to what others are going through around the world. I feel a little jaded.
I don’t have any fancy belly power (unless you count dessert-making), but I can compile any bits of joy into a salve of sorts: my list of things that make me hopeful. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it is to me.
Things That Make Me Hopeful
1. I ran out of toothpaste and toilet paper this week but miraculously found that I had more of both in the cabinet. This never happens.
2. One of my students has decided her passion is kindness, and she is currently trying to complete 101 Random Acts of Kindness. She’s blogging about it on her adorable blog.
3. Beautiful dishes. Rosanna sent me (for free) the gorgeous pink cake pedestal you see here to review, and now I kind of want to buy out the whole store. I can’t get enough of it. In fact, I don’t actually put pretty dishes like this away — I use them to decorate my living space.
4. I locked myself out of my bedroom and somehow managed to pick the lock with a bobby pin. Profuse self-congratulating (and God-thanking, because I’m not totally delusional) ensued. Please call me MacGyver.
5. I was gifted two beautiful bouquets of flowers when I moved into my new apartment. They’ve long since died and dried out, but they’re still too gorgeous to dispose of. I decided one of them should make an appearance in the background of these photos.
6. My friend Jessie, a current senior at my alma mater, Davidson College, writes a beautiful blog, Eating Aarti. She’s about to move to Seattle and work at a crumpet shop, and I can’t really explain how happy that sounds to me.
8. Spring is here and to enjoy it, I walk to the gym each evening instead of driving. I’m going to buy a couple of plastic chairs and some ferns for my balcony and create a little outdoor workspace. I’ve been excited about doing this all winter, and now I finally can!
9. One of my students has been working very hard on an absolutely stunning short story. When he finished, I gave him a series of revision challenges, but he came up to me with a very serious look on his face. He said, “Ms. Ruble, I really don’t want to change my story. I really want it the way that I have it.” I read him a stirring passage from a novel and asked if he wouldn’t like to use a similar extended metaphor in his work and he said, “Maybe. I just feel like it will mess it up to change it.”
His resistance was clearly not due to laziness or a desire to be finished; he just loved his story and felt strongly about how he had arranged things. I had him make a copy so he could experiment on one without risking his perfect draft. And then I sat down and thought about how priceless it was that he was proud of his work.
10. Brave New Voices is a collection of organizations that support young poets. I’ve been clicking around on YouTube watching teams of these kids who are so passionate about being heard and so worth hearing. I cry every time I see this one.
11. Girl Scout cookies. Actually, I’m just going to say it. You’re going to act like I punched a kitten, but I’m going to say it anyway. I don’t really love Girl Scout cookies. Couldn’t the Girl Scouts sell cake? Or pizza or pad thai or something? But Girl Scout cookies nevertheless give me hope, because nothing can unite a group of people like pulling out 8 or so of those brightly colored boxes. Suddenly everyone’s all Do-si-doing and Samoaing in harmony.
This Samoa Monkey Bread will have a similar effect, but with a little more panache, perhaps. It’s a riff on regular monkey bread — which is already the bee’s knees — except that each nugget is stuffed with melty chocolate and the whole thing is covered in coconut with a ganache drizzle. I added an extra bowl of ganache for dipping and it did not go unappreciated. I’m not going to lie: it’s tedious tucking chocolate into each little dough ball, but it’s also beyond worth it. This is one of those “must make” recipes. And I hope it makes your “Things That Give Me Hope” list!
Samoa Girl Scout cookies are good. Monkey Bread is good. Samoa Monkey Bread is INSANE. You have to make this one! It’s a little fiddly filling each dough ball with chocolate, but so worth it.
4 (7.5-ounce) tubes of refrigerated biscuits
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon coconut extract
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 bag of Hershey’s Baking Melts* for stuffing
1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips for this ganache)
1/2 cup heavy cream
*Karly turned me on to these and they’re perfect for this application, but you can use chocolate chips or even chocolate kisses if you need to.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 12-cup tube or bundt pan. Toss sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and 1/2 cup coconut in a gallon-size plastic zip bag to mix. Cut each refrigerator biscuit in half and place a baking melt on it. Pinch the dough around the baking melt to close completely. Put the dough balls into the prepared bag and toss gently to coat. Then place the coated dough balls into the greased tube pan. Once you get a full layer of dough balls in the pan, sprinkle on about 1/2 cup of shredded coconut flakes. Keep layering dough balls and coconut until the dough balls are all in the pan. Sprinkle a little more coconut over the top.
Mix melted butter, coconut extract, and brown sugar carefully and pour over the dough balls. Bake for about 45 minutes or until well browned (so the middle won’t be doughy). Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before (carefully — the hot butter might splash) inverting it onto a plate.
While it cools slightly, put the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for about 1 minute — long enough to make it hot, but not enough for it to boil. Pour it over the chocolate chips and let it sit for 2 minutes. Then whisk in small circles to form ganache. Drizzle a little over the top of your monkey bread before pouring the rest into a bowl. Serve the ganache with the warm monkey bread for dipping.
“You know, it doesn’t really matter,” I said with a shrug.
The AT&T tech looked perplexed by my indifference. I guess customers usually start foaming at the mouth when he tells them he can’t get their internet connection up and running. I explained: “I really don’t want the internet. You’d be amazed at how much you get done without it.”
Throwing all my windows open and lounging in the gorgeous new autumn.
Eating popcorn by the bucketful.
Trying to be bendy in yoga.
I’m going to be eating these words once my students turn in the first project for me to grade, but for now, I can’t believe how many hours there are in the day. I mean, I don’t know what I did on the internet all day to eat up the amount of time I’ve found myself with in its absence. Some worthy things, obviously: recipe research and development, writing about food, lesson planning, emailing students and their parents. But what consumed the rest of my time? Facebook? People.com? A prolonged email-checking stupor?
Actually, I know exactly why the internet was able to fill my schedule: my insidious addiction to multi-tasking.
I’ve spent the last, oh, sixteen years of my life running around like the proverbial headless chicken, completing each responsibility roughly 5 milliseconds before its due, and dealing with the not-infrequent crisis when a deadline slips by. I work on at least two things at a time, but usually five or six. For instance, right now I’m writing this, posting comments on two friends’ blogs, and reading the comments on Willow Bird Baking’s latest Facebook status. I’ll do each activity for a few seconds before switching to another, throwing in a glance at my email every few cycles for good measure. Why does my brain think this is an efficient way to manage tasks? And why must there be so many useless tasks available on the internet?
I’m going to go ahead and admit to the entire interwebz that I have a therapist. (I’m not even slightly shy about that fact, by the way — because I kind of think everyone should have a therapist. If you have one, you know what I mean! They’re wonderful. It’s like having a coach for life. Yes, please.) One thing she talks a lot about is mindfulness, which is being fully present, aware, and participatory in your every thought and action.
It’s amazing how many things we do mindlessly — things like scrolling through a billion pages of Dog Shaming (baaahaha, okay, I just added that to my list of things-I’m-doing-right-now), eating a whole bag of popcorn while watching a movie, having a phone conversation while working on other things. In fact, I think that if we really examined our daily lives, we’d find that we do most things mindlessly — or at least with split attention. And the internet reinforces that behavior. Time to confess: how many tabs or windows do you have open right now? (I have 13!) How many other activities are you completing while reading this post?
Having one of my favorite mindless-multi-tasking activities (that is, the internet) pulled right out from under me has made me realize how peaceful and productive mindfulness can really be. Sometimes I sit on my couch with a plate of food and do nothing but take bite after mindful bite, feeling the texture of the food, tasting each flavor, and enjoying the process. There’s no book in front of me, no television playing in the background. Nothing but me and the next bite. Eating thus becomes a meditation. Every activity I complete can be distilled down to its sensory components, down to the experience of completing it. And my spirit feels so much calmer and more satisfied.
I can’t go forever without the internet — I’m a food blogger, after all, and I do get tired of having to find a little café with wifi any time I want to check my email — but I will be using it differently when AT&T figures out what’s wrong with my wiring. At least, right after I catch up on Dog Shaming…
One thing I did (mostly!) mindfully Friday night was bake this German Chocolate Cheesecake. I did have soft music playing in the background, but other than that, it was just me, my new kitchen, and each ingredient. I expected the recipe to take forever, but the process actually went rather quickly — perhaps because I was focused on the tasks. I also have sharper memories of each moment: peeling the blocks of cream cheese off of their silvery paper, sticking the toothpick into the fragrant chocolate cake, stirring the coconut-pecan filling until the cold hunks of butter melted into the hot custard. The experience was just what I needed to make my new apartment into my new home. And I found one of those little wifi cafés just to share it with you!
Like many of my cheesecakes, this gorgeous German Chocolate Cheesecake would be easy to make over several days. For instance, you could make the chocolate cake layer one day, make the cheesecake the next, and make the filling and assemble the third. Alternatively, you can make it all in one go. Either way, it’s rich, indulgent, and so delicious. Try getting all of your ingredients ready before you begin and baking each component mindfully, letting yourself enjoy the experience. NOTE: This filling calls for 2/3 cup sugar, but I only had about 1/3 cup sugar. I didn’t want to run to the store, so I used some Cinnabon Sprinkle Topping Cinnabon sent me in place of the rest of the sugar, and it was so good! I think you could get the same effect by just using the 2/3 cup sugar below and adding a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, if you’d like. Or just buy the Cinnabon Sprinkle Topping — it really is so yummy. Y’all know I don’t just do product placements for no reason.
1 package (about 38) chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs (cream and all – it’ll disappear when you crush them up!)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
3/8 cups heavy cream (6 tablespoons)
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used half semisweet and half Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips)
3 packages (8 ounces each) of cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
3 ounces or about 6 tablespoons chocolate chips, melted and cooled (I used half semisweet and half Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/8 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/8 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/8 cup plus 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/8 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted
Make the cheesecake crust: Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides). It’s hard to get the crust up that high, but keep pressing the crumbs up from the bottom with a smooth-sided glass (twisting the glass as you do so, so the crumbs don’t stick) and working them around — you’ll want it that high to hold the cake layer. Patience helps with this step.
Make the ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or heat in the microwave for about a minute, watching to ensure it doesn’t boil). Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour the ganache over the bottom of the crust. Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.
Make the cake: While the ganache is freezing, cut a circle of parchment paper and use cooking spray as “glue” to adhere it to a 9-inch round cake pan. Then grease the pan and the paper (I use Wilton’s Cake Release, but you could also use butter and flour). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and coarse salt together in a mixing bowl. Beat the dry ingredients on low until combined before increasing the speed to medium and adding the egg, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat about 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Pour it into the pan.
Place the pan in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 25-30 minutes. Rotate the pan about halfway through so it’ll bake evenly. When you take the cake layer out, leave the oven preheated for the cheesecake. Let the cake layer cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning it out onto a sheet of wax paper and leaving it to cool completely. Wrap the cake layer and stick it in the freezer to firm it up for assembly.
Make the cheesecake: While the cake layer is baking, mix cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl until well blended and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each, and continue mixing until combined. Add the chocolate and continue mixing until combined. Pour mixture into prepared crust and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 55 minutes or until center of cake is almost set. The top may crack, but it doesn’t particularly matter, since you’ll be covering it anyway. Let the cheesecake fully cool. When almost cool, place it in refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling.
Make the filling: Place the butter, salt, toasted coconut, and toasted pecans in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, sugar, and egg yolks over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened, coats the spoon, and reads 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Pour this mixture over the coconut mixture and stir until the butter melts. Let the mixture cool completely (I set mine in the fridge once it was almost cool to thicken it some more.)
Assemble the cake: Place half of the filling on top of the chilled cheesecake and spread it out. Carefully place the chocolate cake layer on top. Spread the rest of the filling on top of the chocolate cake layer. Decorate with pecans. Chill for 3 hours or overnight. When completely chilled, loosen the cake from rim of springform pan by wrapping the pan in warm dishtowels. Remove the springform pan and serve.
Disclaimer: I was sent Cinnabon Sprinkle Topping for free to try, but didn’t plan to use it in this recipe until a cooking emergency inspired me to. I would never mention a product to you unless it was something I truly enjoyed, and boy did I love this one!