• Chocolate Cake For A Crowd

    Big chocolate cake.

    How big? It will feed over 20 people.

    Now you may wonder, what do I do with a cake that big? And what does a small family do with all of these baked goods? Well, in our case the answer is little league baseball. The season just ended, but we just spent a full spring feeding 12 hungry boys. They eat a lot.

    Happily, this is a real labor of love. After each game a few of the families cooked for the team, coaches and parents. As the weather got warmer and everyone got to know each other the meals morphed from take-out pizza to full 3-course spreads. By the end of the season we brought pre-made margaritas and corpse reviver #2’s to weekend games (the parents often had more fun than the kids ;-). We made pulled pork and brisket, which was a hit. But the big winner was Carolyn’s chocolate cake. This cake is “chocolatey”, moist, rich and delicious. The kids (and parents) loved it and kept asking for the cake and the bigger she made it, the more they ate. Sometimes it’s good to be 12 and eat all the cake you want. Sometimes it would be nice to be “X” and eat all the cake you want…

    Grease and dust your pans with cocoa.

    Mix your batter.

    Bake the cakes.

    Let cakes cool completely.

    The recipe for the cake and frosting comes from many sources, Carolyn makes this often enough to adapt the recipe on her own. The recipe isn’t complex, but like most baking it does require that you follow some specific steps. The bonus with this recipe is that you get an extra dessert as well (more on that later). This recipe is for 20+ big servings, but you can halve the recipe, if you like.

    As for the recipe itself, it is mostly standard cake making. The chocolate all comes from cocoa powder (a lot) and the moist texture from a combination of buttermilk and sour cream. And, of course, a touch of coffee that amplifies the chocolate flavor. The frosting is simply a lot of high quality chocolate, butter, sugar, milk and a pinch of salt. And as with all baking, the better the ingredients, the better the flavor.

    Chocolate for frosting. Continue reading

  • Mocha Layer Cake

    Mocha Layer Cake.

    We had a busy weekend with family, friends and our eldest’s Memorial Day wooden bat baseball tournament (great, low-key fun, btw). But Memorial day weekend also means a few birthdays and anniversaries, so we usually end up entertaining. We always enjoy entertaining, but it’s sometimes a challenge to decide what to make. But, as we often remind ourselves, successful summer entertaining is all about simplicity. With cocktails, we make it easy and serve punch or home-made Margaritas, guests serve themselves at their own pace and we get to visit. For dinner we grill meat, a nice piece of fish and fresh veggies from the garden with a few tortillas, guacamole and fresh salsa. And for dessert Carolyn bakes a big ol’ cake.

    And for a party, particularly on a holiday weekend, nothing beats a good cake. Everyone likes cake (or at least frosting), it lasts a few days and you can eat it any time (and yes, there has been breakfast cake enjoyed here at the farm…;-). When baking for us, Carolyn makes small cakes with 6 inch pans. But when a large group is coming, Carolyn pulls out the 9 inch pans and makes 2, 3 (and sometimes 4) layer cakes with loads of frosting. You know it’s a good party when the host pulls out a big, beautiful, homemade cake. Add a scoop of ice cream and suddenly the kids are quiet (but not for long) and the parents are smiling and enjoying a well-earned indulgence. There is no hurry. Feels like summer now.

    While we like to keep things simple, it is still good to branch out and learn new techniques and try new recipes. In this case Carolyn adapted a recipe from Susan Purdy’s “A Piece of Cake” that included a new technique she wanted to try. Usually baking a cake is straight-forward, albeit time-consuming. Melt chocolate (if using), cream butter and eggs, add other wet and dry ingredients. Blend batter until smooth and fluffy. Bake.

    Grease and dust the pans with cocoa powder.

    Melt the chocolate.

    Mix your batter.

    Ready to bake, note using a scale to evenly divide the batter.

    But for this recipe, we add a cup of boiling water with coffee powder (or very hot coffee) to the batter. The batter sags with the heat, but then reconstituted itself with added mixing. We are unsure of the chemistry involved here, normally we would assume the boiling water helps with activating baking powder, but there is only baking soda in the recipe. Something to figure out, as we like to know why things happen in the kitchen. Regardless, the cake was unusually moist and rich, and Carolyn already makes very moist cakes. The flavor was very good as well, with the coffee really bringing out the chocolate. Continue reading