Let’s make a birthday cake. You don’t have a birthday coming up? Of course, even if it’s 364 days away, you have an excuse to bake and eat chocolate cake. This one was made for my recent birthday by my youngest daughter. (All my daughters excel in baking – I raised them well.)
If young children are eating the cake, you might want to use hot water instead of the coffee, but the caffeinated drink really enhances the flavor of the chocolate.
And if you don’t store buttermilk in the fridge, who does? – pour a tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add milk until it reaches the 1 cup line and stir. Wait a few minutes for the milk to thicken and curdle a little before adding it to the mixing bowl.
This cake is wonderful beyond measure with this scrumptious fondant frosting, but if you want something different, try vanilla buttercream, or how about peanut butter frosting?
Now, to offset that sweet extravaganza, let’s have a bountiful fruit salad combined with savory, savory ingredients and refreshing cucumbers. If nectarines are particularly delicious at the market, you can replace them with peaches.
Summer in Maine is definitely worth celebrating. Do it every chance you get with seasonal, beautiful, and abundant produce. And chocolate.
Watermelon and peach salad with feta
4 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes or melon balls
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 tablespoons torn mint, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 peaches, peeled and chopped
2 European cucumbers, peeled and chopped
Combine the watermelon, shallots and mint in a large bowl with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for one to three hours.
Just before serving, add the peaches, feta and cucumbers. Mix to combine. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with dressing and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with more mint. Yield: 6 servings
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Season as desired. Yield: 4 servings
The best chocolate cake
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup natural cocoa (not processed in the Netherlands)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup hot coffee (or 1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of two 8-inch deep round cake pans with parchment paper. Lightly butter and flour the sides.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a spatula, whisk together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add melted butter and oil; mix well. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Occasionally scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add the buttermilk and mix well. Add the hot coffee, stirring until the ingredients are well combined. (Be sure to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl again.) Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs. Let cool 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Silky Chocolate Buttercream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips in the microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted. Set aside and let cool slightly (about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally).
Beat the butter with an electric mixer. Add the cooled chocolate and beat well. Gradually add the sugar, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. Add salt and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add heavy cream, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
Spread a thick layer of frosting on top of a cake. Top with second cake round and frost top and sides. Yield: 12 servings
Second chance at life pushes Brunswick veteran to ‘be better’ and serve others