Saturday, February 28, 2009

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DB: Chocolate Valentino

This month's Daring Baker's selection was another dessert I made for Alex's birthday. The challenge was hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They chose a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan. Part of the challenge was also to make an ice cream. The hosts were great in that they provided us with two recipes, a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy. In the notes preceding the recipe they stated that the cake would take on the flavor of the chocolate used. I went a little crazy with this cake and decided to use a combination of semi-sweet, dark, and bittersweet chocolates. I didn't want the cake to taste like one chocolate or the other, rather I wanted it to have a complex chocolate flavor. I wanted it to taste like chocolate but I wanted it to taste like the flavors that all chocolates share, instead of one particular chocolate, if that makes any sense. I decided to use the ice cream recipe provided by Wendy because it was quick and easy. The only alteration I did was that I used vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract. I love seeing the specks of vanilla in my ice cream. The cake and ice cream were a dream. The cake was very, very, very rich and silky. I felt like I was eating a bowl of melted chocolate. The ice cream was a great way to balance the richness of the cake and it highlighted the flavor dynamic of the chocolate's warmth and the vanilla's coolness.

Thanks to Wendy and Dharm for hosting this month! Make sure to check out the Kitchen and the blogroll to see what other delicious ice cream flavors the bakers made this month.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

Bake for 25 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.

Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Vanilla Philadelphia Style Recipe (Wendy's Ice Cream Recipe)
Preparation Time: 5 minutes

2 cups (473 ml) of half and half (1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole, full fat milk)
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
2/3 (128 grams) cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 (12 grams) tablespoon of vanilla (about 3-inches of vanilla pod sliced open, beans removed)

Mix all ingredients together (we do this in a plastic pitcher and mix with an emulsifier hand blender-whisking works too).

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer

Mix in your ice cream maker as directed.

Can't you just see the richness of the cake?Chocolate and vanilla: a perfect match :)

[The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.]

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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Sugar Heaven

I have quite a few baking books. I actually look at them daily because I can see them from where I sit to study. I love flipping through the pages and looking at the pictures. All my books have stickies in them marking the recipes I want to try. I usually have a hard time picking out recipes and I wish I could get through more recipes. Do any of you own these books, and if so, are there any recipes that I must try? Or do any of you want to help me bake through one of these books?

From left to right...
Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow and Helene Siegel
Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor
Williams-Sonoma Desserts
Cookie Craft by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer
Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard
The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri
The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom
Williams-Sonoma Ice Cream
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
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Lemon Cakes/Lemon Burst

I was in the mood for something lemony. I sifted through my cookbooks to find something that appealed to me and I finally landed on Martha Stewart's Glazed Lemon Cakes. My friend Edgar had given me Martha's Good Food Fast back in 2007. I had never made any of the desserts in the book because most of my dessert making is taken up by various baking groups I'm a part of. But my craving for a lemon sweet pushed me over the edge and I absolutely had to make these. What's one more dessert in the house when your craving is taking over? I am so happy I made these because they were amazing. Think of Dorie's Madeleines in pure cake form with a lemon frosting. The cakes were delicious, addictive, fluffy, sweet, lemony, light, moist, soft, tangy, and refreshing. Or in the words of Alex, "those cakes are lemon burst."

Since I don't have a jumbo muffin pan I divided the batter into my cupcake pan. I was able to fill up the 12 cavities completely. I still had some leftovers so I made a few mini cupcake-sized cakes. The glaze came out more like a frosting for me. The 2 Tbsp of lemon juice wasn't enough. I didn't want to add anymore lemon juice and it didn't occur to me to add water to thin it out until I got the right consistency. So instead I put it on the cakes more like a frosting. I liked this look; I think it gave the cakes a fun look.

Glazed Lemon Cakes
Source: Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk or plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tbsp juice for the glaze
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk mixture.

Divide evenly among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in tin, then cool completely on a rack.

Set rack over wax or parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir confectioners’ sugar with remaining lemon juice until smooth. Pour over cakes, spreading to edges with a small knife. Let set 30 minutes.

The cakes.
I thought it was cool that the small ones were whiter than the big onesI ate this one......and it was good!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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TWD: Caramel Crunch Bars

First, let me say that I am very proud of myself. I completed all the TWD baking this month. I didn't skip a week, which is surprising because I honestly thought I'd end up missing out on a week. But I didn't, so yay! Second, I must say thanks to Whitney of What's Left on the Table? for picking a great recipe for this week. This is a recipe I wouldn't normally have done because I'm typically not intrigued by bar recipes, but after this bar I am tempted to try more recipes like this one. The bars had more of chocolate taste than a caramel taste, but I think that's because chocolate was worked into every element of this recipe. It's actually partially my fault chocolate was in everything because instead of using toffee bits I just chopped up a toffee bar. But can anyone really complain about more chocolate? ;-)

Make sure to stop by Whitney's blog to say "Hi!" and don't forget to give the other TWDers some love this week!
Great Bar.
Amazing crust.
Close-up time.

Monday, February 23, 2009

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Super Chewy Nutella Caramel Brownies

What's the difference between chewy and fudgy? I hope you know because I don't. I asked Alex if he had any baking requests and he said "fudgy brownies." Great! I love brownies and I had been wanting to try Honey & Jam's Nutella Brownies. I halved the recipe and followed the instructions but had the brilliant idea of adding caramel candies. I figured the caramels would be a nice surprise. Before I added the caramels I asked Alex what type of brownies he wanted and again he said "fudgy brownies." I went ahead and added the caramel candies and baked. Brownies came out of the oven, I tasted one and, to my confused surprised, the brownies were chewy and not fudgy. Sure, it had fudgy spots but the caramel made the brownies very, very, very chewy. The nutella made these brownies light and I loved how the soft hazelnut flavor was so prominent. If you want regular, fudgy brownies I recommend not adding the caramel candies. But, if you want to give your mouth a workout, I recommend adding the caramels.You won't go wrong either way!

Super Chewy Nutella Caramel Brownies
Source: Honey & Jam (here)

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 plus 2 Tbsp cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup nutella
about 15 caramel candies, cut into small chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F. Spray an 8x8 or 12 cavity cupcake pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Over low heat melt the butter, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract until well combined.

Add the eggs to the sugar mixture, one at a time. With a wooden spoon mix in each egg until well combined.

Add the cocoa mixture to the sugar-egg mixture and whisk until fully combined.

Add the nutella and combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool for 15 min if you want to eat it warm, or allow to cool to room temperature.


Brownie Cup

Friday, February 20, 2009

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Cake Slice: Southern Coconut Cake

It's Cake Slice day! I have been wanting to post this cake since I made it for Alex's birthday. The cake was so delicious and the buttercream was lick-the-bowl good. It was such a light cake and you could barely taste the coconut in it, but that could be due to the fact that I didn't garnish the cake with shredded or flaked coconut. I loved how white and fluffy this cake was. I halved the recipe and made a few cupcakes and two cakes, a tall one with little frosting and a small one with lots of frosting. What can I say? I like variety :)

Southern Coconut Cake
Source: Alisa Huntsman's Sky High
Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake

For the cake:
5 large egg whites
½ cup of milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 cups of cake flour
2 and 1/3 cup sugar
4 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter (8oz.) at warm room temperature
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle.
Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the ½ cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Add the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake taster inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then turn the cakes out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on an 8-inch cake round. Cover this layer with 1 cup of the buttercream frosting. Spread it evenly all the way to edge of the cake. Then sprinkle ½ cup of shredded coconut on top. Add the second layer and repeat the process. Top with the final layer of cake and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Place the remaining 1 ½ cups shredded coconut on a large baking tray. Pick up the cake and hold it on the palm of one hand over the tray. Using the other hand scoop up the coconut and press it to the sides of the cake. Continue with this process until the sides of the cake are covered. Set the cake on a serving plate and sprinkle any remaining coconut on top of cake. Chill cake for at least one hour to allow frosting to firm up a bit.

Cream cheese buttercream frosting:
12 ounces of cream cheese slightly chilled
1 stick of unsalted butter plus 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter (7 ounces) at room temperature
1 cup of confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of granulated sugar
¼ cup of water
3 egg whites

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set aside at room temperature while buttercream is made.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the softball stage 228 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in mixer bowl and have the mixer ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer on med-low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites taking care not to pour onto the beaters, it may splash. When all the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed on the mixer to med-high and beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled and stiff meringue forms.

With the mixer on low, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Cake Garnish:
2 ½ cups of sweetened flaked coconut for garnishing cake

Cake #1
Cake #2The cupcakes

Thursday, February 19, 2009

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Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I feel like I am almost always in the mood for chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are my baking comfort food. I had been wanting to try this recipe by Nick Malgieri for quite some time now because I am always curious to see how a person interprets such a classic cookie. As soon as these were out of the oven Alex tasted one of the cookies and asked, "Vanilla? What's different about these?" I told him that it was a combination of the dark and semi-sweet chocolates and that the recipe really highlighted the flavors of the brown sugar. He looked at me blankly and proceeded to eat 3 more cookies. I think just saying that I used a new recipe would have been sufficient information for him, even though he asked about vanilla.

Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Source: Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
6 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate cut into chunks (I used dark chocolate)
6 oz milk chocolate, cut into chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Stir flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed until just mixed, then beat in egg. Overbeating will make the cookies rise, then flatten during baking, instead of remaining risen and moist.

Use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour mixture, then the chocolate.

Drop teaspoons (I did Tbsp) of the dough 2-3 inches apart on the prepared pans. Bake cookies until they are spread, well risen, and golden, about 15 minutes. About halfway through baking place the pan from the lower rack to the upper one and vice versa.

Remove from oven and slide the parchment papers off the pans to cool the cookies.

Delicious chocolate.
How can anyone resist that?
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Gourmet Dinner?

I think Alex is easily impressed. I made dinner and he said it looked very gourmet and asked if I was applying for a job at Sibling Rivalry. I have no idea why he said this particular restaurant, but he did. I don't think I even did anything out of the ordinary. It was just chicken and potatoes. Maybe it was the presentation or maybe he was just so happy to have dinner at a reasonable time. Whatever it was, there is no denying that the food was great. I had seen these two recipes in my reader and decided to make them because they were quick and easy. The chicken was in a balsamic vinegar and garlic sauce, which was sweet, tangy, and light. It was something we both said reminded us of the tastes of Asian chicken dishes. The potato was leftover mashed potatoes made into cakes and fried until golden.

Chicken Thighs with Balsamic and Garlic Sauce
Source: For The Love of Cooking (here)

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any fat
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter, softened
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 cup of chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large OVEN PROOF skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken thighs with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Lay the chicken thighs smooth side down in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and place in the oven. Cook for 8 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove chicken from oven and set aside on a platter to rest with a tinfoil tent to keep warm. Return the skillet to the stove over medium high heat (add more olive oil if needed) and add minced garlic. Cook, stirring constantly for 60 seconds then add the balsamic vinegar. Stir, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan for about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Mix the butter and flour together making a paste. Whisk in the flour and butter mixture and let the sauce return to a boil. Simmer until the sauce gets thick - about 1-2 minutes. Pour the sauce over chicken and serve.

Potato Cakes
Source: Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations (here)

Leftover potatoes (I had about a cup)
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.

Mix potatoes, egg, salt, and pepper.

Scoop out one spoon full and add to the hot pan. Continue until you have used up all of the potatoes, or until you don't have any more space in the pan - whichever comes first.

Cook the pancakes approximately 5-6 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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Chinatown Adventure

We have only eaten in Chinatown on one occasion and that's when we went to Montien. Chinatown overwhelms me because there are so many restaurants in a very small area and I honestly believe that Chinatown is one of those places were you have to rely on word of mouth. Alex recently discovered East Ocean City and was so impressed that he told me we had to go there. We did and then I liked it so much that we went back a week later. The restaurant is one I would have never found and who knows if I would have even gone into it considering it was flanked by restaurants on all sides.

The first time we went we had dinner. We ordered three dishes and ate family style. The fried rice was delicious. It was so light and I actually felt healthy eating it.
We also had a szechuan chicken that was mildly spicy. I would say that about half of the "meat" in the dish was tofu, which made for an interesting game because we were trying to decipher what was chicken and what was tofu. Surprisingly enough, this dish was spicier the next day.
The last dish we ordered was a sweet and sour chicken. O.M.G this was the most delicious sweet and sour chicken I have ever had. The chicken was crispy and drenched in a sauce that tasted like pineapple tang. So good!

The second time we had lunch. You cannot beat this deal. For $6 you get soup, fried rice, and a meat/seafood selection.

I tried the egg drop soup. I don't think I have ever had egg drop soup so I didn't know what to expect. The soup was interesting. It didn't look like how it would taste. I thought the broth would be thin but it was actually thick. The soup in general was heartier than I was expecting. It reminded me of a wonton soup but thicker and without the dumplings.
Alex tried the hot and sour soup. He liked the soup a lot and said it reminded him of the one served at PF Changs. The soup was spicy with a hint of vinegar.
My lunch came with pork fried rice, szechuan beef and chicken, and peking dumplings. This fried rice, unlike the one ordered for dinner, was greasier and heavier, but it was just as good. The chicken was just as good as the first time but with the added bonus of having beef. The dumplings were a delicious surprise because I didn't expect myself to like them so much. They were compactly filled with meat and gastronomically pleasing.
Alex's lunch also came with fried rice but instead he got scallion cakes and General Gau's chicken. One of the main reasons he ordered this combination was because of the cakes. They are crispy and almost like naan. The chicken was sweet and similar to the sweet and sour chicken we ordered for dinner.
East Ocean City is located in Boston's Chinatown on Beach Street. It's definitely worth checking out and hopefully you won't be overwhelmed by going into Chinatown since you this recommendation.
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Southwestern Dining at Cottonwood

A few weeks back we went to Cottonwood Cafe. This restaurant has an interesting history with us. When Alex first came to Boston for his med school interview, Cottonwood was the first restaurant he ate at in Boston. After I moved up we went there. I ordered a great dish, but it was a great dish for Alex not for me. It was a platter of grilled steak, pork, and chicken. That was too much meat for me and I left the restaurant feeling like a T-Rex (not a good feeling). We hadn't returned to Cottonwood because of this experience, but Alex insisted we give this restaurant another try. I obliged and I don't regret it. The restaurant was particularly lively and there were glasses of margaritas at every table. We ordered a carafe of margarita and that gave us about 4 glasses of the good stuff.

For the appetizer we ordered the Chips and Four Dips. The dips are green salsa, red salsa, guacamole, and chili con queso. My favorite dip was the guacamole because it creamy, chunky and natural tasting. Alex's favorite was the chili con queso because, well, the man loves cheese. It was a little spicy but nothing that overpowered the taste of the cheese. I really liked that they included the two types of salsa because I am a bigger fan of green salsa than I am of red salsa.
Alex ordered the Angus Ranch Strip and, as a steak lover, was in heaven. The steak was topped with a jalapeno butter and gorgonzola cheese and this made the steak extra juicy. The steak came with garlic mashed potatoes, which were creamy with a subtle taste of garlic.
I ordered a chicken BLT sandwich. I absolutely loved everything about this sandwich, from the presentation to the serving size to the taste. I was only able to eat about 3/4 of the sandwich because it was the size of my forearm. The chicken was grilled to succulent perfection. The sandwich came with a wasabi mayo that made my nose burn up and it was served with sweet potato chips that were a sweet contrast the the savory and spiciness of the sandwich.
We didn't order dessert because we were beyond full, but I intend on going back. Cottonwood Cafe is located in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood and is average priced considering Boston's restaurant scene.
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Today, I Crave.

A buffalo burger. We went into B-Good for the first time this weekend looking for a quick lunch. They specialize in burgers and sandwiches and have some of the best baked fries I have ever had. I ordered a buffalo burger and it was delicious. It was oozing with hot sauce and blue cheese.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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TWD: Devil's Food White-Out Cake

I beyond excited about this post. I have been waiting a year for my turn and now it's here! It took me about 1.3 seconds to decide on a recipe selection for this week. I have been dying for someone to pick the cover cake and as soon as I got the email asking for my choice, I asked myself "why can't I be the one to pick this amazing cake?" So I picked the cake and, in my excitement, I made it that very week. The cake was fantastic. It was so chocolatey, moist, and fluffy. This is definitely one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had. I had to literally stop myself from eating the whole thing and licking the plate. Part of what made this cake so great was the marshmallow frosting. The frosting was so airy and such a great complement to the denseness of the chocolate cake. I broke my candy thermometer making this frosting but as soon as I took a bite of the completed cake, all my sadness of breaking a second thermometer disappeared (the first one was broken by Alex so apparently we both hate these thermometers). This cake appealed to my chocolate loving heart and I am so glad that I was the one lucky enough to pick it :)

I hope everyone else had as much fun and enjoyed the cake as much as I did. Thanks for baking with me this week! As always, make sure to check out the
TWD site to see how all the other bakers fared this week.

Devil's Food White-Out Cake
Source: Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours p. 247-9
Makes 12 servings

For the cake

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the filling and frosting
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)

1 cup sugar

3/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup water
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.

TO MAKE THE FILLING AND FROSTING: Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable—don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting—it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.

Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)

My mini cake (I halved the recipe)
A slice of goodness.Leftover batter made for perfect cupcakes.
I don't know which was better...the cake or the cupcake.