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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Spago Fudgy Chocolate Cake

The first time I made this cake, I think, was for our housewarming party in 2002. Since then, it’s become David’s Official Birthday Cake or the more aptly titled Evil Birthday Bliss. He’s been known to talk dirty to this cake. One year I begged to not bake the birthday cake. I offered an ice cream cake, a cake from the Fancy French Bakery (not its real name). I kicked. I screamed. But no. It had to be this cake. I’m sure there was some whining from the kitchen that day.

I’ve since learned not to even ask. I just pull out all the equipment, measure, pour and mix and viola! An hour and a half later, this luscious beauty comes steaming from the oven. The drizzle, of course, comes after the cake has cooled.

This sinfully rich confection is a once-a-year treat. I’ve even “lightened” it up a little. Instead of all bittersweet chocolate, I use half bittersweet and half semisweet. Bake this evilness at your own risk because you will love yourself for how fabulous it tastes. But you will hate yourself if you eat too much of it. One bite too much and you’ll be on the express train from heaven to someplace not so nice, with a tummy ache.

This barely even resembles cake. Notice there are barely any crumbs here.

That’s because it doesn’t really crumb that much. It’s super moist and fudgy, held together by butter, melted chocolate and coffee. And a little flour for good measure. Its texture is how it got its real name, Fudgy Chocolate Cake. It’s from the Spago Chocolate cookbook.

I’ve flipped to that recipe so much that the book opens to it automatically. And now the page has even come out.

Here’s how they serve it in fancy Spago-ness…

But here’s how we serve it.

Add a little pshhhht. (What? You don’t call it that? That’s code for whipped cream from the can.) Or some vanilla ice cream. With the chocolatey cake and the extra rich ganache poured on top… You’ll need something a little lighter to accompany it. Unless you’re so awesome that you can take all that chocolate and still remain standing.

Tall glass of milk anyone?

Evil Birthday Bliss

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate pieces
  • 6 ounces Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups brewed coffee, cold
  • 3 tablespoons Kahlua (optional)

Glaze:

  • 4 ounces Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup

Cake:

Preheat the oven to 325, making sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour (or use baking spray) on a 10-inch bundt pan, making sure you coat all the ridges and the center tube. If the pan doesn’t have a nonstick coating, dust it with flour. Set aside. (I’ve used a stoneware pan and a metal one. I like the metal one better for this cake. For some reason, it comes out taller. Maybe it needs to bake a little longer in the stoneware pan.)

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate and butter. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Depending on how melted everything is, give it another 30 seconds or a minute. Then stir again. That’s all it should take. Don’t overheat it, or you’ll ruin the chocolate. If there are just a few bits remaining unmelted, stir and let it sit for a minute. It’ll continue to melt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer), whip the eggs. On low speed, gradually pour in the sugar and continue to beat until well incorporated, raising the speed when all the sugar has been incorporated. On low speed, scrape in  the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and mix well.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the coffee, starting and ending with the flour mixture (three additions of flour and two of the coffee). Do the additions on low speed then turn the speed a little higher. Not too high though, the batter is really thin and will splatter everywhere.  Stop the machine and scrape under the beater(s) to make sure everything gets mixed in. Add the Kahlua, if you’re using it. I use it if I have it, but it tastes just as good without.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, distributing it evenly around the pan. Tap the pan on the counter to level the batter. Bake for an hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (When you start smelling it, check on it. It takes 45 minutes in my oven in the metal pan.) Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto a large plate to cool completely. Remember you’ll need room for the pools of glaze.

Glaze:

When the cake is cooled, prepare the glaze.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Microwave another 30 seconds if needed, then stir. If it’s not mostly melted,  give it another few seconds. But if just small bits, remain stir and just give it a moment to melt on its own.

When everything’s melted, whisk in the corn syrup until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a clean medium bowl and reserve, covered, in a warm spot until needed.

— Adapted from “Spago Chocolate.” The cake’s real name is Fudgy Chocolate Cake.

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Setting out to bake sometimes ends up a lot like life. Your ingredients may take you in a different direction than you intended. But the deviation can make your destination even more delicious. (How about all those D words!?)

I had a few peaches that were languishing in the fruit bowl. Every time I walked by, I could hear them crying out “Please! Make us fantastic!” What’s a baker to do with a plea of that magnitude? Obey, of course.

So I rummaged in the fridge and gathered a roll of Pillsbury pie crust (nope, I’m not above a premade pie crust), half stick of butter, some Sarabeth’s strawberry-peach preserves, then grabbed a lemon from the fruit bowl. I pictured a peach pie with a crisp topping — brown sugar, oats, butter, pecans — instead of a top crust. I could taste it already. But when I unrolled the pie crust, it seemed a little off and I wasn’t going to sacrifice my peaches.

So I tossed the crust and went back to the idea bank in my head. Maybe a peach crisp.

Or. OR… Yes, yes… I think it must be peach cobbler, which is so simple and yet yields results so delicious, it will coax sighs of delight from whoever is lucky enough to sink a fork into it.

I started with half a stick of butter. Melt it into the pie plate.

Then mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk to make the cobbler batter. Pour that over the butter, but don’t mix it up. In a large saucepan or small stockpot, combine three peaches (peeled, pitted and sliced), some sugar, the juice from half a lemon and the preserves (choose peach, or a complementary flavor).

Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. When it boils, the peaches will have softened a bit and the juices will have been drawn out.

Remove it from the heat, add some zest from that lemon and spoon the peaches and their juices over top the batter in the pie plate. Make sure to get all that luscious juice into the pie plate. Don’t stir it.

Then set the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and pop it into the oven for 40 minutes.

You’ll be so happy when you see what comes out of the oven.

And when you finally cut it open… I think I’ll let the photo speak for itself just this once.

Peach Cobbler

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon, plus its zest
  • 3 tablespoons preserves

Preheat oven to 375. Melt the butter into a pie plate.

Mix the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and stir just till combined. Pour over the butter. Don’t mix them together.

Combine the peaches, remaining 1 cup sugar, lemon juice and preserves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it boils, take it off the heat and add the zest. Then spoon over top the batter in the pie plate. Don’t mix anything together, but make sure to use all the juices from the peaches.

Set the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

Serve warm or cooled, plain or a la mode. If you don’t have any ice cream, this cobbler will stand on its own quite well. Good luck not going back for seconds.

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