Baked goods: Chocolate cake (for colleague’s birthday)


I have posted this recipe before earlier in this blog; this time I did make it in the traditional way (as a cake). A colleague was having a birthday, so I went ahead and baked. I asked her last week if she had any special requests (she registered none)… so here it is.

Preheat oven to 300F (about 150C).

½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup boiling water (or freshly brewed coffee or espresso, hot)
1 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cup sifted cake flour
½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

6 Tablespoons softened butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Tiny amount of milk or coffee to achieve spreadable, desired consistency

Grease and flour two nine-inch or three eight-inch round cake pans.

In a small bowl mix cocoa and boiling water (or coffee) to make a chocolate paste. In another small bowl, mix sour cream and baking soda together to dissolve soda. Mix the cocoa mixture and sour cream mixture together after the cocoa mixture has cooled.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Alternately add the sifted flour and the sour cream-cocoa liquid to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat until fluffy. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the three egg whites until stiff. Fold the beaten egg whites and vanilla into the chocolate cake mix. Divide mixture between (among) the pans. Bake in preheated oven for approx. 50 minutes, checking on the cake every now and then. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool in pans for about ten minutes, remove from pans and let cool on baking racks. Once cool, frost as normal and layer.

To make frosting, beat the butter and powdered sugar together, then beat in the cocoa. To achieve desired consistency, add a slight amount of liquid as needed. Add milk for a creamier, milk chocolate frosting. Add coffee for a darker, slightly mocha-flavored frosting.

For cupcakes, line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and divide the cake batter among the cups. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (check with a toothpick at 12 or 15 minutes to be sure; 20 minutes could be too long.)

Baked goods: Banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


In addition to the Halloween standby recipes, I made these cupcakes since I had bananas on hand and realized I had never made anything banana-flavored to bring to work even though it is one of the most basic and easy to do.

The odd part with them this time was when a colleague asked me how I managed to get the banana flavor… from a mix? A powder? An extract? I simply replied, “Um… from bananas.” I don’t know what he was thinking — but overripe bananas provide a pretty strong flavor and scent. I thought everyone knew that.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grease and flour only the bottom of a 9×5 inch loaf pan (or line cupcake pans with paper liners, if you want to make cupcakes, as I did).

In one bowl, peel and mash bananas and set aside. In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt).

Beat sugar and oil together. Add eggs, then mashed. bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Blend well. Add the bowl of dry ingredients until just moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan.

If baking loaves, bake for 50 to 60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If making cupcakes, check on them after about 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool.

Baked goods: Cinnamon rolls


I had not baked cinnamon rolls since… high school, I think. I had some milk I wanted to use and a desire to get back to making yeast doughs. Cinnamon rolls seemed like a good choice and helped me through a night of insomnia (and meant freshly baked rolls for colleagues just a few hours later). The pictures above represent attempt #1, which was more successful than my second attempt (featured below). Both were good, but I think the second attempt yielded a drier roll. I think I rushed the second attempt and the dough did not turn out as soft. See the unbaked and baked second attempts below.

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm milk (110F/45C)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted, but slightly cooled, butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup softened butter, which you will spread onto the rolled-out dough
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
(You can also add raisins or nuts to the filling, if desired. I never do.)

Cream Cheese Icing:
3 or 4 ounces softened cream cheese (85 to 110 grams)
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl (or stand mixer). Mix in the sugar, butter and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball (or, if using a stand mixer, use the dough hook for about 5 minutes). Make sure your hands are dusted with flour while doing this. Put in a clean bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

After the dough has doubled, turn it onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough into a 16×21 inch rectangle (40cm by 53cm). Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Lightly press the cinnamon-sugar and butter mixture into the dough.

Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F/200C.

Bake rolls in a preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Then add powdered sugar, then vanilla. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Baked goods: Chocolate peanut butter bundt cake


Apparently, November is bundt month. I had no idea. The 15th is bundt day. I recently learned the entire history of the bundt pan. Fascinating stuff.

I decided to bake this because chocolate and peanut butter are a nice combination but one I rarely see in Europe, given the anti-peanut butter feelings most Europeans harbor. This was an experiment since it was my first time attempting this, but most of those who ate some have reported enjoyment.


For the filling

2/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour

To make the filling

Beat peanut butter, cream cheese and butter until combined. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined. Mix in vanilla. Mix in sugar and flour until combined. Fit a pastry bag with a large plain tip and scoop the filling into the bag. (Or put into plastic Ziploc-type bag and cut a hole in one of the corners for piping.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the cake

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup boiling water
3 ounces (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cups sour cream
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grease/flour a bundt cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium metal or glass bowl, whisk cocoa and boiling water together. Add in chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Mix in sour cream.

In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla. Alternately mix in the dry ingredients and the cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined with each addition.

Spoon a little less than half of the batter into bottom of the bundt pan. Using the pastry bag of peanut butter mixture, carefully pipe a ring of the filling over the center of the chocolate batter. Pour the remaining cake batter on top and gently tap the pan to remove air bubbles. Do not let the peanut butter touch the sides.

Bake until top springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick comes out mostly clean with a few crumbs attached – about 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Place a wire cooling rack on top of the cake and carefully turn over – remove the pan and let cool completely.

Baked goods: Witch finger cookies


Finger-like cookies that creep everyone out (though it does not stop people from eating them).

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
raspberry jam, deseeded

In bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients together, then add to wet and stir thoroughly. Cover and chill (from 30 minutes to overnight).

Working with one quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a scant tablespoon of dough into a thin snake-like shape (4 or so inches long). Create knuckle shapes and cut slashes where you form the knuckles. Press almond firmly into the end of the cookie to form nail shape, remove almond and fill with a dot of jam, then replace the almond. They should be thin and gangly because they will puff up when baking.

Put cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325F/160C oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for a few minutes.

You can also make slashes in the finger and fill them with “blood”.

(With the leftover dough and jam, I was able to make some “normal” cookies. To make these, simply roll teaspoons of dough into a ball and make a thumbprint in the center. Fill the thumbprint with a tiny amount of jam. The cookies do puff up/spread a bit; too much jam will make a big mess when the cookie spreads. See this variation below.)

Baked Goods: Basic chocolate cupcakes for Halloween


I have a standard go-to chocolate cake recipe; this time I have different ingredients on hand and wanted something very simple to make Halloween cupcakes. The decoration was a spiderweb design (basic chocolate frosting and gel icing for the web). I am not a big fan of chocolate but think that these cupcakes were fine. People ate them, after all.

Basic Chocolate Cake Recipe

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup hot water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F/175C.

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs until fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix the cocoa with hot water, set aside to let it cool slightly. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Once cooled, add milk to the cocoa mixture. Add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture to creamed sugar-shortening mixture. Add vanilla. Pour into well-greased cake pans dusted with flour or sugar. Bake in a preheated 350F/175C oven for 35-40 minutes. (Or put into well-greased cupcakes molds or cupcake papers and bake for about 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.)

Frost and decorate as desired.