Chocolate Tea Cake

You may have noticed I have a penchant for tea. In fact, I have never had a cup of coffee and enjoy a nice, strong cup of tea with milk every morning. But it's the idea of the afternoon tea snack that really strikes me. One is supposed to take a few minutes in the late afternoon to pause. Perhaps reflect on the day and ready oneself for the evening. To sip a dainty cup of tea, a pick-me-up sized cup, if you will. Enjoy a bit of cake. GENIUS!

This cake can really be made for anything from lunches to parties. In fact, I made two loaves and had planned to freeze one when my sis in law called with her back out and I dropped one at her house. Both were gobbled up that day. 

A good tea loaf is sturdy but soft: something you can carry around while letting the dog out the back door. Or, you can plate it, pile on some whipped cream and put your feet up while watching, say, The Good Wife on DVR. If you're feeling really fancy, slice it on the diagonal, top with coffee ice cream and a good caramel sauce and finish with a raspberry or pinch of good sea salt. Guests will sing your praises, if they can get the words out!



Chocolate Tea Cake
1/2 C butter, at room temp
1-1/2 C sugar
3/4 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 t baking powder
1 t espresso powder (optional)
2/3 C best-quality unsweetened cocoa
3 large eggs, at room temp
1-1/4 C flour (fine ground for pastry is good if you have it)
3/4 C whole milk
2/3 C best-quality chocolate chips, divided

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a loaf pan. 
2. Beat the butter and sugar until light, about 3 minutes. 
3. Add the salt, vanilla, baking powder, espresso powder and cocoa and blend. If it looks clumpy and like cookie dough, don't worry. Go to step 4. 
4. Add the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly with each addition. 
5. Add half the flour and mix. 
6. Add the milk and mix. 
7. Add the rest of the flour and blend until smooth. 
8. Stir in 1/3 C of the chocolate chips. 
9. Pour the batter into a pan and top with the rest of the chocolate chips. 
10. Bake 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. 

Cool, unmold, slice, eat.

Apple Blueberry Crisp

Oh, hi!

Like most of you, we're moving pretty fast over here. But never too fast to bake something up.

Did I tell you I've been writing for Red Tricycle? Add to that I got this amazing copywriting job developing social media posts and editing web copy for a really awesome preschool franchise brand. I went from full-time mom to full-time everything in 15 seconds. It's pretty rad and I'm loving every moment, no matter how much the busy-ness sometimes overwhelms me. I've started enough new chapters in my life to know that things that feel big and scary on day one soon seem rote and regular in no time.

In all this change, one thing never alters: I bake. I may not have as much time to blog about it, but I bake. It soothes my soul and calms my nerves. It pleases my people and makes my house smell like a home. You've heard most of this from me before, and, honestly, you've gotten the crisp part of this recipe before, too! Like many home bakers, I tend to make the same things over and over again, changing up one or two bits each time. This is no different.

My husband loooooves apple crisp. I think it's probably pretty high up there on his list of favorites because any time I ask what he'd like, it's usually his first request. Y'all probably know this, but apple season is in the fall. I tend to prefer baking seasonally, but when my husband and my dad are both asking for apple crisp on a spring afternoon, I go out and buy the sourest apples I can find. Sour apples like Granny Smiths always contrast nicely with a little brown sugar and the flavor explosion usually distracts my eaters from any mushy or less-than-perfect apple texture. Because we had a giant container of blueberries (are those in season? I see them everywhere but I thought they were fall, too), I added some of those and it made for a decidedly lovely early evening treat. The best part? I'll probably be making this late in summer with peaches, too. Butter, brown sugar and fruit - it doesn't get much better than this!



Apple Blueberry Crisp
Serves 12
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2 C blueberries, washed and dried
2 T lemon juice
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C flour
1 t lemon zest

The Crisp:
1 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 C oats
12 T unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Mix the flour, brown sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the apple slices, blueberries and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the flour/brown sugar/lemon zest mixture and toss to coat the fruit. Pour the fruit into a large casserole or baking dish and set aside.
4. Make the crisp. Blend the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter until the butter looks like small peas in the flour mixture. This does not have to be perfect. Any pockets of butter in the crisp become melty-heavenly-food-of-the-gods-good. Sprinkle the crisp over the fruit and even it out a bit. Again, no need for perfection here.
5. Bake at 350 for one hour or until the apples are tender when pricked with a knife or skewer.
6. Let cool about 20-30 minutes and then serve with giant scoops if ice cream.

Yellow Cake. Double Chocolate Frosting. Enough Said.

Life has been so hectic of late that it's hard not to take up a lot of blog space talking about it. But, this busy-ness has replaced a year of solitude and contemplation and is very, very welcome. Last February, when we moved to San Diego for real (we went back and forth between LA, SF and SD for about 9 months before settling here), I was a bit overdone from a year and a half of moving around. My friendships here have been slower in coming than they were in Virginia (where we were for only 8 months before the LA-SF-SD craziness began) and my confidence at making new friends has been, at times, shaky. There are, though, a couple of people who've made becoming friends so easy, it feels like we've known each other forever. Candice is one such person.

The first time I met Candice was in the sand box outside our daughters' classroom and I swear I looked up and saw the most beautiful brunette muse. She turned out to be the friendliest person I'd met in San Diego so far and one who has included my sometimes-shy family in everything from trick-or-treating to a beachside New Year's Eve celebration.

Candice is kind of like the little sister I never had - a little sister who's got it a lot more together than I do! She's an incredible hostess and entertainer who holds down a director-level job like it's no big deal. I mean, this woman can make a ridiculously impressive cheese platter and she'll just show up at a kids' play date after working all day with everything from gorgonzola to honeycomb. She's also a doting but firm Italian mama to two of the cutest, kindest towheads you'll ever meet. If that weren't enough, she's married to a gentle and funny surfer dude and, at her rawther young age, they've been an item for almost 20 years.

When I found out Candice's birthday was last week, well, you know what I did. I took out my favorite baking books and in Julie Richardson's Vintage Cakes (I know. You're thinking that I should just be blogging about baking all of her recipes because you see so many of them here. But, TRUST me. This book is solid!) found something I hoped would please parents and children.

We met "the Candices", as my husband and I call them, and our other favorite friends at Korean BBQ and after a feast of kimchee and steak, dived into these cupcakes like there was no tomorrow. The buttery, soft crumb was so surprising because these babies are pretty sturdy and traveled pretty well in the car. My made-up frosting (Julie's was a bit too ambitious for the time I had available) worked out well enough to share with you. Silky and creamy, the frosting definitely tastes of chocolate and cream, which, funny enough, is exactly what it's made from. Hehe.

Anyhow, I'm not sure if yellow cake and chocolate frosting is Candice's favorite, but it sure made our taste buds happy and made us all feel more connected. Which, really, is what this baking thing is all about.

Happy Birthday, Candice!



Yellow Cake.
Makes 24 cupcakes or (3) 9" layers
1-1/3 C sifted cake flour
3/4 C plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
6 T unsalted butter, at room temp
2 C sugar
1/2 C canola oil
1 T pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks, at room temp
3 eggs, at room temp
1/2 C buttermilk, at room temp
1/2 C heavy cream, cold

Line 24 muffin tins with pretty cupcake papers. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350.

1. In a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt then whisk to ensure ingredients are well combined.
2. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until light in color and texture, about 5 minutes.
3. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the oil and vanilla and mix.
4. Add in the yolks and whole eggs one at a time, scraping down your bowl between each addition.
5. With the mixer on low, add in the flour mixture in three parts and the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl after each addition and don't overmix.
6. In a separate bowl (preferably chilled and stainless steel, but anything will do), whip the cream until soft peaks form.
7. Carefully fold the cream into the batter.
8. If you have one of those giant ice cream scoops, you can use that to scoop the perfect amount of batter into each cup. If not, use two spoons or one ladle to fill each cup 3/4 full.
9. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes. They'll be a bit browned on the edges.
10. Set aside to cool until room temperature.

Double Chocolate Frosting.
4 oz. milk chocolate
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 C cream, hot
5 C powdered sugar
1/2 C butter, at room temp
2 t vanilla
1/4 t salt

1. Heat the cream to hot but not boiling.
2. While the cream is on the stove top, break your chocolate into tiny bits and place them in a glass bowl.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit 2 minutes, then whisk until combined.
4. Sift the sugar and salt into your stand mixer.
5. With your mixer on low, add the chocolate mixture, butter and vanilla. Once it's all combined, turn the power up and whip until light and spreadable. If it's too thick, add a tablespoon at a time of cream. If it's runny, add 1/4 C powdered sugar at a time until it's spreadable.

You can either pipe or spread the frosting on. Sprinkles are optional but so much fun!