"Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake."
Today is mamala's birthday, and as with my BF-mom's birthday, we gather here today to celebrate their collective sweet tooth.
Mamala passionately loved root beer floats and "black cows" (made with Coke instead of root beer), quintessential summer treats. Are they as nostalgic for you as they are for me? If so, what was your first memory of them? (Feel free to comment below!)
Even though I was lucky enough to grow up with an A&W in my hometown (it's still there), growing up we didn't frequent it too often. Mamala made her own floats at home, and oh how I loved watching her make them. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in a frosted glass. Root beer poured just so. The carbonation would foam up instantly, but never overflowed. She had the touch. I also remember she used a long, slender soda spoon to give it a slight stir.
I made it home for almost all of her birthdays, but one year it wasn't possible and the BF and I Fed Exed these root beer float cupcakes (frosting in a separate container, ice cream not included) to my sister and mom. They were delighted, and a little surprised, to discover what was in the box.
My first attempt at this was as a full-sized bundt cake, as was originally written in one of my favorite cookbooks, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Polafito. When I spied the cupcake version on the Smitten Kitchen blog, knew I had to make it for mamala. I added the root beer fudge frosting.
If you don't have time to make individual cupcakes, make it into a bundt, frost it and serve ice cream on the side. Either way, you won't be sorry.
Adapted from: Matt Lewis and Renato Polafito, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Smitten Kitchen (cupcakes)
Number of servings: 22 cupcakes or one (10-inch) bundt cake
PS: One year ago...
"Chocolate doesn't ask silly questions, chocolate understands."
You don't see too many chocolate desserts in the summer. Usually it's all about summer fruit pies, tarts, crostatas, cobblers, crisps, ice cream, sorbets. Nothing against them, all delicious, but my soul still craves chocolate. So this is an attempt at the best of both worlds. Even the BF loves it and he's not exactly fond of mixing fruit with cake. [Ed. note: As The Offspring once eloquently opined, gotta keep 'em separated. (I'm just kidding, this is really good.)]
The best part of this dessert is that it's the best hack of the summer.
I make every single meal for my clients and family from scratch. Every day. But once in awhile, especially in the summer heat, it's nice to make things a little easier for the BF and me. Here you can be versatile, feel free to use your favorite boxed brownie mix (Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies "Extra Thick and Fudgy" was used here) or a time-tested from-scratch recipe. You can make homemade whipped cream or Cool Whip, I won't tell. Like another berry better than strawberries? Go for it.
For years, I had prepared this dessert with homemade brownies and fresh whipped cream. Then one night a friend came over for an impromptu dinner. I was short on time, knew the guest couldn't eat dairy, and hates coconut milk. So out came the boxed brownie mix (no butter) and Cool Whip (no cream), and it was awesome. She loved it.
It also held up better in the warm weather than homemade and did not wilt or weep in the fridge. The BF and I had leftovers for a few days and there wasn't a single crumb left.
Hope you enjoy this one over a very Happy Fourth of July! Not only is it our nation's birthday, but it's also our rescue lab Marlowe's fifth. [Ed. note: She doesn't look a day over four.]
And as a final note, it is also a year since I started this blog, the one-year blogaversary, and I want to sincerely thank you for reading. Feel free to reach out to me here, or on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter (links above).
Flashback to blog #1: www.moveablefeast.me/blog/crispy-salmon-with-strawberry-salsa
Number of Servings: 4-6
Born on the Fourth of July. Happy Fifth Birthday Marlowe!
All apologies, as the BF and I have been under the weather this week. Somehow, in over a quarter century of knowing each other, this is the first time we have been sick at the same time. [Ed. note: It's not like we were trying to set a record or anything.] We are slowly coming out of our funk.
A more pleasant subject: strawberries! While fresh strawberries are not quite in season yet—soon!—this dessert actually uses the freeze-dried variety, which pack a supremely flavorful punch. So easy to make, we're talking roughly a half hour, this made a perfect little housewarming gift for a friend and her hubs.
Adapted from: Leelalicious
Number of servings: 2 small servings
You got chocolate in my peanut butter!
You got peanut butter on my chocolate!
For those that don't know, Reese's made a thousand (it seems) variations on this theme.
Everyone from my generation has seen a version of this commercial. And they're right, some things really do pair well together. Even bring out the best in one another.
The BF and I have never been die hard peanut butter fans. I didn't grow up with PB&J sandwiches and hated all things peanuty, while he was...what's the phrase? [Ed. note: Psychotically nonplussed.]
I have since learned the error of my ways. Peanut butter and chocolate is to die for, and this tart is like a giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in pie form–only way better.
I first made this last year and was shocked at how good it turned out. Silky, creamy, decadent. The BF even loved it, which of course is something I always aim for. Now, it's a go-to for parties, celebrations, catering events, and lo and behold, I keep getting invited back whenever I bring it!
If you have a peanut butter lover in your life, make this for them (or for you). You won't be sorry.
You can even make individual parfaits out of this recipe. Place crumbled cookie crust on bottom of your chosen vessel. Spoon the peanut butter filling over the crumbled cookie. Top with ganache and chopped peanuts. See photo below.
Adapted from: Jenn Segal, Once Upon a Chef
Number of Servings: 10
Chocolate Tart Crust
Chocolate Tart Crust
On this Valentine's Day, are you aiming for someone's heart through their stomach? Don't let the ingredients and directions of this recipe scare you, this is actually way less daunting than it appears. [Ed. Note: But you don't have to disclose that information if you're truly looking to impress.]
The key to the torte's simplicity is that it's made from just three ingredients: chocolate, butter, and eggs—and it only bakes for 15 minutes. I made this for the BF, myself and a few friends in a 6-inch springform pan, but am giving the recipe as originally presented (in an 8-inch springform pan) from the brilliant Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I happen to love flourless tortes and have made so many different kinds, and this is certainly one of my favorites. Not to mention gluten free!
Beranbaum says this is her favorite way to eat chocolate, "It's the purest form of chocolate—when you just have a chocolate bar, you can't taste the chocolate until it starts melting in your mouth. But this is just the right texture so that the minute you put it in your mouth, the flavors start exploding. It's like the creamiest truffle wedded to the purest chocolate mousse. It's the right consistency and there's nothing to interfere. There's no flour. Egg gives it texture, but it also enriches it further—it gives it a fuller flavor. And then of course butter doesn't do any harm either!"
It's creamy. moussey, and sinfully decadent. And seriously, who cares about clichés, nothing's beating chocolate on Valentine's Day.
NOTES: It's very important to have the eggs and butter at room temperature. Since there are only three ingredients, use the best chocolate and butter that you can (Scharffen Berger chocolate and Plugra European butter were used here). Finally, be sure to serve the torte at room temperature, not chilled. Read through the entire recipe before starting; while it is deceptively easy to make, there are lots of side notes that are important to its success.
Adapted from: Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible and Food 52
Number of servings: makes one 8-inch torte, serves approx 16 (depending on slice size)
I baked my own birthday cake.
What? You don't do that? It's not that my BF didn't offer to buy me the best dessert in town. [Ed. Note: Save your letters! Jeez.] It's just that I was feeling exceptionally specific, and wanted it to taste deep, dark, intensely chocolatey and extra-extra moist. We don't partake in rich desserts very often, so when we do, it needs to be amazing or it's not worth it. Many times we've found ourselves drooling over beautiful confections, only to be nonplussed by the taste. [Ed. Note: Breathtakingly meh™.]
The reason this cake is my go-to is that it has a creamy chocolate bite, and the sour cream frosting has an impressive tang that really sets it off. Also noteworthy, the frosting has neither butter nor whipped eggs (only a smidge of added sugar), making for easier preparation.
The cake itself is adapted from Ina Garten (the recipe is cut in half), the frosting from Smitten Kitchen.
Bit of a side note, but I had a perfect birthday yesterday. Our inital dinner plans in San Francisco were thwarted (there's a dog flu ripping through our area, so we couldn't find a proper sitter, and we don't take chances with our Marlowe), but we ended up having an even better day and evening sticking closer to home. The BF took me to the movies (Winchester, not our cup of tea) and then to a terrific local restaurant called Timber & Salt. The meal: an appetizer of crispy brussels sprouts with apple gastrique and whipped goat cheese, cheeseburger with horseradish mayo and bacon jam (oh yes), and a bavette steak over sauteed greens and maitake mushrooms in a red wine reduction sauce.
Once home we chilled to the far superior movie A Futile And Stupid Gesture (about Doug Kenney and the rise and fall of National Lampoon), cracked open a bottle of prosecco we'd been saving, made a cocktail with Aperol (my favorite), and tucked into this cake.
Folks, this is my absolute favorite cake. Excuse me while I have another slice.
Adapted from: Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen
Number of Servings: makes a one layer 8-inch cake (round or 8x8 square)
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
NOTE: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.
Scotcheroos. Rice Krispies treats. Never appealed to me. Never had one as a kid or adult. We did not have them in our house growing up, and honestly (if you've read the Chocolate Pavlova post www.moveablefeast.me/blog/chocolate-pavlova-with-berries), you'd know that if I'd been offered one, I would have politely declined. I detested crunch, cereal, peanut butter, butterscotch, marshmallows, nuts, and cloyingly sweet treats. Just wasn't into desserts, and no, my mother did not know how this happened.
That said, am not sure of the exact date, but at some point in my mid-forties I developed a slight sweet tooth. And this Rice-Krispies-treat variant is quite addicting.
What makes this variant different from traditional Rice Krispies treats? For starters, I used Whole Foods 365 brand Everyday Value Organic Brown Rice Crisps Cereal (Kellog's makes one too), making this gluten free. Also, there's no marshmallows, butter, corn syrup (brown rice syrup was used instead), or granulated/refined sugar (maple syrup filled that role). This does not make these healthy by any stretch, sugar is sugar–but I happen to think they taste better, a little less sweet and slightly nuttier.
They make a great alternative to cupcakes for back-to-school activities, as well as adult tail-gaters and date-day matinees (they hold up well in the movie purse). Oh, and did I mention they took five minutes to make, no bake, and my BF has asked, "When are you making these again?"
[Ed. note: The BF would like to thank Mike Cosgrove and the rest of Alien Ant Farm for being such gracious hosts to me in my previous life as a writer interviewing musicians. Dig the press-advance copy of ANThology. To this day I wonder if Annie is okay.]
Adapted from: Pinch of Yum
Number of servings: 12-20 squares (depending on how small/large you cut the bars)
My BF has a thing for caramely, butterscotchy tidbits and chocolate chip cookies. [Ed. Note: C is for cookie, and after proper advisement from my attorney, I submit that it is, indeed, good enough for me.] I mixed the two together and added liquor and dare I say this is the cookie, at least in our house. The butterscotch schnapps put it over the top with a toasted caramel note without it tasting boozy. Have tried this same recipe with bourbon, and it's good, real good. [Ed. Note: Hiccup.]
There are rules in our house for homemade chocolate chip cookies 1) not flat and crispy 2) not cake like 3) must be cold from the fridge 4) must be soft and chewy in the center and crispy around the edges. Some people like warm cookies out of the oven, but we like our cookies cold from the fridge.
You can eat these cookies with milk, but bourbon also works. Please designate a driver if you go this route.
Inspired by: Baked – New Frontiers In Baking
Serving size: Makes 1 dozen cookies
Mamala. This is how I affectionately referred to my beloved mother. Mamala. She passed away six years ago, and every year I still bake a cake on her birthday (Aug 4) in her honor.
As far back as I can remember, I made her birthday cakes. She was the ultimate chocoholic and I loved when her eyes rolled back in her head as she took the first bite of any dessert. Her two most favorite flavors were anything chocolate and anything malt, and here we get both.
I have made hundreds of chocolate cakes, but this is The One. The go-to. Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) never lets me down, and the addition of malt powder to the frosting gives it an extra kick. This cake is lush, never dry, super chocolatey with a superior texture. Definitely a dessert for chocoholics beyond recovery.
Adapted from: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home
Number of Servings: 8-10
Chocolate Malt Frosting
Chocolate Malt Frosting
One of my favorite scenes in the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally is when Meg Ryan’s character Sally has the following exchange with a waitress:
Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode.
Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode.
Sally: But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing.
Waitress: Not even the pie?
Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.
I laugh (my bf laughs harder) because it hits close to home. As a chef, I know how personal food can be, and admittedly, I have been known to be...particular. In my younger days, even more so.
As a child, soft and crunchy were too different to coexist. Foods were either soft and tender or crunchy and crisp, and never the twain shall meet. My desserts of choice had to be velvety smooth; any crispy, fruity, or even sprinkles decorated on top ruined it for me. Don’t get me started on my dislike of sweet on savory/meat.
Gradually my taste palette evolved and I became a true texture-convert due to my love for pavlova. Named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this personal game-changer is a meringue-based dessert with a soft marshmallow center and crisp outer shell. The contrasting textures are brilliant—it’s a little crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside. By the second day it loses its crispness and becomes a decadent truffle-like brownie, but still pillowy light. The recipe is adapted entirely from Smitten Kitchen. She lowered the sugar and upped the chocolate and it’s just perfect. I didn’t change a thing.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Number of servings: 10
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.