cartoon by marc johns.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rich & Moist Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Deep, rich chocolate flavor & color.
Close-up of frosting.
This cake is hard to mess up: perpetually moist with a deep chocolate flavor. The secret to the moist cake is twofold - buttermilk and coconut oil. There is no butter in this recipe. The secret to the deep, intense chocolatey flavor is the coffee added to the batter. The light fluffy texture is due to the baking soda. The icing is a bit tart because I used the leftover buttermilk in place of whole milk in the recipe; if you like a tart, not sweet icing, I recommend this trick (you can always add extra sugar to compensate). If you like a sweeter frosting, I suggest using whole milk in place of the buttermilk, and using the leftover buttermilk to make my garlic roasted chicken (recipe here). This cake is also delicious with a raspberry jam or a peanut butter frosting between the layers.


3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups melted (liquid) coconut oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups rich black coffee, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To the baking:

1. Make the coffee, and set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9" baking pans.
2. Whisk dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, & cocoa powder - together in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. 

3. Add in coconut oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Mix until blended. The batter will be thick and somewhat dry. Don't worry - you still have a whole bunch of coffee to add.

Ready to mix.

Somewhat dry batter.
4. Slowly add coffee in parts and mix to combine. Then add vanilla and mix again. The batter should now look more liquidy, like what you expect from a cake batter.

Coffee in.

Nice batter.
5. Pour batter into prepared cake tins, only filling each about halfway.

Ready to bake.
6. Bake about 40 minutes, or until knife down the center comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before turning cake layers out, and allow to completely cool before frosting.

Chocolate Buttermilk Buttercream Frosting:


Frosting ingredients.
5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar (or more if you'd like a sweeter frosting - maybe up to 1 cup more)
1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
12 tablespoons of unsalted room temperature butter
12 tablespoons of buttermilk (or whole milk if you don't want tart frosting - in which case, do not add extra sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla 

1. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cocoa, making sure there are no lumps.
Dry ingredients.
No lumps!
2. Add the butter and buttermilk (or milk) and using a hand mixer, beat until smooth.

Ready to mix.
3. Add vanilla and beat one last time, until glossy and smooth.

4. Frost cake. Start by doing a crumb coating (a light coat of frosting all over so that your later, thicker coat will have no crumbs caught in it).

Crumb coat.

Putting on second layer.

Nice & shiny frosting.

Moist slice of cake.


Ready to enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Caprese" Omelette: Pesto, Roasted Tomato, & Mozzarella Omelette with a Balsamic Reduction


Close-up of fillings.

This omelette is easy to prepare, taking only 15 minutes, but packs a big flavor punch. The bright colors also look beautiful, which is why it is a good dish to serve to houseguests or on a special occasion.  I made it with fresh homemade pesto (recipe below), which is easy to make and I think tastes better than the jarred. However, this omelette tastes delicious with jarred pesto too, if you want to make your life easier. I also like this omelette topped with a little sprinkle of balsamic reduction to mimic the taste of a caprese salad, but it is delicious without that if you prefer. I also teach you my trick to making a more beautiful looking omelette, without the egg clumping or falling apart. Try it!

1 tablespoon olive oil
handful of cherry or grace tomatoes, cut in half
4 eggs
2-3 tablespoons of pesto (recipe below)
handful of shredded mozzarella cheese
1-3 tablespoons balsamic reduction (optional; recipe below)
2 cloves minced garlic
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar


1. If you are going to make the pesto, do so before starting the omelette. If you already have pesto (jarred or homemade), and you want to do the optional balsamic reduction, begin that by putting about 1/2 cup balsamic in a pan and bringing to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, lower heat so it simmers until it thickens and loses about half its size (so 1/2 cup will make 1/4 cup of reduction). Once finished, it should look glossy and have the consistency of honey. Stir occasionally, as vinegar can burn easily if your flame is up too high. Otherwise, that is it. Once done - it should take about 10-15 minutes- set aside.  

Balsamic reducing.

2. While the balsamic is simmering, begin preparing the tomatoes: about 1 teaspoon olive oil, the garlic, and the tomatoes in a cast iron or non-stick pan. Sprinkle with salt and cook over medium heat. You want to flip them every few minutes, but not too often because you want them to caramelize. Let cook until you see color on them, and the juices have disappeared - probably about 10-15 minutes. Once done, set aside.

Ready to begin cooking.

Starting to soften.

Nice and caramelized and roasted.
3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and salt and pepper together. Once tomatoes and balsamic are done or just a few minutes out from being done, begin cooking the eggs. Pour remaining olive oil in pan, swirling to coat, and then pour eggs in. Cook over medium low. This must be done in a non-stick pan. The trick to making a pretty omelette: after pouring the eggs in, don't touch. Let sit until the bottom sets - about two minutes. I also cover the pan while this is happening. Then I take lid off, and gently with a spatula, scoot a part of the eggs over and tilt the pan so the uncooked eggs run underneath the cooked ones. I do this in small areas around the pan, and then cover the eggs again for another 2 minutes or so.  You want the top of the eggs underdone - slightly runny but with no shine. 


Starting to cook.

Almost done cooking.
4. Sprinkle the cheese on one half of the eggs and cover again, allowing cheese to melt - about 30 seconds.

5. Top melted cheese with the pesto.

6. Top pesto with the roasted tomatoes.

7. Using your spatula, gently flip the other side of the omelette over the toppings. This should be easy because of the olive oil in the pan.

8. Slide omelette right out of pan and onto plate. If you like, drizzle with balsamic reduction. Eat right away.

Finished product.


Close-up with balsamic reduction.

Finished product with balsamic reduction.
To make Homemade Pesto: (the easiest ever)


Makes about 2 cups worth, which you can store jarred in your fridge for up to 2 months. It is great to use on eggs of any kind, on sandwiches, and (obviously) on pasta.

1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
optional: juice of 1/2 a lemon 

1. Put everything but the olive oil in a food processor. 
Pine nuts, cheese, & spices in the food processor.

Topped wit basil.
2. Blend. While it is blending, pour in the olive oil.  Taste the finished product and adjust seasonings. (This is when I sometimes add the lemon juice if I feel the basil didn't offer enough brightness.)



Ready to be sealed and refrigerated.