June 30, 2009

German Chocolate Cake Throwdown

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the German Chocolate Cake Throwdown! In this corner, we have the challenger, a newcomer, the Bobby Flay recipe.

Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

And in the opposite corner, our returning champion, the Cook's Illustrated recipe (requires subscription, e-mail me if you want the recipe). Let's try and make this a fair fight.

German Chocolate Cake

First the judges will compare the cake portion of each recipe. Bobby Flay's recipe uses cocoa powder for chocolate flavor, but the Cook's Illustrated recipe calls for melted chocolate and cocoa powder. The CI recipe uses a traditional creaming method, and will it cream the competition? Bobby melts his butter before mixing it with the sugars. Bobby also uses 3 cups of liquid - coffee and buttermilk. Is his method all wet? (The crowd boos the lame announcer.) The judges' decision: the CI cake is springy and has deep chocolate flavor. Bobby's cake melts in your mouth, but is a little too moist and there might be too much coffee in the recipe (which thing we never before thought possible).

In the second round, the judges move on to the filling, which is truly the most important part of a German Chocolate Cake. The CI recipe is fairly close to the original Baker's recipe, with modifications to the amounts of evaporated milk, sugars, and butter, and extra helpings of pecans and coconut. Is this the round where Bobby will deliver the knockout punch? His filling recipe starts with water and sugar, melted to a dark amber, then adds milk, coconut milk, and goat's milk, then simmers the mixture for an hour - like Mexican Cajeta.

Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

Certainly a blow to the competition, and then Bobby strikes again with the added flavors of vanilla bean and coconut rum. Our challenger takes round two in a decisive victory.

The returning champion still has some fight left, but will it be enough? Here comes Bobby again to deliver the final blow. His cake is topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache, extra pecans and coconut, and it's served with coconut whipped cream on the side. Wow! A hush falls on the crowd and the judges are ready for the side by side, mano-a-mano, slice to slice competition.

German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

Cake JudgeWith so much riding on this decision, the judges request anonymity. Their deliberation comments included the following:
  • This coconut whipped cream is excellent.
  • The bittersweet ganache is just that - bitter, and it's too thick.
  • Bobby's filling is better.
  • I think side by side I like the traditional [Cook's Illustrated] cake better.
They return a split decision. The fans deserve a rematch!

German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

Throwdown’s German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan-Cajeta Frosting, Chocolate Ganache and Coconut Whipped Cream

Note: [Original recipe from Bobby Flay's website removed, but can now be found here.] I edited the original recipe for spelling errors and missing instructions (if you follow the original recipe, you'll never add the flour to your cake), points of personal preference, and to allow for a couple of ingredients I couldn't get in this one-horse town.

Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups strongly brewed black coffee, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into bowl of standing mixer. Add the sugars and beat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth. With beaters on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with coffee and buttermilk (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat until just combined.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 42-45 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a baking rack for 20 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto the baking rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before frosting.

Cajeta Filling
2 cups whole milk
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup goats’ milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons coconut rum, optional
1 1/4 cups sweetened coconut
1 1/4 cups toasted coarsely chopped pecans

1. Bring the milk, coconut milk and goat’s milk to a simmer over low heat in a medium saucepan. Keep warm while you prepare the caramel.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a light-colored, heavy pan over high heat and cook (do not stir) until deep amber brown color. Slowly whisk in the warm milk mixture and continue whisking until smooth; add the vanilla seeds and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is reduced by half and is the consistency of a caramel sauce, about 55 minutes.
3. Once the sauce is reduced, remove from the heat and whisk in the cold butter, vanilla extract, salt and rum and whisk until combined. Stir in the coconut. Let the frosting cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in pecans just before frosting the cake.

Coconut Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup Coco Lopez
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coconut rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine heavy cream, Coco Lopez, sugar, rum, and vanilla in mixing bowl and mix until soft peaks form.

8 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1. Bring cream to a simmer. Place chocolate in a medium bowl, add hot cream and corn syrup and let sit for 30 seconds. Gently whisk until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before pouring over the cake.

1/2 cup toasted coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup lightly toasted sweetened coconut

1. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Place one cake layer on a cake round or platter and spread 1/3 of the frosting evenly over the top, repeat to make 3 layers and top with the remaining cake layer, top side up.
2. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake. Garnish with pecans and some of the toasted coconut. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
3. Slice cake, top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with additional toasted coconut.

June 24, 2009

Marian the Librarian

I get the feeling I picked the right line of work for myself. I love my job, though it isn't without its hazards. Like last week, I broke the heel of my shoe in the grooves of the Spacesavers - those mechanical shifting shelves. And if I forget to wear pants/skirts with pockets, I have to hide keys and pens on my person, and that can get weird and uncomfortable. Sometimes that leads me to sport a pencil behind the ear, which along with my hair in a bun and librarian glasses is charming to someone, somewhere, I'm sure.

I am doing old-fashioned librarian work, which is good because I'm an old-fashioned girl. I get some good questions at the reference desk. Mostly it's "Where is the bathroom?" But I do get some interesting ones, like people needing literary criticisms of a certain work or author, requests for obscure statistics and author biographies. People will tell long stories about what happened to them and their books, and "Do you loan jump drives because I had one but I left it in the pocket of my jeans and it got washed?" Or, "I'm looking for my friend. She has long, dark hair." At that one, I thought, okay, there are about 10,000 people that walk through these doors every day... I also get to tackle people that set off the security gate alarms. It's fabulous.

Ever since I started working at the library, I've thought my job was awfully like the girls' in Desk Set. Random questions, but in the days before Google:

I bought the movie and invited some friends over to watch it. What menu goes with Desk Set? I don't know, but in the movie Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy eat the dessert Baked Alaska, so I decided to make that. I found this recipe, which was extremely easy. The hardest part was finding peach ice cream. I didn't have time to make my own, so I had to buy generic United Food Club stuff, but it wasn't too bad. You slice a round of pound cake, top it with ice cream, and freeze it. Then beat egg whites with sugar and cream of tartar to stiff peaks and surround the ice cream with the egg whites. The ice cream needs to be hermetically sealed within the meringue. (I piped the meringue around the ice cream with a large star tip.) Return them to freezer if you have time, for up to an hour. Bake for five minutes to toast the meringue. I served them with peaches and raspberries spiced with cardamom, which I think added presentation and taste points.

Baked Alaska Baked Alaska

I like this dessert because it has a nice presentation, tastes pretty good, wows people with the "You put ice cream in the oven!" factor, can be simplified by using store bought ingredients, is retro, and is open to limitless flavor variations. Christy and John came over last night for a weeknight dessert, and I decided to try Baked Alaska again. This time, I used a brownie base instead of pound cake, topped half of them with vanilla ice cream, half with coffee ice cream. I made the meringue with granulated sugar instead of confectioner's, then swirled it on with a spatula, instead of piping it. I also tried baking at 425° instead of 450° as in the other recipe, because the tops of the last ones looked charred.

Baked Alaska Baked Alaska
I personally thought the brownie base was too sweet with the ice cream and meringue, so I probably would not use that again. Actually, I don't know why you couldn't just eliminate the cake/brownie base, and seal the entire scoop of ice cream within meringue. Then you could serve that alongside cake or brownies. Also, I thought after I took the autopsy shot above and moved the two halves back together, how much that looked like a human brain, split down the middle, which would make the dessert great for a Halloween party. You could great really creative with "grey matter" and a cerebellum... maybe that's too much.

June 22, 2009

Daddy's Day

Super Dad

For Father's Day dinner we had Cafe Rio Salad: two tortillas under Romaine lettuce, Cilantro-Lime Rice, Black Beans, Sweet Shredded Pork, Tomatillo-Lime Dressing, Cotija Cheese, Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, Tortilla Strips... I learned that it's called Cotija cheese, not Cojita. I had been calling it Cojita and mocking people that said Cotija for a couple of years. It was a little depressing to learn that my foodie knowledge wasn't infinite. (It is now?)

Cafe Rio Salad

My dad's three favorite things are German Chocolate Cake, Coconut Cream Pie, and me. This coconut cream pie was the best I've made yet, but it still needs some tweaking. It needs a deeper filling and less whipped cream on top, and there's something not quite right about the filling. Maybe it needs some dark rum? I'll have to go scavenge recipes.

Coconut Cream Pie

Walkin' the floor over you

June 19, 2009

How the Other 1% Lives

As we've seen before, when I need cheering, I like to read the BYU Police Beat. Those kids at BYU are always up to no good.

Police Beat for June 2
Suspicious Activity

May 22: A suspicious bald male was seen yelling and acting confused at Wymount Terrace. Police located the individual and discovered he was a resident who was yelling because other people were yelling. No charges or citations were made.

May 22: A male and female were seen entering and exiting rooms in the Brimhall Building. When officers arrived they found the male and female were custodial workers taking inventory in each room.

May 27: A suspicious male was making people nervous at the base of the RB stairs around 10 p.m. The man was gone when an officer arrived.

Civil Dispute

May 23: A former Wymount Terrace couple was reported to be harassing a current Wymount couple. The officers attempted to mediate between the disagreeing couples and told them to just leave each other alone.

Animal Problem

May 22: Police received a phone call about a problem at the botany pond. Police arrived at the site and had to rescue two baby ducks who were stuck in the storm drain. The officers reunited the baby ducks with the mother duck.
Police beat for June 16, 2009

June 5: An adult male dressed in black was reported running through the quad and hiding behind dumpsters at Wymount Terrace. The man ran through the quad, dropped to his belly and army-crawled, then got back to his feet and continued running. He ran past a woman and said “Good morning” before jumping in a car and speeding off.

June 6: An adult male dressed all in black was seen acting “stealthy and ninja-like” near Taylor Hall.

June 9: A suspicious toolbox was reported at the HFAC. The box belonged to the grounds crew working nearby.

Animal Problem

June 10: A juvenile was reported hurting a duck near the duck pond. The police were not able to locate the juvenile or the injured duck.
I've also been letting the spam accumulate in my gmail, so I can read the sender and subject lines for a laugh.
  • "You're a moron." from sechrest (Ryan? Is that you?)
  • "CONGRATULATIONS!!!" from Toyota Promochin
  • "Why lie? I need money."
I know it's sad, but they're funnier than anything my friends are sending me. Take that as a challenge and step it up. Maybe I've an especially odd sense of humor. Wouldn't surprise me. I've watched this video countless times and it makes me giggle every time. I'm not sure if it's only because I know the kid. Tell me, is this funny?

June 15, 2009

Tender Is the Pork

We know I can get into themes for dinner. Yesterday's menu was British. I watched this episode of Good Eats. I decided to make Alton's Pork Wellington, recipe starts at minute 4:45:

Porter and I got into an argument about how Pork Wellington got its name, and I won because I had seen that clip. Who says Food Network shows aren't educational? The recipe was incredibly easy to make, and everyone loved it. Scott even requested it for his birthday dinner in a couple of weeks. Along with that, we had Stilton/Gloucester cheese and crackers and green salad. I had planned on roasted red potatoes as a side, but I got lazy.

Pork Wellington

Strawberry Cream CakeWhat dessert goes with British? Shortcake, of course, and according to this site, June 14 is Strawberry Shortcake Day. Even better! I don't have a pretty picture of it, though. Zao gao.

June 11, 2009

He Who Eats Alone, Dies Alone

So I try not to do it. Chris shared that proverb with me a couple of years ago, and I don't know why it stuck in my mind. He seemed so sincere in saying that one really lives by that in Africa.

I've tried several new foods in the last few days. Monday night I was having a serious case of the blahs, which I will blame on the series of unfortunate events that prevented me from eating all day. So driving home at 9:30pm, I got a call and invitation to try some traditional African (Nigerian?) food, and I said I could be there in five minutes.

Chris made Okra Soup with beef, catfish, and I think shrimp. It was a little slimy with the okra, and that plus the fishy taste made it a little unappetizing. But I'll try anything at least once, and I'd try this again.

Tuesday for lunch I went to Well Body with Rob and tried a pomegranate soda and a hummus wrap with purple olives. I love olives. The hummus needed a little salt and I always think some spicy sauce or peppers help everything. Well Body sells a vegetarian roast that we want to try. Talk about mystery meat.

I tried the most amazing and beautiful food Wednesday. One of my colleagues (I notice everyone at work is really into calling everyone their colleague, not that there's anything wrong with that), Shelley, brought us Bentō boxes for lunch. I had no idea what they were until she told me about them. There is an art to the way the foods are chosen and arranged. Go read the Wikipedia article and learn something. Shelley posted pictures on Facebook, which I stole, so you can see the magic yourself. Click the right image for notes.

Bento Box Lunch by Shelley. Bento Box Lunch by Shelley

Then we talked about India Palace and food and had a thirty second argument over whether L.A. or New York was the center of the food world. And then I asked if she would be my best friend and could we hold hands and skip through the library?

Wednesday night, Eric and I had dinner at Saigon Cafe, and I ordered some Pho. I got the spicy beef, and it was surprisingly spicy. That's one of those restaurants where I don't try to pronounce the entrée's name, I say, "I'd like a #14, please." And I think the leftovers are still in my fridge, where they went to die. Alone.

June 8, 2009

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

Trying to expand my claim on Google results for Lubbock cupcakes, I strive to provide you with the latest information on cupcake news in the Hub City.

First, a writeup of Cake by distinctive details and Peace O'Cake Cupcakes ran in Sunday's Avalanche-Journal. I'm one of the cupcake fanatics mentioned in the story, not by name, of course, but they really should have interviewed me for this piece. Who else has as much interest in cake to frosting ratios, buttercream vs. shortening, flavor profiles, etc.? And my food photography talent! My gosh! Look at this photo of the cupcakes from the A-J. Doesn't this just make your mouth water?

It didn't do anything for me either. This is the most boring, colorless photo of cupcakes I've ever seen. Nothing wrong with this photo except the fluorescent lighting, flash glare, and bad angle. I also find that food porn calls for a macro lens.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter FrostingThis is my legacy apparently, my food snobbery and eccentricity. The blog Cupcakes Take the Cake quoted one of my blog posts with the headline Peanut butter frosting lover defends her peanut butter passion. You knew it would be bacon or peanut butter with me. I'm Internet famous.

June 7, 2009


Yesterday, the birds singing outside woke me up at 6am. Where are those birds during the week when I've snoozed my alarm clock ten times? They are so loud it sounds like they're in the house. I've named them Kevin collectively. They apparently sit on my chimney and caw at me as a game. It isn't sweet singing like the Snow White or Cinderella birds. No, it's like something out of a Hitchcock film.

In case you're dying to know what I served for Blind Date Cuisine, here's the menu: Pan-seared chicken breasts with apricot-orange sauce, toasted almond rice pilaf, and broiled asparagus, then Rocky Road ice cream for dessert. Had the dessert been left up to me, I would have served vanilla or maybe crème fraîche ice cream (probably too exotic for a blind date) with fresh macerated apricots. Wonderful stone fruit season! Or maybe a pound cake with citrus glaze.

A menu of more importance was the one for Katie's birthday dinner last night. She requested red beans and rice and po'boys and Banana Nut ice cream for dessert. I used the red beans recipe from the Good Book, with double the bacon, cayenne, and Tabasco it called for. I think it was heavy on the oregano and thyme seasoning, and it needs some chili powder. The po'boys were simple: French bread hoagies, split, with a little bit of butter and a good slathering of mayonnaise on each half. You can't skimp on the mayonnaise. Top the bread with shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and fried chicken pieces. Then give the chicken a good dousing with Frank's Hot Sauce.

Katie Birthday Dinner

Katie Birthday 2009The Banana Nut ice cream was very good. I have great memories of eating that at my grandparents' house as a little girl. Katie seems to get shafted on birthday cakes every year. Last year's Graham Cracker Cake was the worst cake I've ever made. Wendy said it was the best day of her life to see me fall flat on my face in the kitchen. Nice of Wendy to show up for Katie's birthday party last night. She even joined in practicing on Katie's new yoga mat.

Katie Birthday 2009

June 4, 2009

Blind Date Cuisine

I really don't mind being set up on blind dates. It's interesting to see the men people think I make a match with. I figure if the date is a disaster, I'll have a great story for my girlfriends. If there's no romantic chemistry, at least I've made a new friend. And there's always the hope of meeting a prince.

Classic Seinfeld scene from one of my favorite episodes:
JERRY: I think I'd rather go out on a deaf date than a blind date. The question is whether you'd rather date the blind or the deaf.

ELAINE: Ah, . . .

GEORGE: Now you're off on a topic.

JERRY: You know, I think, I would rather date the deaf.

ELAINE: Uh huh.

JERRY: Because I think the blind would probably be a little messier around the house. And lets face it they're not going to get all the crumbs. I'd possibly be walking around with a sponge.

GEORGE: You see I disagree. I'd rather be dating the blind. You know you could let the house go. You could let yourself go. A good looking blind woman doesn't even know you're not good enough for her.

ELAINE: I think she'd figure it out.
I have a blind date on Friday. Not a deaf date because I talked to him on the phone so we could set up plans. Call me crazy, but I suggested dinner at my house. So now what for the menu? I should offer an Amazon gift card to the commenter with the best suggestion (but I won't). It came up in conversation randomly that he likes asparagus, so I think I'll incorporate that, since it's already part of every meal at my house. I asked what we should have for dessert. "Ice cream perhaps? What's your favorite flavor?" I asked. The answer: Rocky Road. I think I have it covered. We'll go with adding a fudge ripple again.

You've got ~24 hours to nominate a blind date dinner menu.

June 3, 2009

Pink Velvet Cake

I am making a Red Velvet Cake for another librarian's birthday tomorrow. The last time I made a Red Velvet Cake was with Pauline for Steve's birthday. I remember we made a double T out of parchment paper, laid it over the cake, and frosted around it, so that there was a big red double T in the cake's center.

Red Velvet Cake seems to have had a resurgence lately, with cupcakes being especially prevalent. It's a buttermilk cake with a tiny bit of cocoa powder. I'm not a huge fan of it. The only memorable one I had was at Le Gamin in Brooklyn, and if they all tasted like that one I would be a convert.

Ran into a couple of snags with my baking tonight. First, I didn't have enough red food coloring. I emptied two small bottles and then still had to go to the store. I had already been to the store once tonight to buy cream cheese and assorted necessities. It was a little bit more fun going at 11:15pm. You will never guess whom I saw in the checkout line, but try. Wonder Woman and Bat Girl! Dressed to the nines. Bat Girl had on her mask. Wonder Woman had on gold tights. It was pretty awesome. I was dying to see their mode of transportation, which was a silver Dodge Neon. I felt sure they'd fly away, but no.

Red Velvet CakeThe second problem was that I didn't have any regular unsweetened cocoa, just Dutch-processed, which is darker and has a different acidity level. I should have known better, but I used what I had on hand. The batter was a brownish pink instead of red, and the cooked cake looks reddish-brown, not the bright red I'd hoped for. This is the point where I try to decide if I'm going to make another cake and try for better results or take the inferior cake to work. At this hour, I'm thinking we'll be okay with pink velvet cake tomorrow.

Red Velvet Cake

June 2, 2009

Rocky Road

Friday night, dinner at my house was steak, potatoes, and asparagus. Perhaps I'm in a dinner menu rut. Those are my favorite things, they're quick and easy to cook, and so I serve them all the time. Plus, Stephen came to dinner, and having just returned from living in Africa for a couple of years, he needed a good hearty meat and potatoes meal. "You need to eat something! You're too skinny!" I'll make a wonderful grandmother.

Porter, Katie, Stephen, and Eric talked about their adventures living in Finland, Taiwan, Benin/Togo, and Romania, respectively. I learned how to say "I refuse you!" in Fon gbè, which should come in handy. Curl your right arm and flap it like a chicken wing and shout something that sounds like "Ing bay!" Also learned the useful Finnish phrase "Parempi avioliitossa kuin Neurostoliitossa," which means "Better married than in the Soviet Union."

I guess my cultural contribution to the evening was the food, and I did try a new Rocky Road ice cream recipe variation. Chocolate Ice Cream plus mini-marshmallows, mini-chocolate chips, minus almonds this time, but plus a fudge ripple swirled in. I got the ripple recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, and the recipe is online here. Darn good in a waffle cone.

Rocky Road Ice Cream

Eric and I saw Up in 3-D Saturday and loved it. After which, we systematically ranked those cupcakes I accidentally bought into our order of preference. The decisions were pretty unanimous except I would have put the peanut butter banana cupcake solidly at first or second; Eric ranked it a few spots lower. Click the image for cupcake descriptions. You know you want to.

Cake Cupcakes