Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, worthy of an 80th birthday celebration

Dan’s grandpa celebrated his 80th birthday this past weekend and requested a cake.  When asked what he liked, Dan’s grandma suggested something with cherries, and this was the first thing that came to mind.  Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is much more exciting to say than what English speaking counterparts call this: Black Forest Cake.  And, we don’t even acknowledge the star of the show – cherries (kirsch) in our translation!  Anyhow, I’d never made such a cake, but I definitely have eaten it before.  I used this recipe from Saveur that went the traditional German route, soaking the tart cherries with Kirsch (cherry liqueur), and including a bit also into the whipped cream frosting and the cherry syrup that you brush onto each cake layer.  Instead of decorating the cake with the kirsch-soaked tart cherries, I thought it would be more beautiful to have sweet cherries, stems and all, adorning the mounds of whipped dream frosting.

Since I forgot the candles at our house, this amazing little wax birthday candle set was pulled out of the back of some closet.  Isn’t it adorable?  I didn’t even care that it crushed the chocolate curls I worked so hard on!  And, I didn’t even care that Dan’s grandpa called me Amy a few times – it’s was his birthday after all, and that cake was delicious.


Chocolate Leaves

This past weekend I had my first official order for a birthday cake, and the most amazing five-year-old made one request: chocolate leaves!  Seriously, brilliant!  For a brief moment I was worried I was going to be asked to make Lightning McQueen or Spiderman.  (I’m guessing that’s what my little dude will inevitably request for his cake in a couple of months…)  But, no.  Just chocolate leaves and strawberries.  That, I can do.

I was so incredibly excited throughout the process.  I picked leaves from my roses, carefully washed them, and was giddy as I was melting chocolate.  In fact I was so excited about the process that I forgot to take as many photos as I would have liked.  (I just snapped a few on my phone.)  From start to finish, not including the time in the fridge, it took around 15 or 20 minutes.  It’s so quick that I had little time to worry about whether or not they were going to turn out well.  That’s my kind of endeavor.  Turns out, they’re amazing!  AND THEY REALLY LOOK LIKE CHOCOLATE LEAVES!

Chocolate Leaves

You’ll need a bar of chocolate (I used a 70% cacao, bittersweet bar of chocolate), and a however many leaves you desire to make.  I used rose leaves, but lemon or basil leaves would work well, also.  (Note: There are bad leaves to use: poison ivy, poison oak, or any other leaf containing poison.)

Wash and dry the leaves, then place them on something that will fit in your refrigerator.  Coarsely chop the entire bar of chocolate.  Bring about two inches of water to simmer in a heavy saucepan.  Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl that can rest securely over the saucepan.  Stir until it’s melted, then let cool just for a few minutes.

Using a pastry brush, gently brush on the chocolate to the underside (the matte side) of the leaf, being careful not to get the chocolate over the edges.  (That makes it difficult to separate the leaves from the chocolate at the end.)  Once all the leaves are covered, place in the fridge until they’ve solidified.

At that point, reheat the chocolate and brush on another layer, then place them in the fridge once again to cool.  Once they are, peel the leaves away from the chocolate, starting from the stem end.  YOU’VE MADE CHOCOLATE LEAVES!  Go decorate something!  Or just eat them like some fancy crazy person who only eats chocolate in delicate leaf form.


Friday Favorites

Oh, Friday!  Here again, old friend!  Happy to see you so soon!

I made the cake pictured above for a dear friend’s birthday yesterday.  I used this recipe, and couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome!  I dare say it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.  Perfect moisture and flavor.  YUM!  And I am pretty much in love with the photos.  Two cakes in a week!  I’m a cake-makin’ machine!

I’m excited to make these drinks this weekend.

This is going to be our brunch on Sunday!

These photos me want to be in California RIGHT NOW! (just for a visit!)

This strawberry picking adventure looks magical.  I want to go to there.

This treehouse is pretty darn magical too!

Oh, and I’m probably going to be wearing a scarf like this for the rest of my life.

Happy Friday!  Our friends are moving here from Seattle NEXT WEEK, and are staying with us until they find a place!  We’ll be spending a bit of the weekend getting ready (and so excited!) for their arrival!  Jack is going to have a live-in pal for a bit.  So excited!

Hope your long weekend is wonderful!


Tartine Baking Project: #54 Chocolate Truffles

Baking these little gems was the smartest thing I’ve done all day.  No, all week.  I’d go as far as saying it’s the smartest thing I’ve done in the last week and a half.  And, the most dangerous.  Have you made truffles?  It’s scary how easy they are to make!  Truffles bring to mind words like, ‘gold,’ ‘fancy,’ ‘rich’ and are something whoever owns Google or Instagram may eat for an afternoon snack every single day.

I really thought I messed up the easiest recipe possible.  It’s always the most simple recipes that I fumble around a bit with.  I didn’t wait for the hot cream to sit in the chopped chocolate.  I just started stirring, which instantly started cooling down the cream, leaving me with some lumpy chocolate.  I don’t think anyone is interested in lumpy truffles.  (Add that to a list of kitchen inspired band names.  Does that list even exist anywhere?)  So, I had to add a little step in the process that involved a double boiler so I could heat up the rest of the chocolate.  Crisis averted.  Oh, and I’m not the best at piping them out into perfect logs.

I decided to grab some candied ginger, roast some almonds, and include some sea salt to make sure these truffles had some variety.  Because when I was eating so many of them, variety was necessary.

Amazing.  So rich and full of flavor.  They’re not necessarily the most gorgeous truffles I’ve ever seen, but that’s definitely something I will improve upon the more I make them.  Yes, I will be making them more.  I cannot wait to play around with tiny additions to mix them up even more.  Jack asked for one, so I gave him one.  He said, “YUM!” then handed the rest back to me.  Just one bite was sufficient for his little toddler palate.  I, on the other hand, can handle these truffles.  So many of them, in fact, that I am so happy to share these with others.  Except for my mailman.  He’s specified he’s not a fan of chocolate.  What a weirdo.


Tartine Baking Project: #50 Chocolate Friands

I cannot believe I am on the fiftieth recipe of this cookbook!  I’m not going to pop open the bubbly quite yet, but I’m just about half way through this little adventure!  It’s exciting!  And I don’t think I could have celebrated #50 any better.  Friands are amazing!  I had no idea what a friand was before I dove into the recipe.  I was sold with the word CHOCOLATE.  I’ve been in quite the chocolate…I don’t want to say rut, because I like using Ghirardelli chocolate.  It’s just that I’ve been wanting to mix it up as far as what kind of chocolate I’m using!  Awhile back I saw this beautiful video of The Mast Brothers.  They’re in Brooklyn, and I’ve always wanted to go to their chocolate shop.  I made mention of my adoration of Mast Brothers on Twitter, and the ever so lovely Jen from Local Appetite was eager to send me a package!  In days I was eating an almond + sea salt dark chocolate bar.  Perfection!  Thanks so much, Jen!  You are amazing & I owe you something equally as exciting!  I am so in love with all the amazing people I’ve met through this blog and the Internet!

This chocolate met the hype.  Opening the package was a magical experience.  I was definitely smiling.  A lot.  And at this point I still didn’t really know what exactly a friand even was.  Turns out, they’re remarkably easy to put together.  This is a real win-win.  People will think you spent hours and hours preparing them, and you know that is not the case.

Since I baked them in cupcake wrappers and friands don’t rise very much, I decided to cut the extra wrapper to make dipping them into the ganache that much easier.  Yes.  Ganache.  The best ganache I’ve ever made, if I do say so myself.  I tried to make mine look like the friands pictured in the cookbook by including a thin stripe on top, but mine look a little…homemade.  I’m being nice to myself there.  They look slightly wonky, but they still taste amazing.  So there’s that.  I just love how small they are – they’re so rich and perfectly chocolatey that just a few bites is all you need.

I am loving these extended hours of good sunlight!  Although we did have one of the sunniest Michigan winters I can remember, it still was winter, which meant it gets dark so early!  Not anymore!  Happy Spring!  As I walked outside, platter of friands  and camera in hand, the neighbor girls were right there.  They were immediately at the table, nearly grabbing them off the platter.  Little Sister screamed, “Chocolate!” then ran off when she realized I was taking pictures, not passing them out.  After watching me for a couple minutes, Middle Sister stood there, rolled her eyes, and said, “Uh, Emily.  They all look the same….Youuuu reallllly don’t have to take so many pictures, I think.”  Seconds later, Big Sister came up and snapped, “So are you going to be some kind of photographer when you grow up?”  Yes – “when you grow up.”  Not sure if that was meant to be a compliment or a dig.  I know I must seem like a monster not giving this little girls any of the goods!  It was right before dinner though, and who am I to ruin their appetites for dinner?


Tartine Baking Project: #42 Chocolate Almond Toffee

Chocolate?  I’m in.  Almond?  Yup.  Love it.  Toffee?  Um… Not such a big fan there.  My mom used to get Heath bars in flurries whenever we went for ice cream.  I thought toffee was something old people ate.  But as I’ve gotten older I’ve never acquired the taste for toffee.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve actually tried it in years.  So, this is the interesting part of baking every single thing in a cookbook.  There are things I would never get excited about, or even give a second thought as I was perusing the pages deciding on just what I wanted to bake.  Toffee definitely falls into the category of “I Would Never Choose You.”

Roasting the almonds beforehand.

I had everything set and ready to go, as these confectionery endeavors move fast and furious.  Come to think of it, that would be a more entertaining movie than those cars speeding around.

Mondays are pretty busy around here, getting back into the swing of things and ready for the week.  I thought baking something that really only took ten minutes of real focus was a good move.  Wouldn’t you know it, I chose the ten minutes that happen to be the most hectic and crazy of the entire day.  I will spare you the details, but you know I have a toddler and there is potty training happening these days.  I was sure I messed up the toffee.  It just sets up so quickly once you pour it on the sheet, and it just looked like an ugly mess.  I didn’t have time to spread it out all the way, and the texture seemed to be off.  I actually had to Google images of toffee to alleviate my fears that I had really messed this up.

The ugliest pile of sugary sweet goodness.

This is why I love this project.  I’m being stretched, expanding my routine of things I am familiar with baking, or simply eating.  While this particular toffee of mine would never win any prizes for “Prettiest Confection” (I don’t know if that’s really an award anywhere), it would probably win a blindfolded taste test anywhere.  At least that’s what my friends are telling me.  I currently have the stuffiest nose and cannot taste anything.  From what I gather it tastes like something along the lines of “sugary” along with the familiar crunch of almonds and the creamy texture of really good chocolate.  That is enough to keep me dipping back into the container all morning.


Tartine Baking Project: #41 Chocolate Soufflé Cake

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first set out to bake everything over the year, I paid particular attention to plotting out treats for holidays and birthdays.  This particular cake screamed, “VALENTINE’S DAY!” As a Lover of Chocolate, I took the call and have been counting down to this cake for some time now.  Wouldn’t you know it?  For the second year in a row, The Flu has ruined my Valentine plans!  What a jerk!  I actually did get the cake made for Valentine’s evening, but the plan was to partake in said dessert with lady friends celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day,’ à la Leslie Knope and her gaggle of gals.  (That’s a Parks and Recreation reference, just in case you felt a bit lost there.)

This was a marathon cake that turned into a dreaded chore that I just had to finish.  The end was totally worth the means, but the joy of baking this afternoon was definitely just a book on a shelf rather than the vibe of my kitchen over the past couple of days.

The bottom of this cake is a thin layer of chocolate chiffon cake.  (Completely worth the extra step of baking a completely different cake just to get a tiny layer!)

It’s very exciting when a recipe calls for seven eggs, and I have exactly seven eggs.

I am so in love with this clear mixing bowl.  I cannot say that enough.  (And my husband and child…but I tell them all the time how much I love them.)

I was worried I was going to bake this too long.  I am always under baking things, and with this cake you don’t want the cake to raise up at all.  It ended up puffing up a bit, even though I baked it for the minimal amount of time suggested.  At this point in the game, nothing was phasing me.  I honestly had a “whatever” kind of attitude, which is definitely not the norm.

At this point it suggested putting the cake in the fridge for 3 hours, or up to overnight.  We had such a rocky day and even though it was Valentine’s Day, we opted to postpone that chocolatey dessert.  We instead went through an assorted box of chocolates and realized we hate assorted boxes of chocolates because we don’t like most of the mix.  Wow.  We sound like some serious Valentine Grinches!  Really, I love this day!  I promise!

More chocolate! 

So, we are celebrating Valentine’s Day again today!  This meant more chocolate for the ganache, and a brief afternoon love day party for the three of us.

Not the prettiest cake, or even a really pretty picture of a half-way decent cake.  But, this cake is so very rich and smooth and delicious.  Remember Genuwine?  That’s exactly how I think he marketed himself in 1997.  “Rich, smooth and delicious.”

Clearly, there’s a fan of chocolate in this house other than myself. 



Tartine Baking Project: #37 Deluxe Double-Chocolate Cookies

After a fruitless search for at the grocery store for passion fruits, my Sunday afternoon in the kitchen fell back on cookies.  Double-chocolate cookies.  I always have chocolate around here, ready to bake any chocolatey thing at a moment’s notice.  CHOCOLATE!  We spent a bit of time hitting the sledding hill, and these cookies were the perfect way to warm up afterwards.

(Did you catch that?  A fruitless search! ha!)

These double-chocolate cookies involve a lot of chocolate, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet.

If there’s ever a season for cookies, I think it’s winter.  While we bundle up and venture off into the snow, the habits of hibernation are hard to avoid.  The guilt is but a distant vapor-like thought when I pile up cookies on a plate for myself and I burrow beneath afghans.  The plate serves the purpose of saving myself several trips to the kitchen.  One time I almost cried when I got settled in and realized the remote was on the other side of the room.

I am always concerned with under-baking things.  The shortbread I just made suffered from such a fate.  Now most cookies, including these rich, little treats, are best when you pull them from the oven and they seem raw.  It just feels physically wrong – there’s a lot of sighing and pacing as I pull them from the oven, a hot mess of barely cooked dough.  But, I love a chewy cookie, so seven minutes in the oven it is.  What else do I love?  Hitting the projected yield for a recipe right on the money.  There’s a weird sense of affirmation in that.  The recipe said I’d get thirty-six cookies, and that’s exactly what I got.  Thirty-six soft, chewy, rich and deluxe double-chocolate cookies.  (I had to pack half of them up and send them home with friends because I would eat all of them for every meal of every day.

These cookies alone are a great treat.  I totally leveled up when I went all out serving these cookies with vanilla bean ice cream and sliced bananas.  I debated making some caramel sauce, but that just seemed a little too deluxe.



Tartine Baking Project: Recipe #20 Chocolate pots de Crème

The first time I had such a delicacy, I was in San Francisco at the restaurant Starbelly on a lady date with my BFF, Emily.  We sprung for salted caramel pot de crème for dessert, which sent us into a Meg Ryan-esque upheaval of emotions and loud complimentary noises and words.  It was uncontrollable, and I’m surprised we weren’t asked to leave.  Our server did acknowledge our joy with an understanding nod and a sincere agreement of, “I know.”  It’s hard to believe this was three or four years ago!  Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess.  Or getting old.  Meh.  I don’t feel old, so I’m going with the former.

I’ve been on quite the unintentional chocolate kick lately – devil’s food layer cake, chocolate pudding, and these adorable pots de crème. 

Lots of cream, chocolate and egg yolks.

The steady hand of my helper, commanding the sieve with balance and strength.

I went with these quilted Ball jars for a few reasons: 1.) They’re incredibly cute, 2.) The Starbelly pots de crème were served in jars, and that just may affect the taste, and 3.) A 12-pack of these is much cheaper than buying eight ramekins. 

And a dollop of softly whipped cream.  (SO EASY TO WHIP UP!  Have I mentioned this before?!)

When I was plotting out recipes for special occasions at the beginning of this l’il project, I purposefully marked this one to make in celebration of our wedding anniversary – it felt like a real celebratory dessert.  We’ve now been married for four years, together for seven, and what better way to extol such love than making a romantic dessert, right?  Since the recipe makes eight servings, and even I couldn’t indulge in such chocolate gluttony (even if I were to spread it out for a couple of days), we called in friends to celebrate with us by watching the moral drama of living in a world of zombies à la AMC’s The Walking Dead.  (Side note: In no way should this be a metaphor for our marriage.)

Judging from the super clean jars at the end of the evening, I think these were a hit.  I was a bit caught off guard because they were a little creamier than I had remembered.  But, of course, as I’ve mentioned already, the last one I had was a long time ago.  And, these were slightly warm when we ate them, even though the were cooling for nearly an hour.  These little gems were so very rich and chocolately, and even though it doesn’t look like much in the jar, it’s totally plenty for a serving.

It’s impossible to avoid the habit of dissecting people’s comments when they’re eating something I’ve made – especially if I’m going to blog about it.  The weirdest comments of the night:

“It’s really good.  It has this weird dry thing going on, but it’s good.  It’s so good.”

“It’s so rich.  I’m definitely going to have to use the bathroom after I eat this.”

(after a bite) “Hm.  Now what is this?” (She went on to polish off the rest of mine, so I totally think she liked it.)

There were two left over at the end of the night, which I put in the fridge.  We enjoyed them last night, and wow.  A night in the fridge was so good for these guys.  The consistency became a bit thicker, but still creamy and soft, Just as I remember them to be.  Ugh…so good!  I think I want to mix it up and make a different flavor of these every single week.  But that’s a terrible idea for oh so many reasons!


Recipe #16: Chocolate pudding

What’s the first thing you thought when you read the title?  If you didn’t say ‘Bill Cosby’ then I know you’re lying.  I’m a huge fan of pudding, and I questioned if anything could really be better than what Mr. Cosby has been serving up for years.  (Cover your ears Mr. Cosby.  And your eyes too, I guess.)  This pudding is the polar opposite of that – like night and day, like one comes from a box and the other is made from scratch.  Yes, it’s exactly like that, actually.

These tea cups make for perfect portion sizes! And for pretty pictures too.

I usually bake in the afternoon, or the morning if there’s a lot of steps to carry out throughout the day.  I do this because I take advantage of an afternoon-napping toddler, but primarily because that’s when the light in the kitchen is the best for taking pictures.  Today it so happened that I took the longest nap ever, which meant that I made the pudding in the evening.  I was pretty annoyed that the pictures lack the natural light I’m used to working with.

I was instantly thankful that my mom came over today.  Turns out whisking, measuring stuff, pouring stuff, and taking pictures of the process takes more than two hands.   Poor thing, she popped in the kitchen to just take a look and I put her to work the whole time.

There’s a great deal of constant whisking involved in making pudding.  There would be slightly less if I had an immersion blender, but I’m going to go ahead and pretend that I wanted to use a whisk.

I got a set of three whisks for Christmas last year and thought, “Why would I need more than one whisk?”  The answer: above.

Thermometer! Pre-fire cavemen would not know the delicious nature of pudding.  Thank you, fire!

This pudding is so rich and full of chocolatey flavor it’s crazy!  Once you put the pudding through a sieve, you add chopped up chocolate.  This is why the pudding much thicker than pudding you usually find anywhere you order pudding or when you make it yourself from the box.  Pretty much, this chocolate is the Yogi Bear of the pudding world – “Not your average bear pudding!”


A dollop of softly whipped cream and some shaved chocolate make for a pretty and delicious topping.  (I still can’t make chocolate curls very well!)

All in all, it was a mildly hectic twenty minutes or so – but, totally worth it!  Having made it once, (and not documenting the process in photos again, unless the light was better), I think making it again would be that much quicker!  I was worried that the final product would be crazy lumpy because I don’t have an immersion blender, but turns out THESE MUSCLES are just as good as technology!!!  Actually, it was my mom who did a lot of the whisking.  THOSE MUSCLES!  MY MOM IS STRONGER THAN AN IMMERSION BLENDER! 

I’m sure Bill Cosby would approve.  My guess is that he actually hates jello and pudding.  I think this one would win him over, though.