Categories
Recipes

Sara Bir’s Italian Plum Cake

Do yourself a favor and go snatch up a pound of plums to make Sara Bir’s Italian plum cake before summer ends. Then, see if you can hold off on cutting into it until it’s set, but still warm. If you don’t have a favorite summer dessert yet, you’re about to taste it. Those are bold words, especially since I prefer chocolate always and fruit out of hand. But this cake! The olive oil and dash of balsamic vinegar really take it over the top. I bet it would be amazing with mission figs too.

Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake

Once cooled, all you need is a dollop of Greek yogurt and dig in. I tucked  Dapple Dandy Pluots into this Italian plum cake, but Bir suggests you can swap in cherries, strawberries, nectarines, blackberries, or raspberries.

Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake is fairly easy to mix together.

This recipe comes from her new cookbook, The Fruit Forager’s Companion. I made a few small tweaks to the recipe such as omitting the turbinado sugar (though I can imagine the delightful crunch it would give to the crumb of the cake) and instead of halving or quartering, I sliced the pluots wanting them to infuse a bit more juice into each bite.

When making Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake, lay the sliced plums in a single layer on the batter in the pan.

Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake

This recipe is from Sara Bir’s book The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Course Dessert
Keyword Plum Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (100 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound (455 grams) plums, pitted and halved or quartered (I used Dapple Dandy pluots, thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C), and position a rack in the center. Line the bottom of a 10-inch (25 cm) spring-form pan with baking parchment. Grease the sides and bottom well with baking spray or butter. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest,  and cinnamon. Set aside.

  3. With an electric mixer, beat the egg and the sugar on high speed until the mixture is creamy, pale yellow, and lighter in volume, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the olive oil, then the milk and balsamic vinegar. Fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula just until it makes a smooth batter.

  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. It will look really skimpy once it's in the pan, but don't worry. Arrange the plums in a single layer across the batter, and sprinkle the cake with the sugar.

  5. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top, a little puffed, and set in the center (a toothpick should come out free of batter but may have a few crumbs clinging to it). Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the sides and cool until just barely warm. You can serve it either that way, or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Vanilla ice cream, whipped creme fraiche, or good plain whole-milk yogurt are all very nice accompaniments to this.

Sara Bir Italian Plum Cake_credit anneliesz_-0363sm

Categories
Cookery Bookshelf

Matcha Dusted Maple Chocolate Cupcakes

Matcha Chocolate Cake_anneliesz_5373

First of all, it feels so good to be back blogging again. For the first time in two months, my kitchen has come out of lockdown. I’m back in Oakland and planning some delicious things for coming weeks.

Cookbooks make good traveling companions, don’t you think? With a pencil in hand, hours of entertainment are yours for the simple asking price of three to five pounds of extra weight in your carry-on or backpack. I used to travel with other peoples’ books until I started traveling with a full suitcase of my own. The best part about returning home from a book tour is returning home to Oakland to catch up with friends, and scrounge around in the cupboard and cobble together dinner with Nathan. Part of playing catch-up involves making tea dates or penciling in time to walk with friends. But recently, I played catch-up in a completely different way: taking two cookbooks written by Bay area friends on a road trip to Santa Ana. While Nathan drove and listened to AM sports talk radio, I dove into one book and then the next, pencil in hand. Each book showed the imagination of the person penning it. Now being on this side of the cookbook process, my respect has amplified at least a thousand fold for anyone who sets out to write a cookbook. For those of you prone to the idea of book babies and birthing a book, imagine a year or more of labor without an epidural. It’s quite a feat. I will never forget meeting up for lunch shortly after I’d begun working on Steeped full-time with my friend, Shauna Sever. She shared her experiences with levity, for which I will always be grateful.

Real Sweet Cookbook_5412

When a cookbook is written well, you can hear the voice of the writer leap off the page. Shauna knows the craft of telling a good story and has a distinct personality on the screen of her blog and also on the pages of her books. Her last cookbook, Pure Vanilla taught me all about different kinds of vanilla–don’t get me started on her recipe for Malted White Hot Chocolate. My relationship with all things malted borders on obsessive. Shauna’s new book, Real Sweet takes on the topic of baking with natural sweeteners. With her snappy sense of humor, she shows her extensive knowledge in a way that is approachable and leaves the reader feeling smarter. By the end of the book, I definitely felt smarter, ready to break out the coconut sugar or demerara. Shauna’s described as the next door baker and it’s really true. She is just the person you would want to have living next door, sharing sugar (turbinado!) and plates of oatmeal cookies (Mrs. Braun’s!). I figured who better to demystify the flavor possibilities of natural sweeteners than Mrs. Next Door Baker herself.

Real Sweet Cookbook_5413

The book is arranged into seven sections that take on different kinds of baking situations and focus on a particular natural sweetener. All-day snacks and lunch box treats star the femme fatale, coconut sugar, while the picnics and potlucks section explores turbinado, the hero. My cupboard happens to possess almost all of the sweeteners mentioned in the book, so naturally, I began dog earing pages for later consumption–ahem, research. Rhubarb and Rose ice cream with agave nectar? Say no more. Chocolate Chip and Cherry Date Cake sounds great. Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches might make it on the menu before the month is out. I’m open to opportunities to whisk, spoon and be the Friday afternoon heroine, showing up at a certain Oakland office building with baked goodies. Could it be yours? Maybe.

On this occasion I had visions of cupcakes dancing in my head to celebrate the victory of our hometown Oakland Golden State Warriors win during game 3 of the NBA play-offs. And, I wanted to pillage my pantry rather than go to the grocery store. I flipped open Real Sweet and landed on the Maple Chocolate Cake. Cocoa powder? Check. Greek yogurt? Check. Maple syrup? Check. Yes. As I finished scanning the ingredient list, my cupcake delivery plan started coming together.

Matcha Chocolate Cake-anneliesz_5404

What I like about this cake is it’s not too sweet but it has great bounce. I poked a few dark chocolate chips into one of the cupcakes and wouldn’t you know, it tasted amazing. But here’s the thing with friendship: you bring who you are to the table and they bring who they are. So, I hope you won’t be disappointed to learn I had to find a way to sneak tea into these black beauties. And, let me just tell you. Dusting the maple chocolate cupcakes with matcha powdered sugar might have been my second best decision of the day. Because good decision number one is sharing with you a book from a person who is as real and sweet as her book title suggests.

PS- If you’re in the Bay area, Shauna is going to be talking about natural sweeteners and signing books on Saturday, June 11 at 3 over at Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Matcha Chocolate Cake_anneliesz_5370

Matcha Dusted Maple Chocolate Cupcakes

Maple Chocolate Cake printed with permission from Real Sweet by Shauna Sever

 This cake is used in a wickedly good recipe in Real Sweet: the Black and White Pancake Cake (see above photo of the open pages of the cookbook. Just imagine thin layers of chocolate cake sandwiched by cream and drizzled with ganache—need I say more?) But if you want to whip up some Friday afternoon cupcakes with a slight kick of caffeine, matcha dusting is a must. The chocolate and maple goodness are the right foil for the grassiness of the matcha green tea sugar. You can go easy does it and sift a fine sprinkling of the matcha powdered sugar on top of the cupcakes or go for a full-on green blizzard. The choice is yours. Tip: If you have leftover matcha powdered sugar, store it in a sealed container in a cool spot. Sift it over homemade donuts or whisk up a hot cup of pre-sweetened matcha by sprinkling 1 teaspoon into 4 ounces of hot 170F water and whisking until combined. Add 8 ounces warmed milk or hot water and sip.

YIELD: Makes 1 ½ dozen cupcakes, two 9-inch cake layers, or one 9×13-inch sheet cake

 

MAPLE CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 ½ cups (192 grams) unbleached AP flour, spooned and leveled

¾ cup (72 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup (336 grams) pure maple syrup (dark or very dark preferred)

1 cup (242 grams) 2% Greek yogurt

2 large eggs

¼ cup (57 grams) grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

MATCHA POWDERED SUGAR

1 teaspoon culinary grade matcha green tea

¼ cup powdered sugar


To make the maple chocolate cake:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch rectangular baking pan or two 9-inch round pans (and line them with parchment paper), or line 18 wells of two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Using a whisk, energetically blend the batter by hand until smooth and thick, about 1 minute. Spread the batter into the prepared pan or pans. (For cupcakes, fill the cups no more than two-thirds full—you should get 18 cupcakes).

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched, 20 minutes for cupcakes, or 30 to 35 minutes for sheet and layer cakes. Cool completely in the pan or pans on a wire rack before inverting and frosting.

 

To make the matcha powdered sugar: sift together the matcha and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Spoon a small amount of the matcha sugar into the sifter and dust the cupcakes as much as you like. Add more matcha sugar to the sifter as needed.

Categories
Recipes

Chocolate Mint Trifle

Chocolate Mint Trifle

If I could wish anything for you, it’s that you might know joy. In early 2014, back when I contemplated if I should make resolutions or whether I should balk at the idea of making the same resolutions for the umpteenth year, I began thinking differently about the promise of what a new year gives us. Instead of resolutions I could easily eschew, I wanted an anthem that could carry me through the unknown curves and dips of the year to come. At that early stage, I declared it would be a year of joy. What I didn’t know then is the kind of year that this one would shape up to become. What I did know is that joy sometimes is a choice and can traverse terrain where happiness might not easily go.

I’ve written here about joy before and perhaps it’s more a life anthem that I want to dance along with or wings I want to cinch onto my shoulders. On a blog, there is only so much that one writes about personally that is fit for public consumption. Though I write here regularly, about once a week these days, all the living gets done off the screen. This is the same for you too. Even in the midst of the social media tools to connect us, there are some times when we live unscripted and quietly. The stories that get pulled out of my personal vault get determined by a criteria of whether they can be used to build up another person–in whatever they are enduring, letting them see they are not alone. To live a full life is to experience the range of human emotion… and the experiences that can elicit them. Grief colored my days grey and blue for over a year and I wrote about it that it might bring comfort to someone who is just beginning the journey in that vast valley. Trepidation stained my mom’s cancer diagnosis to be swiftly followed by triumph. Jubilation flavored telling you about my tea book that is coming out in April. Nerves and elation will equally attend my book tour events in the spring. When you visit the food poet I hope you find a glass half full to drink from that will refresh your spirit.

This year, 2014, has been full of hard stops and end words that bleed into other lines and stanzas of poetry. I leave it so grateful for all of the incredible lessons it has taught me, arm-in-arm with a dizzying array of really smart people I’ve met in 2014.  In 2015, I will continue to write about food, poetry, and their intersections here on the food poet. And, I will let tea infuse the page in a few ways I’m currently brewing up. What 2015 will hold is also somewhat unknown.  But like this Chocolate Mint Trifle, all of the bits of our lives saturate the other ones, and, for you, I hope that those bits are mostly sweet. May it involve a serving of chocolate mint pudding soaking into chocolate cake and freshly whipped cream and a helping of joy so pervasive it will not disappoint. Happy New Year’s.

Click here for my Chocolate Mint Trifle recipe on the Weiser Kitchen.

Chocolate Mint Trifle

Categories
Recipes

White Cranberry Almond Amaranth Crumb Cake

DESSERT RECIPES- White Cranberry Almond Amaranth Crumb Cake

I know, I know. One more last minute idea to throw a wrench into a Christmas menu. Not exactly. This spruced up crumb cake is a treat to bake up after the weekend’s festivities. The colors point back to a not-so-distant holiday while the ingredients point to the new year and those resolutions that somehow get recycled as if on repeat.

Initially I envisioned this as a muffin but then really searched deep in my soul and discovered that I think muffins are an excuse to eat cupcakes at breakfast. (I said it aloud and lightning has not struck me yet!)  Essentially, this is true, though my way of positing it might sound a bit extreme.  Hear me say this to you frankly, not like a gaggle of friends hovering in the other room waiting to jump out and yell, “surprise!” Let’s just eat cake as cake and leave the muffins for the birds, (but remember to tear the muffins in small enough bits). I’m not even about to suggest a cake that is cloyingly sweet- you’ve had plenty of treats this season, friends, that would convince you to go that route.

Instead, let’s save breakfast for the warmer and more filling repast of a good bowl of steel cut oats that will keep you going until lunch. And while we’re at it, let’s make this as chock full of almonds as we can stand it and then add in amaranth flour to continue pushing the quota of nuttiness. Those tantalizingly tart cranberries will thank you for it.

 

white cranberry almond amaranth crumb cake

 

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WHITE CRANBERRY ALMOND AMARANTH CRUMB CAKE
Adapted from Family Fun

CRUMB TOPPING

  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

CAKE

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ½ cup amaranth flour
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar plus 1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup maple sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen white cranberries
  1. Heat the oven to 425º. Grease a 9×9 pan. In a small pan, melt 2 ½ tablespoons butter for the crumb topping. Pour into a bowl and let it cool. In the same pan, melt ½ cup butter and set aside for use in making the cake.
  2. Begin by making the crumb topping and toast your chopped almonds in small pan on stovetop for a few minutes over low heat or in toaster oven. Mix together the flour, maple sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the melted butter and toasted almonds when cool. Stir. With your hands, pinch ingredients together to create clumps of crumb topping. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl pour almond meal. Then sift the amaranth flour, flour, baking soda, and baking powder into the bowl on top of the almond meal. Stir in the ¼ cup light brown sugar and maple sugar. In a large bowl whisk together the yogurt, egg and melted butter. Stir together. Slowly start stirring in the flour mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, bring together the white cranberries with the extra 1 ½ tablespoon of brown sugar until somewhat coated and then stir into the batter.
  4. Scoop batter into the pan and even out the distribution of batter to all four corners of pan. Then spoon on the crumb topping onto the batter, taking care to press down onto the batter slightly, as you want the crumb topping to stick. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve warm if possible. And let me just say this would taste dynamite with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream if you want to go all out with decadence or hear me out on this other serving suggestion. Serve it with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt with a smidge of brown sugar or maple syrup mixed in. You’ll still get that dairy decadence without all of the sugar.

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Categories
Recipes

Gingered Chocolate Orange Muffcakes

DESSERT RECIPES- Gingered Chocolate Orange Muffcakes

I love a challenge.

Well, let me preface that by saying maybe not the kind that makes a mathlete’s head whir and spin or even the kind you might see on Survivor.  The other day on Twitter, Linda (aka SaltySeattle) initiated a baking party of Muffcakes, all to be posted on December 27th. While she may not have been the instigator, she piqued my curiosity. I visited Urban Dictionary and found something that reminded me of the jackalope’s elusive thrall in the form of a hybrid baked good.

Muffcake– Not quite a muffin. Not quite a cupcake.

Jackie (aka Jaxies), Mariko (aka TheLittleFoodie), and Angi (aka Riceandwheat) all signed up ala tweet for the challenge. Who was I to not join in?

See this particular Sunday afternoon I had been invited to a holiday party. But this was not just any holiday party. No, this was a bad Christmas sweater party and twist dance-off. Do you see where I’m going with this? Friends shaking their groove things while children jumped from sugar highs. Yes, this was a perfect crowd to introduce to the muffcake.

In fact, Kristen snickered when I told her my contribution to the potluck. Katie commented shortly after I arrived, “Oh, I heard you were bringing them.” You can’t help but smile at the inanity of a word such as muffcake.

And we all know the truth: muffins really could be called cake.

Maybe not in the world of the pastry chef with specific definitions, but let’s face it, muffins probably have more sugar and butter than one really needs on any given morning. Then again this is spoken from someone who delights in a bowl of oatmeal for brekkie.

In church this morning, I considered flavor combinations, rolling them around on my tongue and in my mind. Nothing was quite sticking.

I kept coming back to ginger.

Truth be told, I am a bit of a ginger fiend, so no surprise there. And next came chocolate.

Yes, this was tasting good. I decided to infuse a bit of citrus into my muffcake as it felt both seasonal and getting closer to my beloved orangettes.

Years ago, Olga brought me a hot pink and black box gilded with the word Fauchon on the lid. Tucked inside like sleepy stow-aways were slivers of candied orange peel dipped in dark chocolate: the orangette. This flavor combination might possibly be one of my quintessential impressions of Paris. Last year in my two day stint walking the city streets, I made a point to include la Madeleine and a boutique called Fauchon…

Let’s just say they left an indelible mark.

Then it occurred to me to take inspiration from the Orangette herself, Molly as her recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip bread with crystallized ginger baked hearty loaves in my oven just last month. Oh yes, these were going to be muffcakes all-dolled up.

Back to the party.

I toted my muffcakes & my Bittersweet chocolate cake with candied cranberries (for my rather pregnant GF friend Michelle) to the party.

Upon arriving, the revelry had already commenced  and like a good party, every room held a point of intrigue. Travis lounged around in his Christmas onesie which actually suited him more than the Santa outfit he changed into later, his get-up scaring little Soleil and making her cry her way back into her mama’s arms. Soleil had decided after that, she was ready to go home and began blowing air kisses at anyone walking by the couch. But later on she got a chance to twist and that set her aright.

After awhile of mingling through rooms and meandering in and out of conversations, Kristen and Katie started the twist-off. We shook our hips down into our knees, grinding our toes into the ground. Fats Domino mandated it, crooning, “Come on Baby, let’s do the twist.”

Group one stepped aside as groups two and three followed. Lucy, the cat, sometimes poked her head and body out from the kitchen before skedaddling out the back door into the darkened backyard. The final round of the groups’ winners found Sarah the proud recipient of the twist-off plaque.

Katie doesn’t mess around when she’s throwing a shindig. The group thinned out as parents ushered their kids toward bedtime and we finally got a glimpse albeit a brief one of a friend Steve who moved back East.

And the muffcake? Well, let’s just say it was spotted in a few different pockets of the room tonight making mischief and spreading cheer.

 

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Gingered Chocolate Orange Muffcakes

adapted from Orangette

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 ounces), melted
  • 2 cups A-P flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ginger dark chocolate bar
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

ICING

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

MUFFCAKES:
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger and cardamom. Add the chocolate, crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, lightly beat eggs. Then add the yogurt, melted butter, vanilla and orange zest and stir to mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently, scraping down the sides as needed until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill cupcake holders 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 20 minutes and then set to cool.

ICING
Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, cocoa and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. The consistency will be thin and will glaze your muffcakes nicely.

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Categories
Recipes

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Candied Cranberries

May his memory be for blessing.

A year ago,  I didn’t know that Christmas would be the last time I would see my Dad alive.

A year ago, we sat around a humble dinner table decked out with Christmas finest and enjoyed a meal, a conversation, some laughs and some tears. He had come to the door wearing that dark checked flannel shirt, decked out in suspenders. My dad had begun shuffling a bit, which I didn’t think much of in spite of his being a tango instructor. I had caught his hand shaking ever so slightly at his birthday a few months prior. But again, I shelved any fears I had away.

The thing is, in the end, we want the people we love to stay with us.

I remember how gentle he’d been that evening. I remember the sound of his wife’s laughter and the ever-changing expressions that flit across his face and passed over his eyes that drove us to chuckle aloud. My mom arrived after work and the four of us lingered at the table talking late into the night. My dad was a night owl and somehow I always left too soon. He loved to draw out conversations. He loved company.

My mom does not love San Francisco in December. After one bad spell of sickness in a drafty house a few years prior, last Christmas she had refrained from visiting. This pushed my hand to make the trek down to celebrate and spend the holiday with the parents. What if…

It’s easy in retrospect to play the what-if game. What if I had gone home to visit when he originally got sick in March? What if we’d gotten a chance to talk one more time? What if… This line of questions is a circle of nothingness. Nothing gained from the asking. And so I’ve learned not to. Acceptance comes in small waves. Amazingly I never deleted the photos from Christmas 2009 off my SLR. We’ll call it laziness or perhaps premonition.

I dreaded Christmas Eve this year. Or to be more precise my body was bracing me for it. Tightness in my shoulders and back. Headaches that stretched from night to day. Lack of hunger. Sleeplessness. The list goes on. Beck is great at massage. At bringing the glass of water and Tylenol. At cooking. At wrapping me up in a safe haven of arms and legs. He’s become good at reading the signs. My boy is a fast responder.

The more time marches on, the farther I move away from my Dad. And yet… there are the sparks of epiphany.

Last weekend Nathan’s mom and dad treated Olga and I to an afternoon at the symphony and dinner at the Slanted Door. We filed into the busy lobby and up the stairs, seating ourselves for an excursion into Handel’s Messiah. Olga had whispered to me earlier in the day that Handel’s brilliance in the Messiah was how the music patterned after the words. The chorus swelled, the soloists’ voices soared and the instruments swept through the hall. We neared the familiar Hallelujah chorus, and I stood along with all of the other attendees. This act jettisoned me into epiphany. I expected disdainful sentimentality and instead found sweetness. I closed my eyes and could see a heavenly chorus singing. I could hear my father’s strong bass voice. For that moment, I understood and could envision my Dad singing Hallelujah. It brought a clutch in my throat, my eyes laden with a few tears. But this time, I didn’t feel heaviness. This time, I felt buoyancy.

In grief support group, each of us lights a candle every time we meet followed by the name of the person we are representing. When we met as a formal group up until the end of September, the rabbi would close our weekly time together with the words, “May his memory be for blessing.”

I baked this cake last week for a friend in our grief support group. He was celebrating his birthday the next day and we both understood that searing peculiarity of a birthday in a death year. My dad loved chocolate and had an entire drawer dedicated to it in his bedside table. So this cake to me is a fitting tribute (and a darn good dessert for the season). It symbolizes 2010: bittersweet and tart with sweetness rounding out the bitter.

The group gobbled it up. My dad would have probably asked for a second helping. It is somehow the perfect Christmas cake. So may yours be Merry even if the road is long and the vacancy in your heart profound.

DESSERT RECIPES- Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Candied Cranberries

 

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Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Candied Cranberries

CANDIED CRANBERRIES

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup sugar

Set oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar and cranberries in a small bowl. Pour cranberries into pan and spread them so they are evenly coating the bottom of pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove and stir gently. Then cook for five more minutes. Let the candied cranberries cool. Then spoon them onto the chocolate cake.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chopped up
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 3 eggs

Cut parchment to fit the bottom of a round cake pan. Swab the parchment with butter to ensure ease of removal from pan. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and then whisk in the sugar until combined. Next, whisk in the eggs. Add the cocoa powder and stir until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in center of oven, set at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until it has a thin crust atop. Once finished, cool for five minutes and then flip the cake pan onto your cake stand.

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