Dark Chocolate Raspberry Birthday Cake

Hi friends,

Okay hi. I know it’s been a while…I’ve been busy! Kinda. Maybe just lazy. Sooooo anyways  today was my dad’s birthday. As you know from my Father’s Day flourless brownies post, he loves chocolate almost more than life itself. So naturally, I made the darkest chocolate cake I could find with rich chocolate frosting and a raspberry filling. Ummmmm yes. It just as good as it sounds, maybe better. Okay, it took forever. Like, literally hours. (As if I was doing anything else today…lalala) But it was soooo incredibly worth it. I would absolutely make it again. Regardless of the blood, sweat and tears that were involved. Okay maybe not blood. But there was certainly sweat (chopping chocolate is HARD and it was HUMID, okay) and there were almost, kinda tears. Okay so just sweat. My point is, it took a long time and there was a lot of “doing” involved. As in, taking care of three separate recipes. ALL IN ALL this was a lot of work, but I did appreciate the outcome. Heads up: prepare yourself for a lot of cake preparation pictures, I got a little camera happy. I was working on this all day, after all. This cake was my pride and joy!

This chocolate cake is aaabsolutely diviiiine. It is incredibly moist (ew I hate this word, but it is the most applicable…sorry), rich, and all in all, awesome. I found the recipe for the cake itself on food.com (I have no idea, thanks Google) and the recipe for the frosting and the raspberry filling on Smitten Kitchen (shocking, I know). I altered the recipe slightly to make three layers instead of just two, and I halved the frosting recipe so I could use the raspberry deliciousness between the layers and adapted it slightly. Here’s what I did:

Step 1: CAKE

Preheat the oven to 350.

3 c. sugar

2 1/2 c. flour

1 c. baking cocoa

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 1/2 c. milk

3/4 c. vegetable oil

3 tsp. vanilla

1-1 1/2 c. boiling water

First of all, grease and flour three 9″ baking pans. I only had two 9″ ones and two 10″ ones, so I had to wait for the first two to come out and cool before I could do the last one. But that’s beside the point. If you have three, lucky you! In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Afterwards, stir in the boiling water by hand. Since I had to wait for the first two layers to be done before I could even think about the last layer, I had to separate some batter so that I only put boiling water in the portion that I was just about to bake. I eyeballed about a third of it, put it in a separate bowl, and set it aside. After you mix in the water, the batter may seem like it’s a little too thin. It’s not! I promise! I was worried too (I mixed in about 1/2 c. per layer) because it seemed like it was a little too runny, but the cake turned out great, so the boiling water clearly does something right. Bake for 30-35 minutes (32ish was perfect for me) and let the cake cool on a wire rack.

Step 2: RASPBERRY FILLING

18 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed (I used 1 1/2 12 oz. bags and it was the perfect amount)

1/2 c. sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

Puree the berries in a blender, food processor, or whatever gadget you happen to have that chops/blends/purees. Strain the puree into a saucepan (to remove as many seeds as possible) and add sugar and cornstarch, heating over medium heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture thickens, take it off the heat and let it cool.

Step 3: FROSTING (my personal favorite)

1/2 lb. (8 oz.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used about a cup and a half of chocolate chips, but baking chocolate works great too I’m sure)

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. honey (the recipe called for light corn syrup, this is all I had and it worked beautifully)

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Heat cream, sugar, and honey over medium-low heat until it comes to a boil, whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, whisking together until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the pan, stirring until the butter is melted throughout. Transfer the frosting to a separate bowl so it can cool, stirring occasionally. In order to speed up the cooling process (since, of course, I am extremely impatient), I stuck the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes, pulling it out every once in a while to stir. Don’t leave it in there too long or the frosting will harden too much to spread!

Once the layers are out of the oven and cooled, put them on top of one another with half of the raspberry filling spread between each layer.

Cover the whole outside of the cake with the beautiful chocolate frosting (it should be juuust the perfect amount) and there you have it! A beautiful, triple layered masterpiece.

Happy birthday to yooooou, Dad.

Not that I’m superstitious or anything, but frankly I’m a little surprised I made it through this cake-making process on a Friday the 13th without any disasters. Yaaaay

Love, Emily

Banana Protein Smoothies (edit)

Hello there loves,

I probably got my love of smoothies from my dad. Every single day he makes one, sits outside to drink it, and puts the cup down for my dog Oliver to lick when he’s done. My dad has always put the oddest things in smoothies; from flax seed to raw eggs to other strange things, there are always some questionable ingredients involved. I usually keep my distance from these things and make my own smoothies (with a little bit of my dad’s influence of course) involving slightly more normal ingredients. Smoothies are so great. They’re meals you can drink or eat with a spoon! What’s better than that?

3/4 banana

2 tbsp. peanut butter

1 scoop whey protein (I used vanilla)

1 c. milk

A bit of ice (optional)

Throw all these things in a blender and blend until smooth! Yummy.

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Edit: Another recipe I use a lot for my breakfast/lunch smoothies (depending on when I wake up…heh heh) is my Green Banana Smoothie. And I do not mean “green banana” as in, underripe and literally green. I mean banana plus spinach! It makes the smoothie this lovely light green color–which happens to be my favorite–and it doesn’t even taste remotely “green”.

3/4 banana

1/4 c. or “small handful” of raw walnuts

1 scoop of vanilla whey protein

1-2 handfuls of fresh spinach (however much/little you want! It blends down to practically nothing)

1 c. milk

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

A bit of ice (again, optional)

Isn’t it pretty? The cinnamon and walnuts add a nice banana-bread-esque kind of taste, plus the nuts help keep your tummy full and happy. I do really love this smoothie.

I always keep some frozen bananas in my freezer so I can make these smoothies whenever. It makes them creamier and you don’t have to use too much ice (or any, if you don’t want to). I peel each banana and break it into 4 pieces, then stick them in a ziplock bag for my eventual smoothie-making. This way, they don’t get too ripe. I find that 1 whole banana is a liiittle bit too much in my opinion, which is why I usually use about 3/4 of one. And if you freeze some bananas, you can break 3 of them into fourths and you have a perfect amount for 4 smoothies (woooooo).

I saw a recipe online somewhere for a similar peanut butter banana protein smoothie, but it had TOFU in it. I kid you not. Tofu. First of all, tofu is creepy enough when it’s not blended into a smoothie. It’s white and squishy and has a texture reminiscent of porous jello (except it’s WARM ehhhhhhh). Second of all, soy protein is not even good for you. So if you’re really wanting some protein in your smoothie, stick to the whey protein instead, it’s yummy and not white and cubic…ewwy. This smoothie is better, I promise.

Happy weekend, guys! Have a smoothie to celebrate.

Love, Emily

Strawberry Cake

Hey hey,

Nothing quite says “summer” more than fruit. And no fruit says “summer” more than strawberries, right? I mean, okay, maybe watermelon, but watermelon would probably not be good in a cake. Too much water. Ha. But that’s beside the point. This would be the perfect dessert to bring to a summer barbecue potluck/picnic/garden party (holy unintentional alliteration). I don’t know about you guys, but someone says “potluck” and I immediately volunteer to bring dessert. It gives me an excuse to bake a lot of delicious goodies without having to worry about them sitting around my kitchen, trying to hide them from myself, and eventually caving and eating them all (I have little to no will power, sad but true). This cake is as aesthetically pleasing as it is delicious; bring it to share with everybody and your friends will love you forever. People you are trying to impress? Consider them impressed! I mean, come on, try to name someone who doesn’t love strawberries. List is short (or non-existent), right? They’re just so great. Even in cakes.

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When I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, it was immediately bookmarked in my unnecessarily extensive “recipes (yumz)” folder. This cake just looked so so pretty and summery and happy. I’m not a huge cake fan (I’d choose pie almost any day), but this one was quite honestly amazing. I will most definitely make this again. The strawberries get so gooey in the best way possible and the cake part is soft and perfect and yum. My brother ate almost the entire cake tonight alone–which is about the only way he compliments my cooking/baking, by eating it–so I guess I did something right. Definitely eat a slice of this while it’s warm. While it is a little more difficult to cut and get a slice out intact this way, it is so worth it. Make this cake! Do it do it do it!

6 tbsp room-temperature unsalted butter

1 1/2 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. sugar (plus 2 tbsp. to use at the end)

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

16 oz. strawberries, cut into halves

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter either a 10″ pie pan or 9″ cake pan (that’s what I used, it made the cake a little thicker); a 9″ pie pan will overflow, so don’t use one! Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer for a couple minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla until they are just combined, then gradually add the dry mixture until it’s all mixed together in a beautiful, creamy batter. Pour it into your cake pan and arrange the strawberries seeds-up on top of the batter as closely together as possible. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar you set aside on top of the cake and stick it in the oven for 10 minutes at 350, then adjust the temperature to 325 and let the cake bake for another 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges are lightly golden brown. Beautiful.

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I do realize that the strawberries look black here. They’re really not that dark, I promise. The photo is just weird and I really didn’t feel like editing.

Love, Emily

Favorite Salad

Hi there!

Ooookay I know all I’ve been posting lately has been lame and uninvolved (we’re talking hummus and toast) and now I’m posting a “recipe” for a salad. I was going to write about the guacamole I made for the 4th of July but I thought I’d spare you guys another dip recipe. I’m sure you’ll read about my guacamole another time, I make it fairly often…I do like avocados a lot after all (ahem, hence the blog name). But I promise I’ll have more interesting and exciting things up soon, my friends.

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This salad (also known as Edgar Salad), as well as slight variations on it, is a family staple. We eat it every single night after the main dish as a sort of pre-dessert-meal-finisher. It’s grand. I adore it. I wish I could eat this salad every day for the rest of my entire life. Yes, I am speaking with this much love and admiration about a salad. Leafy greens CAN be that wonderful, believe me. Anyways, I’m not going to put any measurements in my ingredient list, because that would be silly. Salads are free-form. Do however much of each ingredient as you’d like! It’s your salad after all. Here’s what I had this time:

lettuce of your choice (I used mixed greens tonight, but we use mache a lot and it’s amazing)

1 avocado

sliced baby carrots

sliced cucumber

crumbled feta cheese

sliced strawberries

candied pecan pieces

salt and pepper

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

Mix it all together and voila! You have yourself a salad loaded full of delicious goodies. Strawberries and the balsamic vinegar go together wonderfully. If you don’t have strawberries, you can always do pears or any kind of dried fruit (I’m a really big supporter of the “fruit in green salads” idea, it just adds such a nice sweetness and it makes me happy). And I love the crunch of the veggies against the softness of the avocado and cheese. Ahhhhhh this salad is really too much. MAKE YOURSELF ONE OF THESE RIGHT NOW, I insist. Or for your next dinner or lunch. That’s fine too.

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Enjoy 🙂

Love, Emily

Roasted Pepper Hummus

Hi guys,

Today I made hummus! I found a can of chickpeas in my cupboard (who knows why that was there) and I was in the mood. Hummus is probably the best snack ever. It’s delicious, filling, and healthy. Soooo yeah. Best snack in the history of snacks, in my humble opinion (or definitely up there, at least).

A week or so back I roasted some bell peppers–I neglected to blog about them because I didn’t really have this blog up and running yet, oops. They were super easy to make though! I just cut the peppers into quarters, cut out the seeds and pithy material, laid them out skin-side-up on a cookie sheet, and stuck them in the oven at 500 degrees for about 25 minutes until the skin was all charred and black. My main problem is, I burned the heck out of that cookie sheet…it’s essentially unusable now. When reading about roasting peppers myself beforehand (since I had never done it before) I discovered that apparently greasing them with olive oil ahead of time is a bad idea because it will burn at high temperatures, so I didn’t use any oil at all until after they were cooled and cut. Bad call. I would highly recommend lining your beloved cookie sheet with tin foil before you roast any peppers; that would have been a better idea. Don’t be alarmed by the extremely burnt appearance of the skin! It’s supposed to look like that. The peppers underneath will be lovely and soft, I promise. After you take them out of the oven, pick them up with tongs and drop them into a paper bag. Fold the top down and leave them in there until they cool; apparently this seals in the flavor and makes them extra delicious. When they’ve cooled down, gently pull off and discard the skin from each of the pepper pieces and slice them into little strips. This is going to get slimy if you do it by hand (but if you happened to read my banana bread post, you know I appreciate the occasional slimy task when it comes to cooking/baking) but I think it’s fun. Once your peppers are all beautifully sliced and skinned, pour a little bit of olive oil over them and season them however you like! Delicious.

So don’t get me wrong, these peppers were great. I put them on sandwiches and things a couple times and quite enjoyed them. The only thing is, I made a lot of them. How often can you really have roasted peppers before you get sick of them? So naturally when I was making the hummus today, the remaining peppers were thrown in. Here’s what I used:

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1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 clove crushed garlic

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 roasted bell pepper (approximately)

First, drain the can of beans and save the (forgive me for using this term, I couldn’t resist) “bean juice” in a glass or bowl and set aside. Believe me, this murky beige liquid looks just as repulsive as it sounds. Put the rest of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, gradually adding some of the infamous “bean juice” until you get the consistency you want. I like my hummus pretty thick, so I didn’t use much. Plus it just grossed me out. But the hummus turned out yummy! If you’re a real hummus connoisseur, you’ll notice I didn’t put any tahini in. I know this isn’t technically “real hummus” without the tahini or whatnot, but I didn’t have any tahini on hand I think it does the trick pretty nicely.

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See? Yummy. Enjoy!

Love, Emily

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Hi lovelies!

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am in love with this banana bread (and a fair number of you have probably made it with me). My family has been using this recipe for as long as I can remember–we used to leave out heart-shaped mini loaves of our banana bread for Santa every year when I was little instead of cookies. Santa definitely appreciated it. We always have tons of bananas in my house (don’t ask me why, I have no idea) so there are inevitably some that get overripe. I personally only really like to eat bananas when they are slightly underripe with just a teeeensy bit of green on them. So what better way to use the ones that I don’t want to eat than to bake them into a bread? Especially a bread that involves CHOCOLATE? Mkay yeah. Thought so.

Anyways, the story behind these little banana muffins today goes as follows: my wonderful friend Lexi had a bite of precious banana she had been saving (made by another friend Alex)–the most chocolate-chip-filled bite of course–sitting in her hand in its little foil wrapper. It looked so delicious. I could not resist. I launched myself at her and ate it right out of her hand. Those of you who know Lexi know that, like me, she is serious about her food, and was extremely unamused by my antics to say the least. As a peace offering, I baked her these! Recipe as follows (I used a half-recipe, but here’s the whole one):

1 stick of butter

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

3 mashed bananas

3/4 c. chocolate chips (or, quite honestly, however many you want. I never actually measure, shh)

First and foremost, preheat the oven to 350. Cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs until the mixture is smooth. This is SO MUCH EASIER when the butter is actually softened. I am usually never patient enough to wait, but I happened to have a stick of butter sitting out already today (again, don’t ask) and it was BEAUTIFUL how easy it was to combine those ingredients without having to mash the cold butter to oblivion. My arm didn’t nearly fall off like it usually does! Anyways. After that mixture is nice and smooth, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Set this bowl aside.

Now for the fun part. Mash the bananas! I always do this by hand, always have (just make sure you wash them first, obviously). If you’re baking with a friend, make them do it! It’s fun to watch people get grossed out by the texture and the squelchy noises. I usually just break the bananas into pieces and mash them between my fingers into a separate. Fun stuff. Or maybe I’m just weird. If you’re squeamish (ahem, lame), you can put them in a gallon ziplock and do it that way. Regardless of how you go about it, make sure they’re pretty thoroughly mashed, otherwise you’ll have some pretty big banana chunks in your bread.

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Looks delightfully repulsive, huh? 🙂 Once properly smooshed, add the banana mush and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased loaf pan or muffin tin. (Obviously, I made muffins this time, but I prefer making a loaf. These are just easier to share.) If you’re making muffins, bake for about 25 minutes, for a loaf, bake for about 50. Keep an eye on it of course, all ovens are different. Enjoy, guys! I hope you love this recipe as much as I do.

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Yum.

Love, Emily

Avocado Toast

Hi friends,

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As you know, I am a sucker for avocados. I would honestly eat them for every meal if it was socially acceptable/they were accessible to me. I KNOW this isn’t a real recipe, but it’s so delicious I couldn’t not share. This is my favorite breakfast; I’m sure fellow avocado enthusiasts will approve.

So first of all, there’s this amazing bread at Trader Joe’s that if you haven’t already purchased, I suggest you go out and get some like, ASAP. It’s that good. It’s called Tuscan Pane and it’s this big loaf of sliced, beautiful white Italian bread. I knooow it’s thick and white and high in calories (ugh) but I’m only making you eat one slice–this meal is super filling! And if you’re really offended by the 110 calories per serving, there’s a wheat variety. Or you can use different bread. But I hiiiiighly recommend this kind. You won’t be disappointed! Anyways, try it:

1 slice of bread, toasted

Butter (technically optional, but come on, guys)

1/4 avocado

Salt

Pepper

1 hard boiled egg (optional)

First, toast the bread. If you’re actually using the bread I use, just know that it’s super thick so it’s going to take a little longer to get it nice and toasty. Spread as much butter as you like on the toast (or none, if you insist), and slice 1/4 of an avocado into little pieces on top. Use a fork to score the avocado pieces directly on top until they’re mashed to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

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I added the whole optional hard boiled egg thing in case anyone wants to add more protein (in case you’re into that). I’d slice it into thin pieces, pop out the yolk (having the yolk mashed into the avocados would really creep me out, but that’s just me) and add it to the toast on top of the avocado with the same salt/pepper as you usually would. Also delicious, although I prefer just the avocado.

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This is Oliver…he seems to want some of my toast. I don’t blame him. Writing this post made me want to get up and make another slice. But I will resist.

Happy breakfasting, guys!

Love, Emily

PS: I may or may not have had one of my oatmeal cookies as “breakfast dessert”…my sweet tooth is incorrigible.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Hi there beautiful people,

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I have something pretty wonderful for you. These beautiful, chewy little morsels are made from a recipe I adapted from Smitten Kitchen (probably my favorite food blog ever; the photography is perfection). Instead of nutty/raisiny, I was feeling chocolatey–surprise, surprise–so I substituted the fruit and nut combo for semisweet chocolate chips. I’m a sucker for a good oatmeal cookie, and although I’m usually more partial to the thinner, crispier-edged variety, these are definitely a must-bake. Here’s what I did for these:

1/2 c. softened butter

2/3 c. packed brown sugar (recipe calls for light brown, I used dark)

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla (although I used more like 3/4 tsp…I like vanilla)

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 c. rolled oats

3/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream together the brown sugar, egg, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt) and combine the two mixtures. When combined, stir in the oats and the chocolate chips. At this point, I chilled the dough for about an hour while I showered (as recommended in the recipe; it makes the cookies thicker and chewier) and placed balls 2″ apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are lightly brown and let them cool on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack (if you can wait long enough, that is).

Ta-daaaa! Thick, round little balls of deliciousness.

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Love, Emily

Flourless Brownies

Hello, lovers.

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I know I’m rather late (sorry!) but these wonderful looking pieces of heaven were a product of my Father’s Day baking experiment. My dad loves anything chocolate. Anything chocolate, granted that the chocolate in question is as dark as he could possibly get it. We’re talking 85% cacao bars in our pantry. So naturally when I came across this recipe for flourless chocolate cookies (less flour, more chocolate, right?) I had to give it a try. Although the recipe was meant for cookies, the batter seemed to come out a little too thin when I made it, so I figured why not pour it into a 8×8” glass pan and call it a day? So that’s exactly what I did. While it was a little alarming to leave them in the oven for twice as long (if not more) than the cookies were supposed to be, they turned out absolutely stunning. Everything chocolate I have ever dreamed of and more. Here’s what I did:

3 c. confectioners sugar

2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

3 egg whites

1 tsp. instant coffee (I just used one little Starbucks Via “to go” packet)

10 oz. of semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a brownie pan (I used a glass 8×8” one and the brownies were the perfect thickness) and set aside. Stir together the confectioners sugar, the cocoa powder, and the instant coffee in a large bowl. Add the egg whites one at a time, stirring them in individually until the desired thickness is achieved. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into a brownie pan and bake at 350 for at least 30 minutes, or until cracks form throughout the entire surface. Wait a while for them to cool before you cut them! I know it’s tempting…what is more delicious than warm brownies straight out of the oven? But if you pull them out of the pan too soon, they will not stay together. Trust me, they’ll still be warm for quite a while 🙂

Bon appetite! And make sure to pour yourself a glass of milk. I’m not joking when I say these are CHOCOLATELY.

Love, Emily