Absolutely the Best Chocolate Cake Ever

IMG_20150119_184325

Basically after everything I bake, I say to myself, okay, no more baking, Sam, because really, it’s just not doing anyone any favors. So many (not everyone [hey if you live close to me please come by and get a piece of cake if you so desire], but lots) of my favorite people kind of live far away, and if I’m not baking cookies, well, it’s hard to mail anything else. Which means that I’m basically eating what I make. And my family, who are happy to eat it, but I know it’s not really *healthy* to be constantly making desserts to eat. Subsequently, I force myself to look only at the cooking/savory sections of cookbooks and not think about potential concoctions of flour, cocoa, sugar, and fat du jour.

20150119_184644

Hah. So I think all these things. And then I find myself feeling a little cabin-fevery, freezing, bored, unfocused.

Then, what happens?!?!!? I’m preheating an oven to 350˚F and greasing some pans and mixing wet separately from the dry and mashing avocado…

Wait. What?

Oh yeah. And I turned it into *THE BEST FREAKING CHOCOLATE CAKE + FROSTING EVER.* Also, it’s whole wheat and vegan, but… you SERIOUSLY would N.E.V.E.R. KNOW!      It’s just …

Absolutely the Best Chocolate Cake Ever

Adapted from Avocado Central

Cake:

6 oz high quality dark chocolate (i used a mixture of Baker’s bittersweet chocolate bars, and leftover dark chocolate bars. I’m a dark chocolate fiend. There’s plennnty of sugar to round it all out, don’t worry).

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3 tablespoons water

1 large Hass avocado

2 cups water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar-in-the-raw (or whateva sugar)

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 1/2 cups (or 300 g) whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)

1/2 cup ground flax seed (original calls for almond meal, but I was too lazy to make some)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

Frosting:

Here’s what *I* did, based on what I had on hand. Refer to original recipe for…well, the original recipe.

1.5 Hass avocados

2/3 cup powdered sugar

4 Medjool dates

1 banana

2 small packets of honey (either ‘borrowed’ from Panera, or 2 teaspoons form the jar you bought in honesty)

Several grinds of sea salt or a pinch or two of salt

Lots of cocoa (1/4-1/2 cup, or until it’s chocolatey enough. Original recipe does *not* add enough, for sure.)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Strawberries and whipped cream for serving

Directions for cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease two 9 inch cakepans and dust with cocoa. Seriously. This will give it an amazing crunchy ‘crust’ (wrong word for cake but that’s what it is).

In a glass bowl, combine the chocolate, 4 tbs cocoa powder, and 3 tbs water and set over a pan of simmering water to melt. Stir and melt chocolate until combined and melted.

In a large, high-lidded bowl, add the avocado, 2 cups water, oil, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, the melted chocolate, almond extract, white vinegar, and the sugars. Tip: use an immersion blender to blend it all up, or food processor, or a whisk + strong arm muscles. Get that alllll good and blended.

In a separate, large bowl, mix flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt.

Add wet to dry and mix until just combined; don’t overmix even if there end up being little blobs of unmixed flour here and there. It won’t affect the taste or anything.

Pour evenly into the cake pans (this is where having a kitchen scale reallllly comes in handy) and bake for 45 minutes.

When a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, take out and allow to cool. 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cake stand + plate (one for each layer) and let cool as long as humanly possible. AKA, like, barely an hour, in my case. In the mean time, do those dishes and whip up some frosting:

Frosting: 

In a food processor, add avocado, dates, and banana and mix for a while until as broken down as possible. Then add the rest of the ingredients and adjust to taste.

Put half the frosting on the middle layer, then put the second cake layer on top and frost the top of this. You really don’t need to frost the entire cake; the cake is supremely moist and delicious and you really won’t miss anything. Plus it lets the “crust” stay nice and crispy and delicious.

Decorate with strawberries (I removed the stem, then I cut each in half lengthwise, then again, to make hearts!). Serve with some whipped cream if desired and more strawberries!!

20150119_185652

It was actually kind of funny, in a “what a funny coincidence” kind of way. Today, my parents took my brother back to school. I was working on some grad school stuff and then decided to take a study [baking] break as I am wont to do. I made the cake (with only a few minor mishaps, including a little bit of a sea salt explosion and quick thinking of what I could replace almond meal with). I was thinking, how nice would it be to have some strawberries alongside? (chocolate covered strawberries are probably tied for favorite dessert in the world, the other being chocolate lava cake, and the other being strawberry short cake, and other being mint chocolate chip ice cream…) I decided I’d forgo them since we didn’t have any. I had just finished frosting the cake when parents walked through the door, my mom holding a Costco-sized container of strawberries!

20150119_185858

Such perfect timing.

Since I’ll be in India for my birthday this year, my mom had been secretly planning to give me some early birthday presents tonight. I had no idea but decided to bake a cake anyway… funny how things work out!

20150119_190125

Anyway.

This cake was like, I can’t even describe it, the freaking BOMB. Moist. Delectable. Crunchy, crispy edges, super moist. The frosting was the perfect consistency, and you can’t really taste the espresso but I think it definitely brought out the cocoa-y ness of the chocolate like it is supposed to do. Definitely recommend the strawberries as an accompaniment. You canNOT taste the avocado at all! It’s so, so, so, so, so, so good. I literally outdid myself. I really can’t believe how delicious it came out. Seriously, you’ll never need another cake recipe again. Drooling. Dying. Loving this.

Now I’m watching “Failure to Launch” for like the 27th time (it never gets old for me, one of those movies) and mellowing out the sugar/chocolate rush. Hey, I ran and walked in this bitter icy cold this morning. Chocolate cake is totally my dinner. I’ll go back to writing my lit review tomorrow. 🙂

Other chocolate cake recipes:
Beet Chocolate Cake (with peanut butter saucy frosting)

German Chocolate Cake (Vegan)

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Beer-Battered Avocado Slices

DSCN4121

Avocado: So delicious, that any further preparation besides peeling, pitting, and plating is unnecessary.

DSCN4123

But when I have beer batter left over from making these again, and half an avocado in the fridge… well… It’s time to shake things up.

DSCN4125

And I’m pretty happy I did.

Beer-Battered Avocado Slices

Adapted from Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced in long strips

1/2 cup flour

6 oz beer or malt beverage

1/2 teaspoon salt

pepper

vegetable oil

dip: 1/2 cup greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon mustard (honey, spicy, dijon… your pick)

Mix together the flour, beer, salt, and pepper. This will make more than you need, but makes for easier dipping/coating. Next time, I would add more spices to the batter–minced garlic, paprika, red pepper, etc have been used in other recipes on the interwebs.

Heat vegetable oil in a fry pan–the amount depends on the size of the pan you use; it doesn’t have to be a lot. Test the temperature by dropping a bit of batter into the oil. A sizzle means you’re good to go.

Dip each avocado slice into the batter, let the excess drip off, and then place gently into the hot oil. Be careful as the oil may spit.

Fry until golden brown, flipping for even cooking.

I recommend consuming with a dip, such as yogurt-mustard dip: mix the yogurt and mustard. Voila.

DSCN4127

These were pretty tasty. As stated, I would add more spices to the batter.

I used the same beer batter that I used for goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers; while the tangy goat cheese complemented the more subtle beer batter nicely, avocado is already mild in flavor, so a more strongly-spiced beer batter would have been better.

However, eating with a mustard-yogurt dip perked things up well! Crispy, creamy, tangy, satisfying.

I don’t normally go for fried foods but there’s something about beer batter… Yum.

Avocado Pesto Pasta & Broccoli

Let’s just say I had to get used to what the leftovers look like after four people eat dinner rather than just three (my brother usually decides to heat up chicken flautas, make macaroni and cheese, or is just simply “out”). What do they look like? Very little.

Avocado Pesto Pasta & Broccoli

Adapted from Chloe Coscarelli

2 heads broccoli, chopped into bite-sized florets (and stems! they’re edible too!)

1 lb/16 oz spaghetti (linguine would have been better!)

2 avocados, peeled & cored

1 bunch basil leaves (I had about a cup but it could have used more)

1/2 cup pine nuts

juice of 1/2 a lemon

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

Nutritional yeats (optional, for a vegan cheesy flavor)

Pecorino romano (optional, for a non-vegan cheesy flavor)

sea salt, black pepper

In boiling water, cook broccoli until as cooked as you like, about 4-6 minutes. Remove and set aside; use same water for boiling pasta to soak up some of the nutrients leached into the cooking water! Save some of the pasta water once it’s done.

In a food processor, toss in everything else and add salt/pepper to taste. If it’s too thick, add some starchy water or more olive oil to thin it out.

Stir together broccoli and pasta, and then toss with the pesto avocado sauce until thoroughly coated.

Delicious and devoured in seconds! I loved the broccoli in this–an extra pop of green. The avocado made the pasta so creamy and decadent, and you really couldn’t tell it was avocado. Like I said, even my picky brother ate this up before doing Insanity (okay, well, a few hours had to pass before he started jumping and push-upping around). It’s super satiating and full of good fats and nutrients. Yum!

Addicting Quinoa Veggie Salad

Believe you me, I could eat this

all

day

long

Addicting Quinoa Vegetable Salad

Adapted from… me!

2 cups dry quinoa, rinsed

4 cups water

juice of 1/2 lemon

1-2 tablespoons evoo

1 tablespoon lemon zest

black pepper

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can corn, rinsed or package/0.5 bag frozen corn, thawed

1 avocado, cubed

1 tomato, cubed, with a pinch of salt sprinkled on it

Onion, chopped (I hate raw onion, so I didn’t use, but would probably a nice addition for those raw-onion fans out there)

1.5 cups edamame seeds (I had a frozen package that I steamed in the microwave)

10 leaves cilantro, torn up

10 leaves basil, torn up

Cook quinoa in 4 cups of water per package directions.

Combine lemon zest, juice, evoo, and pepper. Toss with black beans, corn, avocado, tomato, edamame, cilantro, and basil.

Once done, transfer quinoa to a large bowl and toss with veggie mix until combined.

Say who? C’est moi!

To photograph, I arranged the veggies on top of a quinoa bed for photogenicity. You can eat it this way too, but I prefer it combined.

Okay, I have made a similar salad before. But not with fresh herbs, and not with edamame! The possibilities are endless and I loved having more green yummies in the salad. Creamy avocado, sweet crunchy corn, satisfying black beans & quinoa, tangy lemon, savory tomato… It’s a total one-pot meal. Lovelovelove. And so easy to make! I swear you’ll want to eat the whole bowl.  Not to mention, full of plant protein, complex carbohydrates, good-for-you fats, antioxidants, the whole shebang!

Note: this tastes best the day it’s made; the lemon flavor diminishes when it sits for a while.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse with Amaretto-Fig Reduction

What do you do with a bottle of amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur) that you used like three tablespoons of for pumpkin tiramisu and you/your familymembers don’t really drink anything other than wine nor have the motivation to make cocktails?

You find ways to incorporate said liqueur into more dishes!

… Such as adding it to slivered figs simmered in brown sugar syrup, to be used to top some bittersweet vegan avocado chocolate pudding (also pictured: whipped cream and chopped almonds).

Avocado Chocolate Mousse with Amaretto-Fig Reduction

Recipe for mousse adapted from a variety of places, including loveveggiesandyoga.com and Jason Mraz

Recipe for figs adapted from this recipe

Two avocados
Two bananas
Cocoa powder–1/2 cup to 1 cup (depending in your taste for bitterness)
Agave nectar–none or 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract–1-3 tablespoons

1 cup de-stemmed and sliced dried figs (apparently, sliced just once lengthwise; I didn’t realize and sliced them in thin strips)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur

Whipped cream, sliced almonds, strawberries, other garnishes

In a food processor, blend together avocados and bananas until totally smooth. It’s not fun to bite into green avocado when you’re thinking dessert. Add rest of ingredients (cocoa and agave bit by bit until you can’t really taste avocado anymore), food process them right in. In the past I left out the banana, but this time I added it to make the mousse less rich and add extra sweetness. I could still taste banana, but maybe just because I knew it was there (my mom didn’t taste it). Anyway, chill until ready to use.

To make figs, bring figs, water, and brown sugar to a boil on high heat, then simmer on low 4-5 minutes until the liquid reduces to about 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat and stir in amaretto. Chill until ready to use.

Assembly: Spoon some mousse into a narrow class cup, layering with fig and whipped cream to make a parfait like dessert; or, spoon a dollop on a plate and add fig as a garnish. Check out the pictures for ideas. Get creative.

If you have no amaretto, you could use some almond extract in a smaller quantity–haven’t tried this yet, though.

Who knew figs and amaretto tasted so good together? Apparently everyone. If you didn’t, feel happy that you’re not alone!

The fig reduction tasted so delicious–very sweet, but crunchy from the seeds and chewy. It contrasted the mousse well, but next time I wouldn’t put in banana–I think it would taste better with a more rich, bittersweet tasting avocado mousse rather than the lighter, sweeter one I ended up making.

Whipped cream melts quickly. It’s plagued me for so many desserts. Never fear. Just add some more!

Strawberries were delicious with this as well–I added many more slices to the plate for actual eating.

What’s nice about this is that a little goes a long way. Consider chocolate craving quashed after just this little appetizer-sized serving!

Pasta Salad with Avocado, Corn, Grape Tomatoes and Asparagus

So I feel like when I cook here in NY a lot of the same ingredients seem to come into play… see my quinoa from before.

However, two new players are in town: Asparagus and whole wheat pasta! Black beans are out of style. Just kidding. I just couldn’t find any in Food Emporium… the audacity.

This was so yummy and so easy to make, even if my tiny apartment pot almost overflowed.

Pasta Salad with Avocado, Corn, Grape Tomatoes and Asparagus

1 lb whole wheat pasta (16 oz)

1 avocado

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 package of asparagus–I like thin stalks

1 can of no-salt-added whole kernel corn

Juice of 1 lime + some lime zest

2 tablespoons olive oil, eyeballed

Boil pasta until al dente in a large pot.

Wash and cut asparagus into bite sized pieces and microwave, covered loosely for 2:30 on high.

Rinse off the tomatoes and corn.

Cube the avocado.

Whisk the lime juice, zest, and olive oil together.

Drain pasta and add everything but lime dressing. Then toss with lime dressing.

Serve warm!

I’m not sure how avocado does in the microwave but I’m afraid to try, so this is served cold when left over. But it’s still delish. Once again, loving the creamy/crunchy/sweet/tart/citrusy combination.

Red Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

I am all about cooking on the breaks. And so on the lovely 4th of July weekend, I came home and cooked and cooked and cooked.

Maybe inspired by the many toppings of the customized burgers at The Counter, I had an itch to make quinoa and black bean burgers with different topping combinations; I asked everyone (um… my mom and dad) what their favorite burger toppings would be.

It was so much fun preparing all of the “condiments” and the burgers themselves, which although a bit crumbly (live and learn), were very delish.

Red Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

Adapted from this recipe

3 cups canned black beans, drained and smooshed a little

1 1/2 cups cooked red quinoa

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup green bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice

1/4 cup red bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice

1/2 small white onion, 1/4-inch dice

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Sea salt

Olive oil

Add olive oil to a skillet and sautee the onion until caramelized. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the smushed black beans, cooked quinoa, oatmeal, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, and sea salt to the onions and mix with your hands. Try to get the black beans integrated so that the patties stay together. Make 6 patties and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This will help the patties set up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake for 20-30 minutes until warmed through and crispy on the outside.

Burger #1 – Me

Burger atop garden lettuce with goat cheese and mango chutney.

Burger #2 – Dad

Whole wheat hamburger bun; burger + lettuce, bleu cheese, avocado, red onion, sautéed mushrooms, jalepeno peppers and a side salad.

Burger #3 Mom

Burger atop garden lettuce with hummus, tomato, avocado and red onion.

We all devoured the burgers and ate seconds… and of course we all tried the various toppings. So yummy!

To sauté mushrooms, I sliced up some cremini mushrooms from a farmer’s market in my town and cooked them in olive oil for about 4 minutes, in a single layer to brown rather than steam them, with some dried thyme. They were super good!

All in all, a delicious dinner that I had a lot of fun making!