Absolutely the Best Chocolate Cake Ever

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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.

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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!!

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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!

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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!

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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

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Banana Kheer

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I’ve come full circle to why I started cooking in the first place, which was mainly to use up the bazillion bananas bestowed on us by my grandma who didn’t seem to accurately anticipate just how many bananas a family of four could eat in a week.

I have made so many banana breads in my life, I almost don’t even want to look at one anymore. Almost.

But, I’ve found a new, easy, delicious use for using up ripe bananas.

Enter: Kheer, a sort of pudding-like dessert flavored with jaggery/sugar, dry fruits (aka raisins, etc), nuts (usually kaju, or cashews but also badam(almonds) and pista(pistachios), and a yummy mix of spices. Yet another indian dessert that is malleable to many different versions (like halwa). Usually it’s made with rice; I replaced the rice with banana!

Banana Kheer

Adapted from what I watched my postdoc do:

3 large, overripe bananas, peeled and mashed/chopped

0.5 – 1 L milk (i’ve had success with both)

1-1.5 cubes jaggery (how sweet do you like it?)

1 tablespoon ghee (butter could work)

a handful of cashews, raisins

2 whole cardamom pods

Milk masala mix, which includes cardamom powder, mace, saffron, and nutmeg

Heat the ghee in a pan and toast the cashews/raisins, stirring quickly, until golden brown. Set aside.

Bring milk to a boil (watch that pot!!) and then add bananas; cook and continuously stir until the milk reduces a bit.

Add the jaggery and let it melt. Taste-test.

Continue to stir for a while until the milk reduces a lot and the mixture becomes super thick.

Add the spices (watch out, the milk may curdle. It’ll still taste good).

Finally, stir in the cashews and raisins, with the ghee.

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Enjoy banana kheer for breakfast, dessert, snack, lunch, dinner… if you’re like me and don’t mind having dessert for dinner sometimes.

Update:

Chocolate banana kheer!

Because… how could this not happen?

And it’s so easy!

Basically, towards the end of cooking, add 2-3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Use a fork to stir it in so you don’t get cocoa powder everywhere. This also smooths banana clumps.

Let it continue to cook until desired thickness.

Bam. Chocolate kheer.

I didn’t have any, but I’d totally top this with whipped cream.

Now where’s the peanut butter? Because I’m getting more ideas…

Best “Healthy” Cookies

ANOTHER cookie recipe?! Um yes, when the Huey Kitchen Contents include:

A jar of almond butter needing to be used.

Three huge, overripe bananas.

1/2 a bag of chocolate chips.

Dried cherries.

Maple syrup.

Cinnamon.

Oats.

And the other little things. Baking powder, salt, flour, vanilla. The items that go without saying.

…Combined into the best tasting “healthy” cookies I’ve ever tried! They are vegan, whole grain, low sugar, delectable, and hard to mess up.

Best “Healthy” Cookies

Adapted from this recipe… makes 2-3 dozen depending on size

3 large overripe bananas, mashed

1 cup almond butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup-2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried cherries

Optional: shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine mashed bananas, almond butter, vanilla, and maple syrup in one bowl.

Combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in another bowl.

Add 2nd bowl to 1st bowl. Stir to combine throughly. Dough will be sticky and wet.

Fold in chocolate chips and cherries.

Drop by tablespoons onto parchment-papered cookie sheet.

Bake 15-17 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Devour most delicious cookies ever.

I cannot get over the texture of these cookies! They aren’t rubbery or chewy–probably because of all that delicious almond butter instead of trying to bake fat-free–and they are definitely satiating (especially when you eat like 7 or 8 in a sitting, like me… oops). They taste more like… an actual cookie. Cherries and almonds go hand in hand, as do oats and cinnamon; chocolate and little chunks of banana bring it all together. Mmmmm.

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!

Peanut Butter Cups 2.0

Okay. Keep your eye on the cups. Which one holds the prize?

If you chose any of them, you’re right! duh.

However, some hold different prizes. Please continue reading.

Peanut Butter Cups 2.0

Peanut butter filling adapted from Averie Cooks

Chocolate, melted: either 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or 1/2 cup worth of coconut oil/agave/cocoa powder (like from Chocolate Covered Katie)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 teaspoon nutritional yeast

1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar

a slice of banana

strawberry jelly

Put some melted chocolate in the bottom of a muffin-liner; spread to cover bottom and up the sides to create a sort of hole for the filling. Freeze. Once hardened (it’ll take like 5 minutes), smear about a teaspoon of peanut butter mixture (pb + nutritional yeast + powdered sugar).

Option one: stop there and place more chocolate on top. Chill.

Option two: dollop a tiny bit of strawberry jelly on top of the peanut butter and carefully spread more chocolate on top. Chill.

Option three: place a slice of banana on top of the peanut butter and carefully spread more chocolate on top. Chill.

Now you can slice in half to see your handiwork, or you can just take a bite. Warning: strawberry jelly will ooze. But this is a good thing.

Gooey, gooey, gooier. It’s like a chocolate covered strawberry, peanut butter and jelly, Reese’s cup all in one.

Banana. Peanut butter. Chocolate. A threesome made in heaven.

In retrospect, it would probably have been easier to dip frozen banana chunks in chocolate and top with some peanut butter. But this is more fun! You take a bite expecting just peanut butter & chocolate… but then banana comes to play… and it’s amazing.

Store in the freezer or fridge. These are supremely melty if using coconut oil chocolate, especially in this summer heat, and will melt all over your fingers. Things fare a bit better if you just melted down some chocolate chips.

The nutritional yeast adds a more Reese’s like quality to the peanut butter–a more salty/sandy flavor/texture, so good! After tasting these you will not go back to a Reese’s cup. However, it’s not necessary at all (I mean, chocolate and pb … does not go wrong.) Try almond butter or other nut butters too! I think sunflower seed butter would also be delicious.

I initially was going to make regular cups, but then upon taste-testing the peanut butter, I was in the mood for strawberry jelly (surprise). And then…

Eureka.

Morning Milkshake

Sometimes, you need to dig out the blender.

Morning Milkshake

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Serves 2 unless you’re really really hungry

2 cups cold unsweetened Silk

1 frozen banana, cut in chunks

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

2 teaspoons old fashioned oats

Add all of the above into a blender and blend until smooth. Cinnamon lovers, add some cinnamon.

This milkshake was so delicious — enjoyed immediately or the next morning (it thickens up overnight in the fridge!) The recipe originally calls for pre-grinding the oats, but they grind up just fine in the blender as is. Also, originally, honey is added, but I skipped it because bananas are already so sweet.

This is super filling and great for a post-workout meal/snack. It’s nutritionally dense with tons of protein, healthy fats, potassium for healing sore muscles and fiber for… a sound body.

I don’t normally make smoothies or milkshakes but this one is a winner.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake! A vegan pumpkin cheesecake. Kind of. I didn’t have margarine so I just used butter for the pecan/brown sugar topping. Oops.

… It didn’t taste much like cheesecake. So if the name erroneously directed you to expect such a flavor, my bad.

But it did taste good.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky’s NY Times Article

Crust:
1 recipe Graham Cracker Crust (see Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding pie recipe, below), or use a store-bought 9-inch vegan graham cracker crust.

Filling:
1/2 cup whole unroasted cashews, soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours, or until very soft
1/4 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium banana)
1 (12- to 14-ounce) package silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil, room temperature
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin purée
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecan pieces, roughly chopped

Make the topping first. In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mash together brown sugar, margarine and salt until crumbly, then fold in the chopped nuts and stir to coat with the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare the crust and press it very firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and move the pan to a cooling rack, leaving the oven on for further baking in a bit.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Drain the cashews and blend with the banana, tofu, sugar, brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and orange extracts, and sea salt. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth and no bits of cashew remain.

Set aside 1/3 cup of batter. To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and blend until smooth, then pour it onto the crust. Randomly spoon dollops of the reserved batter onto the cheesecake. Poke the end of a chopstick into a batter blob and gently swirl to create a marble pattern; repeat with the remaining plain dollops.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, removing the cheesecake halfway through the baking period to sprinkle on the topping. Return to oven to continue baking. Cheesecake will be done when the top is lightly puffed and the edges of the cake are golden. Remove it from the oven and let cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to complete cooling, at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight. To serve, slice the cake using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

Yield: One 9 1/2-inch cheesecake.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers (crush 10 ounces  of graham crackers and measure from this; use remaining crushed crackers for another crust!)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted nonhydrogenated margarine, melted coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon plain soy milk or almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the graham crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the oil or melted margarine. Use a spoon to blend the mixture thoroughly to moisten the crumbs, then drizzle in the soy milk and stir again to form a crumbly dough.

Pour the crumbs into the pie plate. Press crumbs into the sides of the plate first, then work your way down to the bottom. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until firm. Let the crust cool before filling.

Yield: Makes one 9- or 10-inch pie crust.

It was pretty simple, all in all. I forgot to soak the cashews so I just let them sit in warm water for the 10 or so minutes I spent gathering everything together–and it was fine. I’ve never worked with coconut oil before this–it’s pretty and pearlescent at room temperature but melts easily, with a subtle coconut flavor that isn’t noticeable in the finished product (if you don’t like coconut).

At least for me, this came out delicious. However, it tasted nothing like cheesecake. The texture was smooth and creamy, but you could really taste the citrus notes in the flavor–they somewhat predominated. I could taste the pumpkin, and oddly, the tofu. Perhaps this is because I did not exactly measure the juice or the zest (oh the lazy cook I am). The pecan topping added a nice texture contrast though. It was fun to swirl the non-pumpkin-ed filling into the top of the rest of the cheesecake–even though the pecans kind of covered up the swirlage, which i thought was kinda dumb. (That’s why there’s whiter/oranger areas of the cheesecake top.)

The crust was super yum and pretty easy to put together. Make sure to bake it until it is fully browned/toasty–the bottom did get a bit soft rather than firm.

This “cheesecake” does taste decadent… after all, it is a creamy dessert in a graham cracker crust with sugar/pecan crumbly topping. But you’re eating tofu, banana, and pumpkin–3 power foods (protein, potassium/fiber, beta-carotene–>vitamin A/fiber, respectfully) plus healthy fats and protein in the nuts. And, it’s super filling!

I’d like to find a way to make this taste more cheesecakey. But it’s definitely not a dessert I regret making.