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

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

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Portable strawberry shortcake. What could be better? I made these for my grandmother who loves strawberry shortcake, but at her senior living center, it’s either not made or not made “right,” and restaurants rarely offer this gem for a dessert.

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Fresh strawberries, rich butter and cream, zingy lemon zest, crunchy biscuit… In delectable cookie form. These are actually more scone-like than cookie-like, what with cutting in butter and barely-there mixing. Either way, these won’t disappoint… or last very long.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Adapted from and seen on many, many blogs like Sweet Pea Kitchen and Martha Stewart

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (2 cups)

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (half a lemon)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Lemon zest of half a lemon

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup heavy cream

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375° and line a sheet with parchment.

Combine the strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons sugar and allow to macerate while you prepare the batter.

In a separate bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and lemon zest by rubbing the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until combined and fragrant. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add the heavy cream and mix until just combined. Don’t fret if the dough remains clumpy and seemingly unmixed; the macerated strawberries will wet the batter. [I added an extra tablespoon of heavy cream because I did fret, and this made the baking time much longer… by about 10 or so minutes!!! Do not do this!]

Fold in the strawberries. Dollop 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough on to the baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown on the tops and edges. Let cool on a baking rack, and devour as soon as possible.

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If you are a fan of cookies eaten minutes after their departure from the oven, then these are for you. Sadly, they tend to lose their crunch before long.

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But, that’s nothing an extra bit of whipped cream can’t fix.

 

Miniature Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

After scrolling through thousands (okay, like twenty) different cupcake recipes, it was decided that strawberry-lemonade shall be the flavor of the treats I would take to my high school French teacher’s mini-retirement/farewell party.

So cute! So delectable!

And they were a hit! Even my baker-extraordinaire French prof said they were delicious.

Mini Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Adapted from How Sweet Eats (I pretty much did it exactly as printed, but here it is for convenience)

Lemonade Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes or about 30 mini cupcakes

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour (I did half AP and half whole wheat pastry flour)

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup milk

grated zest of two lemons (or 1 1/2 lemons, if using ginormous lemons from Costco)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs together until fluffy. Add vanilla and lemon zest. Mix on the lowest setting for a few seconds.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the milk. Once mixed, add remaining dry ingredients.

Pour into paper-lined cupcake tins and bake for 20-25 mins at 350, or about 13 minutes for minis. Let cool, then frost. (I let mine cool overnight).

Strawberry and Lemon Buttercream

2 sticks of butter, at room temperature

3 cups of powdered sugar + 1 cup extra

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 -1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries

grated zest of two lemons

1-2 tablespoons of milk (just have on hand if needed)

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar slowly with the mixer on low, increasing to combine. Add in vanilla extract. At this point you need to separate the frosting in two. It all depends on how much you want to frost each cupcake. I choose to take about 3/4 of the mixture and make it strawberry, with the rest being lemon. Whichever you decide to do, leave the frosting for the strawberry IN THE MIXER. Put the frosting for the lemon flavor in a separate bowl.

For the strawberry frosting: once the berries are chopped, press them with a paper towel to just release any extra moisture. Add 1/4 cup of the berries and turn the mixer on high, scraping down the sides as you go. Being that strawberries have a high water content, you may need to add some (or all) of the extra cup of powdered sugar. This will depend on the water content of YOUR strawberries, so add 1/4 cup, then more sugar if needed. Repeat until desired flavor/consistency is readers.

For me, the strawberry frosting looked fine in the mixer, but when I tried to pipe it form a Ziploc, it began to separate. So I returned it to the mixing bowl (no small feat) and beat it some more with more sugar. Then I just dolloped it on (no patience for piping).

For lemon frosting: take the remaining butter mixture and either add it to a clean bowl of your electric mixer or a bowl large enough that you can whisk with some elbow grease. Fold in lemon zest and add milk if needed. I was able to do this by hand with a whisk (whisking VERY hard), but it will also work with an electric mixer.

To serve them, I dolloped a big blop of strawberry on the cupcake, and then a wee blop of lemon zest frosting on top of that, finally sprinkled with a few shreds of lemon zest. Beautiful! You’ll have lots left over. I’m thinking… dark chocolate whoopie pies with strawberry buttercream filling. Oh yeah. Or maybe I’ll just make more cupcakes.

These were SO good. My taste testers loved them–the whole wheat pastry flour gives them a kind of earthiness that pairs well with the strawberry frosting. The lemon-flavored cake was just DELICIOUS. Light, a tender crumb, almost melt-in-your-mouth. Pretty much fantastic on its own.

The strawberry buttercream, while troublesome to pipe (okay, well, I’ve never piped frosting before and am not eager to try it again) was just as delicious when dolloped…. or licked off the mixer beater. The strawberry flavor totally came through and the tartness of the strawberries matched the sweet icing beautifully. The lemon zest icing was a lot less finicky, and so delicious too–I think I am just a fan of lemon-flavored things in general. Lemon bars? Lemon Girl Scout cookies? Lemon poppyseed muffins? Feed me.

I’m also a fan of miniature-sized things; yes, I’m embracing that trend, of COURSE! These are two bite! Even one, if you are really hungry for some lemon/strawberry deliciousness.

The strawberry with the long stem in the picture above may make you think I went strawberry-picking. Alas, this was not so. It was actually a lucky find in a Costco flat of strawberries. Perfect timing for the photoshoot!

Double Chocolate Chunk Oat Bars with Roasted Strawberries

Oh baby.

I’m in love.

It’s a bar, and my idea of breakfast.

It’s a brownie, and my idea of dessert. Especially with roasted strawberry coulis.
Technically, it’s not a coulis, but coulis sounds cooler.

With oats, chia seeds, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder…

… some chopped up 70% dark chocolate Lindt bar…

… and some strawberries, roasted with maple syrup, olive oil and sea salt to make a perfect strawberry juice glaze, then doused in fig balsamic vinegar to bring out their sweetness even more.

Optical illusion? Muahaha.

It’s what ever you would like it to be.

Dense.

Fudgey.

Chocolatey.

Strawberry-y.

HEALTHY.

Double Chocolate Chunk Oat Bars with Roasted Strawberries

Adapted from Meet Your Treat; Roasted Strawberries adapted from Joy the Baker

About 15 strawberries, hulled, sliced in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons fig balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons chia seeds
6 tablespoons water
2 cups oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 squares of 70% Lindt, chopped into chocolate-chip sized pieces
1/2 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-4 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Juices shall ooze so you’ll want those rims.

Whisk together olive oil, pinch of salt, and maple syrup. Toss with halved strawberries to coat. Spread them in a single layer on parchment. Bake for 40 minutes; less if necessary; don’t let the juices or strawberries burn!

Add the fig balsamic to roasted strawberries, mix to combine, and let sit a little bit. Then, separate the juices from the berries using a strainer or just tilt the pan to let the juices pool up in one corner. Save both.

Grease an 8×8 cake pan.

Whisk together the chia and water; set aside.

In a separate larger bowl, add oats, flour, raw sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa, and Lindt chocolate; stir to combine.

In a small bowl, mix together almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Add chia seed mixture to those wet ingredients, stir to combine.

Add almond butter/maple/chia to dry, stir to combine (may give you an arm workout)

Add milk tablespoon by tablespoon to just moisten and bring everything together.

Fold in the roasted strawberries.

Spread out batter in prepared pan and bake 20 minutes.

It’s hard to tell when they are done (toothpick test doesn’t really apply) but 20 minutes should do it. It will be very soft and dense.

Let cool before cutting and serving.

Be jealous of my equally proportioned squares [insert sarcasm]. But sometimes you just want a nibble… and sometimes you want a whole honkin’ piece.

Most of the time it’s the latter, but there’s always option A if truly necessary.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, and/or drizzle of roasted strawberry syrup.

Oh, why must this be so photogenic? I’m on the last leg of my free GB of media storage!

But it’s so worth the sacrifice.

Strawberry Shortcake with Homemade Whipped Cream

I.

love.

strawberry.

shortcake.

Why do strawberries and whipped cream just… meld?

I made this last year and the biscuit recipe is absolutely scrumptious–and non-dairy to boot. The whipped cream, however, is, so that last point is moot. Sometime soon I’ll try my hand at making coconut-milk-whipped-cream. But not today.

Strawberry Shortcake

Adapted from this recipe

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced or quartered (hulled, obviously)

3 tablespoons + 1/4 cup sugar in the raw

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons Earth Balance, cut into pieces (about 66 grams)

1/2 cup unsweetened Silk

A small carton of whipping cream

Vanilla extract

Powdered sugar

Put the bowl you will be using to make whipped cream in the freezer, as well as the beaters/whisk attachment. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Toss strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar, cover and chill for 20-30 minutes to get that maceration action going.

In a food processor, mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add Earth Balance, pulsing until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the Silk gradually until the dough just begins to hold together and pulls away from the sides of the Cuisinart (may not use all the silk).

On a lightly floured surface, place the dough and divide up until you have 8 equal portions; pat into circular shapes and place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle some sugar granules on each (this is when the coarse, raw sugar really comes in handy!) Bake 18-22 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.

While cooling, take the chilled bowl and whisk attachment out of the freezer and pour in whipping cream. On high, beat until getting fluffy, about halfway before completely whipped; add some vanilla extract and a few tablespoons powdered sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks. Don’t make butter, though.

To serve, cut biscuit in half lengthwise with a sharp knife (like an English muffin). Drizzle some of the juices from the macerated strawberries on the bottom-half of the biscuit, dollop with whipped cream, spoon on some strawberries, place the top half of the biscuit on, more drizzle, more dollop, more berries to your heart’s content. EAT IMMEDIATELY.

The whipped cream and strawberries will keep for about a day if you’d rather assemble the shortcakes later. But it’s better fresh. It should look similar to the above. But of course, that was artistically arranged by moi for their close-up and the cakes we ate were a bit less gorgeous-looking — not that that mattered since they were devoured in like two seconds anyway.

The biscuit is absolutely perfect: sweet, crunchy outside, with a tender, soakable inside. Perfect!

Oh, and I am a whipped cream fiend. I love the canned stuff (oh my) but making it from scratch was so fun and easy too! Plus, it tasted much better (and more real). And much easier to dollop than squirt, of course, especially for this.

I, once again, and blogging this at 7:23 am and have not eaten breakfast (what is my problem). And of course, by the time I blog a dish, it’s usually all gone. SIGH.

Strawberry-Banana Greek Yogurt Ice Cream with Whipped Cream and Hot Fudge

It’s been a long time coming.

Banana Ice Cream. Or more often known as “banana soft-serve” since it comes out in the consistency of … soft-serve. Rather than hard like ice cream… that is, unless you refreeze it after you make it, should you make a ton so you always have some deliciousness on hand.

Oh, is there a story behind this one.

Once upon a time (and to this day),

My Chinese Grandma loves giving us bananas and other produce, junk food etc. every single week. The problem is, she thinks it’s okay to give us 4 bunches of super ripe bananas at one time.

So, about 14 banana breads later, we needed some new inspiration on what. to. do. with. all. these. bananas.

Facebook is kinda amazing. You never know what’s going to happen. So I posted this problem on my status and one of my dear dear friends commented the original recipe for banana ice cream.

She originally found it on thekitchn.com  but since then I’ve seen it on a billion numerous blogs, like Choosing Raw, Oh She Glows, and Love Veggies and Yoga to name a few. Since that fateful Facebook status about two or three years ago, I have made it many times and always with good results. There are infinite variations of flavors and toppings that I have experimented with, but this is the combo we enjoy the most. The addition of frozen strawberries helps the ice cream to not melt as fast so you can enjoy it longer. And Greek Yogurt gives it a delicious tang that, in my humble opinion, is up there with pinkberry.

I kinda feel silly calling it a recipe. But here goes.

Strawberry-Banana Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

At least 2 ripe bananas, frozen in chunks. More if you want. Once they’re pureed it doesn’t feel like you’re eating two or more bananas at once.

Frozen strawberries, maybe 6-10, quartered

A big dollop of 0% Fage Greek Yogurt

Vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries, for garnish

In a food processor, throw in the bananas and pulse a few times, then let it blend. Some people add some milk to get it going; it will be tough at first but keep scraping the sides and pressing the banana into the blades. Add in some vanilla at some point. When the bananas look kinda like Dippin’ Dots, put in the strawberries and keep processing. [7/4/11 – update: DO add a few tablespoons of Silk soymilk as you blend. It makes the banana ice cream fluffy and amazing!]

After a while, you can put in the Greek Yogurt. Keeeeeeeeeeep processing! It’ll make like a ball sort of structure and keep going around. You can break up the ball with a spatula or you can sit back and relax and let the machine slowly churn the ball into smooth soft serve-y goodness.

It will be pink and lovely.

NOW QUICK SCOOP IT OUT BEFORE IT MELTS… because it will melt very, very fast. I always forget to, but chilling some glass bowls beforehand might help with that.

Okay now… les toppings.

Hot Fudge Sauce

Um. My brother made it. And then he made White Chocolate Mousse and pronounced that he would make a blog called “What Won’t I Cook Today.” The point of this story is that I do not have the recipe, but this ice cream can obviously be topped with any chocolate sauce (preferably homemade–try 2 tablespoons agave nectar + 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder for a chocolate sauce).

Whipped Cream

I wasn’t that motivated… Shake and disperse to your heart’s content. But don’t you dare add Cool Whip. And then drizzle on more chocolate sauce. Garnish with fresh strawberries.

And voila. Presented in a black-stemmed martini glass. This did start to melt a bit because it was hot out. But when it is first made, it does have the lovely texture of soft serve ice cream.

Variations: Frozen bananas, vanilla extract +

Peanut butter/peanuts

Chocolate chips

Spinach + peppermint extract + chocolate chips (don’t look at me like that. I’m so not kidding.)

Cinnamon

Chopped pineapple + shredded coconut

Maple syrup + pecans

Walnuts/other nuts

Cocoa powder (if the bananas are ripe enough, you might get away with not adding any extra sugar)

Other fruits

(Can be used either as pureed into the softserve or as toppings. Use common sense. Spinach leaves = not a good topping.)

Have fun!