Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Chocolate Cake for Beginners

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister

Since I began startcooking.com, chocolate cake has been in the “Top 5 List” of the most requested recipes. Finally I have discovered the perfect chocolate cake recipe for beginner cooks. This moist, rich, dense, chocolate cake is one that you will want to make again and again. Many thanks to Nigella Lawson for this perfect recipe!

There are six steps to making this cake

  1. Prepare the Pan
  2. Prepare the Ingredients
  3. Mixing the Ingredients
  4. Baking the Cake
  5. Removing the Cake from the Pan
  6. Making the Frosting

Let’s startcooking!

1. Preparing the Pan

This cake is baked in a 9-inch wide (and 2 1/2 -3 inches high) “springform” pan. This type of baking pan has a hinge on the side that expands. This allows you to remove the bottom of the pan from the sides, making removing the cake from the pan really easy.

To begin, the (closed!) pan needs to get “greased” (putting a layer of grease or shortening on the bottom of the pan.) You can grease the pan with butter, shortening, or a non-stick spray. (I used the non-stick spray.)

Then you need to line the pan with parchment paper. Cut the parchment paper to match the size of the pan.

Press the parchment paper to the bottom and sides of the pan. The grease will make it stick.

Be sure to get the pan prepared before you begin mixing the ingredients!

Go and pre-heat your oven to 350 F. degrees (or 180C., Gas mark 4)

2. Preparing the Ingredients

If your measuring is not exact when you are making soups or stews, it will not totally throw off the recipe. However, with baking, measuring must be really accurate! Get all of your ingredients assembled and measured before you start mixing anything together.

I am making this cake using the standard US measuring techniques, but I am listing the metric amounts as well.

Nine ingredients are needed to make the cake. (Don’t make the frosting until the cake is baked, and stone cold.) Measure all the cake ingredients and set them aside:

First, there’s the surprise ingredient that makes this cake so rich – 8 ounces (250 ml) of Guinness stout beer!! (I promise, there is no beer taste to this cake!)

Second ingredient: 1 stick (250gr) of butter, unsalted and cut into slices

Third ingredient: 3/4 cups (75gr) of unsweetened cocoa powder (this is not the same as instant hot chocolate!)

Fourth ingredient: 2 cups granulated of sugar (400gr caster sugar)

Fifth ingredient: 3/4 cups of sour cream (1 x 142ml pot)

Sixth ingredient: 2 eggs

Seventh ingredient: 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract (15 ml vanilla essence)

Eighth ingredient: 2 cups of white flour (275gr plain flour)

Finally, the ninth ingredient: 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda (12.5 ml bicarbonate of soda)

3. Mixing the Ingredients

Part one: the basic chocolate mixture.

Pour the Guinness stout into a 4 quart saucepan…

…add the butter…

…and (over medium heat) stir or whisk until the butter has melted.

Whisk in the cocoa powder…

…and the sugar.

Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from heat.

Part Two: The egg mixture

Crack the eggs into a small dish, check for shells, and then put the egg into a medium bowl.

Add the vanilla extract…

…and the sour cream.

Whisk these three ingredients together.

Pour the egg mixture into the chocolate.

Whisking until…

…it is well blended.

Part Three: Finishing the Batter

Now add the flour…

…and the baking soda.

Whisk everything together until it is totally blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Be sure to scrape the pan clean with a silicone spatula.

4. Baking the cake

Put the cake into the pre-heated 350 F. degrees (or 180C., Gas mark 4) oven.

Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake…

…comes out clean.

Check the cake after 45 minutes. This should be done while the cake is still in the oven! I did it on the counter top just for demonstration purposes. Even though my cake looks like it is not quite cooked in the very center, the pick came out clean so I know it is cooked.

Set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely. Do not remove the cake from the pan until it is cold!

5. Removing the Cake from the Pan

Don’t even think about making the frosting until the cake is stone cold!! This will take a couple of hours for the cake to cool completely.

To remove the cake from the pan, first pop the hinge.

Then just lift the ring off the cake.

The parchment paper will be stuck to the cake. Gently peel off the parchment paper.

If this were a cheesecake, you would just serve it right on top of the metal base of the pan.

This is such a sturdy, moist cake that the bottom of the pan can easily be removed. First put the cooling rack on top of the cake…

…and the bottom of the pan slides right off.

Remove the paper.

Flip your cake dish so that the right side of the dish is facing the bottom of the cake.

The cake will be sandwiched between the cooling rack and the cake dish. Flip the whole thing!

Remove the rack and the cake is ready to frost!

6. Frosting the Cake

Once frosted, this cake is supposed to be reminiscent of a pint of stout – a dense, dark bottom with a frothy white top.

The frosting is made with confectioners sugar, heavy cream (or milk), cream cheese, and vanilla.

Cut 8 ounces (300gr) of cream cheese into cubes and set them in a medium mixing bowl.

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave for about 15 seconds. You do not want to melt the cream cheese, just soften it a bit.

Sift 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar (150gr icing sugar) on top of the cream cheese.

Sifting the powdered sugar gets rid of any lumps.

Using an electric mixer, whip the cheese and sugar together until it is fluffy and smooth.

Whip in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Add up to 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream (or milk) in small amounts…

…beating after each addition…

…until you have a spreadable consistency.

(NOTE: This is a lot less heavy cream than indicated in the English-metric version of this recipe. English double cream is much thicker than heavy cream and has a consistency of something close to American sour cream.)

Spread the frosting on the top of cake, starting at middle and fanning out to the top edge of the cake.

The sides of the cake do not get frosted.

Although if you love frosting, double the frosting recipe and frost the sides as well! (I wish I had done that!)

WOW! We did it! Want a slice? Or two?

Adapted from:
Feast by Nigella Lawson

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How to Buy, Store and Boil Eggs

posted in Eggs by Kathy Maister

Today’s post is a little bit longer than normal, because I’m going to talk about three things – buying, storing, as well as how to boil an egg. If you just want to know about the boiling part, skip ahead.

Eggs are a staple food all over the world. Apparently, the average American eats about 250 eggs per person, per year, and the average hen lays about 250 eggs per year. So somewhere out there, there is one hen whose sole purpose is to provide you with your eggs. Fortunately, the grocery store acts as the middle man.

Buying Eggs

When buying eggs you get to choose which size and color you want. Size matters, color doesn’t. White, brown, or South American light blue and green eggs are all the same on the inside. Official sizes are Peewee, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Jumbo. It is rare to see Peewee and Small eggs in grocery stores here in the USA.

Sometimes when you open a box of eggs one or two seem smaller than the rest. The cartons of eggs are actually sold by the total weight of the carton, not each individual egg. Most recipes nowadays use large eggs as the standard size.

Before putting a carton of eggs in your grocery cart, open the carton and make sure there are no cracked eggs. Move each egg slightly to make sure none are stuck to the carton. If any are stuck, choose a different carton.

Always buy eggs before the sell-by date on the carton. If stored properly in the refrigerator they should keep 3-5 weeks from the time you bring them home from the grocery store.

Here’s what to look for when you crack open an egg: If the sticky stuff surrounding the yellow yolk in the center, (known as “the white”), is somewhat cloudy, that means it’s a very fresh egg. A clear white means the egg is ageing, but still fine to use. If the white is pink or “iridescent” then the egg has probably gone off and should be thrown out.

Storing Eggs

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, by the time you get home from the grocery store, you end up with a cracked egg. It may have been cracked from the very beginning, and you just didn’t notice when you were checking them in the first place.

For whatever reason, just throw the cracked egg away. There is no point eating an egg that may have an unwelcome history of germs!

The only time it really is OK to eat a cracked egg is if it cracked while you were cooking the egg. That should present no problem.

Refrigerating Eggs:

Although virtually all refrigerators in the USA have egg-holders on the door, that’s not really the best place to store eggs. There is too much temperature fluctuation on the door shelves. Consequently, the best place to store eggs is in the original carton that you bought them in.

Buying and storing eggs is different through-out the world. My post “Born in the USA” explains why.

(Briefly “In the USA, government standards say all eggs must be washed and stored at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Washing the eggs is a good thing but it does leave the eggs without an outer coating and very susceptible to invasion by bacteria. Hence refrigeration of washed eggs is absolutely necessary.” Unwashed eggs do not need to be refrigerated)

Can Eggs be Frozen?

You can freeze eggs BUT it can be a bit more complicated than just popping them in an ice-cube tray. PLUS both the taste and texture will be compromised.

There are several very good sites that describe how to freeze eggs (if you must!) including oChef, the National Center for Home Preservation, What’s Cooking America.

Also the USDA has a great general information page on eggs.

Cooking Eggs

Very few cooks (or cookbooks) agree on how to cook an egg. In fact, the BBC News announced a foolproof way to cook eggs. A temperature-sensitive ink stamped on an egg lets you know if the egg is cooked by changing color as you cook the egg!

I don’t know why everyone uses the term soft boiled or hard boiled eggs. One should never ever boil an egg. In fact, you know when a “cooked” egg is overcooked by that green ring that you sometimes see around the yolk. It is perfectly fine to eat, but it doesn’t look great.

When hard cooking eggs it is best to use eggs that are at least one week old. You will find that they are much easier to peel.

OK, here we go!

Place the eggs tightly in a single layer in a saucepan. (One egg or 10 eggs will all take the same time to cook, as long as they are in a single layer.) Add one Tablespoon of salt to the water. (This will prevent the eggs from cracking.)

Then cover the eggs with water.

Place it on your stovetop on high heat.

Cover the pan.

Bring the water to a boil.

A lot of recipes will ask you to gently place the eggs in boiling water but I don’t like to do it that way. Too often while placing the egg in the water it has slipped, cracked and …well…hello poached egg!

After the water comes to a boil, immediately shut off the stove and let the pot of eggs just sit on the stove, covered, for 15 minutes for large eggs. Some people say to remove the pan from the stove top to avoid over cooking. All pans hold heat differently. Once you make the perfect hard cooked egg, try to use the same pan and timing to make all future hard cooked eggs.

After 3-5 minutes you will have a soft cooked egg.

A hard cooked extra large egg should sit for 18 minutes.

Drain the hot water from the saucepan and let cold water run over the eggs.

It’s best to peel the eggs right before you use them.

I know two ways to make the peeling easier. One is to crack the shell at the ends of each egg and return them to cold water. This allows the water to seep in.

Or after the eggs have cooled just put them in the refrigerator for a few hours. Cold eggs are much easier to peel.

A hard cooked egg should be put in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and will keep in the refrigerator, unpeeled, about 1 week.

That’s it for eggs!



More startcooking.com egg posts:

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How to Make Chicken Marsala

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister

Chicken Marsala is the name given to chicken cutlets topped with a gravy made from Marsala wine (which comes from Italy.) This recipe is also chock full of mushrooms! I used a combination of Shitake mushrooms….

…and Baby Bella mushrooms.

For the Marsala Sauce you will need:

To make the chicken cutlets you will need the following ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 cup of dry seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of flour (to dredge the chicken)
  • 1 1/2 pounds of thin sliced boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Step 1

Wash and slice the mushrooms.
Crush the garlic.
Measure out all remaining ingredients needed for both the chicken cutlets and the Marsala sauce.

Step 2

Cook the chicken cutlets according to my video on how to make Chicken Cutlets.

As you’ll see on the video, boneless chicken breasts need to be first coated (dredged) in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs.

Once you have finished coating the chicken, be sure to THROW AWAY any leftover flour, egg, and bread crumbs. Raw chicken is filled with bacteria which makes the leftovers unusable.

Step 3

When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan and put it on a dish. Cover the dish with tin foil to keep the chicken warm.

Step 4

Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in the same pan you cooked the chicken in.

Add 1 clove of crushed garlic….

…and the cleaned and sliced mushrooms, and cook for 1 minute over medium heat.

Stir in 2 Tablespoons of flour and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add 3/4 cup of chicken stock

…and 1/2 cup of Marsala.

Stir until thickened and…

…continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

Add some salt and pepper to taste and pour the sauce over the cooked chicken.


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