Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Chocolate Cake for Beginners

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

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

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.

Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

What a treat! Everyone knows it’s a celebration when you are served strawberries dipped in chocolate! Learning how to make them isn’t difficult but may take a bit of practice figuring out how to dip and not drop the strawberries in the melted chocolate!

Buy medium size berries – two bites is the prefect size. As beautiful as those giant ones are, they are too hard to eat!

Gently rinse the berries in cool water…

http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_3862.jpg

…and then spread them out on a clean dish towel to dry.

http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_3867a.jpg

Let them dry completely before you start dipping. Not a drop of water should be left on the berries.

In addition to dipping the strawberries in chocolate, you can also dip the edges in coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles or nonpareils. (Those are those colored candy dots in the photo above.)

Eight ounces of chocolate will cover about 12-14 medium-large strawberries. You can use any type of chocolate you prefer – dark, milk, semi-sweet or white chocolate.

(Note: A block of white chocolate is a lot tastier than “white chocolate chips, which are only “chocolate flavored” and not the real thing!)

If you are using a chocolate bar or a block of chocolate, chop it into small pieces…

http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_7685.JPG

…and then put the chocolate in a small microwave safe dish. Melt it, in the microwave, for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on medium. (Don’t cover the dish!)

When melting chocolate chips, they will not really change shape that much until you give it a stir.

http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_0509.JPG

The goal is to slowly melt the chocolate, not bring it to a boil. If it still isn’t melted, continue melting in 15 second increments in the microwave. Stir the chocolate. It should be smooth and have no lumps.

 

Once the chocolate is melted, start dipping.

Try to cover about 2/3 of the strawberry with chocolate. It looks prettier than covering the entire strawberry.

Then gently dip the strawberry into one of your additional toppings.

When you do the dipping, be sure to hold back the green top so that it does not get covered in chocolate.

If you are having difficulty holding the strawberry, skewer it, just under the green bit, with a toothpick.

You are less likely to drop the strawberry if you hold it with a toothpick. (There are all sorts of chocolate dipping tools for sale as well.)

Put the dipped berries on some wax paper to set. They should be stored in the refrigerator, and eaten at room temperature, within 24 hours.

Enjoy!

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.

Chocolate Fudge

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, so it’s time to start thinking about chocolate! (Actually, I don’t need a holiday to think about chocolate!)

.
This blogpost is all about learning how to make fudge. Chocolate lovers may also want to check out my post on Chocolate Fondue and…

How to Make Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate.

For the fudge you will need:

    • 1 pound of fine-quality milk chocolate
    • ½ stick of unsalted butter (OR 1/4 cup or 2 oz. or 56 g)
    • One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
    • ¼ teaspoon of salt
    • ½ teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

.
You may have noticed something weird in that list, and be thinking, why do you use unsalted butter and then add salt to the recipe? The answer is that lots of recipes are written that way, because you have more control over the amount of salt in the recipe with that approach. If you want (or if you have to) you can substitute salted for unsalted butter in this recipe, but your fudge may end up with a noticeably saltier flavor.

There is a HUGE difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. This recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk.

http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_9224.JPG

Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk has no added sugar and is slightly thicker and richer than regular milk. Sweetened condensed milk is very thick and very sweet. They are not interchangeable ingredients.

Let’s startcooking!

Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or wax paper. (The original recipe I saw said to line only the bottom of the pan. However, if you cut off a slightly larger sheet of parchment paper and do at least two of the sides as well, it will make it much easier to get the fudge out of the pan after it has hardened.)

You can buy parchment paper right next to the tin foil and the plastic wrap at the grocery store. It’s specially made to be used for cooking.

For the next step, I’ll first give you a quick overview and then provide more detail.

The quick overview is that we’re going to place a metal bowl on top of a pan of barely simmering water, and gently heat all the ingredients, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

.
Now for just a bit more detail about this step!

You can buy pans that are designed to fit into one another, leaving space at the bottom for water. They are called “double-boilers” and can get pretty expensive. Fortunately, you don’t really need one for this recipe. A regular bowl over a normal pan works just fine. However, you have to make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. The whole point of a *double boiler* is to melt/cook things very gently by having the steam from the water (not the water itself) heat the upper bowl!

Put a couple of inches of water in a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. (No rapid bubbles, just gentle little bubbles!)

While the water is heating, break up the chocolate into small bits. You could cut it with a knife.

.
Or (and this is the fun version) just slam the wrapped chocolate bar against the counter. When you unwrap it, it should be broken up into bits.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Add the butter, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and the salt to the bowl.

Set the bowl over the simmering water. Give the chocolate mixture an occasional stir. When everything is smooth, blended, and all melted, pour it into the prepared pan (the one with the parchment paper.)

.
Put it in the refrigerator. DO NOT COVER THE FUDGE! (If you cover it, too much condensation will form and ruin your beautiful fudge!) Let it chill for about 4 hours or until it is totally firm and then cover it with plastic wrap.

To cut the fudge, run a butter knife around edges of pan and invert the fudge onto a cutting board.

.
I do hope you put the parchment up at least two sides of the pan! Otherwise, right about now you are saying: “She’s crazy, I’m never going to get this out of the pan”! If you can get your knife to the edge of the parchment paper, that should be enough to loosen it. If that doesn’t work, after you have run your knife around the edge of the pan, cut out a small corner. Taste it. (Yes, it’s delicious, and no, you can’t just eat it from the pan!) Now slip your knife under the parchment paper and the fudge should come out of the pan. (This is the hardest step of this entire recipe!)

Remove the parchment paper.

.
With a ruler, score the fudge with lines about one inch apart. This way you will get nice even pieces.

.
You can slice your fudge ahead of the time you plan to serve it, but store it in the refrigerator!

.

Storing and Serving Fudge:

My kitchen tends to get very warm so I always store fudge in the refrigerator. Store fudge in an airtight tin, with a piece of wax paper between each layer. It should keep on the counter (out of the sun) about 2 weeks, in the refrigerator about 2-3 weeks, and in the freezer about 2-3 months. To keep it really moist, you can store the entire “block” of fudge and only cut it when you are ready to serve it. It’s best eaten at room temperature.

Enjoy!

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.