Food quote of note

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience"…Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 - The Year of the Cake

     2012 promises to be quite the year - a year of new beginnings, a year of challenges and changes.  It seems quite fitting that, according to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.  The Dragon is the fifth sign of the Chinese Zodiac and is considered the ultimate symbol signifying success and happiness - sounds like a great year to embark upon Un Voyage Culinaire!  In honor of this auspicious year, I've decided to bake - so, I've declared 2012 "The Year of the Cake".  I'm going to celebrate this year of change, success and happiness by baking a new and different cake every month.  After all, dragons are good - but cakes are irresistable.
     It was very fitting that my dear niece Amanda was here in Atlanta this week to kick off the Year of the Cake.  She helped pick the recipe, shop for ingredients and bake the January offering.  Of course, there was much debate - the selection of the inaugural cake was not a task to be taken lightly - it had to be a challenging recipe that would stretch my baking skills but also please the disparate yet discriminating palates of my husband and my houseguests.  After much scouring of cookbooks, websites and blogs, we narrowed it down to a short list of 3-4 options, then finally settled on a German Chocolate Cake that promised to stretch my culinary skills but still provide a homey and approachable treat.  (Note - recipe found in Cook's Illustrated and given below)
     What could be better than starting out this exciting year - the Year of the Cake - doing what I love most with one of the people that I love the most?  As you can see from the pictures below, Mandy and I had a great time creating the first cake of the year together.  And, I must admit - I think we did a great job!  The cake was very tasty - the chocolate layers were moist, with just the right amount of chocolate taste to balance the sweet and chewy frosting - this is a recipe I would definitely recommend.  All in all, I would consider January's cake to be a successful kick off for the Year of the Cake.   

     So, while 2012 promises to be a very exciting year, make no mistake, it also promises to be a very busy year.  First - I need to figure out exactly what I am going to do with my life - where will I go to culinary school and what degree will I pursue?  will I work while I am in school and, if so, what exactly will I do? Second - I clearly need to spend some time polishing my blogging skills. And, finally, I need to carve out time to find 11 new recipes and bake 11 more yummy cakes! It will be a challenge, but one I am looking forward to!

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Filling

Serves 12 to 16. Published January 1, 2005.

Why this recipe works:

We wanted a streamlined German chocolate cake recipe that would be less sweet and more chocolaty than the original. After testing, we discovered that the texture of the cake actually improved when we used whole eggs instead of laboriously separating the eggs, beating the whites, and folding them into the batter. We enhanced the chocolate flavor with a combination of cocoa powder and high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. Finally, we adjusted the level and proportions of the sugar (both brown and white) and butter in the cake and filling, and toasted the pecans, for a German chocolate cake that was easier to make and had better texture and flavor than the original.
When you assemble the cake, the filling should be cool or cold (or room temperature, at the very warmest). To be time-efficient, first make the filling, then use the refrigeration time to prepare, bake, and cool the cakes. The toasted pecans are stirred into the filling just before assembly to keep them from becoming soft and soggy.

  • Filling
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1can evaporated milk (12 ounces)
  • 1cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 1/4cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
  • 6tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/8teaspoon table salt
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3cups sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces)
  • 1 1/2cups finely chopped pecans (6 1/2 ounces), toasted on baking sheet in 350-degree oven until fragrant and browned, about 8 minutes
  • Cake
  • 4ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 1/4cup Dutch-processed cocoa , sifted
  • 1/2cup boiling water
  • 2cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for dusting cake pans
  • 3/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 12tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 1cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 2/3cup packed light brown sugar (about 4 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4teaspoon table salt
  • 4 large eggs , room temperature
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4cup sour cream , room temperature


  1. 1. FOR THE FILLING: Whisk yolks in medium saucepan; gradually whisk in evaporated milk. Add sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is boiling, frothy, and slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl, whisk in vanilla, then stir in coconut. Cool until just warm, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool or cold, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (Pecans are stirred in just before cake assembly.)
  2. 2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate and cocoa in small bowl; pour boiling water over and let stand to melt chocolate, about 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth; set aside until cooled to room temperature.
  3. 3. Meanwhile, spray two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high straight-sided cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Sift flour and baking soda into medium bowl or onto sheet of parchment or waxed paper.
  4. 4. In bowl of standing mixer, beat butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula halfway through. With mixer running at medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl halfway through. Beat in vanilla; increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer running at low speed, add chocolate, then increase speed to medium and beat until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl once (batter may appear broken). With mixer running at low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. After final flour addition, beat on low until just combined, then stir batter by hand with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl, to ensure that batter is homogenous (batter will be thick). Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; spread batter to edges of pans with rubber spatula and smooth surfaces.
  5. 5. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard paper rounds. Cool cakes to room temperature before filling, about 1 hour. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.)
  6. 6. TO ASSEMBLE: Stir toasted pecans into chilled filling. Set one cake on serving platter or cardboard round cut slightly smaller than cake, and second cake on work surface (or leave on wire rack). With serrated knife held so that blade is parallel with work surface, use sawing motion to cut each cake into two even layers. Starting with first cake, carefully lift off top layer and set aside. Using icing spatula, distribute about 1 cup filling evenly on cake, spreading filling to very edge of cake and leveling surface. Carefully place upper cake layer on top of filling; repeat using remaining filling and cake layers. If necessary, dust crumbs off platter; serve or refrigerate cake, covered loosely with foil, up to 4 hours (if refrigerated longer than 2 hours, let cake stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes before serving).


Assembling the German Chocolate Cake
1. With serrated knife, halve each cake evenly through equator.
2. Carefully lift off upper cake layer and set aside.
3. Evenly distribute about 1 cup filling on bottom cake layer.
4. Place next cake layer on top and repeat process.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'll take all the comfort I can get...

     There's an English actor named Jason Isaacs (don't really know anything about him except we share the same year of birth) who said "Every time I make a plan, God laughs at me" - well, he was one smart guy!  While I had great plans to start 2012 by getting organized, clearing my unanswered 2011 emails from my KC inbox and, most importantly, designing my newly-born blog - things ended up taking a different turn.  As most of you know, Guy's mom became seriously ill this week and had surgery on Thursday.  Guy headed up to Michigan to be with his family, and I wanted nothing more than to accompany him - but, alas, my respiratory system had been invaded by warring viruses and bacteria and I was too sick to get on the plane.  It was a long and difficult week, but I learned alot about seeking comfort.
     When my body and soul longed for comfort, I was lucky enough to find it coming from all directions.  Most importantly, I found great comfort in God's sweet grace that brought Mary safely through her surgery and shepherded us all through a very fearful time.  I was also surrounded by great waves of comfort from my dear friends and family who raised us all up in prayer and cared for us in big and small ways (not the least of which was a warm bowl of soup delivered to me when I was sick by dear RoRo).  And, because I am who I am, when this long week came to an end, I felt a deep, almost visceral need to seek comfort in my kitchen -- I needed to cook.  In my head I knew I should be picking out a "healthy" recipe- good grief it was still the second week in January - but, I couldn't.  This is not the week for ground turkey, brown rice or kale (sorry Giada - I'll get to that soon, I promise).  Nope, I needed something warm, creamy and hearty to comfort both my body and my soul - so I headed to the kitchen with my friend the Barefoot Contessa.

     So - finally it's Sunday night - the end of a very long week.  My mother-in-law is recovering well from surgery.  My husband is home.  My Z-Pac has worked wonders on my head and throat.  I spent a few hours in my cozy kitchen bringing together bacon, cream, potatoes, and corn to prepare Ina's Cheddar Corn Chowder for supper - and we even have leftovers ready for dinner tomorrow.  I am now very, very comforted.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The journey begins

Bonjour mes amis - Happy New Year!  I've decided to chronicle my journey to a new career and thought you might enjoy coming along with me. 
   As most of you know, I decided a few years ago that I wanted to make a change - to leave corporate life.  Life is too short to spend 8 (or 10 or 12) hours a day doing something I wasn't passionate about - so Guy and I began planning for me to quit my job and change my life.  It's been a few years since we made that decision - and our plan is about to come to fruition.  On May 9, 2012 I will leave my job at KC and begin a new career - and in this blog I will capture my journey.  I am not sure yet exactly what that job will be - but no matter what I do, I know it will provide me with more time and energy to spend cooking and being with friends and family.  So, come along with me as I start my Culinary Journey - Mon Voyage Culinaire.  I'm not sure where I will end up - but I know it will be delicious.
  As you can see from the layout and finess of this site, I haven't quite mastered the fine art of blogging yet - but, ce'st la vie - I'm starting anyway.  Since this is a private blog I plan to share only with my friends and family, I knew you would bear with me as I learn and improve.  It seems all things are a journey with me right now, so the appearance of my blog should not be an exception!
  It's a New Year and time for a new beginning - even though I'm not exactly sure where I will end up, I am looking forward to the journey -- and I'm glad to have my friends and family along for the ride.