Monthly Archives: February 2007

The Giant, Enormous, Mega Chocolate Cake


Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. He was flying cross country and from the airport, he said he really wanted a chocolate cake. Christine very helpfully happened to email me several chocolate cake recipes while I was standing in the grocery store, and when I phoned her, she advised me on what kind of chocolate to buy.

The recipe (below the break) was for a double-layer cake but with ten inch pans. We only had nine inch pans, so it turned into a triple layer cake. He also said he wanted chocolate frosting, not whipped cream (which I think would have tasted a lot better) so we used (don’t kill me!) canned frosting because we were late on time, the girls were on their own, and I had to rush to the airport to pick him up.

The photo shoot cracked me up because all I could think of were Christine’s gorgeously composed photos with beautiful lighting, plating, backgrounds. And Connie’s impeccably gourmet ingredients.

I did say that I was the low-brow, downhome member of this blog! So here are the results. I have to say that it was delicious and crazy and over the top. The cake looked like a cartoon cake, or like the cake at Minnie Mouse’s house in Toontown at Disneyland. It was a surreal, enormous, wild cake. We all pigged out and were very happy.

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5 Things (Food) Meme


I’ve been tagged with the 5 things meme from friend of Muffin Top, Tea and Cookies. Since too much info can be found on me here, I thought I’d do the five things meme with a sub-theme about food (and food allergies).

Here it goes:

1. I like to eat creamed textured food when I’m sick. I consume things like liver pate, cream cheese, ice cream, tuna, etc., the other evening I made a traditional chicken liver because it sounded so good.

2. Rice is my comfort food. Unfortunate because I have a generalized type b allergy to rice. (Won’t kill me, but makes me uncomfortable.) When I had my Lasek PRK operation last January and was in incredible pain, all I asked to eat was rice. (Though CW never caved in and gave it to me.) So, if anyone knows a non-starch alternative that is eerily similar to rice…

3. I always prefer to eat red meat. I had a bad experience with Mahi Mahi eight years ago, so now I generally don’t eat cooked fish, but I’ll still eat sushi. I don’t like chicken or turkey meat, but love duck. (This apparently doesn’t extend to chicken liver.)

4. I once went into Anaphylactic Shock. I used to eat loads of starches: pasta, bread, potatoes, carrots, rice, etc… at the same time I had these environmental allergies that I got weekly treatments for. Turns out my food allergies (unknown prior to this incident) are contraindicated with the grass and pollen shots. Apparently allergy shots + scratchy throat you can’t clear + itchiness + heavy pasta diet = Anaphylactic Shock.

My lesson of the day: don’t let your throat close up. A later lesson was that food allergies can more adversely affect the system than environmental allergies, though it really sucks to have both. Now I mostly keep my starch consumption in check and haven’t had another episode.

5. I use half and half. Not actually shocking, but I use it as milk. I pour it over my flax seed and berries in the morning and I mix it with chocolate powder to make chocolate milk. I know, I know, in an era when skim milk is suggested, I’m actually adding more unnecessary fat to my diet. I’d argue that the fat is necessary for the creamy taste that I prefer.

As far as tagging goes, I’ll tag any of the readers who’d like to respond. Put a link in the comments and I’ll check out your five things.

Thank you Tea!

What can I get you?

What alcoholic drink are you? I’m apparently a martini drinker who doesn’t like a flavored martini, even though I’ve professed my love of cosmopolitans, kamikazes, and french martinis here before…

Still, a fun little quiz.

You Are A Martini

You are the kind of drinker who appreciates a nice hard drink.
And for you, only quality alcohol. You don’t waste your time on the cheap stuff.
Obviously, you’re usually found with a martini in your hand. But sometimes you mix it up with a gin and tonic.
And you’d never, ever consider one of those flavored martinis. They’re hardly a drink!

What Alcoholic Drink Are You?

welcome to the fold

Hi–C(h)ristine here. Just a pause to say welcome to Mai, a new contributor at Muffin Top!

Flourless Cashew Macadamia Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

unbaked cookies

I’ve been baking a lot recently, we’re talking 3-4 times per week. I’m trying to perfect a way to make flourless chocolate chip cookies because I’m allergic to wheat and one of the things I miss is the crunch of cookies.

On I found a recipe for making flourless peanut butter cookies. I started with this recipe, using Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips and Laura Scudder’s Natural Peanut Butter.

After a stressful visit to a facialist, she asked without any prompting if I had been eating more peanut butter than usual. Curious (- how did she know? I thought), I replied in the affirmative. Turns out there is anecdotal evidence that peanuts (no other nuts are implicated) might have androgens and cause your skin to break out.

cashew macadamia butter in bowl

Since I was (am) still in the experimenting mood I decided to use different butters, such as Cashew Macadamia Butter. I started with the Marantha Cashew Macadamia Butter I found at a local health food store. Pouring off any top oil, I tried a batch, chopping up cashew nut pieces to add some body. The cookie tasted wonderful, but the runny texture didn’t allow for an attractive cookie. The next batch I added a little flax and a little more brown sugar. Aha! My almost perfect cookie.

cookie mixture

CW says that the flax enhances the flavor of the cashew and gives it the “crack-like” quality. The thing I noticed was cookie’s texture is virtually indistinguishable from a regular flour-based cookie. Success!

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Last Sunday, Zack and I picked up Anne and Ryan for an afternoon of wine tasting before having dinner at Ad-Hoc, Thomas Keller’s latest venture. Unfortunately, I rushed out of the house before grabbing the camera, so I have no pictures. BTW, if you ever want to take a trip out to Napa: Superbowl Sunday is a fantastic day for it! There’s no traffic and no crowds (we did miss out on the second half of the Puppy Bowl).

In case you haven’t heard about Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller purchased the space in anticipation of turning it into some kind of burger or sushi joint. In the interim, he decided to utilize the space and serve four course prix-fixe ($45) comfort food dinners family-style, but the concept became so popular that the formely ad hoc (pun intended- geddit?) restaurant will probably be permanent. Although I called the restaurant repeatedly and even left a voicemail message, I was never able to secure a reservation. We decided to go out there anyways, since Redd, Bistro Jeanty and Bouchon were right there (French Laundry was alluring, but you’ve got to save some serious dough and plan well in advance for that). When we arrived on Sunday shortly after 5, the restaurant was only about a third full, so seating wasn’t a problem. Although the food is not exactly cheap, the place is relatively informal (compared with the previously mentioned Yountville restaurants) – no tablecloths, and the servers wear Chuck Taylors and gas station attendant shirts. The servers do have that napkin fixation I’ve noticed at all other Keller restaurants… grabbing it and folding it as soon as you stand up from your chair.

Anyways, on to the food. Servings are pretty generous (I was so full that by the time dessert came, I could barely touch it, and wound up taking some food home) and I get the sense that the more people in you party, the more food you get. Also, it *is* a prix fixe – you don’t get a choice, so you eat whatever they serve you. It is comfort food though, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuff like tripe or sea urchin (that’s for French Laundry). I eat just about everything, so I didn’t find it to be a problem. Picky eaters, those with dietary restrictions and vegetarians might.

Our first course was New England style clam chowder. The broth was briny and flavorful, but not thick and heavy, studded generously with whole (shucked) manila clams and batons of pancetta instead of bacon. The potatoes were tender but didn’t dissolve into the soup, and shards of tarragon and scallion brightened up the soup. The tureen easily doled out 2-3 servings per person.

Our second (main) course was braised pork belly with seared day boat scallops on top of sauteed cabbage. We got about 2-3 rather large scallops each, with a chunk of pork belly. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was very rich, plus it came with a side of celery root with melted onions. The pork belly had a slightly pink tinge, with a brown cracklin skin that matched well with scallops that had been “kissed” one side with that perfect golden crust.

Our third course was shropshire blue cheese with fresh pecans and apples. The cheese made a sharp contrast against the richness of the other two dishes, but at this point, I was getting pretty full. I only wished they had given us more apple slices.

Our dessert was a chocolate silk tart with vanilla whipped cream and cream anglaise. I could barely touch it. The cookie crust was light and crisp, and the chocolate filling was creamy but not too rich and not too dark, but I think I only had two bites.

On our server’s suggestion, we drank a 2002 Vouvray Chenin Blanc ($40) with the meal, which was a nice accompaniment. Although we had a trunk full of wine, I didn’t find out what the corkage was. All in all, everybody agreed that it was a pretty good meal, and not a bad price for the quality and quantity of food.

Niman Ranch and Dissident Chef unite

mysterious dining

The Dissident Chef will partner up with Niman Ranch for a special meal in February.

The previous “partner event” that Dissident Chef presented was with Truffles–which I hear was just over the top (I couldn’t make the dinners, but I heard from a direct source that the meals were just orgasmic and the truffles NEVERENDING). I’m looking forward to the Niman Ranch dinners Feb 23-25. You might want to check it out, too.

Here’s a link to reserve a place at the dinner table! Price includes wine and apertif for a multi-course meal. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Invite only. You may say “Muffin Top” referred you.

If you haven’t heard of The Dissident Chef and Subculture Dining before, you may want to read my review below to gather info about this fantastic underground dining and roving meal experience.



Elvis Presley’s Favorite Pound Cake

A yummy, steaming slice of Elvis Presley Pound Cake

I made a pound cake yesterday. Not just any pound cake, but an Elvis Presley Pound Cake as found in the pages of an old Gourmet magazine. Seeing as how Elvis was a HUGE pound cake fan, and this is a recipe from his cook, I just had to try it, being a pound cake (and Elvis) fan myself.

Though I must admit, my favorite pound cake of all is a Sara Lee poundcake (yes, it is DAMN good, even though it is frozen and premade). I was curious to see how this pound cake stacked up against the legendary Sara Lee poundcake.

The cake was fairly simple to make, and in terms of technique, the recipe instructs the baker to spend a good amount of time mixing the batter. I’d recommend a mixer to make this recipe, or a very strong and resilient arm! In fact, I ended up mixing the batter a bit longer, because of my absent mindedness. I don’t think it was to any fault–because the cake ended up remarkably fluffy…so I think overmixing is a much forgiving error to make than undermixing this batter.

elvis presley pound cake

I halved the recipe and made only one loaf to good results. Actually, fantastic results–something very similar to a Sara Lee poundcake, buttery and dense and wonderful, but with great height. You’re supposed to let the poundcake cool before slicing it up–but guess what? I dug into a slice right away, watching the steam rise off of it, but not for too long, because soon enough the slice was in my mouth.

My new favorite pound cake. So what should the name of this pound cake be? Elvis Presley (and Christine)’s Favorite Pound Cake…?

The only thing I’d do different (even though I’m famous for adapting recipes, I think this one is perfect as is) is play some Elvis songs while eating this up.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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A return: Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake + frosting

A couple of weeks ago I made a chocolate cake. There is something about chocolate that really calls to the soul–in my case, a great urge for chocolate arose from deep inside my psyche, and that chocolate had to be in a cake format.

This was the first cake I made off of my bed rest–made in a weird state of mind, a mixture of frenzy and awe. I meant to bake a recipe in Saveur’s 100 issue–instead, I impatiently latched onto a recipe on the back of the Droste cocoa box. It was an entirely disorganized process, one that I did not document–and one in which I did not save any documentation.  I was distracted, unfamiliar with my kitchen, my mind wandering to and fro…but I was happy to be baking and surrounded by smells and sensations I’d missed.

I used up the rest of the cocoa in the Droste box, and then tossed the recipe in the garbage–leaving me with no recipe to post here. It was a recipe that did not use actual chocolate at all, only the cocoa.  Alas, I apologize!

buttermilk+boiling water+cocoa => chocolate cake

I melted the cocoa in boiling water, and then added buttermilk–I remember standing, mesmerized, at the swirls of buttermilk in the hot cocoa mixture. I was cooking again–it was a strange and new experience to me, even though as you all know, I am a regular cook and baker. Still, at home finally, and mobile again, the concept of baking felt entirely new to me.

chocolate cake batter

The cake seemed very decadent, even before its completion, the chocolate batter dripping slowly off the mixer. I felt impatient, unwilling to wait for this batter to bake into a cake.

But I did wait to eat it until after baking:

chocolate cake

I took the rest of the cake to work–where my coworkers finished it all by the end of the day. They said it was fantastic, and the compliments were worth the cake. 🙂 And the return to my kitchen? Priceless.

Happy baking and cooking to you, too!