I started thinking of what other things I would eat for a birthday feast, and came up with a menu for my birthday. Mind you, I didn’t actually make all of these things, just the ribs. But I am going to be ready for next year!
I’ve been teaching cooking classes at the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, and recently we did a series on Italian regional cooking. One of the recipes that made an impression on me was a Tuscan Pine Nut Cake. Very moist and flavorful, this was the kind of cake to serve not just after a meal, but with a cup of tea in the afternoon, or with a glass of champagne for brunch. A simple cake, but it has a lot possibilities.
Being a chef and recipe developer, I couldn’t just be happy with that recipe. I made the cake again, but tweaked it here and there, and then went back and tweaked it again.
This is my version of the Tuscan Pine Nut Cake, not quite original, but so, so good.
I wish I could say I am a creative genius. I wish I could say I was a crafty mama who can whip up fantastic and fabulous things made with sparkly pipe cleaners and glitter glue. Nope, that ain’t me.
Which is why the internet is so wonderful. I can go to Pinterest and find so many delightful creations ranging from edible, drinkable and just darn cute items for Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to make cute stuff for various holidays. Check out These Candy Corn Popcorn Balls
Two of my favorite things in the world recently collided in the most delicious way. Beer and chocolate. As a Featured Publisher for Foodbuzz I got the chance to develop a recipe using beer from The New Belgium Brewing Company.* I have been a beer drinker since I was 18 years old of the legal drinking age of 21. I had seen Fat Tire Ale in the store, but had never had any. I am so glad I was able to participate in this program, because I have discovered a new favorite amber ale to enjoy! If you notice in the picture that bottle is empty! I was able to at least save an empty bottle for the photography, because I enjoyed the ale so much I barely saved a beer for the cake!
I had tasted chocolate cakes made with stout before, which is a much darker, deeper brew than ale. But after tasting the Fat Tire Amber Ale, which has a clean, nutty and rich flavor I wanted to try baking it in a cake. The key was to add another deep flavor to the cake, which I did with powdered espresso powder and a good bittersweet chocolate.
This cake is rich, moist and incredibly good! It does not taste like beer, but there is a richness from the alcohol discernable when you taste it. The cake is iced with a smooth and sweet frosting made with the same bittersweet chocolate used to make the cake.
A quick tip to make chopping chocolate easier is to use a serrated knife.
A winning combination of two of my favorite things, beer and chocolate!
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups raw cane or turbinado sugar
3 large eggs
1 bottle (12 ounces) New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Melt the chopped chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl over simmering water. Let the chocolate cool slightly. In an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar 2-3 minutes, until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, being sure to mix well before adding another. Add the cooled chocolate to the mixer, making sure to scrape down to bowl and mixing well. On low speed add the amber ale, and mix just until the beer is incorporated.Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat the batter just until mixed well. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Divide the batter between two 9″ round cake pan, which have been buttered and floured. You can also place a buttered and floured piece of parchment in the pan to help prevent the cake from sticking. Bake the cakes in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes on a rack for 20 minutes, then invert onto the rack to continue cooling.When completely cooled, frost the cakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One 2 layer cake
This chocolate icing is delicious on any kind of chocolate cake. Smooth, sweet and rich – Just try not to eat it all before it gets onto the cake!
You’ll be licking the spatula before you even frost the cake!
2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes, until well mixed. Add the cocoa powder and beat for an additional minute. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate, and mix for a minute until well combined. On medium speed, beat the icing for 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Frost the cooled cake with the icing.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: enough to frost a 2 layer cake
* The New Belgium Brewing Company is giving me with a monetary stipend for developing this recipe. Any and all opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced in any way by the manufacturer/PR firm.