Where We Are … (Hannah)
We’ll begin the day with a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, then spend the afternoon hiking the valleys and checking out the other-worldly rock formations.
What We Eat … (Sandy)
CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH COCOA FROSTING
This is the birthday cake Stephen and I delivered to granddaughter Rhaine in Boston on an unseasonably warm Sunday in early November. We sat masked, twelve-feet apart, in a pretty city park not far from Rhaine’s apartment for a pandemic-style picnic party.
Food & Wine published the following “Mom’s Chocolate Cake” recipe in 2018, but it originated long before that with the mother of a waitress at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, New York. At first, the moist cake was served right out of the pan; frosting came later. I added espresso powder for an even richer chocolaty flavor and went for a hint of “Almond Joy” by substituting almond extract for vanilla and adding a coconut flake topping.
The easy-to-make, cocoa frosting recipe that I used is considered “perfection on a chocolate cake” by Tasha Tudor, in the 1993 cookbook she wrote and illustrated. Rhaine seemed to agree.
MOM’S CHOCOLATE CAKE
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- 4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, roughly chopped
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla (or almond) extract
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Stir together sugar and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook, stirring until sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes).
Transfer mixture to bowl of a stand mixer. Add chocolate and butter, and let stand, stirring occasionally, until melted and cooled to 150’ (about 15 minutes).
Stir in vanilla or almond extract.
Add eggs to chocolate mixture; beat on medium speed until combined (about 10 seconds).
Add flour mixture; beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper cut in 8-inch rounds.
Divide batter between two prepared pans. Bake in 350’ oven for 24-26 minutes, or until tops of cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean.
Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 25 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack to cool completely for one hour before frosting.
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 4 tbsp cocoa
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 4 tbsp strong hot coffee
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into a medium-size bowl. Add the melted butter and enough coffee to make a good spreading consistency. Beat well (Tasha, of course, used an old fashioned egg beater.) and stir in the vanilla.
What We Listen To … (Jacob)
Bing Crosby – Christmas in Killarney
Bing: King of Christmas. This is one of my wife Whitney’s favorites and a song that I don’t think I had heard before I met her. Thank you Whitney and thank you Bing.
What Makes us Laugh … (Patrick)
This is a good example that if you repeat something stupid long enough, everyone starts getting into it. Wonder what Gilbert Gottfried is doing these days?
What Amuses Us (Whitney)
The Thin Man is a hugely successful 1934 comedy-mystery that kicked off no less than four sequels. The leads, a married pair of socialites named Nick and Nora, figure out the whodunit while ribbing each other and drinking enough martinis to melt a snowman. Christmas serves as the background, but its post-Prohibition frivolity looks toward the parties of New Year’s Eve. The dinner party scene at the end is a classic of the genre, with the cast of suspects hamming up their parts. The plot barely matters, as it’s Nick and Nora that carry the picture with their sparkling repartee.
What Makes Us Family (Stephen)
Making Christmas cookies and a gingerbread house in Tucson, an annual event supervised by Aunt Deb Erskine.
Riley- age 14, Avery- age 10, and Adley- age 2 (age 3 in3 weeks) show off their skills.