Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Unless there are 4+ people in your household, three layers of 9-inch cake can just be too much, no matter how serious the craving. The solution? Shrink those layers! The Mockingbird girls routinely use 6-inch pans for everything from cake to pizza-topped focaccia bread.

Nobody likes to waste food and eating a giant cake (or pizza) that you no longer want, to avoid waste, is never a good decision.

So, we recommend taking a yummy recipe like Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake, which is measured for a 9-inch springform pan, and dividing it in half so you can fill two smaller pans. After baking, put one lovely layer on a pretty plate and the other into the freezer (after wrapping in 2 layers of plastic, of course). That way, next time you've got a serious crave going on, there's a little something waiting to be thawed and frosted - if you're willing to wait that long. The addition of stout to the mix gives this cake an earthy depth and, to our way of thinking, is the perfect companion to peanut butter frosting. Think beer and bar nuts, if you will, or peanut butter cups, if that's too far off the grid!

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

1 cup Guinness 
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

A bit contrary to the original recipe, we just combined the melted butter with the Guinness, whisked and added the cocoa and sugar, and whisked again until well combined. We then added the sour cream, eggs and vanilla and whisked thoroughly again. We combined the flour and baking soda very well in a separate bowl and added to the wet ingredients, mixing well but not overly long - too much air in this batter will cause the cake to rise and fall, making for sad bakers and disappointed cravers. We buttered two 6-inch cake pans and lined the bottoms with parchment circles and baked approximately 1 hour (again, bake time varies with the oven), being very careful not to open the oven door until almost done to use the toothpick test. When the layers were done, we cooled for 10 minutes and inverted onto wire racks, then cooled completely and transferred one to a pretty plate and froze the other. Depending on your need, it would have been just as easy to turn the rest into cupcakes that could be eaten right away or frozen, as well. Or you could go ahead and assemble a layer cake with both circles - the recipe below makes enough frosting to do so!

For the frosting, we just whipped up the butter and peanut butter, gently added powdered sugar, whipped some more and added just enough milk to make creamy smooth. Again, this is a generous recipe for one layer and would cover two, or a batch of cupcakes. It's creamy, peanutty and the perfect counterpoint to the dark chocolate cake.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 C butter, softened
1 C creamy peanut butter
3 +/- milk
2 C confectioners' sugar

So, take some time and make yourself a little bit of something sweet. Maybe take it next door and share it on your neighbor's porch, now that the weather's nice.

And remember, this summer, if you find yourself just too busy for even that much baking, the Mockingbird will be open for business and you can let us do the work.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cookies for a year? I'm in!

Help a bakery get started. Get a cookie a week. Or a cake a month. Read on!

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I launched our dream project - Mockingbird Cafe & Bakery - on IndieGoGo. Here's that link:  Mockingbird Cafe & Bakery IndieGoGo campaign

Between the two of us, there's not much we haven't done in the foodservice industry. Prep cook, baker, pizza maker, grill/line cook. You name it, we've cleaned, chopped, cooked and served it. So it was a natural progression of sorts that we would want to serve what we know is good, in our hearts.

Like the chewy ginger cookies above, or this decadent flourless chocolate cake:

A few years back, we both fell in love with Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cloud Cake (the name alone would've earned our adoration but the cake turned out to be pretty dreamy) and this is our version. We'll be baking it regularly. Folks who contribute $100 to our IndieGoGo campaign can get one of these every month for a year as their reward!

So, we already have a lovely spot picked out and the lease is signed. Here's what it looks like on the inside:

Needs a bit of work but don't you love that floor? I do.

Here's the lovely exterior, recently sandblasted down to its original earthy red by our wonderful landlord:

This building was originally a car dealership in 1911, when they drove autos up to the second and third floors on a sturdy wooden ramp that's still in place!

We are shopping locally whenever possible for furnishings and the like. Here are the lovely refrigerator and range that the kind folks at G&H Appliance are letting us "lay away" until closer to opening:

In case you were wondering, here's the other half of the team:

Pretty AND she cooks. I know, right?

And these guys - experienced innkeeper/entrepreneurs, mechanical engineer and southern breakfast queen - my folks:

Adorable, yes?

By way of a menu, we plan to serve what we do best: Soups and salads made with the freshest ingredients; chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches highlighted by scratch-made breads; and sweet desserts, baked to satisfy, every day. Here's an example of one of our specialties, red velvet cupcakes:

IndieGoGo contributors of $25 can get one of these or the cookie above every month for a year, and $50 will get you one per week! Just think, free dessert with lunch - you'll be the envy of all your friends!