Lemon Cake with Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

Double Layer Lemon Cake with Sour Cream Ganache: many words for a simply delicious cake

OMG, this cake is so good.  Moist lemon cake, rich chocolate frosting – my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  There are several steps  but none are difficult.  Make sure you’ve got all your ingredients before starting and pretty shortly you’ll have a new favorite cake on your kitchen counter.

Lemon Cake with Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 lb butter (unsalted if you’ve got it, or use salted and half the amount of salt you add to the batter)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs or 5 large eggs
  • zest of 6-8 lemons
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (unless you use salted butter, then use 1/2 tsp)
  • juice of 6-8 lemons
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk*
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups full-fat sour cream

If you have 6-8 lemons sitting looking at you (if they are large use 6, if they are small use 8) wash then zest them (a microplane grater works best for this task.)  Set aside zest.  Roll the lemons on the counter for 10 seconds before juicing to release all the pulp and juice.  Juice lemons, set aside juice.  

Grease two 9″ cake pans and either line with parchment rounds cut out to fit the bottom of the pans or flour the well-greased pans.  (You can also do this cake in one layer in a Bundt pan.  Grease and flour it.)  Preheat oven to 350F.

In a mixer beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy.  

Add the eggs, one at a time beating between to incorporate.  Beat in the zest.

In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  

Measure 3/4 cup of lemon juice and add to the buttermilk*.  Into the butter/egg mix add the flour mix and the buttermilk mix, alternating.  Start with 1/3 of the flour mix, beat in.  Add 1/3 of the buttermilk mix, beat in.  Etc, finishing with the last of the buttermilk mix.  Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl then beat the batter for a couple of minutes.  Pour batter evenly into the pans (or one Bundt) and gently tap on counter to distribute evenly.  

Bake cakes 20 minutes then check with a thin knife or toothpick inserted in the middle.  Bundt cakes will take much longer, 45 minutes – 1 hour.  Thinner cake rounds will take less time, 20-30 minutes.  As soon as the cakes are done, remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack until you can handle the pans without burning yourself (about 10 minutes).  Remove cake and allow to cool on the rack.  

While cake is cooling, make the glaze and ganache.  Into a small saucepan put 1/2 cup lemon juice and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Over low heat, stirring often, melt the sugar and make a simple syrup.  Once the cakes are cool to the touch, use a pastry brush and brush all over (tops and sides) with the lemon syrup.  While that glazed cakes are cooling, melt the chocolate chips (either use the microwave or double-boiler).  Remove the melted chocolate from heat and using a hand mixer beat in the sour cream.  If you have any lemon juice left throw it into the ganache.  Scrape the sides and beat the ganache until well-mixed.  Use 1/4-1/3 of the ganache in between the layers of the cake and use the rest to frost the tops and sides.  You want to use the ganache before it cools too much to be pliable.  If it hardens up, melt in the microwave a few seconds at a time just until it is soft enough to spread easily.  Cut slices and eat.  You can hold out a pinch of the lemon zest and use to garnish the top of the cake, if you like.

*A note on buttermilk.  If you aren’t someone who always has it on hand or you don’t want to buy a whole carton you can make your own easily using regular milk and vinegar.  Measure your milk just shy of 3/4 cup then add 2 tsp white vinegar or, you know, lemon juice.  If you need to top it up to make 3/4 cup add milk.  Stir and you’ve got buttermilk perfect for baking.

Pomegranate Gingersnaps

These cookies bake up delicate, flavorful, sweet, tangy, and utterly delicious.  If you are looking for a light and fresh take on a gingersnap this is the recipe for you.  Never heard of pomegranate molasses?  Check out your local Mediterranean market and get a bottle.  It is heady stuff.  (Make sure to buy one that is 100% pomegranate, not one with extra sugar or preservatives.)

Pomegranate Gingersnaps

  • 12 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (you can use half whole wheat for a heavier cookie)
  • 1 cup sugar, plus another half cup for rolling
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated salt (leave out if using salted butter)
  • 1 large egg

Melt butter, stir in molasses, and set aside to cool.  Meanwhile mix dry ingredients together, leaving out the extra sugar for rolling.  (A word here about the spices.  You can play with the ratio of these.  Traditionally all of these make an appearance in gingerbread and snaps but if you like one more or don’t have one, try using different amounts.  For an even more exotic gingersnap leave out the cloves and substitute 1/4 tsp ground cardamom.)  Once the butter molasses mix is cool to the touch, beat in the egg.  Mix the wet into the dry, cover well, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Put the extra rolling sugar into a small bowl.  Form cookie dough into balls – between 1/2″ and 1″, depending on how bit you want your cookies – then roll in the sugar.  Place cookie balls on ungreased or parchment lined baking pans.  Bake for ~10 minutes until the bottoms are lightly brown.  Cool and enjoy.

Really Good Buttermilk Biscuits

Tomorrow millions of Americans will sit down and eat lush Thanksgiving dinners, I among them.  And I am so very thankful that I am able to do so – we will have more than enough food and a surfeit of family and friends with whom to enjoy it.  In a spirit of sincere joy and thankfulness, here is an easy and quick recipe for buttermilk biscuits, truly one of life’s great pleasures.  (These are dropped, not rolled, biscuits, which makes them even easier.)

Really Good Buttermilk Biscuits

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1 tsp granulated (not kosher or coarse) salt
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk (you can use low-fat but I do not recommend it)

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Pulse the first 6 ingredients in a food processor (or cut together using 2 knives or a pastry cutter) until everything is well mixed and the butter is evenly incorporated into the flour.  Remove mix to a large bowl.  Mix in 2 cups of the buttermilk until well-mixed but don’t beat.  Dough should be wet but not sloppy.  If it is dry add the extra quarter cup buttermilk.  Using a spoon drop the dough onto lined cookie sheets (use parchment paper – it is better in this case then buttering the pans) leaving plenty of room for spreading.  You can make little ones using teaspoon amounts or very large ones using 1/2 cup measures.  Bake until the biscuits get lightly browned on top and start to smell delicious, ~12-20 minutes depending on size.  Remove from pans, serve warm with butter, jam, nothing, as toppings for pot pie, etc.  If you have any left store them in an airtight container then sneak down in the middle of the night to finish them.

Happy Thanksgiving and give thanks for happiness.

Chocolate Cake, Just ‘Cuz

If you are a member of my family (or work in my kid’s school, or have been to my house lately, or live close enough to smell the cooking from my kitchen) then you know I’ve been really into making chocolate cake lately. I think it’s 5 in two weeks – no one is complaining and I’ve perfected an easy, tasty recipe that we really like. It isn’t too sweet or fancy, it needs no frosting or garnish (although it would be great with whipped cream, ice cream, berries,) its ingredients are easy to find and you probably already have them on hand, and you can make it in several variations (listed below) including gluten-free (listed at the end.) So, try your hand at this and you might suddenly find you need to make 5 cakes in two weeks, too.

Simple Chocolate Cake

IMG_1919

  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 – 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • (powdered sugar for garnish, if wanted)

Grease (with butter, of course) either a round or square cake pan and preheat oven to 350° F.  In a double boiler melt the chocolate with the butter.  IMG_1904When it is all melted stir well and set off heat to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer (or really strong forearm and a whisk) beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until it’s thickened, about 2 minutes on high.  IMG_1907Beat in the chocolate – it should not be hot to the touch. IMG_1908

When it is all well-incorporated beat in the flour and baking soda.

IMG_1912Beat on high for 2-3 minutes then pour into the greased cake pan.  IMG_1913Bake about 20 minutes then check cake.  A knife or skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean (or maybe a few crumbs clinging to it but not raw batter.)  IMG_1918Allow to cool in the pan until mostly cool then turn pan over to get cake out.  You can serve it bottom up or top up – whichever you like the best.  Sprinkle with some powdered sugar (or not) and eat.

Variations:
Raspberry, apricot, blackberry, plum, orange:  Once the cake batter is in the pan drop ~3Tbs jam or marmalade (you want a thickish jam, not a think jelly) over the top.  Using the tip of a sharp knife or a skewer or toothpick swirl the jam around the top of the cake.  IMG_1916Don’t push it down to the bottom of the pan – that will make the cake stick to the pan.  Bake as above.

Peanut Butter:  As above with the jam instructions but use peanut butter instead.

Peanut Butter and Jelly:  Use peanut butter as above and jam or a very firm jelly.  Don’t use a think, liquidy jelly.

Coconut:  Beat 1/2 cup shredded coconut (either use unsweetened coconut or, if you use sweetened coconut, cut the sugar in the recipe to 3/4 cup) into the batter.  You can substitute coconut extract for vanilla.  Garnish with shredded coconut instead of powdered sugar.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
  • 5 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are good)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk (this can be soy, rice, almond, regular dairy, whatever kind you like)

Grease (with butter, of course) either a round or square cake pan and preheat oven to 350° F.  In a double boiler melt the chocolate with the butter.  When it is all melted stir well and set off heat to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, using an electric mixer (or really strong forearm and a whisk) beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until it’s thickened, about 2 minutes on high.  Beat in the chocolate – it should not be hot to the touch.  In a small bowl mix together the almond meal, rice flour, and baking soda.  Add to the chocolate egg mix and beat on low to mix together.  Then add the milk and beat on high for 2-3 minutes then pour into the greased cake pan.  Bake about 20 minutes then check cake.  A knife or skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean (or maybe a few crumbs clinging to it but not raw batter.)  Allow to cool in the pan until mostly cool then turn pan over to get cake out.  You can serve it bottom up or top up – whichever you like the best.  Sprinkle with some powdered sugar (or not) and eat.  You can make all the same variations as the non-gluten free cake, too.

 

 

It came to me in a dream…

I dreamt last night that I was somewhere, not sure where, and I saw a piece of the most beautiful, moist, rich, chocolate cake with a thick layer of fudgy frosting go by on a plate.  In the dream I said to my husband, “Ok, we can do that but can’t we have that cake first?”  When I woke up I decided that today was the day to bake chocolate cake.  Then eat some.  So here’s what I made.  It isn’t quite the cake that was in my dream but it is very good none-the-less.  These cake layers don’t rise up high and crumbly, they’re rather flat and dense.  But they are moist and the ganache – well, it’s cream, butter, chocolate, and raspberry jam.  So, yeah, it’s delicious.  This recipe looks like it has lots of steps, and it kind of does, but don’t be put off – it is very do-able.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Whipped GanacheIMG_1815

for the cake:

  • 4 oz (1 stick) butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c sour cream

for the ganache:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs raspberry jam or preserves

for the filling:

  • 3 Tbs raspberry jam or preserves

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 350° F.  Heat the butter, chocolate, and milk in a pot over low heat until all the chocolate is melted.IMG_1804  Do not boil or scald or even come close, this should not be steaming hot.  Whisk well then pour into a mixer bowl.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.IMG_1805

Lightly grease 2 round cake pans and line the bottom with either a circle of parchment paper or buttered waxed paper.  The chocolate mixture should be coolish to the touch, if it isn’t wait a few minutes until it is.

Beat in the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and sour cream.IMG_1806  Mix on low until fully mixed then beat on high for 2 minutes.  The batter should get lighter and thicker.  IMG_1807

Put an equal amount of the batter into each of the pans.  Tap on the counter to get out big air bubbles and to even the batter in the pans.

Bake for ~15-30 minutes (this will depend on your oven, the weather, etc).  After 15 minutes check the cakes.  When they are done they will have pulled away from the edges slightly and a knife inserted in the middle will come out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and cool in the pans.IMG_1811

While cakes are cooling make the ganache*.  IMG_1809Put the chocolate, cream, butter, and jam into a bowl over simmering water and let the chocolate melt.  Do not cook the mixture, remove from heat as soon as it is all melted.  Whisk well then put the bowl in the fridge.  Allow to cool.

When you are ready to assemble the cake get out the ganache and use a mixer to beat it until it lightens and thickens into a very thick whipped cream texture.  Remove one cake layer and peel off the paper.  Put the cake onto a plate.  Spread the top with the jam for the filling.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the ganache on top of the jam and spread out a bit (be gentle, the jam is slippery and it is hard to spread on top of it.)  Remove the second cake layer and peel off the paper then put the cake on top of the first.  Push down a little to even out the filling.  Top with the rest of the ganache, spreading it evenly on the top and sides of the cake.  If you want you can garnish with raspberries or chocolate shavings.IMG_1813

You can eat the cake now or keep in the fridge until you want to eat it.  It will last, well-covered, for a few days in the fridge.  If you don’t eat the whole thing right away, that is.

*A word about making ganache.  The most common method is to heat the cream and butter then pour it over the chocolate to melt it and mix.  This method has you doing it all together, only because it is somewhat easier.  If you have a different method you prefer then do that one.