Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day Confessions

I have a few things to confess.  First, I asked for a mop for a Valentine's gift from my husband.  A mop - like the thing you use to clean your kitchen floor.  And I really wanted it, with all my heart. Secondly, I still lick the beaters when I cook.  I really love cake batter, frosting and cookie dough. Often times, I like it better before it's baked and I've yet to die of egg poisoning.  Finally, as strange as this might sound, I find many blog posts annoying.

I should probably expand on that last one, since I'm writing a blog.  I have two issues with them.  My first issue is that, as a general rule, I barely make it through a day keeping my family fed and still alive.  Looking at people's perfect photos, creative ideas and lengthy detailed descriptions of a cup of soup make me feel inadequate.  My reality is that we had leftover pizza for lunch and I'm typing this one handed with a sleeping child on my lap.  I'm still waiting on a chance to shower.  The other reason is that I am essentially a cut-to-the-chase girl.  I'm a good cook and feel like I'm relatively smart.  I know how to gather ingredients, measure things and put stuff in a pan.  I don't need each step with pictures to scroll through before I find the recipe.  Just give me the recipe.  That's what I need.  I believe that most things that happen are life are actually fairly simple when it all shakes out.

I've not been great at keeping up with this blog, in part because of the demands of everyday life.  The other part is just knowing that I can't compete with all the fanciness others can pull off.  So today I will embrace me.  I'm a farm wife, mom of some pretty special kids, home school teacher, foster parent, chef, laundress, dietitian, business owner and not-so-merry maid.  I will try to share more often, and I will just have to be me.  Be kind.  I'm guessing many of you are more like me than we all like to confess!

So let me share with you a little Valentine's gift.  Here is our family-favorite chocolate cake and some variations you can use to adapt it.  I made it today in a heart shape for a Valentine's treat, but you can make it however!  It's a great "hip pocket" recipe.  And don't forget to lick the beaters!

Best Ever Chocolate Cake

2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cocoa
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup hot water or hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350.  Stir vinegar into milk and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs to butter mixture and beat on high until lighter in color.  In a separate bowl, sift flour, soda, cocoa and salt.  Add vanilla to milk mixture.  Alternately add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture in the mixer.  Once all ingredients are blended well, slowly pour hot coffee or hot water into batter and continue to beat until well mixed.  

Pour batter into greased pans and bake at 350 for 40 minutes for a 9 x 13, 30 minutes for 9 inch pans and 15-20 minutes for cupcakes.  This batter makes around 3 dozen cupcakes.  For the heart cake, I used a 9 inch square and a 9 inch round pan.  Cool cakes on rack and frost with your favorite frosting. 

Here's a couple of good chocolate frosting recipes:

Easy Mocha Frosting

Cream 1/4 cup softened butter in a mixer.  Sift 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 cups powdered sugar in a separate bowl.  Add slowly to the creamed butter.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla and several tablespoons of cooled coffee to make a frosting that is a spreadable consistency.  Make sure the coffee is cooled or it will melt the butter.  This makes enough frosting for a 9 x 13 cake, but needs to be doubled if you like a thicker frosting layer or are doing cupcakes or a two layer cake.

Deluxe Chocolate Frosting

Beat an egg with a mixer until fluffy.  Sift 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a separate bowl.  Add powdered sugar mixture slowly to the egg and beat until smooth.  Add 1/3 cup softened butter, one tablespoon at a time and 2 ounces of melted and cooled unsweetened chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  This frosting is awesome because it doesn't get "crusty" and dry like other frosting. I doubled this one to use for the heart cake.  I also used it on my nephew's birthday cake.  And it is super creamy and chocolaty.