Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back in the Kitchen

Recently I've been hearing some feedback from the peanut gallery that while photos of grass blades or fruit or my feet are all well and good, aren't I supposed to be, well, cooking? 

This is true. And they are right. 

Coincidentally (conveniently?), these comments happened right around the time I heard rumor of a "National Cake Day". As I said before, is this a real holiday? I have no idea. Is it a fantastic reason to bake a cake? Absolutely.

(Yes, any day is a fantastic reason to bake a cake, but doesn't celebrating something make the entire occurrence seem that much more festive?) 

Okay. So. Cake. What to make? What to make? What to make? I wanted something fun and festive, and above all, crowd pleasing. 

I'm all about my audience. 

My mom likes chocolate cake. My dad likes vanilla cake. I like cake.

Hence, the idea for the chocolate/vanilla cake was born. 

However, we have seen before how I like to go with a theme and turn up the voltage a little bit. Nothing too major...if a cookie is to have one type of chocolate, why not two? 

So for the chocolate layer of the cake, I decided to add white chocolate chips. For the vanilla layer of the cake, chocolate chips would be added. Oh, the craziness. 

(I would like to point out, before any visual evidence of this weekend is revealed, that in my mind right now, I envisioned a delightfully speckled cake - much to the likeness of a domino). Let's see how this goes.

For the chocolate layer, I decided to go with a tried and true recipe, which has been seen in such posts as the cake I made for my parents anniversary. A new player was tossed into the mix for the white cake

Ready? Set? Let's go!

I know we've seen this recipe in progress before, but I liked this picture.
chocolate layer batter

The two cakes, bonding before going into the oven together. 
the cakes, ready for the oven

The white cake, fresh out of the oven and springy to the touch. 
all baked


Did you guys miss me and my kitchen antics (calamities?)? 

Remember how I thought it would be delightfully clever to intermix chocolate chips of the contrasting color into each of the layers? Remember how I had visions of dominos dancing through my head? 

Half of my vision came true. 

The white cake is a sturdy, lovely, cake with a thick batter. The chocolate cake is baked with a liquid batter. This means that you are putting the structural equivalent of hot chocolate into your oven. This made me incredibly nervous the first time I was baking this recipe (but really, when am I not nervous in the kitchen, ever so slightly?), but trust me it is an absolutely fantastic chocolate cake. 

However, and I did not think of this prior to adding the white chocolate chips, a liquid batter is not conducive to supporting chips or other add-ins (at least, from what I have seen. If anyone has any technique, please let me know!), as they will sink to the bottom of the pan. When I added the chips, they promptly sank. I stirred them slightly. 

I paused.

I then put that pan, along with the cooperating white cake layer pan into the oven, my mind whirring about what the cake would look like when it came out of the oven. Maybe all of the white chocolate chips will be beautifully adorning the cake, and when I take it out of the pan, I won't even need to frost the top of the cake! my mind thought. 

Um, sure. 

I would really really like to emphasize that this cake really is a great cake recipe. Really. Really really. It's my fault for getting whimsical. 

Are you ready? I wasn't. 


Basically, yes, all of the white chocolate chips had sunk, and stuck to the bottom of the pan, taking the center of the cake with them. 

I would also like to reassure you all that you are first and foremost on my mind, as my very first reaction was not to cry, or laugh, it was to grab my camera and start clicking. 

The cake. With a giant crater out of the middle. 
Big gaping hole

Upon seeing this destruction, Adam, who had been helping and cracking little humorous quips throughout the process, promptly grabbed the missing piece, and returned it to its home, all the while reassuring the small crowd that had gathered around the sorry little cake, "It can be fixed! It can be fixed!"

Looks good to us. 
Maybe no one will notice...

Looking at the heap of chocolate cake one more time, I swiftly began to cover it with heaping amounts of whipped cream. 

(Whipped cream! Not only does it taste good, it covers a multitude of baking calamities!) 

Huge giant hole out of the middle of the center? I see nothing.
layer one, with frosting

Then, with a small audience (of two), I deftly plopped the vanilla layer on top of the chocolate layer, only getting it off-center by about an inch. 

Looking like a cake...
layer two...on!

Even though this layer was whole and healthily sprinkled throughout with semi-sweet chocolate chips, it too got smothered in an even-thicker layer of whipped cream. 

In my house, there is never any objection to copious amounts of whipped cream frosting.
lots of frosting

We could have stopped there. 

But we didn't. The cake was assembled. The whimsy and excitement in the room was becoming rapidly infectious. We saw every reason ever justifiable to add more sugar to the mix.

Wheee!!! Sprinkles!!
sprinkley good

Oh man...this is looking good.
i'm ready

Proud and relieved, I then walked away for a moment. Probably not even a moment. A second. A millisecond. 

However, this was enough time for the Zest King to begin to play with some of the abandoned objects on the table. 

I'd like to point out that the cake was still sitting right next to this bowl. 
why i can't leave adam alone

He then made sprinklehenge. 

I then put away the sprinkles. And the cutlery.

And, most importantly, the cake.

Later, sliced.
a slice was it?

Are you all perilously on the edge of your seats? 


Working from the plate up, the chocolate layer was rich and moist, without being overwhelming. Appearances aside (and really, appearances didn't even matter when the cake was assembled), the cake was fantastic, as I had remembered it being. The white layer was lovely and delicately flavored, a delicious compliment to the chocolate (although I would absolutely recommend this cake making a solo appearance as well. This is not a recipe that needs to only be performing backup. Main stage, baby!). The whipped cream frosting? While it is my favorite frosting (tied with cream cheese frosting), and I could be arguably biased, it was a perfect frosting for this cake, light and airy in contrast to the different layers of cake texture. 

I'll say it again...DELICIOUS. 

My slice of cake, mid-way through eating. 
my piece, partway through

I realized this isn't the first time I've shown my half-eaten food close up on this website. Is that gross? I'm not sure. (Is that gross, that I don't know?) 

Check out the layers.
layer-ey good

So as the sun began to set on National Cake Day (er, weekend), we relaxed, full of chocolate and vanilla and cream.

And sprinkles.

You can't forget the sprinkles. 

sprinkles at dusk

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I spy with my little eye something damp

Hello friends!

I hope you're all having a good week, thinking good thoughts and treating yourself with chocolate or other what-have-you goodies. 

It's time for another installment of "Kitchenphobe wanders around her backyard," the post-rain edition.

Wet blades of grass
damp grass

Going in for a closer look...
water drops

A spiderweb across grass blades
Who else has No Doubt stuck in their head right now? I totally do.

So. Rumor has it that National Cake Day is on Saturday...I'm not entirely convinced this is real or true, but nonetheless I plan to celebrate. At the very least, it will be Cake Day on Tales of a Kitchenphobe. We're all about the festivities here. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just peachy

I really really love the months when snow isn't on the ground. Particularly the months that bring juicy and delicious fruit. Such as peaches.


I love peaches. Perhaps it is because of their beautiful color. Perhaps it is because of their slightly fuzzy skin. Perhaps it is because they are bursting with fresh and sweet goodness. 

I think it's because of all of these things, really. 


I should really make something with this, shouldn't I? Take advantage of the baking possibilities while they are in season?

This means I'll have to stop eating them long enough to bake them...

No promises, guys. 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bright colors

When the weather is bright and sunny (finally!), I like to go out and find things that are bright (and sunny?) as well.

Along with flowers, frozen confections, candies, and handbags also fall into this category. Just sayin'. 

Black-eyed Susans
Bright flowers

Getting a bit closer...

...and closer...eep!
even closer

(Ironically, I did once have a purse the same vibrant yellow as these flowers. Then the strap broke. Ah, memories...)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cookies from afar!


This post requires a bit of a confession on my part. A secret, if you will. 

Except really, its not that much of a secret. The evidence is easily found around anywhere I spend any considerable amount of time. 

I really really enjoy a genre of books that is often referred to as "chick lit". Essentially, fiction targeted towards young women. And before you mock, or scoff, let me just say that they are very enjoyable and intelligent and maybe its nice to read about a happy ending once in awhile. I love the masses of pastel-color books with curlicue fonts and little cartoons of shopping bags or women striding across the cover that I have acquired. 


Okay, so the point? 

Chick lit books are awesome, and you should totally read them and brighten your day.

Ok, that wasn't my point, but it is true.

So a few times in a few of these books I know and love, a certain cookie is mentioned. (It is worth mentioning that several of the books that I have are set in England.) Every time this cookie would be mentioned, it would pique my interest. Then, I began to notice it again and again, and started to wonder what is with this cookie? Is it that great a cookie? 

More importantly, I began to feel a bit left out and was starting to wonder, probably a bit more than is normal, what am I missing out on???


Cut to Adam and I in Bermuda, and us wandering into a convenience store. Ironically, the thought of these cookies had not crossed my mind once while we were in this BRITISH TERRITORY. I'm sure no one is surprised now to hear that, while wandering the food aisle, I stumbled upon these. 

the box

"OH MY GOD IT'S THEM!!!!" I not-so-subtly screamed in a tone that not only could Adam hear me, but so could the cashiers, the people wandering around the toothpaste aisle, and probably the people on our cruise ship a few blocks away. "I READ ABOUT THESE!!!" I was now clutching the package. 

the description

If you have never heard of these cookies, they are called Digestives, and as far as I can tell, are really only sold in European countries (and written about in books with plotlines set there). For even more info, here's the Wikipedia description. 

(You'd think, given my reaction, that I had bought at least 3 boxes. My friends, I simply (and gleefully) bought the 1. Really, I'm not sure why I didn't stock up. Perhaps if I didn't enjoy them? I mean, it's not like I can run down to the store and get more very easily. Apparently I exercise great restraint in my fits of joy.) 

Are you ready?

I know I am...

the whole cookie

one bite

two bites

three bites

all gone

(Really, I'm not sure that you needed -or wanted- a play-by-play of me eating a cookie. But I provided one. How thoughtful am I?)

The verdict...these are amazingly great!!! They are, as I'm sure you can tell, a chocolate layer on top of a biscuit-y cookie. They are not too sweet, the perfect little mild cookie. They are also remarkably light. If these were available closer to home, they would definitely be in my regular cookie lineup. 

Note: In case you are curious, the books that (I am pretty sure) Chocolate Digestives are mentioned in (that I have and that I can think of right now - please keep in mind they could be (and probably are) in many more) are:
The Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella (I know they are in Shopaholic & Sister, likely they appear in others)
Swapping Lives by Jane Green

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where I was

Last week, I went on my first-ever cruise - headed for Bermuda! 

Plentiful and delicious food?

A destination with crystal clear blue waters?

As many desserts as I wanted???

Needless to say, it was a great time :)

our wake

Verrazano bridge

morning clouds

bermuda at dusk

beautiful bermuda

drip drip drip

drippy candle

sand on my flip flop

palm trees

nautical rope

my drink


the moon off our balcony

To come: a cookie purchase based on a book. Seeing how most of my cookie purchases have little to no motivation behind them, this seemed like a fantastic reason to stock right up!