Just before I get to today's post - I want to throw in a LAST CALL FOR PRESTO PASTA NIGHTS! The roundup will be posted tomorrow (probably mid-afternoon, EST). Got a pasta dish? Check out the "rules" here and send in your dish!
I can't wait to share all of the great submissions, so please come back tomorrow (Friday) to see the roundup.
Ok. On to today's post:
September is a month full of birthdays. First, is R's. We don't celebrate most holidays with gifts, but birthdays are an exception. It's an opportunity to take time together and do something we'd both like to do -- like take a day or weekend trip. This time, one of the things we did for R's birthday was a take a boat cruise in the Thousand Islands area.
The Thousand Islands are a culmination of over 1800 islands (1000 Islands is a misnomer), shared by the United States and Canada. In a matter of minutes, you alternate through islands with Canadian and American flags. Each island has a history, some shadier than others.
But, you'll never believe this. I brought my camera, but forgot my memory card. DOH! We made a mad dash to look for a replacement memory card but had no luck. R said, I would just have to enjoy the sites with my eyes. Half in jest, I said: I don't know how to do that. Nonetheless, the day was still enjoyable. But, as a result, this is not my photo - it's from Google images - but it should give you a feel for the experience (add in a few clouds and some rain, for a more genuine perspective of our experience).
Part of the trip involved a visit to Boldt Castle, which is actually on American land (we needed our passports).
Boldt was the founding proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria. He started to build the castle around 1900, but stopped and deserted the project entirely when his wife passed away. You can read about it here.
The castle is still being renovated/repaired. The first floor is complete and depicts what the castle might have looked like if it were completed. But the upper 3 floors are in progress with definite room for improvement. The grounds were lovely. Something like 70 weddings take place on the grounds per year. Would be gorgeous, as long as the weather cooperated.
It made for an interesting trip and I'd like to go back in 5 years to see how the castle's renovations have progressed.
Another part of the birthday was a homemade cake.
I just gotta say...blogging is dangerous. By the time I post a recipe, it's usually gone. This cake is long gone because the birthday was over a week ago. :(
I end up having to recall every aspect of a food experience when I can't access the food itself. All day, I've had this song in my head. It kind of describes how I feel about this cake.
Not to belittle anyone's experience with this song. But I love the song and it reminds me of this cake.
So, unless there is a major objection, I am submitting this recipe and the song to Elly's Eat to the Beat Event.
I found the original idea for this cake at Bakerella's. But, I diverged from her recipe a fair bit, so I'll just tell you what I did and you can check out Bakerella's version too.
Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cake
First step is to make the chocolate cake. Like Crepes of Wrath, I used Barefoot Contessa's recipe.
Ultimate Chocolate Cake
from The Barefoot Contessa at Home 2006
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and/or line 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
The above instructions are different from what I did. I used an 8x3 round cake pan, so I only had one cake. I didn't line it, I just used Wilton's Cake Release.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (because I used one three inch, I had the cake in for closer to 50-55minutes), until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, I prepared the icing. Instead of a chocolate icing, I went with a peanut butter one. I found the recipe here.
Peanut Butter Icing
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth and creamy.
In addition to making the icing, I broke up about 24 peanut butter cups into smallish bits (the size can vary according to your preferences):
Once the cake was completely cooled (truth be told, I may have been a bit impatient), I cut it in two using dental floss (a trick I learned in my cake decorating class). I made a mark on the top and bottom layer of the cake to remember how to put the cake back together (another cake decorating class tip).
4. I placed the "top" layer of the cake facedown, making it the bottom of the cake. I then added a layer of icing with an offset spatula (a regular knife would probably be fine here). On top of the middle layer of icing, I added some chunks of peanut butter cup.
5. After adding the icing and peanut butter cup chunks, I placed the "bottom" layer of the cake on top of the icing, making it the top of the cake. Doing this gives you a flatter surface to work with as the original top of the cake (the part that you see while the cake is cooking) tends to round a bit due to differences in cooking speeds between the outer and middle portion of the cake. Of course, if you use the different tricks, you can prevent this rounding effect and ignore what I've discussed.
6. Ice your cake and add your peanut butter cups chunks as desired. If you check out Bakerella's cake, you'll see that she uses more peanut butter cups than I do.
It makes for a nice presentation. But be warned that this cake is very rich. As in 2 glasses of milk/slice rich.
Verdict: OMG - this cake is amazing. VERY rich. But soooo good. R was in heaven. The Barefoot Contessa recipe makes probably the BEST chocolate cake I have ever tried. I was blown away by that. If anything, make sure you use the chocolate cake portion of the recipe at some point. You won't regret it.
Peanut Butter Boy - if you have a roundup including cakes, can I include this one?