It’s that time of year…football season! A group of our friends started a fantasy football league several years ago, and Monday (Labor Day) was draft day for our teams. Ha! I say ‘our teams’ as if I had one. My husband has his own team, but I only participate in the food-related events that go hand-in-hand with the season. This means both Draft Day and the End of Season party where winnings and the trophy are handed out. We have yet to display that trophy in a prominent place in our house for the year – a must if your team wins for the season, but I will say that the first year the group was formed I did come in second place overall. Not too shabby! I retired after that…wanted to leave on a high note. 😉
For the draft we meet at a fellow team member’s house and everyone brings a dish to share. This year the host team supplied ribs and brats, along with the traditional keg of Velvet Hammer. We learned the hard way in year one that it is best to ‘draft first, drink later’. Ahem…
I volunteered to bring desserts this year. Desserts bring me back to my culinary roots. While I love to prepare savory dishes, sweets have typically been where I let loose creatively. Some people paint, some play guitar or sing. I bake.
This weekend in particular was a sweet-filled one. One of our friends had a birthday and I was honored to bring the cake to her dinner. It is one of my favorite cake recipes…certainly my go-to chocolate cake recipe. The cake reminds me of the ‘Devil Dogs’ of my youth, and the icing is the perfect accompaniment for any chocolate fanatic: a rich chocolate ganache with a caramel base. It is deep and rich and completely divine. Both recipes hail from my favorite cake authority, Rose Levy Beranbaum. This cake and icing recipe come from “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” and can be found on pages 99-103 (‘Devil’s Food Cake with Midnight Ganache).
I have several of her books. When still in college, yet before I discovered my calling in the culinary realm, I saw her book, “The Cake Bible” in a book store. The cover alone was enough for me to [immediately begin to drool and] add it to my Christmas list. And you should see the cake photos inside! Come Christmas morning it was there waiting for me under the tree. This cookbook has been so well-used that the pages started falling out, and I finally replaced it a few years ago. Can you believe I still refer to the old beat up copy anyway? They fell out in a pattern that lets me know just where my favorite recipes are hiding.
One of the things I love about her books is that she offers measurements in both volume and weight. For anyone who uses a scale to measure – as I do – it is perfect! I find it so much easier to get my ingredients ready when done by weight. And the results are more consistent, too. I highly recommend it if you are thinking about getting a scale for baking.
For Monday’s fantasy football draft I chose two recipes from the Serious Eats site…one of my favorite food sites. If you have not visited their site I highly recommend doing so. I love how they research the heck out of everything to find the best techniques and recipes. While there, I came across this recipe for Easy Coconut Cupcakes, and this other recipe for Mango Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. My mouth was watering just reading the recipes, so I had to find out if the reality was as tasty as my imagination was telling me they would be.
The coconut cupcakes were my favorite of the two. They went together quickly and turned out beautifully. The only change I made to the recipe was to use unsweetened coconut rather than sweetened. To me, sweetened coconut is cloyingly sweet and using the sweetened coconut leaves me with more ‘sweet’ on my taste buds and less ‘coconut’. I wanted to pack in as much coconut flavor as I possibly could…and it worked! Definitely a keeper recipe!
The Mango Pineapple Upside-Down cake had some amazing flavors going on. The pineapple was diced and folded into the batter rather than sliced in rings and baked into the top of the cake. I arranged the mango into a nice pattern, one which would have been beautiful had I not missed my mark turning it out. Take note that the photo of the cake is of only half the cake; the other half missed the platter and slid onto the counter. It was completely unfixable (and believe me I tried to fix it!).
But fear not! The crumbled mess did not go to waste. My husband and I enjoyed testing out the cake in advance (who doesn’t like a sneak preview?). It was an extremely moist cake. In fact I am wondering if I could have baked it a tad longer. The flavors were wonderful together, yet it wasn’t quite what I expected from a cake. I have not figured out what it is about it that did not work for me, but I liked it enough that I want to give it another go. When I do I will report back…