German Chocolate Cake:

The first time I had a taste of this luscious intense chocolate cake was when I made it for the first time a year ago for a friend. I had always heard how good the German Chocolate Cake tasted and wanted to really know what the hype was all about. Must say it’s not hype at all and true to every word used to describe it.

I made this again for my cousin's birthday. She and her family were visiting us earlier this month. 

German chocolate cake, originally German's chocolate cake, is a layered, chocolate cake from the United States filled and topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. It owes its name to an American chocolate maker named Sam German, who developed a formulation of dark baking chocolate that came to be used in the cake recipe. It’s a rich chocolate cake layered with a coconut-pecan frosting and frosted with chocolate icing.  Source: Wikipedia

This is one of those cakes which is a true labor of love. Takes a few hours from start to finish but well worth all the time. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for this cake. Moist and delicious in every bite. 

German Chocolate Cake: 
Adapted from David Lebovitz’ recipe
You will need: 

For the cake: 
4 oz semisweet chocolate chopped 
6 tbsp water 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar 
4 large eggs, separated 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
 ½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract 

For the filling: 
1 cup heavy cream 
1 cup sugar 
3 large egg yolks 
3 oz butter, cut into small pieces 
½ teaspoon salt 
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped 
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted

For the syrup: 
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar 

For the chocolate icing: 
8 semisweet chocolate, chopped 
2 tbsp light corn syrup 
1 ½ oz unsalted butter 
1 cup heavy cream 

Note: I only had Semisweet chocolate on hand and used that. You can also use a combination of unsweetened, bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate. Use only baking bars and not the chocolate chips. It makes a difference in both taste and texture. 

Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt the chocolate with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer,beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients. 

In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible. 

Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake layers completely. While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling: 

Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3oz butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl. 

Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.) Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. It will thicken.

To make the syrup: 
In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and cool. You could add dark rum, I didn’t since kids were going to be eating the cake too. 

To make the icing: 
Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ oz of butter. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature. 

To assemble the cake: 
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife. Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top. Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, use all of it. It may seem like a lot but trust me it’s necessary :)

The assembled cake can be chilled if needed. Bring to room temperature before cutting and serving. Left overs can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 3 days. 

Potato & Peas Samosas:

The Indian Samosa needs no introduction. Crispy pockets of spiced fillings served up with a zesty mint chutney and a sweet tamarind chutney. Dunk it, drizzle on it or just eat it the way it is, it makes for a very tasty snack. It is a popular street food and there are more ways to make it than there are places that sell it all over the country. 

I figured I’d start with the most common filling in a samosa. Potatoes and peas flavored with a few tongue tickling spices.

You will need: 
For the outer layer:
Makes: 20-22 medium sized samosas 

2 ½ cups All-purpose flour (Maida)
1 tsp Ajwain 
1 tsp Salt 
4 tbsp Ghee
 ½ - ¾ cup Water 

Combine all ingredients in a wide bowl. Add ½ cup water first and then add a teaspoon at a time as needed to make a soft dough. It should not be sticky and should be easily shaped into a ball. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour. This resting period is important to help the dough relax and make it more pliable. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

 For the filling: 

2 medium sized potatoes, boiled until fork tender 
1/2 cup frozen/fresh green peas 
2 tbsp Oil 
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds 
1/2 tsp Fennel seeds 
1 tsp Green chili paste 
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder 
1 tsp Red chilli powder 
1 tsp Cumin powder 
1 tsp Corriander powder 
1/2 tsp Amchur powder 
1/4 tsp Garam masala 
Salt to taste 

Oil for frying 
Sharp knife 

Peel the potatoes, lightly mash and set aside. Heat oil in a pan. Add the cumin and fennel seeds. When it begins to splutter add the green chili paste and sauté for a few seconds. Now add the mashed potatoes and peas. Add the remaining ingredients (all the spice powders), season with salt and combine well. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool. 

The filling options are endless. Any dry filling can be used, sweet or savory. 

Shaping & Filling the Samosas: 

1. Knead the dough for a minute. Divide into 7-8 balls of dough. Flatten each ball and roll lengthwise. The key is to roll it thin so the samosas turn out crisp but thick enough to hold the filling in. Cut the rolled piece into half using a sharp knife. 

2. Wet the edges of a piece all around using a damp finger. With a quick twist of your hand attach the ends to form a cone. I will be honest here, this takes some practice. I had to do it at least a dozen times to get it right. 

3. With the sealed edge towards you, hold the cone between your fingers so it’s easy to fill. Place about 1-2 tbsp of the prepared Potato-Peas mixture and compress lightly. The more evenly you fill the better the shape of the samosa. 

4. Slightly pinch the top of the dough. 

5. Fold over the filling to create a seal. Gently press the edges together and lightly stretch it to create a ledge for the samosa to 'sit' on. The cone seal and this seal essentially form the ‘back bone’ of a samosa. 

6. You now have a perfectly shaped samosa. Don’t fret if it doesn’t turn out right the first time. Like I said before it takes some practice so do it over and over until you get it right. If you are obsessed like me about a perfectly shaped samosa that is. It will taste good no matter how it looks. 

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep pan for frying the samosas. The oil should be medium hot so the samosas cook slowly and all the way through. Fry the samosas until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. 

Serve hot with mint chutney, tamarind chutney and/or ketchup.

Pink Ombre Cakes for Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, pinks and reds rule the air. Everywhere you look there is something in the color of love that catches the eye. I love me some pink and red, elegant and bold. 

I had long set my mind on trying an Ombre Cake. An Ombre cake is basically layers of cake in different shades of one color.Visually stunning. 

It was only fitting that I did an Ombre cake in the shape of mini hearts. I used a light and airy vanilla cake recipe with a fine moist crumb paired with a very easy and simple buttercream. 

You will need:

4 cake pans of same size or two 8” and two 9” round cake pans

Electric stand or hand-held mixer

4 mixing bowls
2 ½ -inch Heart shaped cookie cutter

Pink food color gel

Yields: 5 cups batter
Makes: Two 8-inch or 9-inch cakes

2 ½  cups cake flour
2 ½  tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½  tsp salt

4 eggs at room temp
1 ½  cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk at room temp

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare baking pans by greasing and flouting them. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat for another 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and oil, beat until combined.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add half the flour, beat until combined followed by half the buttermilk. Repeat with remaining flour mix and buttermilk. Scrape down sides and beat only until combined. The batter will be thin.

Divide batter into 4 mixing bowls. A cup of batter each in two bowls and a cup and a half in the other two. Color the batter starting for the lightest. The key here is to get differentiating shades going from light to dark. I started with a tiny drop of gel on a toothpick and added more until I got the shade I liked.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 15-17 minutes until springy to the touch and the cake begins to leave the sides of the pan. Cool layers in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Once cooled, using a sharp knife trim the top part of the cake. You need an even layer. Do the same for all 4 cakes. Using the cookie cutter cut out hearts from each layer. I was able to get around 5 from each. Save the scraps to make cake truffles or just eat them as is!

Easy Buttercream:

This is the easiest icing I've come across and has become my go-to recipe. It's a commonly used icing too. Whenever mom made it during her baking classes, I remember my bro and I used to fight over the icing bowl. Good enough to eat with a spoon!

You will need:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted*
2-3 tbsp Milk
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla extract

*Note: Sift the powdered sugar and then measure out 4 cups. This ensures the icing is smooth and not gritty and also gives you the right amount needed for the recipe. Powdered sugar tends to settle in the bag, sifting aerates it.

Cream the butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time. Now add the milk and beat for 3 minutes on medium until combined well and icing is smooth. Add more or less milk to achieve desired consistency. Thin icing is good for spreading on cakes and cupcakes. A firmer icing is ideal for decorating using tips.

I used Wilton Tip #18 to make flat shells at an angle to fill the heart and added a few silver dragees. The decoration part is left to your imagination.

Assemble the hearts:

Starting with the lightest shade on the bottom, apply icing in between the layers and assemble the hearts to form 4 layers of cake. Decorate the top. I went very light on the icing in between since the cakes are small and the layers thin.

The cakes can be stored in an air-right container for a day on the counter top and upto 3 days in the refrigerator.

Wishing all of you a love-filled Valentine’s Day :)

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