Sunday, February 28, 2016

Anna Sultana’s Mocha Cake and Mocha Fudge Frosting

I’m watching Julie & Julia on television.
It just started.
Julie has had a rough day at work.
She’s home and is making a chocolate cream pie.
That chocolate pie lead to her blogging, sort of.
Ah…  chocolate…

Chocolate has had its place in my writing career, too, sort of.
When Sophie and I wanted to start our radio show in 2007 we had to come up with a name.
It was supposed to be short, catchy, something to tell the listeners who we were.
We went home and wrote lists of what we thought were perfectly good titles.

Robin Eriksson, the Program Director at CKUW, wasn’t impressed by our ideas.
She suggested we name our show Better Than Chocolate.
Since we were totally out of ideas - and we knew she had final say on the show’s name - we agreed to accept her suggestion.

Now we’re talking two senior citizens.
I was 57 and Sophie was 75 years old.
Neither of us had heard of, let alone seen, the movie Better Than Chocolate.
It was a 1999 Canadian romantic comedy movie shot in Vancouver and directed by Anne Wheeler. 
Just so you know, it is one of Canada's highest grossing films of all time, really, according to the Cannes Film Festival Website.
Yeah, well, there were Canadian beavers in it, all right, but just not the type of beavers two old ladies would go to the movies to see.
Wonder how many of our listeners were equally surprised when they tuned in to us.

In 2009 that radio show became my blog Winnipeg is Better Than Chocolate.
Which I started after seeing the movie Julie & Julia.
The circle of life... Julia... Julie... me.

Oh, well…  Back to chocolate…
Chocolate’s health benefits have been in the news lately.
Last year the Huffington Post had an article about that, too:

So, yes, there's proof, chocolate is good for you.
But a square of chocolate doesn’t quite seem like enough for a dinner dessert.
Especially if it’s been a Sunday dinner type of dinner.
That does seem to call for Julie’s chocolate cream pie.
Or Ma’s Mocha Cake with Mocha Fudge Frosting.


If you are using all purpose flour in this recipe remove two tablespoons from each cup of all purpose flour.

If you are using cake & pastry flour in a recipe that calls for all purpose flour add two tablespoons to each cup of cake and pastry flour.

The frosting instructions are for the sheet cake.
If you are making two layers:
Cut 2-inch-wide strips of wax paper.
Place the cake upside down on a serving plate.
Arrange the wax paper under the cake to protect the plate.
Spread the frosting over the cake with a spatula.
Smooth the frosting over the top and sides.
Place the second layer on top and cover with frosting.
Let the cake set at least an hour before serving.

                        Mocha Cake

Place the rack in the centre of the oven.
grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan or 2 8 inch round pans
Preheat oven to 350º           

Sift together into a large mixer bowl
2 Cups cake & pastry flour
2 Cups sugar
3/4 Cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs
1/2 Cup oil
1 Cup strong black coffee
1 Cup buttermilk
Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
The batter will be thin.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan or pans.
Smooth the surface with a spatula.
Bake until the cake is done, 35-45 minutes (30-35 minutes for round pans).
A toothpick should come out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely.

                        Mocha Fudge Frosting

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Place in a medium saucepan
1/2 Cup heavy cream
1/4 Cup butter
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
Heat until simmering.
Remove the pan from the heat and add
chopped bittersweet chocolate
Stir until smooth.
Chill, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is thick enough to spread.

Cut 2-inch-wide strips of wax paper.
Place the cake upside down on a serving platter or board.
Arrange the wax paper under the cake to protect the platter.
Spread the frosting over the cake with a spatula.
Smooth the frosting over the top and sides.

Let the cake set at least an hour before serving.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Winnipeg Staycation by Margaret Ullrich - Margarita recipes

Is there anything that feels longer for Winnipeggers than the six weeks we have to live through while waiting for Spring to come?
Some folks wimp out and fly off for a few weeks.
They figure it’s a necessary mental health expense.
Most of us tough it out here at home.

A few years ago I posted about how Eaton’s, a Department store, would take pity on Canadians and have a sales promotion known as Uncrate the Sun’ at about this time.
There’d be fancy displays and posters, as well as a few exotic dishes for us to try.
Hard to believe, but in the late 1970s we thought eating a five-cent taco was exotic fare.
Amazing what a minus 40º C week can do to a person.

Well, a little pretending can be fun.
National Margarita Day is celebrated on February 22. 
As Jimmy Buffett sang in Margaritaville
But there's booze in the blender
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on…
It’s time to pull out the straw hats and have a staycation.

The Margarita recipe was first published in the December 1953 issue of Esquire.
Some say it was invented in 1938 by "Danny" Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria in Mexico.
He created it for former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King who, allergic to many spirits, enjoyed tequila.
Marjorie is a variation of Margaret, so I guess he thought the Spanish variation, Margarita, would look better on the menu.
There are a few other stories - most involving women - but I like this one.

A bit of History trivia…
The first frozen margarita machine was invented on May 11, 1971 by Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez. 
The machine was originally a soft-serve ice cream machine and now sits in the Smithsonian National Museum of History.

If you’d like to cook something Mexican to go with the Margaritas, here are some spice mixes you could easily make at home:
It’s National Chili Day on February 25… Celebrate!!   

You could also offer your guests a choice by making a Piña Colada or two.
That drink also inspired a song.


Margarita can be served shaken with ice (on the rocks), blended with ice (frozen margarita), or without ice (straight up).

Use glasses ranging from cocktail and wine glasses to pint glasses and schooners.
The drink is traditionally served in the margarita glass, a stepped-diameter cocktail glass that looks like an inverted sombrero.
In formal settings margaritas are served in a cocktail glass, while in informal settings, particularly with ice, margaritas may be served in an old-fashioned glass.

Besides Cointreau, other orange-flavoured liqueurs that might be used include Grand Marnier, Gran Gala, other brands of triple sec, or blue curaçao (for the blue margarita).

Alternate fruits and juice, such as mango, peach, strawberry, banana, melon, or raspberry, can also be used in a margarita. 

It’s traditional to prepare the glass in this way:
Place salt in a smal bowl.
Rub the rim of the glasses with a lime slice.
Dip the rim of the glasses in the salt.
Set aside.

                        Margarita, as in Esquire magazine, December 1953

Pour over crushed ice
1 ounce tequila
Dash of Triple Sec
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
Stir and carefully pour into prepared glass.

                        Margarita ll

Pour into a blender or shaker with crushed ice
7 ounces tequila     
4 ounces Cointreau    
3 ounces lime juice 
Blend or shake very well until smooth.
Carefully pour into the glasses, taking care not to dislodge any salt.
Garnish with 
a lime slice

About the moon and sky next week…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

February 22 – February’s Full Snow Moon at 1:20 p.m. Learn how it got its name in this short Farmers’ Almanac video.

On February 22 Jupiter shines as a brilliant silvery “star” in Leo low in the eastern sky as evening twilight is ending. Jupiter will arrive at opposition to the Sun on March 8th and thereafter will now appear to climb higher in the evening sky. 
This giant planet is ready for telescopic observing by 9:30 p.m., roughly one-third of the way up from the horizon.  It reaches its highest position in the south around 1 a.m. and is heading toward its setting in the west after sunrise.

February 23 – Look to the east in the evening and see Jupiter sitting just 2° to the upper left of a nearly-full Moon.  Usually when the Moon is this bright, it will overwhelm most stars that are this close to it, but not Jupiter.  
Please don’t call the local radio station to say you’ve seen a UFO!

February 29 –  Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars of Gemini are nearly overhead at around 9 p.m.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Wishing You a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Life is never measured 
by the years you have lived,
but by the love you have shared and
the people whose hearts you have touched.
Wishing you a day filled with 
all you hold dear…

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Anna Sultana's Spongecake with Lemon Cream Filling, Maltese Style

Well, the sky was overcast on February 2.
Various rodents throughout North America didn’t see their shadows.
So, with any luck, it will be Spring in six weeks.
I sure hope they were right.

I don’t know what it is about cloudy skies.
I crave lemons... in my drinks, in my meals and especially in my desserts.
Maybe I just need something round and yellow.
Whatever… I need to make lemon desserts.

About five years ago I posted two custard recipes:

Needless to say, Ma’s recipe is easier.

This recipe of Ma’s is even easier.
And it has lemon pie filling in it.
Need I say more?


Sponge cakes are usually sold in pairs.
This recipe calls for four layers - that’s two packages.

This dessert also works with canned pie filling.
Or homemade, if you have the time.

This recipe makes a dessert large enough for a family get together.
If you’d like something smaller, just make it with:
one package of sponge cake (two layers)
one package of lemon pie filling & dessert mix
one half tub of whipped topping
Cover each layer with half of the lemon cream filling. 

                        Spongecake with Lemon Cream Filling

2 packages of lemon pie filling & dessert mix as per package instructions
Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Fold in
1  1-quart tub of whipped topping

Place in a deep bowl
1 8-inch sponge cake layer

Spread over it
a thin layer of apricot jam (optional)

Top with 
1/4 of the lemon pie / whipped topping mixture

* Place another 8-inch sponge cake layer on top of the lemon cream filling.
Cover with a layer of jam (optional) and 1/4 of the lemon cream filling.
Repeat from * two more times.
Cover and refrigerate.

Easy, no?

About the sky this week…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

February 4 is the midpoint of winter, the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

On February 6 look to see a very thin waning crescent Moon forming a broad triangle with Venus and Mercury this morning, the Moon hovering about 4° above both planets. Mercury also reaches greatest elongation on this morning, 26° west of the Sun.

On February 8 there’s a New Moon at 9:39 a.m. It’s completely invisible.