Anti – Depression Chocolate Cake (aka out of everything cake)

Ok, so first off this name is a little tongue-in-cheek, as this cake has no actual mental health/medicinal/curative properties, but did come from a recipe for a cake written during the Depression. It is also sometimes called wacky or crazy cake.

I tried it during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when eggs, butter and icing sugar were not available in stores in my area.

For a cake with no eggs, butter or milk and an icing without icing sugar, it is pretty amazing! However to the base recipe I’ve added some flavourings that I think are needed to “spice things up” with such a frugal cake. The two choices I suggest are either *ancho chili powder (sometimes labelled as “Mexican chili/chilie powder” – do NOT use Chili powder which is a spice blend including garlic and cumin- the closest alternative would be cayenne pepper) or almond extract, in addition to the vanilla extract to add another layer of flavour complexity.  I also made an icing/ganache/glaze thing with chocolate chips and regular sugar that worked out quite well despite going against everything a professional chef would tell you to try.

 Pandemic Friendly Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract OR Ancho Chili powder *
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable/grape seed/ neutral oil
  • 1 cup water

FROSTING

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. In a separate bowl, combine vanilla, vinegar, either the almond extract or chili powder, oil and water. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain.
  3. Pour batter into a greased or parchment lined 8×8 square pan or round cake pan.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 
  5. Let cake cool completely before frosting if you are using icing sugar and looking for a traditional type buttercream frosting, or do it warm for a glaze type frosting that drips off like in the photo. Or skip the icing.

ICING

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan (or in the microwave using a microwave safe dish). Stir in cocoa powder, mixture will form a thick paste. If using chocolate chips/pieces, melt for 15 second intervals until melted.
  2. Stir in the sugar while warm until it is no longer grainy.
  3. Pour over cake and resist eating it all to yourself !

Flourless Banana Chocolate Mini Muffins 

 

mini muffin or two bite brownie ? You decide!

 
Just to be clear, I love flour. All forms of gluten really, but flour based things in particular. But when my daughter was born (nearly 2 years ago now I can’t believe it!) I had an “aha” moment where I realized I was entirely responsible for everything that went inside this tiny person’s body and my choices would inform her relationship with food for the rest of her life. 

Woah- that’s a lot of pressure! I started to learn more about food and consider my nutritional choices more carefully. Two years later I am sixty pounds lighter than before pregnancy and am still learning so much about food and how it works in our bodies. Although my little one is no stranger to Tim Bits and sometimes eats things with “Mc” in front of them, she also loves kale chips, spinach smoothies and as of last night, these tasty, fudgy little two bite brownie type mini muffins. 

Thanks to Emma over at Better with Cake for the original recipe which I made a few changes to. They were soooo good and everyone at work shouted “send me the recipe!” in between mouthfuls. They satisfied my craving for something fudgy last night and were even better the next day when my little one was looking for a treat. The best thing is – not one dirty bowl! They are made in the blender and come together before the oven preheats ūüôā

Flourless Banana Chocolate Mini Muffins 

Makes approx 36 mini muffins (can also halve recipe) 

2 eggs

1/2 cup maple syrup

4 teaspoons of vanilla or scrapings of one vanilla bean 

2 tablespoons of butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled sightly

2 overripe bananas

4 tablespoons cocoa power 

4 tablespoons of unsweetened nut butter (I used sunflower but peanut, almond, cashew or similar would be fine- if you are using regular sweetened peanut butter reduce the maple syrup)

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoons of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (I used epicure pumpkin pie spice)

1 teaspoon of sea salt 

4 tablespoons of mini semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

2 tablespoons of semi sweet mini chocolate chips 

—–

‚Äď Preheat oven to 350 f and line a mini muffin tray with papers or grease.

– Place all ingredients except choc chips into your food processor or blender and process/blend until well combined. FYI ‚Äď the batter will be very, very runny. Don’t worry! 

-Add your 4 tablespoons of chocolate chips and stir to combine.

‚Äď Spoon/pour batter into your prepared muffin tray (I use approx 2 teaspoons per mini muffin).

– Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on tops. 

– Bake for 10-12 mins until the tops spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick has just a few crumbs attached when inserted into the centre.

– Allow to cool in the muffin tray slightly before transferring directly into your mouth to a wire rack to cool completely.

These are better (and less banan-y) the next day but are also good warm! 

Overnight French Toast Casserole 

I’m not sure how it took me this long to discover the following recipe, but it is deliciously magical in ease of preparation and a must try for a brunch or breakfast-themed weeknight dinner.

Whenever I entertain, I seem to follow a strict pattern of attempting to cook too many complicated, different brand new dishes all at once. Ultimately I am left scrambling in the kitchen and can’t enjoy the company of my guests. A few weeks ago I broke this habit by making at least 3/4 of my Pumpkinfest Brunch menu make ahead dishes that took little or no prep the day of.

 

i was able to make the pumpkin tarts, hasbrown casserole, quiche, cheeseplate, and the french toast bake the day before

This was by far the easiest and most popular dish at the party and certainly fed a large crew! I even made a half sized version last night for dinner and served with fresh fruit and peppered bacon.

My adaptations to the original recipe from Food.com are the additions of vanilla, nutmeg, allspice, salt and maple syrup.

The first time I made this I had leftover pumpkin pie filling and stirred 1/3 cup in the egg and it was very tasty and subtle.

Some pecans on top would also be lovely!

 

full sized version


Overnight French Toast Casserole 

SERVINGS 9-12 

1‚ĀĄ2 cup butter¬†

12 slices white bread (I use brioche, raisin bread, or a freshly sliced italian or french loaf)

1 cup brown sugar (*You may wish to reduce the amount of sugar used to 2/3 cup.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice or ground cloves

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 eggs

1 1‚ĀĄ2 cups milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup 

Powdered sugar and maple syrup (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. 

Put 6 slices of bread in bottom of dish.

In a bowl mix 1 cup brown sugar with spices and salt. 

Sprinkle 1/2 of this sugar mixture over bread.

Add another layer of 6 slices of bread.

In a bowl, whisk eggs with milk, maple syrup and vanilla until well blended.

Pour over bread layers.

Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.* 

Bake covered at 350F 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking 15 minutes or until set and browned.

Top with powdered sugar and drizzle with maple syrup before serving. Raspberries and whipped cream served on the side make it very decadent! 

Leftovers reheat very well. 

 

make it in 10 minutes one night or morning and enjoy later!

*It really only needs to sit for 10 minutes before it is ready to bake- so don’t worry if you are hungry NOWish lol!


One ingredient healthy ice cream!!! (No ice cream maker needed!!)

I don’t usually overuse exclamation marks, but this shit was impressive!

With just banana you can make ice cream that is just as good as soft serve!

I. Had. No. Idea.

My husband is a soft serve snob and when he tasted it he looked at me like I had really pulled a fast one over on his taste buds.

“This can’t be just banana!” (him)

“It is!” (me)

“Don’t eat it all!” (both of us)

Okay, are you ready? Here’s the recipe… freeze cut up banana then blend it up until creamy (my ninja made short work of it). That’s basically it!

IMG_7168
ONE INGREDIENT ICE CREAM

Recipe adapted from the Kitchn

* cut the (very ripe) banana in chunks then store in Tupperware, a jar, or similar in freezer for 2-24 hours. Blend in blender/food processor until creamy.

*It will go through a grainy stage before it turns creamy.

*add ins are unlimited! Vanilla and a touch of salt were divine. Peanut butter, honey, or caramel would be tasty too!

*don’t worry about storing it as you will likely gobble it all up.

I’m serving this at my next dinner party and I bet no one (who hasn’t read this ūüėČ will be able to guess what it is made of. It is not very “bananay” and consistency is so much like soft serve it really is amazing!

Icebox Ginger Snaps

Entertaining season is just around the corner and you never know when someone might pop in for a visit. Make a double batch of these cookies which are stored in log form (either in the fridge for a few weeks or the freezer for longer term storage) and then sliced just before baking and you’ll always be ready to serve a satisfying and seasonal treat short notice.

Almost as easy as something made by Pillsbury but so much better for you.

I have made these a few times (they are the perfect make ahead event/dinner dessert or hostess gift) and have tried a few different toppings such as:

  • coarse sugar
  • slices of candied ginger
  • sliced almonds
  • combinations of the above

I haven’t had anyone say they like a particular topping more than another, and these disappear quickly so make lots! The thinner you slice them, the crisper they will be but try to slice them evenly and watch closely near the end of cooking as they can burn easily. Thaw frozen logs in freezer overnight or on the counter for an hour or two before slicing.

crispy, spicy, and delicious ginger snaps

crispy, spicy, and delicious ginger snaps

Ginger Snaps

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup butter) at room
    temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus about 5 Tbs. sugar for
    dusting tops
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and 2/3 cup sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, egg yolk and molasses, mixing well. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, beating until each addition is fully blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place the chilled dough on a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a rough log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in the plastic wrap and roll it back and forth until the surface of the log is smooth and even. Refrigerate the roll for 2 hours (up to several weeks) or freeze for up to 3 months.

Preheat an oven to 375f convection. This will allow you to bake multiple trays at once.

Remove the roll from the refrigerator or freezer and unwrap it. Cut it into slices 1/8 inch thick and place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Sprinkle each of the tops with coarse sugar, candied ginger slices, or sliced almonds.

Bake the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. until golden around the edges but still soft, 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies and 10 to 12 minutes for crisp cookies. Using a spatula, immediately transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container (I find a jar is best) at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 30 cookies.
ginger snap with slivered almonds

LOST RECIPE RECOVERED! Alton Brown’s Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

so good you will want to hug me

so good you will want to hug me

Clearly, I am not a recipe hoarder. I’m running a cooking blog over here for bejezzes sakes… However, I have to admit I have hoarded this recipe over the years and have NEVER before revealed it to anyone. This makes me feel old and a half, but I have been making these chocolate chip cookies¬†exclusively¬†for over a decade. It is the recipe my nieces and nephews learned to make cookies with, the recipe I will teach to my daughter Violet when she is old enough to lick a wooden spoon, and hopefully one day the recipe she uses in her own kitchen.

I can’t tell you where the original came from. I have written it down many times but the lone copy that remains is tattered, written in about 6 different colours of ink, and so butter stained it is virtually see through. I can tell you this though – it started off as a Alton Brown Sea Salt Chocolate chip recipe that can no longer be found anywhere online. Oh I have looked people, I have looked. Searches yield things like Alton Brown’s “The Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie”¬†which does have sea salt but is definitely not the base recipe I am searching for as it has no large flake oats, which I recall Alton being very specific about. These cookies have oatmeal yet seem more like a regular chocolate chip cookie than an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. There is of course Alton’s “Oatiest Oatmeal Cookies Ever”¬†but the proportions are different and chocolate is not the star as it is in the recipe below.

This recipe makes about 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on how big you like them. I usually make one tray at a time and keep the dough in the fridge over the period of a week and make new cookies every few days. My husband HIGHLY recommends what he calls hot cookie pudding”¬†which is when you pace around the kitchen while the cookies bake and immediately when your wife pulls them out of the oven, steal two and top with half and half in a little bowl.

There have been many signs throughout the years that these are¬†the best chocolate chip cookies¬†out there, period. I brought them to a potluck once and many years later ¬†someone told the story to coworkers of ¬†“the time Amber brought those chocolate cookies with the salt” like it was an urban legend. Yesterday my friend and I took our babies on their first picnic (they are almost the same age!) and when I revealed a plate of these for dessert she looked at them and said with wonder “what are those?”. At first I was confused as I couldn’t understand why she needed an explanation of what a cookie was… then I realized she wanted to know if they were THE cookies. She asked me for the recipe a while back and I didn’t produce as my copy is so tattered (and secret- until now)- so PB- this one’s for you!

*Room temperature eggs mix in better in almost every recipe- if you forget to leave them out, place in a bowl of warm water for 1 minute.

Alton Brown’s Sea Salt Chocolate Cookies

1 cup of salted butter, softened

1 cup of brown sugar

3/4 cup of white sugar

3 teaspoons of vanilla

2 large eggs, room temperature*

1.5 cups of all purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

2 cups of large flake oats

1 bag of mini Hershey milk chocolate kisses (any combination of quality chocolate is fine and chocolate chunks are great for adults. Mix of dark and milk is great too)

kosher/coarse sea salt

_____

Preheat oven 350

Cream butter with paddle attachment on stand mixer (beaters on hand mixer are fine too).

Add sugars and mix well. Mix in vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time on low speed.

Mix flour, spices, salt and baking soda together and add to wet mixture slowly on medium speed.

Add oats and chocolate chips- (mix in with a spoon if you are using hand mixer).

Chill 15 minutes and drop by rounded large spoonful (the tiny spring loaded ice cream scoops from the dollar store are perfect for this) onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle each top with a pinch of kosher salt/coarse sea salt.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Store leftover dough in fridge up to a week. Leave on counter 20 minutes before dropping onto cookie sheet.

 

 

Ultimate Rice Crispy Treats

Ultimate Rice Crispy Treats

A traditional favourite with a tiny (yet impactful) twist

I wanted to add vanilla but was out so added 1 tsp of maple syrup (it also enhances flavour) instead before I stirred in the cereal. Used big marshmallows for the first part and mini coloured marshmallows for the second part where they don’t completely melt. Yum! Much better than traditional rice crispies! I did mine in balls with sticks to create lollipop treats.¬†

Sunshine Salad

Also called ambrosia salad. I recommend you get the “gold”¬†premium¬†sour cream if your grocer carries it. Reminds me of thanksgiving, Christmas, and all other occasions on which deserts can be found posing as side dishes.

___________

1 can of name brand pineapple tidbits, drained

1/2 bag multi coloured mini marshmallows

1 can of mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup of shredded sweetened coconut

1 cup of sour cream

 

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate a minimum 4 hours. Great for several days when stored with a tight seal.

Ridiculously Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

easy and very yummy

I looked at many recipes of pineapple upside down cakes before coming up with this variation a while ago, which is now my husband’s favourite cake. So easy, smells amazing cooking, and quite frugal. I have used a vanilla cake mix for the base in this cake, but you could easily use white or yellow cake mix, angel food cake mix, or a homemade white cake recipe.

1 package of supermoist vanilla cake mix
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup dark or spiced rum
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
15-20 maraschino cherries or canned bing cherries, drained
1 can of name brand pineapple slices or fresh pineapple slices, juice reserved

Preheat oven to 350 f.
In your square or cake or casserole dish/pan, add the butter, vanilla, brown sugar and rum, and put in oven until melted together.
Stir mix and add pineapple slices with a cherry in the middle and around the outside in a nice arrangement. Place in oven for another 5 minutes.
Add enough water to reserved pineapple juice to measure 1 cup. Make cake batter as directed on box, substituting pineapple juice mixture for the water. Stir in nutmeg and cinnamon, then pour evenly on top of pineapple/cherry arrangement and bake for 30-40 min, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
Immediately when you take it out of the oven, run a knife around the edges and then flip over onto a plate.
Leave the pan on for 5 min to allow the sugar rum glaze to drizzle over.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, and store in fridge.

Chile Chocolate Cake or THE GUESSING CAKE

First of all, please excuse my extended absence, as I have been having technical difficulties and the holidays are always so busy!

In particular, I have been busy making cakes. Alot of birthdays fall around this time of year in my family, and this year the cake of choice has been

THE GUESSING CAKE.

I call it that because it is so easy to get everyone guessing about what the secret ingredient is (chile powder). You might be thinking – wow what a weirdo, chili in chocolate cake! But if you have seen the delicious Johnny Depp film “Chocolat” and wondered about that strange but lovely sounding chile hot chocolate being¬†gobbled¬†up you already have an idea of what I am talking about. ¬†Sometimes referred to as Aztec chocolate, this seeming experimentation is actually a reversal to basics, as the first chocolate brought to the “New World” was ground cacao seeds mixed with seasonings, such as the ancho chile.

This cake is great any way you make it, but I do recomend some layers and filling if you have the time. Then refridgerate the cake overnight and all that yummy filling will sink in, making the cake dense, chocolaty, and sinfully decadent.
As you can see in my photo, I sometimes like to decorate with pieces of Lindt chili chocolate bars, but if you are OK with eliminating the “guessing element”, chocolate shavings paired with whole, fresh, red hot peppers (remove before serving) look amazing.

CHILE COCOA CAKE

2 cups white sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1 cup water

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1- 1.5 teaspoons ancho chile powder

Chocolate Icing

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder

1/4 cup milk or cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt. Set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup butter, water and 3 tablespoons cocoa to a boil. Remove from heat. Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, Mix sour cream, eggs, baking soda and cayenne pepper. Add to the cake batter. Blend well. Pour batter into 9×13 inch pan.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
6. For the Frosting: Melt 1/4 cup butter, add 1/3 cup cocoa. Add confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth and free of lumps.
7. Spread frosting on the cooled cake. Cut into squares and serve. Ask your company if they can guess what is in it, they never will.