"The Urban Farmer" has a nice ring to it. I saw his eyes light up the first time I referred to him as that in writing- his passion and his…
I hung my head in disgust and shame despite the fresh baked smell of chocolate and peppermint. Every attempt to salvage the ugliness before me had failed. The expensive, pink artisanal marshmallows looked like melted mozzarella- good on a pizza, bad on a brownie, and the chocolate drizzle was more like a chocolate drench, muddying the already mystifying marshmallows.
The last feeble attempt- all natural sprinkles, as green as the many dollars needed to buy them, merely sank into the chocolate puddles. So alas, I left the warm brownies on the table, wrapped a bottle of wine and off we went to the Christmas Eve festivities. Failure has a way of kicking its boots around the kitchen every now and then.
This cake, however, was the redemption- a recipe seemingly designed to fail! How many times have I returned to the cooling rack in despair to see a sunken cake intended for layered glory. This chocolate cake recipe replies, “well, if there’s a chance it’s going to fall, why not just let it fall in the first place?” In general, this attitude might be a tad defeatist, but if you need an upswing, this might be the glass-half-full cake.
So nestle into those p.j.’s, ignore the cake on the cooling rack, and let those rich, chocolate layers just sink into crackly goodness. This was my sweet, chocolate redemption that turned Christmas Eve failure into Christmas Day success. The many happy mouths, with chocolate and jam still sticking to their lips, said this was my best cake to date!
Go out and fail!
Flourless Fallen Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Whipped Neufchâtel Topping
Adapted from Bon Appetit
About this Recipe: Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover in pan and store airtight at room temperature. The original recipe calls for a 9-inch springform pan. To make the layered version, I used a 6 and 7-inch pan. The 6-inch cake will require less baking time (~25-30 minutes), so keep an eye on it as it bakes.
The truck inched around the tight bend of the parking garage. It seemed to have swallowed several other trucks in the process, making each maneuver hinge on the impossible. Valets attempted to corral drivers who wouldn’t be able to handle parking lots on a slow day.
Once inside the grocery store, darting from one aisle to the other felt like a video game with constant obstacles- a rogue cart, an unaware shopper, an oblivious person fixated on a recipe printout while the employees did their best to maintain.
‘Tis the season!
Yet within that chaos, a man in a Santa hat played “Away in A Manger” on his violin. He wasn’t a member of the city’s symphony or a student from the local university’s esteemed music program. It was simple and heartfelt. The song could be heard throughout the jams of people, carts and kids grabbing at everything while their parents did their best to survive. A few shoppers took the time to sit in the cafe and really listen, tucking tips into the simple plastic cup on the table.
Up a level on the parking garage and on to the wine store, where human bodies nearly outnumbered the inventory. A dreaded sound emerged- that of falling, clanking glass. The cashier froze in anticipation of an even worse sound- shattering glass, but miraculously, the bottles survived fully intact. Her fellow coworkers burst into a round of applause, shouting, “It’s a Christmas Miracle!” Customers joined in the celebratory cheers.
All this is to say, maybe the Christmas spirit really does exist? In any case, here’s to finding the joys among the stresses, and may that sentiment continue into the New Year.
Merry Christmas Eve!
Whole Grain Apple Cider Layer Cake (Gluten Free)
adapted from Brooklyn Homemaker
Servings: 12 to 20
About this Recipe: Classic holiday spices combine and a hint of whiskey combine in a moist apple cake with a dark chocolate frosting. It’s gluten free to please a holiday crowd. This cake was part of my “Wrap Party” story, so I went really festive on the garnishes, but the cake stands on its own if you’re not feeling so ornate.
My dad had a penchant for infomercials. We had miracle mops that you never had to touch with your hands, all of our silver was pristine, and he could wax our cars to a mirror-like shine. Then came the big guns- the Ronco dehydrator with extra trays for maximum output. Our small kitchen became a virtual beef jerky factory. The scent of liquid smoke and hickory lay heavy in the air. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a tad overwhelming.
A Ronco dehydrator is one apparatus you will not find in my kitchen, so when I had an itch to craft a natural element for this holiday season, I had to find an alternative method. It turns out, as one might expect, an oven, a cooling rack and a sheet pan can do the same trick.
The key ingredient is time- about 6-12 hours, so pop those slices in the oven before bed, and you’ll awake to a refreshing citrus scent in the morning. The landscape will be a winter wonderland, birds will somehow be singing, the kitchen will sparkle, and peace treaties will teeter on the horizon. It’s amazing what a warm oven and a little citrus on a winter morning can do!
Then, start crafting!
My main motivation for these organic ornaments was the purchase of “Fronds Ferdinand,” our new Norfolk Pine, but I’ll also be sharing some other ideas for dried citrus, so stay tuned and good luck with holiday stresses.
How To Dry Citrus Slices in the Oven
Adapted from LiveStrong.com