mini lemon layer cake

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There are no excuses.  Miss Fats has been exceedingly lazy in the new year and apologizes for her absence (she doesn’t need to hear about all about your tearful two months away.)  But this winter has been rough, people.  Miss Fats won’t continue to bore you with tales of windchill or triple socks or ice cabin fever, but she will allow herself to hide behind the fridged fortress of double vortex that sucked a good deal of joy from the month of January.  Alright.  Cold complains and lazy excuses complete.

Miss Fats is back in action this lunar new year (real new years resolutions, people) with some tasty treats to push (aspirationally) into warmer times ahead and remind us all that a damn good meal can make about any slip on the frozen Chicago sidewalks a hell of a lot better.  So in honor of these bright blue skies between snowfalls in the Midwest, Miss Fats baked up a sunny lemon cake.  This mini layered cake provides enough tang to remind us you can still feel something beneath that thick wool sweater.

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Now “winter citrus” is certainly hot right now (exploding pinterest), Miss Fats would like to think this little cake takes your winter concerns a bit more seriously.  She’s so tired of the new years healthy resolution business.  Let’s get real people: all those heavy, welcoming, holiday treats bring joy and celebration for a reason.  They’re damn warm and inviting.  And guess what?  January is colder.  So throw the resolution garbage aside, stop torturing yourself and go for the gooey mac n cheese so your toes don’t fall off.  Continuous cold salad meal is doing nothing to encourage circulation.  In an effort to keep blood flowing to all appendages, Miss Fats tried to create a mini cake that both brightens and satisfies.  She’s down with the abundance of winter citrus (can’t get enough of those satsumas), but she doesn’t think they need to mean light and healthy desserts meant to refresh folks on a hot, sticky summer day.  As much as we’d all like to fantasize about the summer months, we have more practical concerns: like how to regain feeling in one’s face.

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This little lemon cake is a dense, decadent dessert that helps you keep that winter insolation on the below-freezing bright blue days of February.  It begins with layers of coconut lemon cake that is closer to a rich pound cake.  Then comes homemade lemon curd and a thick, creamy cream cheese center.  All of this is wrapped in a blanket of fluffy whip cream that disguises the dense lemon attack inside.  Now there are a number of steps to this recipe.  However Miss Fats encourages folks to take the necessary shortcuts: buy the lemon curd.  She totally understands.  Trader Joe’s makes a damn fine and affordable one that could easily make due here.  Don’t have cream cheese around?  Skip it or make it well in advance (it can easily hang out in the fridge for a few days).  The creamy, tangy, cheesy filling is delightful, however an extra dollop of whip cream can make due in a pinch.  Miss Fats went ahead and stabilized the whipped cream with gelatin, but if the cake is for immediate consumption there’s no need to take this step.  The most important thing here is that you’re indulging in the sweetness of dessert during the dead of winter. Get on it.

Mini Lemon Layer Cake
makes one six inch cake

cake:
adapted from Baker’s Royale Coconut Citrus Cake

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
6 tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbs oil
1 cup flour
1/4 cup coconut milk

lemon curd
Miss Fats used David Lebovitz’s excellent curd recipe cut in half

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 tbs butter

cream cheese filling

4 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

stabilized whipped cream

1 tbs cold water
1/2 tsp gelatin
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbs lemon zest (reserved from the curd)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

1. Make the Curd.  Miss Fats simply halved the recipe followed David Lebovitz’s instructions to a T.  Worked out perfectly.  Make that curd and set aside until assembly. Reserve about a tbs of the zest for the whipped cream.  In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar for the whipped cream and the zest, rubbing it together with your fingers to release the oils.  Let this hang out while you get to business with the cake.

2. Bake the Cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two six inch cake pans.  In small bowl (Miss Fats recommends a small measuring cup), combine the sour cream and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, yolk and sugar.  Mix until combined.  Add the melted butter and beat on high for 3-4 minutes.  Add vanilla, zest, baking powder, lemon juice and oil.  Mix until combined.  Add the coconut milk to the sour cream mixture and stir until combined. Using a spoon or rubber scraper, fold in the flour in two batches, alternating with the milk/sour cream mixture (ending with the milk).  Divide batter between the two pans and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, remove and allow to fully cool on the counter.

3. Make the Filling.  In a small bowl, heat the cream cheese in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds or until slightly softened.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Set aside until cake assembly.

4. Make the Whipped Cream (right before cake assembly.  do not do this ahead of time).  In a small bowl, add the water and sprinkle the gelatin over top.  Allow the gelatin to bloom while you begin whipping the cream.  In a large bowl (or stand mixer), combine the cream and zesty sugar, and beat until fully combined.  Add the vanilla and salt, beat on high until very soft peaks begin to form.  Zap your gelatin mixture in the microwave for about 10 seconds or until melted.  With your mixer on high, slowly stream in the gelatin to your whipped cream.  Continue to beat until still peaks form.

5. Assemble the cake.  Carefully even out the top half of the cake with a serrated knife, then cut each layer in half to form four even layers.  Place the first layer on a small plate or platter.  Spread half of the curd on top and top with a second layer of cake.  Spread the cream cheese layer next.  Top with the third layer of cake.  Finish with the remaining curd and cake.  Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream all around the cake to create the crumb layer.  Don’t worry: this will be super ugly and messy.  Put the cake in the fridge and allow this to set for about 30 minutes.  Clean up or something.  Finish off the cake with a thick layer of the remaining whipped cream.  (As you can see from the pictures, Miss Fats did not layer enough cream on the outside of her cake.  She hope you’ll make wiser decisions.)

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Slice into this little guy for full flavor bomb.  A baby bite of this cake packs a heck of a lot of lemony, tangy flavor that makes all that layering and labor worth it.  Since you worked so hard, you should probably also top it with a healthy dollop of extra cream if you have that lying around.  Call it a “snow blanket” if you will.

Best snowy, sunny day ever.

fancy pants coconut rhubarb cake

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Miss Fats returned to birthday baking with a particularly exciting project: she needed to turn out an impressive cake monster for one her closest friends in Chicago and new roommate, N.  Last week, the city’s miserable heat finally hit with full force, but managed to cool down just in time for N to throw a casual Monday night backyard birthday bash in celebration of her 28th.  Now it must be noted that despite its improptu planning, N never half-asses or disappoints when it comes to entertaining.  She is essentially the greatest hostess Miss Fats has ever witnessed; and the last minute birthday picnic was no exception.  Not to mention she makes it look entirely effortless and elegant at the same time.  We’re talking anthropologie/barefoot contessa status here (don’t pretend like you don’t know what Miss Fats talking about.)  Therefore Miss Fats was faced with the task of creating a cake to fit right in with the deceptively simple.

Miss Fats had been mentally preparing for this one for a while: she had noted an off-hand comment made months ago when N admitted her favorite cake flavor: coconut.  She catalogued this fact for future birthday surprises (Miss Fats loves nothing more than a good surprise).  She knew the classic, four-layer giant fluffy coconut cake would be the perfect pastry object in celebration of N’s 28th.  Sure, a delightful cupcake would have been a perfectly pop-able backyard birthday treat, but Miss Fats felt N deserved something more excessive in the spirit of being born.  A four-layer cake was a no brainer: no matter the size of the crowd, N definitely deserved a giant pile of sweet pastry lit up with candles and properly escorted in with song-accompaniment.

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Now there was no way she was going to make just a coconut cake.  There had to be a proper pairing (Miss Fats tends to ascribe to a three-component cake).  She knows just how much N loves rhubarb, plus Miss Fats loved the idea of a splash of pink in the center of a white fluffy cake.  Since N, herself exudes the easy-peasy elegance, Miss Fats knew that the cake had to perfectly mix a rustic, clean and polished exterior, punctuated with a tangy, coconutty surprise on the inside.  She felt that a decadent coconut pastry cream and sharp rhubarb compote would express N’s personhood: sweet, yet perfectly punchy with a sour hit, and always indulgent.

The exterior and decoration had to be clean and simple. Miss Fats knew the classic flaked coconut cake decoration would provide the ideal base.  The fluffy white strips of coconut pressed into a coconut buttercream has all the freshness and whimsy of N herself.  Yet it needed just the smallest of touches to elevate it to make it a bit more special in celebration of N’s birthday.  Miss Fats went with some shimmery light pink pearl sprinkles she had on hand.  Pressed into the coconut and buttercream base, the pearls added a bit of fancy to an otherwise nostalgic and slightly vintage cake.

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So now Miss Fats will go ahead and share all the components of this bright and summery cake.  The coconut cake, buttercream, pastry cream and rhubarb filling are endlessly useful and can be transferred to almost any other baking endeavor.  Go ahead and throw that cream inside a cupcake and top with ganache for a Almond Joy taste good.  Or slather a shortcake with some rhubarb compote and a dollop of whip cream for breakfast/dessert heaven.  Miss Fats highly recommends you go crazy with any and all cake components.  Some of you will recognize these recipes from J’s insane mini cake just a couple of months ago.  Both the rhubarb filling and buttercream are the new additions that Miss Fats chose to switch out for time and temperature purposes (too damn hot for that excessive swiss buttercream business.)

Fancy Pants Coconut Rhubarb Layer Cake:
makes one, four-layer, nine-inch cake
pastry cream adapted from Willow Bird Baking’s Ultimate, Moist, Fluffy Coconut Cake
cake adapted from What’s for Dinner?’s Truly Awesome Coconut Cake 

cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

coconut pastry cream:
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
good pinch of salt
1 1/2 egg yolks
1 tbs corn starch
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup flaked, sweetened coconut

coconut buttercream:
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
approximately 1 tbs milk, if needed

rhubarb compote:
3-4 stalks of rhubarb, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sugar (to taste)
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of powdered ginger (optional)

2 cups of sweetened, flaked coconut
pink pearl sprinkles if desires

1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 six-inch cake pans.  Beat butter and sugar on high in a large bowl or stand mixer until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each.  Add coconut extract.  On low-speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and coconut milk.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until combined (5-10 seconds).  Pour into pans and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

2. Pastry cream: in a sauce pan, over medium, heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and coconut extracts.  In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and egg yolks until well combined.  Once the cream is hot, temper the yolks by carefully adding 1/4 cup of the milk to the bowl, whisking constantly.  Add the yolk mixture back to the sauce pan, whisking constantly. Continue to mix over medium high heat for 3 minutes (for the FULL 3 minutes!).  Add the butter and coconut flake and mix.  Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (make sure you press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream to prevent skin-formation).  Store in fridge until cake assembly or until fully cooled. When you’re ready to assemble, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Fold into the chilled cream and set aside until assembly.

3. Rhubarb compote: In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb, water and sugar. Cook until the rhubarb completely breaks down.  Check sugar and add more to taste.  Mix in extract and ginger.  Allow to fully cool.  This can be done way ahead of time, stored in a jar and enjoyed as frequently as possible.

4. Coconut buttercream: beat butter on medium high until fluffy.  Sift in powdered sugar in batches to prevent making a huge mess.  Beat in extracts.  Beat in milk if the frosting is too thick.

5. Assembly: Begin by carefully cutting your cakes into 4 even layers.  Place first layer on your cake plate and spread on half of the compote.  Add second layer and spoon on all of the coconut pastry cream.  Leave approximately an inch of space around the edge to make sure it doesn’t ooze out the sides as you assemble.  Add the third layer and spread on remaining compote and top with the final layer of cake.  Spread on a thin layer of buttercream as a crumb coat. Don’t worry: this will look terrible.  Chill the cake for about 30 minutes or until the frosting is firm.  Spread remaining buttercream all over the cake.  Press the flaked coconut into the side and top.  Use your fingers to press pretty pink pairs into the frosting. (Miss Fats recommends doing this in front of the TV or with some sweet tunes in the background.)

IMG_4104Now that says celebration.  The crumbly cake is perfectly balanced with the ooey gooey-ness of the compote and pastry cream.  It is definitely a coconut explosion, but Miss Fats likes to think that it won’t overwhelm the reluctant cake eater.  Not to mention the brightness provided by the rhubarb makes this a delightfully seasonal pastry object perfect for a backyard BBQ.  Miss Fats cautions you: this cake is deceptively light (in terms of flavor and texture), and can easily be consumed in excess.  However: worse things have happened.  Miss Fats has already received outrageously overzealous complements on this cake, so she knows she’s done some decent work here.  She’s just beyond pleased that N enjoyed herself in the form of excessive cake consumption.  N now just needs to get ready for future roommate cakes to come.

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peanut butter chocolate cake and fancy fails

IMG_3889This might be the best damn looking cake Miss Fats has ever made.  It’s also probably why it ended up being one of the most disappointing.  She’s  going to refer to this cake as a “fancy fail” from now on (notice it’s similarity to Fancy Feast).  Now this is being incredibly over dramatic and a bit self wallowing, but come on! Look at that thing.  It’s promising nothing but decadent flavor on par with its aesthetic level.  However this was not the case.  Spoiler alert: this is not a love story.

Ok Miss Fats will stop being a bummer to talk a little more about what’s going on with this beauty.  Since she’s fundamentally incapable of attending just about any event without a sweet treat in hand, Miss Fats’ recent invite to a belated wedding reception/joint birthday celebration was no exception.  This event boasted a wedding and two birthdays and therefore required her to impose a cake upon everyone.  Hell, Miss Fats wasn’t even really invited to this thing but you better damn well believe she was bringing a big ass cake in celebration.

IMG_3884She asked for her usual flavor request to help send her in a general direction; “chocolate?” was all she got.  Now this was the second chocolate cake of the week for Miss Fats (she had just gone to cacao town with D’s birthday cake earlier in the week).  Since Chicago weather had been crap, she didn’t even feel obligated to work with a cake that celebrated the sunshine and flavors of the summer (because let’s get real, summer literally just started in Chicago).  So shit was about to get real.  IE Miss Fats was going to lay down her favorite flavor combination of all time: peanut butter chocolate.

She knew there would be another cake at the party, so she felt less obligated to craft a cake that perfectly encompassed the couple (a task that Miss Fats’ has actually never even tried.  Though she can’t wait for a Frankenstein cake soon).  Instead, she was hoping to simply highlight the importance of celebration, decadence and excess.  This party was a fun and simple backyard affair, so the peanut butter seemed to be an appropriate way to dial back the ‘smance in favor of some childhood ooey gooey peanutty business.

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She knew that this type of celebration definitely required an actual cake: three celebrations can’t quite be encompassed in a little cupcake object.  However she’d been struggling with the humidity over the last week and was seriously worried about her super-moist chocolate cake recipe not holding up for this thing.  With D’s cake days before, the wet air wreaked havoc on the removing-cake-from-pan process and she thought it might be a good idea to go with a butter-based cake instead.  She’s a big fan of Bakers Royale and has a good deal of success with many of her recipe components, so when she found her Best Chocolate Cake Recipe it seemed like the natural choice.  It followed many of Miss Fats’ baking rules: minimal bowl action, no cake flour, and no butter creaming (these are not steadfast rules: just wonderfully attractive features that she often looks for).  It essentially resembled Miss Fats’ oil-based chocolate cake, but used melted butter instead.  She ended up using milk instead of the cassis because: a) Miss Fats really has no fucking idea what cassis is anyway and b) she’s a grad student not going to buy a bottle of that fancy liquor for one cake.  Given that the recipe produced two 8 inch cakes, Miss Fats ended up multiplying the recipe by 1.5 to get three 9 inch layers.  The cakes cooked beautifully and easily held up despite the wet wet air.

Now came the filling.  Miss Fats has been trying to think through the ultimate peanut butter filling for quite some time now.  Peanut butter is not just some creaming thing you can slap in between cake layers.  It’s a sticky-salty spread that should be celebrated flavor-wise, but requires a bit more work to transform it into a perfectly crafted cake filling that works with the textures of the cake and frosting.  She liked the idea of something between a buttercream/mousse: she wanted the intense flavors of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, but a lightness that wouldn’t overpower the fluffy crumb of the cake.

She ended up going with Bakers Royale’s Peanut Butter Frosting, that boasted intense peanut flavor in the form of a buttercream.  She was a little worried about how much frosting this recipe produced and the intensity of the peanut flavor, so Miss  Fats made a couple of variations that she’s sharing with you here:

Peanut Butter Filling:
makes about 3 cups of filling
adapted from Bakers Royale’s Peanut Butter Frosting

1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup creamy, all natural peanut butter
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (dependent upon how sweet your peanut butter is)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt + more to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Set aside in the fridge.

2. Beat the butter and peanut butter on medium high until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and salt and mix until fully combined.  Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Adjust salt based on your own preferences (Miss Fats obviously added more).

3. Fold the frosting into the heavy whipping cream.

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Since she was diggin’ on the look and feel of D’s chocolate cake from earlier in the week, she ended up going with the easy, spreadable chocolate ganache frosting.  Fully riding the salt-sweet train at this point, Miss Fats needed to jazz this thing up to keep it on par with the celebration level of the party.  She figured in-line with the backyard, slightly nostalgic feel of the event, a chocolate-covered pretzel would be the ideal object of decoration.  What says salt-sweet tasty town more than a chocolate covered pretzel?  However to keep it elegant (and photographable), she needed a bit of color contrast, so she ended up deciding to do both chocolate and peanut butter-dipped treats.  Miss Fats isn’t going to give you a recipe for these, since all she did was melt down about a cup of chocolate chips and a cup of peanut butter chips and dunked those suckers in.  To make them all pretty, she made a mess of herself and kitchen by using a fork to whip lines of peanut butter and chocolate across them. The only trick of these pretzels is not eating them all before they make it on to the cake (so so hard). Let them firm up in the fridge and stack them in a circle.  Boom. So pretty, yet to easy.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Is Miss Fats seriously just whining about how good looking her cake is?  Ok so here begins the abbreviated discussion of the cake’s problems (skip ahead if you’d rather live in cake fantasy land and see this as perfection).  So this is pretty fucking epic looking right?  And when you make a cake like this one, you want that first cut and bite to match the level of beauty (Miss Fats has a HUGE problem with beautiful cakes that cannot live up to their looks in flavor).  However, cutting into this cake, it crumbled. Total frosting/filling/cake mess.  The chocolate ganache pulled at the crumbly cake, destroying the three, carefully stacked layers.  Hardly the kind of display for a wedding: no embarrassing (cue tiny violins).  And while this mess may have been acceptable given the casual celebration, Miss Fats regrets to say that the flavor just didn’t quite make up for the disastrous structure.  There just wasn’t enough peanut butter filling to balance with the fudge of the cake and ganache.  Salt-sweet fail.

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Ok ok.  Miss Fats will stop now, because for the most part, guests seemed to really enjoy the cake (naively so).  And in the end, the bride and groom/birthday boy and girl seemed to really enjoy it.  Which is all she can hope for.  However if Miss Fats were to attempt this cake again, she’d seriously amp up that peanut butter filling: literally double that recipe.  She’d also return to her oil-based cake, which just has a bouncier texture that holds up to a sturdy filling like peanut butter.  This is to say that Miss Fats is not completely discouraged: she will try the ultimate peanut butter chocolate cake again.  Though this cake will probably haunt Miss Fats’ sugar dreams for a while, she recognizes that this was not a complete fail.  The real success came in making a beautiful cake for a beautiful crowd and couple.  They should just wait for peanut butter cake the sequel: coming to birthdays next summer.

CHOCOLATE Cake

IMG_3835Why all the yelling? (Obviously all caps=yelling. Get with it.)  Because this is some serious chocolate cake up in herrrrre.  Yet as per usual, chocolate fails at food photography and this picture cannot even begin to express the hidden cocao-ness layered up in that shining brown round object.  Miss Fats is talkin’ moist chocolate cake sandwiching both dark and white chocolate mousse, all contained in a rich chocolate ganache frosting.  Rich bliss.

How did Miss Fats go crazy, you ask?  After a brief birthday break, she returned to her idealistic work of making sure that no birth celebration goes cakeless.  Her friend D was throwing a casual mid-week-come-celebrate-me-if-you-got-a-little-extra-time-on-your-hands-but-no-pressure birthday drinks sesh and Miss Fats offered (forced) her baking skills on the evening.  She is a big believer in the birthday cake request: everyone gets to make all their guests eat whatever damn cake they like on their birthday (even if it’s some bullshit like a bundt cake or whatever).  So as usual she asked the birthday boy his favorite flavors: Miss Fats doesn’t need you to dream up your crazy cake idea, but she appreciates a general direction. And D sent her a dangerous way; one simple request: chocolate.

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Part of Miss Fats love of baking is thinking up the ideal sweet for the situation.  So birthday cakes present a particularly fun challenge: how do you essentialize a person in a cake?  Basically Miss Fats gets REAL excited about objectifying people.  But hey, at least you become a crazy tasty pastry object that everyone chows down on all evening.  Plus if you’re lucky, you get all lit on fire with candles.  Now Miss Fats is half kidding on this one (she hopes all her friends don’t go psychoanalyzing their birthday cakes and wind up thinking Miss Fats wants them to confront their repressed mother issues).

However she does spend a good deal of time scouring the interwebs for flavor ideas and recipes to help build the ideal person-cake.  In this case, D’s chocolate request felt incredibly appropriate.  Simple, classic and could easily be jazzed up for celebration purposes (oh god, please don’t go over thinking the rest of this post, D).  Chocolate is Miss Fats favorite kind of cake (false: chocolate is in fact her favorite object in existence in this world), so the real challenge was restraint in this case (which, clearly she didn’t do a GREAT job at).  However she knew that D’s cake should be a rich balance that didn’t overdo it on the sweet.  Additionally, D suffers from an unfortunate peanut allergy that kept Miss Fats far from her favorite peanut butter chocolate nonsense (more to come on that: just you wait ’til the next cake).  So her theory was: if he asked for chocolate, he is damn well getting chocolate.

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The first question was cake versus cupcake.  She decided that since D said it had been an eternity since he’d had a proper birthday cake, that she should serve it up right with a classic layered round cake.  Miss Fats stuck to her guns, and used her go-to chocolate cake recipe that has now appeared a bajillion times on this blog, but she’ll link you to it anyway.  Now the next question was what should this cake experience be?  She was real into the idea of those rich chocolate fancy restaurant cakes that beautifully layer mousse, ganache and cake like a thousand times and take ten million hours and an insane amount of precision to produce.  However D is not that fussy.  And neither is Miss Fats baking style.  So she decided to bring all the flavors of fancy town to a rustic, classic layered cake that didn’t go seducing you with all its glitz and glam.

This cake ultimately ended up being composed of four layers of chocolate cake (two nine-inch cakes cut in half), with two layers of Food & Wine’s dark chocolate mousse and one layer of white.  For the filling she made a full batch of the dark chocolate mousse which ended up being a little bit light for Miss Fats’ taste.  (Though guests seemed more satisfied with the proportions that she did.)  She halved the white recipe which was just fine considering the super sweetness of white chocolate.

Miss Fats recommends breaking this cake into two days.  Day one: bake off the cakes and store them wrapped in plastic wrap.  Make both mousses and allow them to properly firm up in the fridge over night.  Day two: make the ganache.  Then assemble the cake and mousse layers and allow to freeze while the ganache cools to the right spreadable temperature.

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Now it has been pretty damn hot in Chicago, so Miss Fats had some serious melt situation on her hands.  For those of you working in warmer, humid climates, she highly recommends assembling the cake layers and fillings and freezing the whole thing for at least 30 minutes before frosting.  This will allow the mousse to firm up before you go encasing the beast in a solid wall of fortifying ganache goodness.  Miss Fats is sharing her super simple ganache recipe that easily molds itself to a whipped, spread or poured version depending on when you decide to use it.

Easy Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
yields enough for one nine inch cake or twenty-four cupcake

1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbs butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp salt

1. In a medium bowl (or the mixing bowl of your stand mixer if you’re planning to do a whipped frosting), dump the chocolate chips, butter and salt.  Heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe dish for about 1-2 minutes, or until quite hot.  Dump the heavy cream over the chocolate chip mixture and let stand for a couple of minutes.  Whisk thoroughly until you get a smooth, glossy ganache.

2. For pouring: allow the ganache to cool for at least 10 minutes.  Then go to town.  For spreading: allow the ganache to cool to room temperature or until it reaches a buttery, spreadable consistency (about 2 hours).  For whipped: allow the ganache to cool for about an hour.  Then whip on high until soft peaks form.

This cake, despite its many steps and components was not actually that difficult.  Spread over two days, you only have an hour or two of actual work.  There’s just quite a bit of the waiting game with chocolate.  However the end result is pretty damn worth it: you get to bite into an incredibly moist trio of chocolate forms that play between chocolate’s sweet and dark, bitter sides.  This is a damn chocolate symphony.  And like a festive concert, this cake needed a little pizzaz to remind itself that it wasn’t taking itself too seriously.  So Miss Fats went to sprinkle town:

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Rainbow sprinkles, polka dots and chocolate?  Ingredients to throw any jaded grad student into childhood nostalgia (or at least Miss Fats hopes).  To make these simple (yet effective) decorations, Miss Fats carefully placed round cookie cutters on top of the cake and spooned in the sprinkles.  Clearly she wasn’t as careful as she should have been, because a few pesky dots found their way across the surface.  Oh well.

In the end, Miss Fats likes to think of this particular birthday cake as a serious yet lighthearted chocolate monstrosity.  It spans the excess of childhood, yet indulges in the rich decadence of fantasy adulthood.  D was celebrating his twenty-eighth after all: a weird year somewhere between things, and this cake’s attitude is same.  She hopes D enjoyed his birthday cakery, even if he ended up leaving it sitting on the streets of Chicago (don’t even get Miss Fats started on this story).  She’s kidding: everyone gets to do what they want with their own damn birthday cake.

Recipe Review: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

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Miss Fats has been hitting the rhubarb pretty damn hard these past few weeks.  However that’s not her fault: blame her produce shop which continues to sell those beautiful red stalks for basically nothing.  Now Miss Fats also can’t resist a deal, so when she sees precious rhubarb on the cheap she feels the obsessive urge to snatch up as much as she can while the prices are low. Her compulsion mixed with the lure of rhubarb and all its sour goodness results in literally purchasing an arm-load that she intends to hoard and savoras the season comes to an end.  Only rhubarb hasn’t left yet.  And nor has the bargain price tag.  So this cycle has literally happened about 3 times. In the last two weeks. Oops.

There are worse problems to have than an excessive amount of rhubarb.  (And yes, she knows that it freezes real well: her freezer currently reflects that.)  It has given Miss Fats the opportunity to embrace spring time in all its bright goodness and force her to experiment with more fruit-centric baked goods.  (Clearly she tends to favor the chocoholic side of the spectrum.)  So she’s now shoved rhubarb into ice cream, crumbles, jams, and compotes. Not all successful or quite right, but some insanely good.  (I’m talkin to you, rhubarb jam.)  However one item has really won over Miss Fats and will have a permanent spot in her recipe book: Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry rhubarb pecan loaf.

Miss Fats has whined about the loaf cake/bread before.  She can never manage to get excited about posting them for you all because the photos inevitably resemble a brownish brick.  And again, with this treat you see just how unphotogenic a loaf can be: above it appears to be a kind of moldy rectangle.  Who wants to eat that?  Oh yeah, that’s right, you definitely want to.  Because this loaf is out of control.  The rhubarb and strawberry kind of melt into the bread and create this crazy perfect sweet/sour bite.  It’s then littered with nuts that provide the perfect crunch for texture contrast.

Miss Fats has altered this recipe a bit: she’s tried out a couple of different nuts and decided to amp up the streusel topping.  Instead of Smitten Kitchen’s traditional streusel, she opted for oatmeal.  This created delightfully crispy, and slightly salty clusters that called upon all fruit crumble dreams to contrast with the super moist cake.  Additionally, she omitted the tbs of rum (only because she didn’t have any on hand) and spiced it up with some cinnamon and ground ginger.  Miss Fats is a huge fan of rhubarb and ginger, so she just couldn’t help herself.  With these additions, you end up with a breakfast loaf that manages to span the space between bread and crumble and offers up an amazing harmony between crunch and cake.

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Since a number of little changes have been made to the original, Miss Fats has provided the altered version of the recipe below. She should note that though she’s now made this loaf a number of times, it comes out slightly different each round.  Depending on the state of your strawberries and rhubarb, your loaf will likely sink a bit.  Have no fear: it’s still a mouth party.  If your strawberries are looking extra juicy, she’d recommend a tbs more flour for your batter, otherwise you might end up with a soggy bottom.   Bleh soggy bottom: two words that should never be consecutive.

Strawberry Rhubarb (Insert Nut) Crumble Loaf:
makes one 9×5 inch loaf
adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1/4 cup nuts of your choice (Miss Fats recommends pecans or walnuts)

streusel:
2 tbs melted butter
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs flour
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup nuts
big pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9×5 inch loaf pan.  In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, egg and vanilla until blended.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt until it’s just barely incorporated.  Add the yogurt, rhubarb, strawberries and half of the nuts.  Stir until completely combined.  Batter will be very thick.  Pour into the pan.

2. In a small bowl, combine the streusel ingredients.  Using your fingers, mix the topping until all ingredients are evenly distributed.  Crumble the topping over top of the loaf with your fingers.  Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

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Miss Fats has now made three of these loaves and each time they’ve been gobbled up real quick.  She highly recommends just doubling the damn thing so you make sure you have enough precious cake on hand.  (Because like the rhubarb, this shit should be hoarded and gorged upon.)  So get out there now and make this recipe immediately while rhubarb still remains: it’s dire, people.  Miss Fats fears we only have days of this precious season left.  Now if you can bring yourself to part with any of this tasty cake, it makes an excellent gift or crowd pleasing breakfast item.  But again: this requires sharing.  And she’s not sure sharing is caring in this case.

intensely coconut mini cake

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Last week was a big day for Miss Fats’ better half: J rang in her 30th year and a whole new decade of food adventures to be had.  Though she looks nowhere near her age, and is infinitely more exciting than any young person Miss Fats has ever encountered, J opted for a less rowdy, more intimate birthday celebration.  However just because J was being an adult, didn’t mean M needed to be.  Hence the craziest coconut cake ever.  This cake is a bit of a beast: not for casual or impatient baker.   However it really pays off in the end for those who love coconut more than life itself (which J does).

Since the gathering was a small group of six, Miss Fats opted for a minicake.  Now mini doesn’t mean less intense or less epic.  Instead she packed all the crazy times of a giant cake monstrosity into a nondescript mini version (she likes to think this intensifies the effect).  The cake features 4 moist layers of coconut cake with coconut pastry cream and strawberries.  The whole deal is then frosted with swiss buttercream and flaked coconut for good measure.  Lots of steps, but really worth it: both in looks and taste.

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The cake has been adapted from several recipes that have been altered and cut in half to make up for the mini form.  She assumes that any of these recipes below can be doubled for a large cake option.  Ultimately, you end up with a 6 inch stacked mini cake and a substantial bowl of extra coconut pastry filling (like you can’t figure out what to do with that).  Miss Fats went for strawberry filling to help balance the creamy coconuttiness, but any berry or tart option would do just fine.  Or if berries are out of season, just opt out. For this filling, Miss Fats created a half-cooked, half fresh filling so as to preserve the tart flavors of those fresh berries, while still holding it all together with some cooked jam-y fruit action. Miss Fats is going to take you through the steps carefully, but be warned that this cake is really more of a two-day process that requires periods of waiting and careful cake assembly work.  Plan ahead.

intensely coconut mini cake:
makes 1 4-layer 6 inch mini cake
cake adapted from What’s for Dinner?’s Truly Awesome Coconut Cake
coconut pastry cream adapted from
coconut swiss buttercream adapted from Willow Bird Baking’s Ultimate Moist, Fluffy Coconut Cake

cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

coconut pastry cream:
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
good pinch of salt
1 1/2 egg yolks
1 tbs corn starch
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup flaked, sweetened coconut

strawberry filling:
1 pint of strawberries diced, divided
1/2 packet of unflavored gelatin
1 tbs sugar
1/4 cup water

coconut swiss buttercream:
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
good pinch of salt
1-2 cups of sweetened, flaked coconut

1. day 1, make the cake: Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 six-inch cake pans.  Beat butter and sugar on high in a large bowl or stand mixer until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each.  Add coconut extract.  On low-speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and coconut milk.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until combined (5-10 seconds).  Pour into pans and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

2. day 1, step 1 of the pastry cream: in a sauce pan, over medium, heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and coconut extracts.  In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and egg yolks until well combined.  Once the cream is hot, temper the yolks by carefully adding 1/4 cup of the milk to the bowl, whisking constantly.  Add the yolk mixture back to the sauce pan, whisking constantly. Continue to mix over medium high heat for 3 minutes (for the FULL 3 minutes!).  Add the butter and coconut flake and mix.  Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (make sure you press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream to prevent skin-formation).  Store in fridge until cake assembly or until fully cooled.

3. day 2, step 2 of the pastry cream: beat whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Fold into the chilled cream and set aside until assembly.

4. day 2, strawberry filling: in a sauce pan, melt the sugar, and gelatin in water over medium heat.  Add half of the pint of chopped strawberries and cook for 5 minutes, mashing the berries with your spoon.  Transfer to a small bowl and mix in the remaining berries.  Chill in the fridge or freezer while you make the frosting.

5. day 2, swiss buttercream: In a stand mixer, whip egg whites until soft peaks form.  While the eggs are beating, heat water and sugar in small sauce pan over medium high heat.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then stop.  Bring the mixture to 240 degrees.  Reducing the mixer speed to medium, carefully stream the hot sugar mixture into the whites, avoiding pouring onto the whisk. Increase speed to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form.  Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until fully incorporated.  If buttercream appears curtled at any point, increase speed to high and beat until smooth.  Beat in extract until fluffy and smooth.

6. day 2, cake assembly: carefully cut each of your cake layers in half.  Lay down the first layer and pipe a ring of the buttercream around the edge of the cake to prevent the cream from oozing out.  Spread approximately 1/3 cup of the pastry cream onto the first layer.  Top with second layer.  Carefully spoon the strawberry filling on top, doing your best to create a thick, even layer.  Top with third layer.  Repeat the steps for a second layer of pastry cream.  Top with final layer.  Frost the outside of the cake with swiss buttercream (this doesn’t need to be pretty).  Using your hands, carefully pack the flaked coconut onto the sides and top of the cake.

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phew.  Miss Fats is exhausted.  However the cake is not complete just yet (or technically it is, but not up to Miss Fats’ standards).  Top off that insane cake with a cat face crafted of strawberries (see above).  Now you have the perfect coconut cat cake.

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Miss Fats likes to think that this is truly a celebration cake.  All the hard work and multiple steps are worth it for that perfectly layered slice of cake on a special day.  Sure, modifications can easily be made to make this thing easier (omit the berry filling in favor of more cream, and whip up your favorite simple buttercream recipe instead of the crazy swiss version), but she likes to think that the amount of work involved in the cake directly correlates to how important and wonderful the person you’re making it for is.  So break this recipe out for your next coconut-obsessed bff, lover or cat.  Or just spend a fun day making this crazy cake for yourself and then please eat it while rubbing an overweight cat’s round belly (careful not to get fur into that slice).

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Mango Coconut Bread

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Summer, is that you I see approaching? With Chicago’s temperatures pushing 80 this week, Miss Fats was feeling a little tropical.  The warm (maybe even a little too warm. uh oh.) weather spurred nothing but good attitude and required an equally cheerful flavor combination for this weeks’ breakfast treat. Naturally, however, by the time Miss Fats got around to making the loaf, Chicago’s weather decided to return to confusing grey and weird patches of wind and rain.  Whatever, Chicago.  Like that’s going to stop Miss Fats.

In order to transport this basic breakfast loaf, Miss Fats turned to mango and coconut.  Typically she’s not into the sweet flavors of the tropics, but this cake brings the perfect amount of sun. She began with Smitten Kitchen’s Coconut Bread recipe as a base, but decided to really amp up the coconut flavor by switching out butter for coconut oil and milk for coconut milk.  Lastly, she added chunks of fresh, ripe mango to the batter which dotted the bread with tasty soft bites of the sweet fruit.  Since mango is in season, Miss Fats went for fresh, but she’s sure that big chunks of dried mango would be equally delicious.

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The cake turned out super moist: almost layer cake consistency.  And despite the juicy mango fruitiness throughout, the loaf itself wasn’t too sweet and can definitely still mask as a breakfast bread.  And naturally, since Miss Fats is lazy, she changed the original recipe to a one bowl deal.  Basically you just throw all that goodness into a bowl and mix. Done. Tropics in no time.

Mango Coconut Bread:
adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Coconut Bread
makes 1 loaf

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup scant sugar (depending on how ripe your mango is)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
6 tbs melted coconut oil
3/4 cup flaked, sweetened coconut
1 mango, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  Make a well in the center, crack in eggs and add the coconut milk.  Stir until just combined.  Mix in coconut oil and stir until smooth.  Fold in coconut and mango.

2. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

IMG_3175See: that easy. You are literally about an hour away from mini tropical cake vacation.  Miss Fats highly recommends starting your day with a big slice of this loaf, cup of coffee and some fresh sliced pineapple.  Then, all ones needs to do is imagine some palm trees and an island breeze and you’re basically there. Ok fine. You’re not even close.  But you might be closer to booking that plane ticket and in the very least, full of delicious cake.

Recipe Review: Salted Caramel Date Loaf

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Again with these loaves.  Miss Fats has been baking up a number of quick breads lately and hasn’t been documenting them for you because they tend to fail pretty miserably in photo form.  Despite the fact that they are often filled with tasty moist wonder, loaf cakes more often appear to be boring brown logs on camera.  Case and point above: hey brown square, you look real lame and why would anyone want to eat you?  Oh yeah that’s because you’re the perfect balance of sugar and salt and soaked in an insanely good caramel sauce.  Who says the camera reveals?

But Miss Fats couldn’t help but review her new favorite loaf cake recipe from Not Without Salt (her new favorite blog name: they get her.)  The Salted Caramel Date Loaf was a spontaneous recipe she tried out one night when a sudden bout of stress baking hit her hard.  She had about an hour to make some baking happen before a friend arrived for dinner.  This recipe was ideal: simple, 1 pot, 1 pan and very little work.

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This recipe takes the basic dump loaf cake to a new level by simply caramelizing the sugar in the cake batter.  Miss Fats has very recently gotten over her fear of caramel and all forms candy cooking, so she was ready to face this head on.  And for those of you who might still be skeptical about sugar-cooking skills, this cake is the ideal way to begin your steps toward recovery.  Whenever you read a recipe with sugar caramelization there’s always warnings about sugar crystals and temperatures etc.  But none of that really matters here: all you’re really doing is getting that smokey burnt sugar flavor.  The cake’s texture will be handled by all that butter and date action.

So the real magic of this cake comes from the caramel glaze.  And now you’re probably saying: what? I have to face my caramel fears twice to make this cake happen?  It be worth it.  Miss Fats should clarify: this glaze does not approach the difficulties of a well executed caramel sauce.  Instead, Not Without Salt has brilliantly used brown sugar and butter to counter any of the problems involved with white sugar crystallization nonsense.  Instead the glaze just goes for the full on fat of heavy cream and butter getting all warm and tasty with brown sugar’s molasses.  Miss Fats added a little extra salt to the glaze to enhance that sweet-salty flavor combo (she wanted to make sure some of that action got down into the loaf).  Then you get to dump all that gooey glaze over top the hot cake and watch it sink in while you fantasize about just how good that pocket of caramel will be when you stick it in your mouth.  And it’s topped with salt.  What’s better?  Probably nothing.

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Miss Fats has now made this loaf a couple of times and its proven to be the perfect weeknight dessert, indulgent breakfast, or giftable treat.  The second time she made the cake, Miss Fats added a bit of ground ginger to the batter to play up the dates.  She’s sure this cake could be taken in a number of festive directions depending upon the time of year (family, welcome to your Christmas present).  Miss Fats will deem this one the brown square of mystery. Despite its lame appearances, there lurks a salty-sweet moment in its (lamely) photographed portrait.  Now go out and discover it.

Orange and Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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Miss Fats almost always forgets about the bundt cake as a baked good option.  The round and slippery pan has just become that awkward globe-like thing that keeps falling on her head when she’s reaching for the cupcake trays.  She’s not sure why, because frankly that pan’s fancy shape sure makes for an impressive cake with very little decorative action.  Not to mention the bundt cake almost always encourages just dumping whatever tasty frosting option all over and watching it ooze down the sides.  Mmm oozy food porn.

So when Miss Fats had to bake a cake for a late morning celebration, she dusted off her bundt pan and make the perfect treat to transition from am to pm sweets.

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This recipe makes a not-too-sweet cake with a crumb similar to a muffin, but still forkable enough to call it dessert.  The orange flavor is subtle, so for all you citrus fiends out there, Miss Fats encourages you to turn it up a notch with more zest and orange extract (and then let Miss Fats know how it goes!)  She glazed this cake with a simple orange syrup to keep it nice and moist and get more of that orange flavor in there, and then topped it all off with a serious dump of bitter-sweet chocolate.

Orange and Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake:
adapted from Lemon-Buttermilk Bundt Cake from Bon Appetit
serves 8-10

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 navel oranges zested, with just the flesh removed and chopped, and the remaining squeezed for juice (yep. use that whole orange)
1 lemon zested and juiced

1 navel orange zested and juiced
2 tbs powdered sugar

8 oz dark chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease (butter and flour) a 10 inch bundt pan.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, citrus juices and zest.

2. With an electric or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes).  Add the eggs, beating until well combined after each.

3. Alternating between the dry ingredient mixture and the liquids, add them in about three stages to the fluffy stand mixer mixture.  Make sure to scrape down the sides as you go.  Mix in the orange pieces.  Pour into bundt pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes and invert onto cooling rack.

4. In a small bowl combine the orange juice, zest and powdered sugar. Once the cake has mostly cooled, glaze the cake with a pastry brush, making sure it soaks up all that extra orange juice goodness. Allow the cake to fully cool.

5. Using a double broiler (or some careful microwave action), melt the dark chocolate.  Carefully and slowly dump the dark chocolate over top the cake, making sure it’s evenly distributed.  Miss Fats recommends doing this in stages, watching (and perhaps aiding) the chocolate as it drips down the sides.

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There you have it: probably Miss Fat’s most reserved cake.  However she respects this one: there’s an elegance to the solid orange/chocolate combo that we often forget.  She also apologizes for the lack of proper food porn documentation.  She clearly got distracted by dripping dark chocolate and frankly isn’t all that sorry about it.

Recipe Review: Chai and Salted Pistachio Morning Cake

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So Miss Fats has clearly done a terrible job at blogging lately.  She has been seriously MIA for about a month.  But May brings a resolve to return to actually writing about her food, not just consuming it.  Forcing this work wake up call upon herself, Miss Fats has decided to start with a tasty breakfast cake for all you wake and “bake” folks out there.

This Chai and Salted Pistachio Morning Cake comes from The Fromagette, and is an incredibly easy one bowl mini cake, perfect for  4-6 people to quickly consume.  Miss Fats threw this together for a game night when she felt the need to create an impressive dessert for an impressive crowd. Little did they know that it was just about the easiest thing ever.

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Miss Fats ended up making a couple of changes to the recipe, because it was a bit tame for her taste.  She doubled the amount of Chai to two bags, added about a tbs of cinnamon and 1/2 tbs of ground ginger.  This created an incredibly flavorful and spicy cake that would serve up perfectly with a cup of steaming coffee.  However her favorite part of this cake is, of course, the giant pile of salty pistachios mounded on top.  This creates a spicy, nutty and sweet flavor combo that would brighten any morning.

When she first came across this recipe Miss Fats was surprised by it’s categorization as a “breakfast” item.  However after testing this one out, she would actually agree.  It’s not too sweet and the texture of the cake is somewhere between a muffin and a breakfast loaf.  When she makes this cake again, Miss Fats thinks she’ll add a couple of tbs of oil to create a more muffin-like, super-moist texture.  If any of you out there give it a try, holler at Miss Fats.

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Miss Fats encourages all you novice bakers out there to try this recipe out.  It’s one of those incredibly easy cakes that requires almost no work, but creates a truly impressive result.  I mean look at that thing: it’s gorgeous, tasty and simple. It has brunch written all over it. You’d look like a total pro if you showed up for an event with this cake in hand.  Get out there and fool all your friends.