Monday, June 20, 2016

Brick Street Cafe Chocolate Cake

The Brick Street Cafe is located in Greenville, SC, roughly fifteen minutes from me. I've never actually sat down and had a meal there, but I have had their cake. Sweet potato, chocolate, etc. All delicious, a well deserved cake reputation. When I saw a random blog claiming to have their recipe for chocolate cake, I had to give it a try. I'm not sure it's the same cake but it was a big hit regardless!

If the cake looks a bit squatty, it is completely my fault. I didn't pay attention to the pan requirement and realized too late (for the hundredth time) that I do not HAVE a tube pan, which is what the recipe calls for. The two pans hold similar amounts, but there is a marked difference in how easy it is to get the cake back out in the end. The top of the cake stayed in the pan, and was consumed for breakfast with fresh strawberries. Oh how I suffer.

I brought this to a book club meeting, our annual dinner where we discuss nominations for the next year's list. We had 53 candidates that had to be narrowed to 10! Sometimes when you get a bunch of women together, everyone pretends not to eat dessert, so I was a little nervous about bringing one. But I just couldn't find salad inspiration like I had previously, so I went with my instincts. And some people had two servings! I would consider that success. I had to Julia Childs it a little and still ended up telling about the cake top, but like Julia, poured myself a glass of wine and served it anyway.

I do think if I made it again I'd bake it in 2-3 cake layers and make a rich chocolate buttercream or a ganache mousse combo, because what I love better than a rich chocolate cake is a rich chocolate cake in layers with other rich things.

Brick Street Cafe Chocolate Cake (allegedly)
(as discovered on the Through Her Looking Glass blog)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 1 cup baking cocoa, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup instant chocolate pudding mix (small box)
  • 2¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate Icing:
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup baking cocoa, sifted
  • 3½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream (more or less for consistency)


  1. Preheat regular, conventional oven to 350°.
  2. Beat sugar, butter & vanilla in large bowl.
  3. Beat in eggs.
  4. Mix in cake flour, baking cocoa, soda, salt, chocolate pudding and buttermilk.
  5. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  6. Pour into greased tube pan.
  7. Bake in regular, conventional oven at 350° for 30 minutes.
  8. Adjust baking temperature down to 325° and continue baking 30-40 minutes more, until cake tester comes out clean.
  9. (Check with cake tester at the one hour mark.)
  10. Cool cake completely before icing.
Chocolate Icing:
  1. Heat water, butter and vanilla together in sauce pan on stovetop until melted.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in one cup cocoa.
  4. Stir in powdered sugar, sifted.
  5. Stir in heavy cream, up to 3 tablespoons (or more) until you get the desired consistency.
  6. Ice cake by filling the hole in the middle of the cake first, then spread icing over cake top and pour over the sides. Icing will harden as it cools.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Grain-Free Blueberry Scones (gluten-free, paleo, naturally sweetened)

It is blueberry season and it is HOT outside. Hot and humid. That is when I start craving blueberry baked goods with iced coffee. I looked at a few lower carb, grain-free recipes, and ended up adapting one. I guess that makes this my recipe! We liked these. They aren't mushy like some grain-free recipes can be.

Blueberry Scones (grain-free, paleo, naturally sweetened)
(adapted from a recipe by Allison Nichols)

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 eggs, whisked a little
  • 1 cup blueberries
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the almond flour, ¼ cup arrowroot flour, coconut sugar, sea salt, and baking powder.
  2. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined.
  3. Add your blueberries along with the last ¼ cup of arrowroot flour.
  4. Form the batter into a ball and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  5. Press into a circle and cut 8 wedges.
  6. Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes from JennyBakes
  1. I replaced the maple syrup with coconut sugar since it is lower on the glycemic index. I knew that would leave me without some of hte moisture. As it was, the comments on the original recipe complained of dryness. My simple solution was to just use 2 eggs. I could have used 1/4 cup almond or almond-coconut milk in addition to the 1 egg. The batter was a bit sticky but after they baked it was a nice sconelike texture.
  2. I prefer coconut oil to butter when working with almond flour. I have seen it make a big difference in texture. I don't understand the science but have started making that replacement across the board. 
  3. Fresh blueberries got a bit demolished in the final mixing step; frozen berries might work better here.

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Pies of Summer: Strawberry Pretzel Icebox Pie

This pie has been on my mind a few years now, ever since coming across it in Southern Living. I finally had all the ingredients in the house at one time, so once we got more fresh local strawberries, I proceeded to make this pie. I'd say the best part is the crust (see notes for a mistake I made!) since I'm not a huge fan of condensed milk-jello concoctions (but wow, these ingredients seem very popular with summer pies.) While this is meant for a summer pie and is likely best with fresh berries, since it is ending up in the freezer, it can't hurt to use frozen fruit thawed. It would save an entire appliance since nothing has to chop up the berries.

Strawberry Pretzel Icebox Pie
(original recipe from


2 cups finely crushed pretzel sticks
3/4 cup butter, melted*
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons plus 1 tsp. strawberry gelatin (1/2 [3-oz.] package)
2 cups whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together first 3 ingredients; firmly press on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 10-inch pie plate. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).
2. Process strawberries in a food processor until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
3. Beat condensed milk and next 2 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. (Use the whisk attachment if using a stand mixer.) Add strawberries; beat at low speed just until blended. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. Beat 3/4 cup whipping cream at high speed until soft peaks form; gently fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture. Spoon into prepared crust. Cover and freeze 8 to 12 hours or until firm.
5. Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups whipping cream at high speed until foamy; gradually add granulated sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Spread over pie. Freeze 1 hour or until whipped cream is firm.

Recipe Notes from JennyBakes
  1. I measured 2 cups of pretzel sticks, which gave me far less than 2 cups of pretzel sticks crumbs. I definitely think the recipe wants 2 cups of the crumbs, so you need more than 2 cups of pretzels. I only used 1/2 cup melted butter, but actual 2 cups of the crumbs may require the full 3/4 cup/ 
  2. I used an immersion blender to chop the berries. I didn't want to have to wash the food processor for that wee task.
  3. The recipe doesn't say how to serve the pie, but letting it sit out at least 30 minutes before serving seems about right. It needs to stay in the freezer otherwise. 
  4. Don't forget to allow for the overnight freezing time! This pie can't be served immediately. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Pies of Summer: Raspberry Pie

In the Reading class I am teaching for our May Experience term, I challenged the students to read a book in a genre they do not usually read. For me, I was left choosing between Amish romance and... sports! In the end, I read both, but I went Amish romance first. The book is The Forgotten Recipe and is all about an Amish woman baking raspberry pies and healing from the death of her intended.

Most novels that gush about a recipe include one in the back, so I was shocked that this one didn't! Not even on the author's website. I had to take matters into my own hands. I happened to have two Amish cookbooks at home. I found a workable recipe for raspberry pie in Me, Myself, and Pie: Amish Recipes by Sherry Gore. I had previously made a pie crust recipe from this cookbook that I didn't care for, so I used the all-butter crust from Smitten Kitchen for the crust.

Red Raspberry Pie

For the Crust
Two 9-inch unbaked pastry pie crusts

3 cups raspberries
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Cook raspberries with water, sugar, and cornstarch over medium heat until thick, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, butter, and salt. Remove from heat. Let mixture cool in the refrigerator 30 minutes. Pour cooled mixture into unbaked pie crust. Cover with top crust and seal. Score top crust to vent. Bake for 10 minutes at 400. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking for 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired. 

Recipe thoughts from JennyBakes:
  1. I thought I didn't like pie crust; it turns out I didn't like half shortening pie crust. I'm not sure I'll ever go back. 
  2. While 3 cups was okay, 4-5 cups would have been better. Fresh raspberries contain a lot of air and once they break down in cooking, they did not really fill the crust. If you were starting from frozen berries, 3 cups might be more accurate.
  3. Smart bakers would roll out the pie dough while the filling is cooling.
  4. I made this pie with a lattice top because it felt more like a picnic pie that way.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Pies of Summer: North Carolina Beach Pie

There is an elaborate legend about this pie, recently featured on NPR. When I came across the story I knew I had to try it. The only thing is, I've been to the North Carolina shore and asked others who I know spend weeks there every summer, and nobody has ever seen this pie or heard this story. I'm tempted to call shenanigans.

Also, this pie was a bit cursed for me. The first time I separated the eggs and the added the egg whites to the mixture instead of the citrus juice. The next time I tried the crust was so loose I almost dumped the pie all over the floor and oven when I took it out, so that explains why this one looks so messy. In the end, this is rather like a key lime pie (made milder by mixing lemon and lime juice) with a saltine crust. The salty-tart-sweet is nice but it's not a pretty looking pie. The recipe below specifies not to turn the saltines into sand but the picture of the original recipe shows it that granulated. I'm not sure which I believe because crushing the crackers by hand makes the final result a bit messy.

Have you heard of Atlantic Beach Pie or North Carolina Beach Pie?

Recipe: Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

Makes one pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.

While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Low Carb English Muffins

When I first saw this recipe in Pinterest, I was pretty skeptical. But I went ahead and tried it one weekday morning and was pleasantly surprised! I made the recipe as is, but next time plan to double it yet cook it in three ramekins for slightly less time.... as is, it is quite deep, almost too high to toast if simply split in half.

However for those of us with few bread options in our lower carb eating, this is a great recipe to have on hand. I ate mine with peanut butter and sugar free jam but this would hold up to an egg sandwich nicely. That's what I plan to do with it this weekend!

Low Carb English Muffins
(as seen on!) 

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Spray the ramekin you are using with olive oil cooking spray or coconut oil spray.
  2. Add the almond butter and butter to the dish.
  3. Microwave for 30 seconds and mix until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl whisk the almond flour, salt and baking powder together.
  5. Pour the milk and egg to dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  6. Pour this mixture into the ramekin with the almond butter mixture and stir to combine well.
  7. Microwave 2 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool a few minutes before taking it out of the ramekin and slicing in half to toast.
  9. Toast until desired.
  10. Enjoy!

Monday, May 09, 2016

Tiger Nut Flour Brownies (grain-free, paleo, gluten-free)

I first encountered tiger nut flour at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe, where the person working the cash register told me that one of the bakers loves it for gluten-free baking. I hadn't heard of the ingredient before (it is apparently some kind of tuber) and it took me a while to find a compelling recipe for the flour. Some of the pictures I saw looked similar to my early almond flour experiments - flat and dry. Some recipes I saw seemed better, and they all had tapioca flour. Once I restocked my tapioca flour, I gave these ago.

These were a bit rubbery but I feel like the 25 minutes in the recipe I adapted was far too long. I took them out at 20 but probably should have checked at 15.... so I am not certain if that's the only issue or if it's the flours. Also either the tiger nut or the tapioca wasn't completely finely ground, so the brownies had a bit of an unexpected crunch. The batter was gorgeous - glossy and thick. The brownies themselves were definitely passable for people who rarely have brownies!

Tiger Nut Flour Brownies
(adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick or 8 tablespoons)*
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup tiger nut flour
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the butter, coconut sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Stir frequently until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat and cool until warm, at least 15 minutes. The mixture will appear gritty.
  3. Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring thoroughly after each one. The batter should be glossy and smooth. Add the tiger nut and tapioca flours and stir vigorously again until no floury bits remain.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for about 20(?) minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs but not covered in goo. Cool completely in the pan, then remove the brownies by lifting up the parchment, transfer them to a cutting board, slice, and serve. Store leftover brownies in the refrigerator for up to four days.
*I didn't have quite enough butter so I used 2 tbsp coconut oil and 6 tbsp butter.