Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Gluten-Free Lemon-Poppy Berry-Topped Cake

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On this deep-in-winter February day, I’d like to offer a recipe for a gluten-free cake that is really easy to make and very versatile. The batter doesn’t rise much, which makes it a great vehicle for all kinds of toppings.

I like it because it’s not overly sweet and it can be paired with lots of different things. Instead of berries, you can top it with lemon curd or orange marmalade, or buttercream frosting. You can put the batter into 4 small loaf pans for individual desserts. You can also substitute the lemon zest and juice with orange or other citrus. And with the exception of 1 egg, it’s also dairy free, so for those of you who are lactose intolerant, it’s a great choice.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Lemon-Poppy Berry-Topped Cake

Makes 1 8-inch cake.¼ cup sorghum flour

¼ cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 large egg
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple crystals or coconut sugar
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh berries
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch cake springform pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and poppy seed.

In another medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, yogurt, oil, and lemon juice. Fold in dry ingredients, just until all ingredients are moistened.

Bake about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove ring. Invert onto a plate, remove pan plate, then invert again back onto rack. Let cool completely.

Transfer to a plate. Decorate with berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. (The best way to do this is to put sugar in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Then shake the sieve gently over the cake.)

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Avocado Pineapple Cake

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This weekend was my mother’s birthday. She just turned 81. She’s very spry for her age and still sharp in mind, and I’m thankful every day for that.

She’s also set in her ways. She likes what she likes, and doesn’t like what she doesn’t. She’s never liked going out to restaurants much, since, in her opinion, restaurant food lacks in many departments. The one and only time she was ever really excited to go to a restaurant was when my brother and I took my parents to Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s place in Manhattan. She’s a huge fan of Lidia and just being in her world was a thrill for Mom. (One of my regrets is not getting a picture with Lidia when I met her at the James Beard House when I was interning there. She treasures the picture of me with Jacques Pepin and I think one of me with Lidia would have made her swoon.)

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Coconut Cake with Apple Cider-Bourbon Glaze

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One of my favorite things about the autumn holidays is baking with pumpkin. Every year, I try at least one or two new pumpkin recipe. This one is an homage to the people in my life who have gluten issues.

I call this recipe gluten-free but be aware that the flour I chose to use is spelt. If you have a gluten sensitivity, you’re probably able to eat spelt. But if you have Celiac Disease, this isn’t the recipe for you.

Pumpkin is a strong flavor and usually trumps any other flavors that it’s combined with. I wanted to make the coconut in this cake as bold as I could, so I used coconut in several forms: coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut milk, coconut rum, and shredded coconut. This cake is dense but moist with a nice little crunch from the shredded coconut. And best of all, those of you with gluten issues don’t have to miss out on the pumpkin goodness at the holidays.

Enjoy and have a safe, healthy, happy Thanksgiving.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Coconut Cake with Apple Cider-Bourbon Glaze

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coconut rum
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup coconut (palm) sugar
4 large eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons bourbon
2 teaspoons apple cider

Grease and flour a 10-inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 375.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the spelt and coconut flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. Place shredded coconut in a small bowl and pour rum over it. Mix and let sit.

Cream together the butter and coconut sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each one. Beat in pumpkin puree, coconut milk, applesauce, and vanilla.

Gradually add flour mixture and mix until well blended. Fold in shredded coconut and nuts.

Pour into cake pan and bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out fairly clean (the knife will be slightly wet but you don’t want to see raw batter coming out). Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely in pan, then invert onto a plate. The cake will be fragile while it’s hot.

Make Apple Cider Glaze:

Place confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon each bourbon and cider, then a little more at a time until it reaches the right consistency. Pour over cake. Decorate as desired.

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Apple Corn Muffins

You know me—always picking up some odd thing or another in the plethora of ethnic markets throughout New York City.IMG_2510

This time, it was canned apples in sugar syrup from my favorite Indian market in Jackson Heights, Queens. Normally, I don’t buy canned fruit, much less anything in sugar syrup. But it just caught my attention on the shelf and I was curious about what they tasted like and what their appeal was. So, I bought a can.

Okay, now I know that it states right there on the can that they’re packed in sugar syrup. But I was not prepared for the cloying sweetness that almost put me into a diabetic coma. Yowza.

So, this is what I did. I drained the apples from the syrup and threw together a quick cornbread mix and made muffins. I found that the cornbread balanced out some of that sweetness. Keep the syrup for another recipe (for example, poke holes in a cake and pour the syrup over the top, or strain it and use it for a cocktail).IMG_2512

Here’s my recipe. It’s really easy and quick and a great way to use those canned apples that everyone has lying around. I mean, don’t you have them in your pantry?

Do not add sugar to the cornbread mix—it will make the muffins over-the-top sweet. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!IMG_2522

Apple Corn Muffins

1 cup fine cornmeal
¼ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch salt ¼ cup milk
1 egg
1 container apples in syrup, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk together.

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Add milk and egg and whisk in. Fold in apples just until all apples incorporated.

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Divide batter into cups of muffin tin.

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Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes; turn out onto wire rack.

Makes 6 muffins.IMG_2523

 

 

 


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Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse

This week, I wanted to offer my recipe for Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse. It received raves when I made it and I’m finally getting around to posting it.

The first ingredients is a chocolate sheet cake. You can certainly make it from scratch, but if you’re pressed for time, you can go and buy one from the store.

Rich chocolate cake paired with a zesty avocado mousse makes a luscious sweet-tart flavor combo. The white chocolate chips give it a gratifying chewy element without competing with the cake. Besides, with antioxidants in chocolate and omega-3 fatty acids in avocado, who can argue that this is a decadent dessert with health benefits? And it’s vegan!

Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse

1 chocolate sheet cake (9×13”)
2 Haas avocados
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime or a combo)
1 teaspoon maple crystals
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

1. Trim off about 1 inch from each end of the cake. Split the cake in half, lift off the top half, and set aside.

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2. Combine avocados, lime juice, vanilla, honey, citrus zest, and maple crystals in a food processor and process until completely smooth. (Stop the machine and push down the mixture with a rubber spatula, if necessary.)

3. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bottom half of the cake. Sprinkle the chips evenly over the avocado. Replace the top half of the cake.

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4. Cut into 12 squares, or use a 2 1/2-inch ring mold to cut out circles. Serve as is or sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.

Makes 12.

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Chestnut-Chocolate-Bourbon Brownies

chestnut chocolate bourbon brownies

If you’re still looking for something to bring to the family meal for the holidays, try this one. It’s Chestnut-Chocolate-Bourbon Brownies. What gives them a seasonal touch is the chestnut spread, which is flavored with vanilla and sugar, so additional sugar is unnecessary.IMG_1840

These are the perfect party treat. Chestnut is a classic holiday ingredient, and who doesn’t love brownies? As for the bourbon…well, let’s just say it makes the holidays go down easier.

You can find the chestnut spread at gourmet shops (I found mine at Dean & Deluca in Manhattan).

For those of you who celebrate, I hope that you have a wonderful, joyous Christmas, or a bountiful, happy Kwanzaa.

Chestnut-Chocolate-Bourbon Brownies

Makes 16 servings

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate or 1 cup bittersweet chips
1 can chestnut spread
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment.

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Melt chocolate in a double boiler or an aluminum bowl set over a pot of simmering water.

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In a medium bowl, combine the chestnut spread and butter. Stir to break up butter. Stir in egg, then bourbon and melted chocolate. Add flour and baking powder and stir just until blended.

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Transfer batter to baking pan. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean. If top get dark before cake is done, cover with aluminum foil.

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Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then lift cake out of pan using parchment and place on rack. Let cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.


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Persimmon Tea Cake

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It’s the season for persimmons! This is the time of year when persimmon lovers rejoice because persimmons are a sumptuous fruit, sweet and soft (or crunchy, depending on which you get).

Persimmons are a rather expensive fruit, so when I get my hands on some, I usually just eat them as fruit. However, recently a co-worker brought in a huge bag of persimmons from her own tree (how I wish I had one!). So, with that opportunity, I decided to try baking something with them.

So here now is my Persimmon Tea Cake. This is a dense but moist loaf that doesn’t IMG_1838need any embellishment. It’s great for an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee or tea.

Make sure that you use the larger Hachiya persimmons and not the smaller Fuyu. Fuyu are delicious to eat out of hand, but it remains somewhat hard and the pulp isn’t as soft and creamy when pureed. You can puree a bunch of persimmons and keep it tightly sealed in the freezer until you need it.

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Fully ripe persimmons

And while Fuyus can be eaten hard, Hachiyas most certainly cannot. Hachiyas are ready to be eaten when they are extremely soft and look like they’re on the verge of rotting. No, really. Hachiyas are astringent and if you eat them before they’re ready, I guarantee you that you will regret it and remember it as long as you live. Every drop of moisture in your mouth will dry up. I jokingly tell people that an unripe persimmon will dry up their whole head. Believe me, it will feel that way.

But once they’re soft and ready, their flavor and sweetness are sublime. Unfortunately, their flavor is also delicate and won’t come out strongly in cake. Rather, the cake will have an unusual, undefinable flavor, but absolutely pleasing. I’m working on a gluten-free version, so one of these days, I’ll post that recipe.

In the meantime, enjoy this one.

Persimmon Tea Cake

Makes 1 loaf.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, preferably organic
2 large eggs
1 cup persimmon pulp (from about 3 medium-large persimmons)

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper (I like to do both for easy removal).

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Using an electric mixer or food processor, puree pulp until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in buttermilk and zests.

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With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat it in, then add the other one and beat it in.

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Mix in the persimmon pulp. Add the flour mixture in a little at a time and mix just until blended.

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Transfer to loaf pan and bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pan and let cool completely.

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Bourbon-Coconut-Pumpkin Cake

I love having leftover pumpkin in the refrigerator because it prompts me to bake something new with it, and that’s one of the best things about the holidays. I’m not much of a pumpkin pie fan, but I love other baked goodies made with pumpkin.IMG_1820

This started off as a basic pumpkin cake, but I veered off a little and added a couple of items that I thought really brought it up a notch (or two): bourbon and coconut. The flavor and texture made it a huge hit. My only regret is that I didn’t get a shot of the cake after I’d iced it. I hope you all like it.

Enjoy!

Bourbon-Coconut-Pumpkin Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup organic sugar or coconut sugar
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey

Icing

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Grease an 8-inch square or round cake pan (or line with parchment).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

In a large bowl, whip butter and sugar until fluffy (the consistency should be sort of like wet sand). IMG_1812

Gently mix in the pumpkin, coconut, eggs, and bourbon.

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Fold in the flour mixture.

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Spoon into pan and smooth out the top.

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Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly dry (a couple of crumbs is okay), about 1 hour.

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Move to a wire rack and let cook 5 minutes. Invert it onto the rack, then invert it again to be top-up. (If you used parchment paper, you can just lift it right out of the pan.) Let cook completely.

Make icing: Combine sugar and 1 tablespoon bourbon in a small bowl and stir until smooth. If too thick, add a little more bourbon; if too thick, add more sugar. Pour over top, spreading it out so that it falls over the sides. Sprinkle coconut over the top.

Makes 1 10-inch cake.


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Meskouta (Moroccan Orange-Almond-Yogurt Cake)

The past few months, I’ve been working on a special project, which led me down the road of Moroccan cuisine and ended up at Meskouta. Meskouta is a traditional cake, usually made with yogurt (although I’ve seen a few recipes that did not use it). This is also known as “butterless cake” because it was created during the French/Spanish colonization in the early part of the 20th century, a period when butter was scarce and expensive.

There are many variations, the most popular of which is an orange version, which also seemed to frequently be the one that did not have yogurt in it. I also found some recipes that used almond flour and others that did not.

In the end, I took the elements that I wanted and created an entirely new version. Here it is.

Meskouta (Orange-Almond-Yogurt Cake)

 Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Meskouta

Meskouta

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water or orange extract
1 tablespoon orange zest

Orange Syrup:
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar

Garnish:
Orange strips
¼ cup almond slivers

Grease an 8- or 9-inch Bundt pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar; add oil and yogurt, then add orange juice, blossom water or extract, and zest and blend.

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Add dry ingredients to wet and mix just until fully blended.

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Pour into Bundt pan and bake 45 to 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Invert it onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.

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Meanwhile, make the syrup. Whisk together juice, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl.

When cake is cooled, poke holes all over the top with a toothpick or skewer. Pour syrup over the cake, letting it absorb. Sprinkle almond slivers over the top and decorate with orange slivers, if you like.

Refrigerate leftovers.

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Jamaican Black Cake, aka Christmas Cake

As stunned as I am that it’s late September, I have to face the fact that summer is over. With that comes the realization that it’s time to start my Jamaican black cake, which is also called Christmas cake.

Jamaican Black Cake

Jamaican Black Cake

Several years ago, a co-worker, who was from Jamaica, introduced me to black cake and I asked her for a recipe, which I shared on Epicurean.com. It’s a tradition in Jamaica (and other parts of the West Indies) to serve this cake at Christmas, as well as weddings and other special occasions.

The problem is that in order to get a really good black cake, you have to begin the process at least several weeks in advance, and who’s thinking about Christmas in September? (Okay, well, many of you probably start your Christmas shopping in July, but the way my life has been going the past several years, my thoughts about Christmas have had me on the brink of nervous breakdowns trying to find gifts on Christmas Eve.)

Black cake/Christmas cake is also sometimes called plum pudding because it’s derived from the traditional British Christmas cake of the same name. Plum pudding is basically fruit cake and it was soaked in brandy to keep it fresh on long voyages across the seas. (Plum pudding is traditionally lit aflame at presentation time. I suspect that this was done the first time by accident as a result of being so soused in brandy and someone getting too close to it with a candle or something.) When the British began trading through the Caribbean, the plum pudding went with them. But rum, rather than brandy, was the liquor available on the islands, and sugar and molasses became the sweeteners. The addition of allspice and nutmeg are more Island touches on the old recipe.

It is said that the original recipe for plum pudding dates to Medieval times, when it called for 13 ingredients—1 for Jesus Christ and 12 for his apostles—and was to be made on Christmas Eve. Since then, it’s become a more elaborate affair. As with other fruit cakes, a black cake contains various dried fruits that are macerated in rum and, sometimes, port wine for weeks. The ideal time to bake it is a couple of weeks before Christmas, and as the days go by, it’s periodically basted with more booze.

The photos here are from last year, so that you can see the process from start to finish. So, in September, I put my fruit—raisins, golden raisins, plums, figs, dates, and cranberries—in a large container with a cover and poured in a wee bit of rum and port wine and let that sit until December. About a week before Christmas (I couldn’t get around to it before then), I baked the cake, basted it a few times, and brought it for Christmas Eve dinner. It came out really, really good. It’s not like any fruit cake you’ve ever had, I guarantee it. Normally, black cake is served as is, but I wanted it to look a little more festive so I iced it with a basic powdered sugar icing (which eventually melted). The only thing was that my cake was not as dark as it should be (it is called black cake, after all). I was told to increase the amount of browning or molasses. This recipe contains the increased amounts. (Browning is also known as burnt sugar and can be found in West Indian markets.)

Give it a shot. This is one fruit cake that will not get passed around. Enjoy!

Christmas Cake (Jamaican Black Cake)

4 cups mixed dried fruits (raisins, currants, prunes, citron, cherries, dates)
3 cups port wine
3 cups white rum (preferably Appleton)
1/2 lb. butter
1 cup brown sugar
6 eggs
12 oz. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp browning
1/4 molasses
1 tsp Benjamin vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp lemon juice

Preparing Fruits for Baking:

Wash fruit well. Soak fruits in 2 cups port wine and 2 cups rum for at least 4 weeks before baking.

Soaking the fruit

Soaking the fruit

To bake the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease a 10-inch baking tin with butter or margarine. Line the tin with wax paper.

3. Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating until mixture is smooth.

Dried fruit after soaking several weeks

Dried fruit after soaking several weeks

5. Add flour and baking powder and continue to mix.

6. Blend in browning, molasses, vanilla, almond, nutmeg, allspice, and lemon juice.

7. In a blender or processor, grind fruits and add to mixture.

8. Add 1 cup rum and 1 cup wine and mix well. Place in oven.

Baked Black Cake

Baked Black Cake

Cake is baked when a knife is inserted into center of cake and comes out clean. Check cake after an hour. This will make approximately 4 lbs. of cake. If you’re baking it weeks or months in advance, continue basting it periodically with wine. Decorate if you wish, but it can be served as is.