Chocolate Birthday Cake

A few days ago, my husband celebrated his “quarter of a century” birthday. We celebrated by having dinner with a small group of friends, and with this chocolate mousse cake I made from scratch. I was nervous because after tweaking an old chocolate cake recipe many times, I was still making changes from notes from the last time. It never came out bad, but there was always something I wanted to do different for the next time. For example, last time I made it I thought it was a little too sweet, so this time I took out some sugar and hoped it wasn’t lacking too much sugar… This time I was 100% happy with my chocolate cake recipe! It came out moist, and not too sweet or rich, but had just the right amount of sweet chocolate flavor. My favorite kind of chocolate cake to bake is chocolate mousse cake. I won’t lie, this cake takes forever to make – so make sure you have a few hours to dedicate to it! The result, however, is very much worth the effort…

Some time-saving tips are to use store-bought mousse and frosting (you can find both in the baking isle near the cake mixes), but if you have a little more time and are interested here are two recipes for both made from scratch:

  • regular chocolate mousse or low-fat chocolate mousse
  • chocolate frosting
5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate Birthday Cake
 
Print
Prep time
2 hours
Cook time
30 mins
Total
2 hours 30 mins
 
Type: Dessert
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tbsp for cake pans
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Instructions
  1. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Add 1 tbsp flour to each cake pan, and rotate like a steering wheel over a sink until the flour completely coats the pan. Shake out excess flour into the sink.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a standalone mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment (you can also use an electric mixer and add ingredients to a large bowl).
  5. Mix the dry ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds.
  6. Add eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla to the flour mixture and mix on medium speed about 2 minutes.
  7. In the meantime, boil 1 cup of water.
  8. Turn off the mixer and add the boiling water.
  9. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
  10. Use a spatula to transfer the batter evenly between the two 9-inch cake pans.
  11. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  12. Cool for 10 minutes, then loosen carefully with a thin spatula or knife and turn over onto a wire cooling rack.
  13. Cool for 30 minutes before frosting.
  14. While waiting for the cake to cool, prepare mousse and frosting (see recipes above, or use store-bought).
  15. Add the mousse to a cake decorating bag (or ziplock bag with a 1-inch hole in the corner) and chill in the freezer for 7 minutes.
  16. If the cake layers are not flat on each side, use a large serrated knife to cut a thin layer off. Tape a piece of parchment paper around one layer of cake (should be three times the height of one cake layer).
  17. Pipe the mousse over the cake layer in a circle, until it completely covers the layer and is about 1 to 1½ inches in height.
  18. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
  19. Place the other layer of cake on top of the mousse and carefully unwrap the parchment paper from the cake.
  20. Frost and decorate as desired.
Makes one double layered 9-inch cake
    3.2.1753

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Go-To Guacamole

There are few things better than a bowl of great guacamole. It seems like an unwritten rule of life that almost everyone loves guacamole. We love it so much that we’re willing to pay $2 to add a tiny dollop of it to a burrito bowl at Chipotle. I’ve also never seen anyone complain when someone orders it as an appetizer. Since it turns brown if not eaten, we justify eating ridiculous quantities because “it will go bad if it’s not eaten now.”  I personally judge Mexican restaurants based on two things: 1) margaritas 2) guacamole. If they pass with both of those, I really couldn’t care less about the rest of the food. I’m a happy camper.


Guacamole is easy to make, but it’s also easy to add too much of one ingredient and accidentally ruin the entire batch. It then becomes a desperate attempt to even out the flavors, and this almost always backfires because unless you have spare avocados you’re probably out of luck (and the avocados from the store are never ripe right away). This is my go-to guacamole recipe. It’s based on Alton Brown’s guacamole, which has a five star rating and 634 reviews. Let’s take a second to think about that. More than 630 people of all culinary backgrounds have made this guacamole and it still has a five star rating?! That’s rare. It makes perfect sense when you try it, though, because it’s amazing. It has the perfect amount of everything, and then a few random additions like cayenne pepper.


I always adapt his recipe slightly, omitting the cumin, using an entire jalapeno (be sure to completely seed it), and bumping the cilantro up to two tablespoons. If I have an extra lime or a lemon I also squeeze a bit more lemon or lime juice on top before serving. Alton Brown also recommends leaving it out for an hour before serving. While I’m sure this does help the flavor, if you’re in a pinch for time I guarantee no one will complain about eating it before an hour has passed.


Enjoy!

Go-To Guacamole
Recipe based on Alton Brown’s Guacamole
 
Ingredients

3 Ripe Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions
In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and almost all of the lime juice, leaving about one tablespoon for use later in the recipe. Mash together gently with a fork until lime juice is integrated into the avocados. Next, add the salt and cayenne pepper, mash together until mixed. Then, fold in the onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add the rest of the lime juice*. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve. If you run out of time, go ahead and eat it before the hour. It’ll still be delicious!

*A lot of people may know this, but a really great way to juice a lime if you don’t have a citrus juicer is to use a fork. Simply press the fork inside the center of a lime half and squeeze while moving the fork from side to side. Easy peasy. 

Grilled Chicken Tenders

A moist and tender chicken tender. For all the kids or the kid in you.
Do you have one of “those” kids? You know, the one who won’t eat what you cook and you end up doing something separate and almost always unhealthy. This is the solution. Minimal work, time and guaranteed to calm that 3 year old dinner monster. You have steak, they have healthy chicken tenders.

Start with chicken tenders, wash, dry and trim. Coat with a little olive oil. Then some salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Put over medium heat for 4-5 minutes flip once and your done in another 4-5 minutes. Make that about 12 minutes.  Give them a little sauce to dip like some ranch dressing or BBQ and they will be in kiddy heaven.

Rating
A 4 for adult but a 5 for little ones.
Notes: Lots of dipping sauces are out there. Most require more work then the grill. You can also season with a rub or spice of your choice. If you have a good one, put it in the comments. To make BBQ tenders, brush with sauce the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.

Preheat grill to surface temperature of about 450 which is medium high on most gas grills and medium on a hot gas grill. Clean and oil the grill surface well.

Wash, pat dry 6 (or as many as you need) chicken tenders.

Trim the tendon as much as is easy.

In a mixing bowl, mix tenders with 1 T olive oil and 3/4 tsp of 7:2:2 (or 1/2 t of kosher salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/4 t granular garlic powder).

Place over direct heat. Grill until the chicken turns from a pink color to white along the edge (about 5 minutes). You will see the white
moving up the sides. Flip and grill another approximate 4-5 minutes until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Time will vary with size and thickness of the tender and your exact grill temperature.

 Dip away…

Grilled Chicken Tenders
by DrDan at 101 Cooking for Two May-31-2013

A moist and tender chicken tender. For all the kids or the kid in you.Start with chicken tenders, wash, dry and trim. Coat with a little olive oil. Then some salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Put over medium heat for 4-5 minutes flip once and your done in another 4-5 minutes. Make that about 12 minutes. You have steak, they have healthy chicken tenders. Give them a little sauce to dip like some ranch dressing or BBQ and they will be in kiddy heaven.
Ingredients
  • 6 (or as many as needed) chicken tenders
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3/4 t 7:2:1 or 7:2:2 seasoning ( kosher salt/pepper/granular garlic))
Instructions
1) Preheat grill to surface temperature of about 450 which is medium high on most gas grills and medium on a hot gas grill. Clean and oil the grill surface well.2) Wash, pat dry 6 (or as many as you need) chicken tenders. Trim the tendon as much as is easy.3) In a mixing bowl, mix tenders with 1 T olive oil and 3/4 tsp of 7:2:2 (or 1/2 t of kosher salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/4 t granular garlic powder). Or season any way you want.4) Place over direct heat. Grill until the chicken turns from a pink color to white along the edge (about 5 minutes). You will see the white moving up the sides. Flip and grill another approximate 4-5 minutes until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Time will vary with size and thickness of the tender and your exact grill temperature.
Details

Prep time: 2 mins Cook time: 10 mins Total time: 12 mins Yield: 6 tenders

Updated

May 31 2013

Dan Mikesell

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