Chocolate Brownie Layer Cake

Why do I call this a “chocolate brownie” layer cake, because it is dense, dark and delicious … like a chocolaty brownie, but still has the lightness of a cake.  And it fits all needs …. cupcakes?  no problem.  sheet cake?  perfect.  two layers or three layers?  it’s up to you.  If you are a frequent baker, I’m sure you have all the ingredients.  Nothing special is required.   This is a great middle-of-the-week family dessert.  So, don’t wait for a special occasion, start preheating the oven now!

I filled my cake with a Nutella Buttercream, but, of course, you could fill your cake with any filling/frosting combination you’d like.  Or just sweetened whipped cream and berries.  How can you go wrong?

Bake at 350°  –  Makes one four-layer cake, or one three layer-cake and 9 cupcakes, or one two-layer cake and 15 cupcakes, or lots and lots of cupcakes!

4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3-1/2 cups sugar
3 sticks butter
3/4 cups extra-dark cocoa
1 cup hot water
1 cup prepared hot coffee
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, beaten (at room temperature)

The only way to know if you have everything is to line up all your ingredients.

In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients:  flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Mix well.

 In a large saucepan, melt three sticks of butter.  Add the cocoa and stir.

Then add the hot water and hot coffee.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let cool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the mixture has cooled, pour it into the flour and mix well.

In another bowl, combine the beaten eggs, vanilla and buttermilk.

Mix this well and then add it to the batter until combined well, but don’t overbeat.

 Pour the batter into greased and floured tins.

This batter will make four layers, but you can decide what you are making.

I always measure to make sure my layers will be even.

Bake at 350 for about 20 to 22 minutes.  Layers should be glossy, pulled back just a bit from the sides of the pan and a cake tester should come out clean.






Enough to fill a three-layer cake, or lots of cupcakes.

2 sticks softened butter
2-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (or more) light cream
1 13 oz. jar Nutella Hazelnut Spread

In a mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and confectioner’s sugar together.

Add the vanilla and enough cream to soften.

Beat in the jar of Nutella – two to three minutes.  Adjust the thickness by adding more cream, if necessary.

It should be smooth, creamy and easy to work with.  Sample when necessary.

I was making a casual dessert for dinner.  You can get as fancy as you’d like.  Hope you like it!

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Classic English Scones

The Lemon Curd is in the refrigerator chilling and now I’m ready to make the scones.  Today, I’m in the mood for a classic English scone.  Nothing fancy.  No lavender honey scones.  No chocolate chips and hazelnuts.  Not even currants.  Just flaky, buttery, warm from-the-oven scones.   You can get creative if you want to (and I’ll even give you some suggestions at the end), but for me, it’s the basic.

Classic English Scones are not the dry, triangular-shaped muffiny things you find in a lot of coffee shops.  They are more like the American biscuit so common in the South – but made with butter and not shortening.   It takes a light hand.  You do not want to overwork the dough building up the gluten, making them tough.   Some people prefer working the butter in with their hands.  I prefer a food processor.  Not only is it quicker, but the heat from your hands, makes the butter too soft and the scones are less likely to be flaky.

Preheat the oven to 425°.    Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (depending upon size).   Makes 8 to 12 (again depending upon size).

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar*
6 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 beaten egg

 Preheat the oven and prepare the baking sheet.  I prefer parchment paper to greasing a baking sheet.  Combine all the dry ingredients. With a fork, pastry blender, or in a food processor, cut in the very cold cubed butter until the flour mixture is blended and about the size of a pea.  (Yes, my cuppa tea is always around.)  Do not overwork the dough.  You should be able to see bits of butter.

 Make a well in the center of the bowl.  Mix the buttermilk and beaten egg and, with a fork, quickly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board.  Again, quickly form a round, smooth ball, after kneading a few times.

Roll to about 1/2″ thick.  With a biscuit cutter, tuna fish can, or glass (whatever you have), cut out the scones.  Again, you decide how big and how thick you want them to be.   (They can be frozen at this point and then baked at another time.)

Brush the tops with cream (or beaten egg white) and then sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bake at 425° in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack and then serve with the delicious lemon curd you prepared earlier (or strawberry jam, whipped cream, etc.).  Don’t limit your imagination.

Now it’s time to put the kettle on and enjoy!!


Optionial ingredients:   You can add any combination of the following – dried currants, raisins, cranberries, blueberries, mini chocolate chips, mini white chocolate chips, chopped nuts, orange peel, vanilla, lemon peel, dried lavender buds.

*To make savory scones, omit sugar.  Add grated cheddar cheese, or chopped prosciutto, maybe fold in chutney, or herbs.  Let your imagination run wild.

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Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread

The last time I saw my Aunt Mae was in her bungalow in the village of Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland.  We spent the afternoon sitting at the kitchen table having tea and her freshly-baked soda bread while looking through the family photograph albums.  She was a mere slip of a woman, barely 5′ tall, with a delightful sense of humor, ready to enthrall you with endless stories.

This may certainly be the same classic Irish Soda Bread recipe that everyone uses, but for me, it’s my Aunt Mae’s soda bread ….. and it’s delicious!   Even if you aren’t someone who bakes, you can handle this one.  It’s quick and easy.  When you take it out of the oven, serve it up quickly with a big block of imported Irish butter.  Nothing better!

Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread
This will make one large loaf or two smaller loaves.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Gather the following ingredients, a large mixing bowl, measuring cup and spoon and baking pan or dish.  That’s it!

All purpose flour – 4 cups
Baking soda – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Salt – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Sugar – 1/4 cup (optional)
Raisins (dried cranberries or any dried fruit) – 1/2 cup
Buttermilk – 2 cups  (the buttermilk interacts with the baking soda causing the bread to rise)

Put the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and mix together.  I use a whisk to incorporate the dry ingredients thoroughly and lighten the flour a bit.  Add the dried fruit and mix together. ?????????????????????? Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all the buttermilk.  With a fork, stir quickly until the dough comes together. Adding Buttermilk On a floured surface, tip the bowl over and work the dough with your hands into a nice smooth ball.  Don’t overknead the dough.  It will be soft. Form loaves Form a ball (or two if you are making two loaves) and place it in a greased baking pan.  Mine could have been a bit smoother.  Cut a criss-cross slash into the top of the loaf, about 1/2″ deep.  This will allow the loaf to  cook evenly.  It will expand (or open up) as it bakes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour.  It should sound hollow when the bottom is thumped and a cake tester should come out clean (no crumbs). ??????????????????????????????? If you want to add a bit of sugar for sweetening, add it to the dry ingredients.  You may also brush the top of the loaf before baking with an egg wash or milk for a shiny crust. Be sure to put the kettle on, because you’re going to want a hot cuppa with a slice of Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread! ???????????????????????????????