Sunday, February 5, 2012

Happy House


     It's been awhile.... A long while. There's the usual run of excuses to give - I had winter break! Then I came back! School started! And the more realistic - I was so exhausted when I got home I barely cooked. I was so overwhelmed when I got back to school that blogging seemed like a chore. Thankfully, I have put that all behind me - courtesy dropping a class and realizing No, there are not 30 hours in a day.

     Everything is settling down. Philly is looking beautiful again, and my stove ridiculously inviting. But not as inviting as my oven. I know that the last thing I posted - oh so long ago - was a cake, but I couldn't resist. I want to celebrate being back. This is my little internet home, and I wanted a little homey cake to go with what I can't help but consider my (hopefully permanent) return.

     I actually had no idea what kind of cake to make once I started thinking about blogging again, but there I was helped out by my little sister in the Big Brother Big Sister type program that I'm in. This week when I saw her, she really wanted to make a vanilla cake. And when we went grocery shopping, it was entirely her idea to buy a bag of Hershey's Mini Kisses. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, and it was a good thing she was around because this cake would not have been half as amazing without her.


    So, we worked busily and produced this giant of a cake. Can't you just tell that it made the apartment smell heavenly? Golden crumbed on the outside, almost like cornbread as my assistant said, and densely vanilla-y inside with little chocolate chunks, it might have been lovely on its own. But we didn't stop there. I made a thick chocolate cream cheese filling and chopped almonds into it. Cutting the cake in half (Not very expertly...) and filling it was fun, eating it was so much more.

     I took it to a potluck at my friend's place, a house aptly named Happy House, and there it was happily devoured. That was really all I needed to blog again. I love cooking and I missed it....but more than that sharing my food and hearing how much people liked it reminded me that what I love most about blogging is sharing with all of you, and the thought that maybe someday you can share these foods with others. I hope you make this cake and it makes you as happy as it made me! It's good to be back.

Happy House Cake

For the Chocolate Chip Cake:
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Softened Butter (I use Smart Balance...just to make myself feel better)
1 3/4 cup Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
4 large Eggs
2 cups Milk
4 oz Mini Hershey's Kisses (or chocolate of your choice) 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13 pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (or you can use two 9 in cake pans if you want to make a layered cake), make sure to butter on top of the parchment as well. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter and sugar until it is fluffy and a lighter cream color. Next, beat in the vanilla, and the eggs one at a time. Make sure everything is well mixed. Then slowly pour in the milk while beating at low speed. Your mixture is going to look supremely curdled. Once the milk is combined, add the flour mixture in three batches. Use the mixer on low to mix in each addition until it is just incorporated, no need to overmix. Pour your batter into your cake pan and spread it evenly. Lift your pan up an inch off the table and drop it down to pop any air bubbles. Then, place it in the oven for 45-50 minutes until its golden brown. While it is baking, start on the frosting.

Start checking the cake at 40 minutes but it might take slightly longer to bake. It is ready when you can insert a toothpick in it and it comes out clean. Place it on a wire rack once done, and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Once it has cooled, run a plastic knife around the edges and upturn it onto the rack (if you have one that large). I just let mine finish cooling on a large cutting board.

For the Filling:

6 oz Mini Hershey's Kisses
1 tbsp Butter
1/4 cup Milk
5 tbsp Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Almonds, Finely chopped

Place the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan at medium heat. Mixing with a wooden spoon, let all the chocolate melt. Once it is melted, whisk in a couple of tablespoons of the milk. Next, whisk in the cream cheese (Note: if you would like, you can pre-whisk the cream cheese in another bowl or with an electric mixer so it is fluffy and you don't have to work so hard whisking it in by hand into the chocolate). Once the cream cheese is thoroughly incorporated, it is up to you. I wanted a fairly thick filling, but one that would easily spread through the cake and have vaguely the consistency of a pudding. So I whisked in slightly less than 1/4 cup of milk, and kept whisking and cooking it until it reached that. If you like a slightly thinner, more ganache like filling just add more milk. Once your filling is ready, whisk in the almonds.

To put the Cake together

Once the cake has cooled completely, place it on a cutting board and make sure you have another large cutting board or plate nearby. Use a long serrated knife to divide the cake into two layers. For me, this is easiest to do just going around all four edges, making sure the knife goes in as far as possible so you cut the middle in half as well. Carefully lift off the top and place it on your other cutting board or plate. Using a large spoon or spatula, dollop your filling out onto the cake. Use your utensil to evenly coat the entire cake. Once that is done and all your filling is used up, place the top of your cake back into place. Now cut a slice and eat!

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