MiMi’s Chocolate Cake

J – My grandmother, MiMi, used to make the best desserts, in addition to making the best just about everything. Most Thanksgivings we would head down to the Gulf coast in Texas with the whole family and spend a good weekend eating everything in sight. To this day, my favorite part of Thanksgiving is the transition from entrees to desserts. It’s that moment when you’ve just stuffed yourself silly with turkey and mashed potatoes and you think you can’t possibly eat another bite. That is, until someone brings out countless desserts and suddenly you aren’t as full as you thought you were. My three favorite desserts of hers were her chicken scratch cake, pumpkin pie, and chocolate cake, and I’ve quite stupidly never thought to ask for the recipes. Well, last night my parents sent me some of MiMi’s old recipes and it turns out not only are the incredibly tasty, they’re incredibly easy. Today, let’s make some chocolate cake – it will take 10 minutes, promise.

MiMi’s Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups flour (I used cake, you can use AP or whatever you like)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, combine 1tbsp white vinegar and 1 cup minus 1 tbsp cream and let sit for ~5 minutes).
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup boiling water (add last!)

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine everything in a mixing bowl, adding the boiling water last. Mix thoroughly and pour into a 9″x13″ baking pan. Yes, it will look very low in there – it’s fine. The buttermilk and the huge amounts of baking soda, plus the relatively light flour use, means this cake rises like crazy. Bake at 300F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!2014-07-05 09.30.16This cake is fudgy, chocolatey goodness. Because you use relatively little flour and lots of baking soda plus the acidic buttermilk, this cake rises like crazy and, despite its richness, is very light and fluffy. I chose not to top mine, but go ahead and whip up a chocolate fudge frosting if you wanna double down on chocolate, or a nice espresso chocolate or salted caramel frosting if you want some layers here. Or, just sprinkle some powdered sugar on this and enjoy. A quick note – some of you might be wondering why we didn’t separately mix our wet and dry ingredients then combine. You can, but you don’t need to, and this cake comes out great regardless. Without the melted butter to mix in (instead using oil) and with the addition of boiling water, everything will go in smoothly, trust me.


Update on the July 4th Brisket

J – The brisket came out pretty well, I have to say, all things considered. 2014-07-04 15.05.15First, I clearly should have been more specific at the butchers. I’m pretty happy with the quality of the meat, but next time I’m gonna have to tell him exactly how I want it cut – this was a really nice, fatty, tender cut of brisket, but it was a bit thick and not flat, so it cooked somewhat unevenly. Second, we’ve been having some problems with our oven (as usual) being hotter than it says it is. I tested it in the morning with a thermometer and thought I had it adjusted right, but it still ended up more like 300F than 250F for the majority of the day. The brisket cooked about an hour – hour and a half faster than I thought it would, clocking in at just over 6 hours. The meat is still tender, still juicy, but not quite the fall-off-the-fork tender I was looking for. Luckily, our landlord has kindly offered to replace the oven – he understands the importance of a well-cooked brisket. Even with all that being said – this stuff is delicious, and plentiful:  2014-07-04 15.14.05The dry rub has an intense smoky, spicy flavor – fair warning, if you don’t like heat, I would tone down or even take out the cayenne. It really comes through. Dry aging this overnight really brought some of that flavor inside the meat and tenderized the whole thing. Next time I make this I’ll double the liquid smoke and the beer and go a bit lighter on the dry rub. Given how much of this we have now, we’re going to be eating it all week. Given how tasty it is, that’s not a bad thing, either. All in all, for my first time making brisket at home – I’m calling this one a success.

We’re back, and just in time for a weekend of freedom and meat

J – So, it’s been a while. Life got in the way, moves occurred, and cooking still happened – but pictures and posts got left behind. But, after a 15 month hiatus, we’re back! And just in time for a July 4th meat-filled freedom weekend. We’ll have a few posts this weekend – including our first attempt at grinding our own hamburger meat (hint: it involves bacon and pork fat) and four new summer beers. Without further ado, I wanted to jump right in and tell you all about what I’ve got in the fridge for tomorrow – about 7 pounds of beef.

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Growing up in Texas I always loved brisket, but I’ve never had a big enough oven (or access to a smoker/grill) to make it myself. This year, Ines & I are celebrating our combination birthdays and July 4th this weekend with heaps of meat, and I figured it was about time I tackled brisket on my own. We popped by Central Meat Market in Providence this afternoon to check them out – it’s a great butcher that carries lots of Spanish/Portuguese cuts, which is nice (I’m especially excited about their bacon and pork belly slabs…that might be my next meat project). They cut us some brisket on the spot – not quite the way I would have liked it cut, but I didn’t specify I wanted it flat and untrimmed, so that’s really on me. Still, we walked out with a 7 pound brisket cut with plenty of fat for my taste for about $30, which really ain’t that bad.

I made up a simple rub – equal parts salt and black pepper and 1/3 parts each cayenne pepper, paprika, and cumin, and then 6 cloves minced fresh garlic (see recipe for exact amounts). This rub is a bit like a chili spice, but much, much saltier so the meat will cure. If you like it spicier, take out the paprika or cumin and add in the same amount cayenne. The now-rubbed brisket is sitting in the fridge on a rack curing overnight, and tomorrow it’s going in the oven for…well, the better part of the day at 250F with some onions, Worcestershire sauce, coffee, apple cider vinegar, and a cup of homebrew to keep things moist. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out…we’ll check back in tomorrow with the results!

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Oven-Baked Beef Brisket (for a 7-pound brisket)

In a bowl, whisk together 3 tbsp salt, 3 tbsp ground black pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp paprika, and 1 tbsp cayenne pepper. Mince 6 cloves garlic.

Sprinkle the rub and garlic on all sides of the brisket, with most on the meat side. Rub in well, cover and let sit in fridge overnight.

Remove the brisket from the fridge and let come to room temperature. In a large roasting pan, add:

  • 1 onion, sliced into half-rings
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup black coffee
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup beer (optional, sub in beef broth or water if you don’t want to use beer)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup liquid smoke (optional, I didn’t use it, but you sure can – adjust liquid volumes accordingly if you include this)

Try to keep the liquid around 1 1/2 – 2 cups for a brisket this size. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 250F for 75 minutes per pound of brisket.

Let the brisket rest in the pan for 15-30 minutes after it has cooked. If you want, reduce the pan sauce to a gravy and serve warm. Enjoy!