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What a cake

EL and KT came over for dinner last weekend and brought cake. WHAT A CAKE.

It was a chocolate coffee crunch cake. I asked EL, basically it’s this chocolate cake with coffee whipped cream and honeycomb as per this Serious Eats recipe.

It was insanely good. Super decadent, but also somehow very light. Just the perfect texture.

The cake itself kind of reminded me of a cake from a long time ago, so I dug out my grandma’s recipe book again. Turns out my great-aunt’s Texas Sheet Cake recipe (jump to recipe, though I recommend reading the critical notes first) is pretty similar in a lot of ways. Most of the measurements are the same, and both are pretty much one-bowl recipes that call for boiling water.

I haven’t made it recently, but it seems to me that it might be a bit denser / richer than the cake recipe linked above since it has more fat and less milk (1 c butter and ½ c buttermilk in the sheet cake versus ½ c oil and 1 c buttermilk/milk in the layer cake). A denser texture would make sense I suppose for a single-layer cake.

I think the recipe above makes more sense for a layer cake, but I’ll write my great-aunt’s recipe out below since the many-times-Xeroxed version in my grandma’s cookbook is almost unreadable and since it might be worth trying this out with the coffee whipped cream + honeycomb topping.

A few critical notes about the sheet cake recipe:

  • The most notable differences between the sheet cake below and the layer cake linked above is the quantity of cocoa (3 T = ⅛ c in the sheet cake versus ¾ c in the layer cake) and the presence of espresso powder (none in the sheet cake versus 1 t in the layer cake). I suspect it would benefit from a stronger chocolate kick… So maybe it would be worth adding more cocoa powder.
  • I’ve added the metric measurements below by using the Traditional Oven converters online. They’ve never failed me yet, but I should say that I haven’t tried these exact metric measurements so can’t vouch for them. If you want Marie’s original version, go with cups.
  • I’ve written the “preparation” section more or less exactly as my great-aunt wrote it. I do actually think it could be simplified though, probably more along the lines of the recipe that EL shared and linked above where you essentially mix all of the dry ingredients + sugar, then beat in the wet ingredients, then carefully beat in boiling water. But I haven’t tried it myself!
  • This recipe calls for buttermilk, whereas the layer cake recipe linked above calls for whatever milk you have on hand. I have a feeling that you really do need to use buttermilk or faux buttermilk (milk + lemon juice or vinegar) for this recipe to work since it only calls for 1 t of baking soda. If you don’t have buttermilk or can’t make faux buttermilk, I’d probably add some baking powder.
  • This recipe doesn’t call for salt, I think because she assumed you were using salted butter. If using unsalted butter, add ½ t salt as well.

Texas Sheet Cake

Marie Longman

Ingredients

  • 2 c (400 g) sugar
  • 2 c (250 g) flour
  • 2 sticks (1 c, 226 g) butter
  • 3 T (⅛ c, 15 g) cocoa powder
  • 1 c (235 ml) water
  • ½ c (118 ml) buttermilk*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t vanilla

Preparation

  1. Oil and flour a 15″×10″×1″ jelly roll pan, and preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, briefly stir together 2 c sugar and 2 c flour.
  3. In a small pot, bring 2 sticks (1 c) butter, 3 T cocoa powder, and 1 c water to a boil, then pour it over the flour and sugar mixture.
  4. Add ½ c buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 t baking soda, 1 t cinnamon, and 1 t vanilla to the bowl with the other ingredients, then beat everything together just until smooth.
  5. Spread the batter in to your prepared jelly roll pan, then bake for 17-20 minutes at 350F (175C) until a toothpick inserted in to the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely, and then top with the frosting of your choice.

* To make ½ c buttermilk, pour ½ T of lemon juice, distilled white vinegar, or cider vinegar in to a ½ c measurement and then top it up the rest of the way with the milk of your choice. Actual dairy products will curdle when they hit the acid, which is what you want.

Published

Three sherry-and-rum-based cocktails

Leaned hard in to sherry and rum this holiday season. These are a few cocktails I enjoyed the most.

Three are sherry-and-rum based: the Flor de Jerez, Shaken Egg Nog, and the Kingston Sheroni. I use the same Amontillado sherry and dark rum for all of them. Our “bar” area is not large, so economy is the name of the game.

I also included one other cocktail: the Unequal Negroni. Not rum or sherry-based, but we made it a bunch over the holidays so I wanted to write it down here for posterity.

The Flor de Jerez and Shaken Egg Nog are particularly useful holiday cocktails because they aren’t as strong as many others. Nice towards the end of a perhaps heavy-on-the-drink day when you’d like to still partake but not get in over your head.

Both of the above cocktails call for “rich sugar syrup”. To make this, combine 2 parts sugar with 1 part water. Heat until dissolved, then store in the fridge.

For the alcohols, don’t go for the cheapest you can find… it just isn’t as nice, I promise. You’ll try it and think, “This is ok but not great, what’s the point?” You don’t need to get top-shelf stuff, just maybe go for something other than Bacardi Black, you know?

If you aren’t sure which rum to go for, feel free to use your favorite search engine. OR, much better yet, peruse therumhowlerblog.com. Talk about dedication, you love to see it. FWIW, I’m currently using Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva since that was called for in the original Egg Nog recipe I tried. It’s perhaps a bit sweeter than many other rums, so maybe keep that in mind.

In terms of glassware, I’d love to have a bunch of fancy coupes and stuff, but don’t have the space. We use the the 20cl (6¾ oz) Duralex Picardie glasses for pretty much all cocktails. And water, and wine, and so on. So although I mention a coupe glass for the Flor de Jerez since that’s what is called for, know that I actually sling it in a more standard little cup and it still tastes great.


Flor de Jerez

Makes one 3½ oz drink.

  • 1½ oz Amontillado sherry
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz dark rum
  • ½ oz rich sugar syrup
  • ¼ oz apricot liquor*
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist garnish

Combine all in a shaker with ice, and shake until very cold (about 15 seconds). Strain in to a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

* I use Cointreau instead… I just always have it in for margaritas and have never got round to buying the apricot stuff! Though I’m sure it’s nice.


Shaken Egg Nog

This isn’t the real deal! But I prefer it, it isn’t as gloopy and it’s not a faff. Note: Do not make this unless you have whole nutmeg. It really isn’t the same with the pre-powdered stuff.

This is *heavily* inspired by Anders Erickson’s Egg Nog, just slightly different ratios. His recipe makes one 7 oz drink, which is just slightly more than I personally want for an Egg Nog serving and is a bit too big for our glasses. It’s also a bit eggier, which is not necessarily a bad thing but is not always what I want. I highly recommend trying his Egg Nog, and you should watch his YouTube channel if you’re interested in cocktails in general.

You don’t have to, but I *highly* recommend the extra step of double-straining this thing. You don’t want an errant snotty egg streak sneaking its way in to the glass…

Makes two 6 oz drinks.

  • 3 oz cream or non-dairy creamer*
  • 2½ oz dark rum
  • 1½ oz rich sugar syrup
  • ¾ oz Amontillado sherry
  • 1 large egg **
  • Whole nutmeg, grated garnish

Combine all of the wet ingredients in a shaker, and shake for about 20 seconds until very frothy. Add ice, then shake until cold for about 10 seconds. Double-strain into a chilled glass, then grate a whole nutmeg over the top.

* I quite like Oatly Barista for this.

** You could probably use aquafaba (chickpea water) instead. I haven’t tried it! But I imagine it would work alright. Just make sure it’s not salted. One large egg = roughly 2 fluid oz. Maybe try 1½ oz aquafaba and see if that works.


Kingston Sheroni

So the Kingston Negroni is a thing (equal parts overproof Jamaican rum, Campari, and sweet vermouth). And the Sheroni seems to be a thing (equal parts gin, Aperol, Amontillado sherry, and sweet vermouth). This is kind of a combination of the two? IDK, I tried it and like it.

Amontillado sherry is a bit less sweet than sweet vermouth generally. And likewise, dark rum is more sweet than overproof rum. Combining the two and omitting the sweet vermouth seems to balance things out a bit IMO.

Used a lemon twist instead of orange because this drink is slightly sweeter than a normal Negroni, and I like the more piercing scent of the lemon peel against that sweetness.

Makes one 3 oz drink.

  • 1 oz dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Amontillado sherry
  • Lemon twist garnish

Combine all in a tumbler with ice and stir until very cold, about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass with fresh ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.


Unequal Negroni

I *know* that Negronis are supposed to be equal parts. But it always seems too syrupy to me. Hey, to each their own.

Makes one 3¼ oz drink.

  • 1½ oz gin
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • ¾ oz Campari
  • Orange twist garnish

Combine all in a tumbler with ice and stir until very cold, about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass with fresh ice, and garnish with an orange twist.

Published

Thanksgiving 2022 notes

Thanksgiving this year was verrrrry small. We had a few options to celebrate with friends / family, but ended up just sticking to the three of us at home. I’ve been sick for almost two weeks now and was not about to give this to someone else. 💀 Plus that meant we could move it to Friday, which was helpful since I was at least feeling a little better at that point.

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Lemon Olive Oil Cake & Bosworth Jumbles (links)

This Lemon Olive Oil Cake from the Food Network is fabulous. It didn’t get quite as dark as their picture, maybe need to turn the heat up a little? At any rate, it was so tasty, and useful because I was out of butter. Didn’t make the candied lemon slices because… it seemed like a faff. Totally great without it anyways. Might be worth sprinkling poppyseeds over top next time.

Would also like to make the lemony Bosworth jumbles from this Guardian page soon.

Edit 18.06.21 — I made the jumbles, glazed them with the same icing sugar + lemon juice glaze from the cake recipe above. They were divine, and so very easy. The texture was like a delicate shortbread, but they hold together so well because of the muffin tin. I did butter and flour the tin, but that’s because mine is old and beat up. You might be able to get away without it.

Published

Lemon drizzle cake

From Alison Bradley via Bernie Baldwin
Makes one 1lb loaf

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F), and line a 1lb loaf tin1.

In a large bowl, beat together 57 g (¼ c, ½ stick) softened butter2, 70 g (⅜ c + 1 T) granulated sugar, 1 large egg3, 2 T milk, a pinch of salt, and the zest of ½ lemon. Then mix in 85 g (⅔ c) self raising flour4.

Pour in to the loaf tin and bake 50 minutes at 175C (350F). In a small bowl, prepare the drizzle by mixing the juice of ½ lemon and 1½ T icing sugar. Set aside.

When done, remove the tin from oven and place it on a cooling rack. Poke holes from top of cake all the way through with a skewer, then slowly pour over the drizzle so that it soaks through. Leave to cool at least halfway, then remove the cake from the tin.


  1. I can never remember if my loaf tin is 1lb or 2lbs. The rule of thumb I now use is if it seems “normal”, sort of pound-cake-sized, it’s probably a 1lb tin. If it seems hefty, more the sort of thing you’d use to bake a nearly full-sized loaf of bread, it’s probably a 2lb tin. If you only have a 2lb loaf tin, you’ll need to double or even triple the recipe, and it will take around 10–15 minutes longer to bake. If you have two 1lb loaf tins, consider making two cakes and freezing one for later since it freezes well.
  2. The quickest way I know to soften a stick of butter (at least for a standard shape stick in the US) is to microwave it on full power with the paper on for 5 seconds on each side.
  3. Egg sizes aren’t standard across the world, so for better results, you might want to adjust how much egg you use depending on where you live. Wikipedia has a good article on egg sizes, though keep in mind that these measurements include the weight of the shell (around 8% of the egg weight, supposedly). This is a British recipe, so one large egg should be at least 63g and no more than 72g. In the US, this means that you should ideally use one very large / XL egg.
  4. If you don’t have self raising flour, add 2 t baking powder per cup of flour. Be sure to whisk them together beforehand. For the 85 g (⅔ c) flour in this recipe, it’s probably best to add 1 + 1 scant t baking powder.

Published

First Christmas at home

Dried orange ornaments on a Christmas tree

This is the first Christmas we’ve ever spent at home, not at Sam’s parents’ or mine. Both are just too far away, it wasn’t right to travel and the stress would have been unreal.

Because of that, this is the first time we’ve had a tree. We’ve accumulated ornaments over the years but they’re all packed away, so we decorated with an origami star, popcorn garland, red ribbon, and dried orange slices. Cadbury chocolate ornaments were an added bonus when a box arrived from Sam’s folks. We missed family and friends, NYE could not have been more different from last year, but it was a lovely quiet time.

We did a pretty traditional British Christmas dinner with turkey, gravy, roasted potatoes, glazed carrots, roasted sprouts, bread sauce, Yorkshire pud, and Sam’s mom’s sticky toffee pudding.

Also made a big batch of Cumberland sausage meat for pigs in blankets and then sausage rolls in the new year. We used this recipe for the sausage meat, but just used 20% fat minced pork instead of mincing our own. If I do it again, I’ll just buy dry toasted breadcrumbs instead of making our own. It was crazy simple though since we weren’t planning on stuffing sausage skins or anything. Would definitely make it again, though we’re trying to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating in the new year.


One big Yorkshire pudding

These are guidelines to make one big Yorkshire pudding in a round cake tin. You can use cast iron, or lots of individual tins (could probably use a muffin tin…), but a round cake tin was all I had a the time. For more guidance, I think that this Serious Eats article is pretty strong.

If you can, make your batter the night before and let it rest in the fridge. If you can’t, just make sure you let it rest for at least 30 minutes before you plan to stick it in the oven.

To make the batter, whisk together 2 c (250 g) all purpose flour, 150mL milk*, 4 eggs, and a good pinch of salt in a big bowl. Don’t over-whisk it, you want to treat it like you would a pancake batter.

When you’re ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 4450 / 230C. Pour a good amount of veg oil or goose fat in to a circular cake pan, then heat the pan and fat in the oven until it’s super hot. When everything’s preheated, open the oven door and quickly pour in your batter. It should sizzle and start to puff immediately. Close the door and DO NOT OPEN IT until the Yorkshire pudding is done, around 15–20 minutes.

* You can use milk substitute for this, I use oat milk and it works great. Just don’t use a substitute that is sweetened or flavored.

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Good Mediterranean recipe combo

I’m trying to do a tiny bit more meal prep on the weekend so that I don’t default to something beige or unhealthy. Last weekend I came across a great recipe combo, things that are pretty easy to manage all at once on a Sunday afternoon.

* The baba ganoush recipe is fabulous, but I’d recommend either cutting back on the garlic or mincing the garlic directly in to the lemon juice and letting those chill together for at least 10 minutes so that the garlic flavor mellows out a little.

Some tahini is trash, and that makes a huge difference in the resulting hummus or baba ganoush. Good tahini should taste nutty and silky, ideally not overly bitter, and never sour or pungent. It’s not a great sign if it is separated, that probably means that it’s been sitting out for a while. Tahini goes rancid pretty quickly, so the fresher the better and keep it in the fridge.

The best tahini I’ve ever had was Al Nakhil brand (Lebanese, comes in a beige jar with green writing and a green lid) from The People’s Supermarket in London. I don’t think I’ll find that in SF so have been trying whatever I can find. The Whole Foods 365 jar I got recently was ok so I’ll rely on that in a pinch. The jar of Tarazi I had before that was great, but very pricey from the grocery nearest to me. I’ll probably try to do a big shop at Samirami’s on Mission and 26th since I hear they’ve got great tahini and it looks like they do a lot of bulk spices and dry ingredients.

The above dishes combined with diced cucumber, diced ripe tomato, and a little bit of hot sauce is just lovely, great for multiple meals during the week. With falafel it’s even better. We used Ziyad box falafel mix and it was pretty great, but I’d love to try one of the Serious Eats falafel recipes some time. They’ve got a good food lab post on falafel. The Hilda’s Kitchen falafel recipe also looks really good.

If I didn’t have a wildly out of hand mint plant, I’d probably make the Serious Eats Israeli-style tahini sauce.

Edit 2 September 2020: Added notes about baba ganoush recipe and tahini.

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Rosemary’s memories of SF

I was in SF 1968–1975. This was when CA was the Golden State. I always lived around Union Street. The last address was on the corner of Buchanan and Green. It was an old 4-plex. I loved that place. By now it’s probably torn down and something else is built in its place. It was on the corner. My bedroom was huge and looked over Buchanan. There was a Chinese laundry across the street on Green. Gees I can’t remember how those streets went. One of them was parallel to Union St. Anyway, I took my laundry to the Chinese laundry every week. They washed and folded it for me.

Union St was a happening street when I was there. Weekends we would go out to Tiberon to… Gees! I think it was called Sam’s? We would sit on the dock and have brunch. I always had a Ramos Fizz. I don’t know if anyone drinks them anymore.

A text from my relative and dear friend Rosemary sharing some of her memories of living in San Francisco. Looks like Sam’s is still open, we’ll have to go. Until then, I’ll channel her by making myself a Ramos Gin Fizz at home. Have to wear red lipstick for the full effect.

I struggle with dairy so might try it with either coconut cream or a lactose-free “cream”. The goal is to create a ton of foam and a super creamy consistency. Shaking techniques seem to vary, so have a look online to see what you prefer.

Ramos Gin Fizz recipe

Makes 1 drink

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 oz gin, 3 to 4 drops orange flower water, 1 large egg white, ½ oz cream, ½ oz fresh lemon juice, ½ oz fresh lime juice, and ½ oz simple syrup. Shake vigorously for about a minute, then add a lot of fresh ice and shake for at least another 30 seconds. Strain the drink in to a Collins glass. Pour 1–2 oz seltzer (soda water) down the inner edge of the shaker to loosen the froth, then pour the soda water and froth on to the drink. Garnish with a quarter of an orange wheel and mint if you’ve got it, then serve.

Aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas) also works if you don’t want to use egg whites. The egg white from one US large egg is roughly 1 oz.

Published

Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu

Gem made Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu for Sam and I when we visited her place a while back. So, so good. I wanted something similar so tried making it the other day and omg. I now fully appreciate her making it for us, it took a while! Forgot that she said she used slightly less pepper than it called for, when I made it I used the full amount and it was borderline too hot to handle. 🔥 Still delicious though, will definitely make it again. The cornstarch method is super effective too, would be good with all sorts of sauces.