Category Archives: chocolate

Three D Chocolate Cake Recipe

This one-of-a-kind chocolate cake is great for any or no occasion at all. We whisked this DDD (decadent, delicious, disappearing) cake last week-end as a part of a surprise Happy Birthday salute. Well, it was a DOUBLE surprise, both in taste and the secret major ingredient of it which nobody could guess: the BEETROOT. Really?  Abso-xx-lutely.  Hmmm, how can the chocolate cake be decadent and delicious if its major ingredient is beet? And yet, the sweet-savory taste of beets marries dark chocolate happily making this cake deep and unbelievably moist. I promise, your guests will be asking what is in that cake besides chocolate first thing.
This velvety rich, mildly dense, slightly fudgey and delicate-crumbled cake is both rustic and elegant and guarantees to make the most vivid sweet food memories.  Few decades ago using beets in chocolate cake might have been considered downright shocking, but with today’s baking taking a scientific direction it totally makes sense as a second major ingredient, providing healthy and colorful starch and fiber while still letting the chocolate shine through the cake’s earthiness.
Health and fashion-wise,  this Chocolate, Almond and Beetroot Cake (to be exact with its name) ticks multiple WOW boxes, including: ‘trendy’, ‘no flour’, ‘no butter’, ‘no grain’, ‘gluten-free’,’ paleo’, ‘ kids friendly’, and more.  So, yes, DECADENT, DELICIOUS and fast DISAPPEARING cake. Unfortunately, the latter adjective is not just used in a figurative sense.  According to the news, the most wanted food of Gods is imperiled by droughts and diseases and the future of the proverbial cocoa seed doesn’t seem so bright.  I therefore suggest you schedule your next chocolate baking session while it’s still available and/or affordable…
Not to mention, how nicely it juxtaposes with today’s gloomy and foggy weather…
The recipe didn’t fall on our lap, we’ve made an extensive research trying to find/compile it and balancing the demand (birthday person’s love for chocolate) and the supply (our personal choice to skip the flour and butter from the cake and replace them with leaner and healthier nuts and edible fiber).  We’ve casted avocados, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini as possible combinations with dark chocolate, but to no avail of something extraordinary in our archives. We then reached out for several modern baking guru suggestions (Anna Olson, Nigel Slater, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, David Leibovitz, Aran Goyoaga) and the beets quickly surfaced from their recent books, shows and Internet recipes. The beets in chocolate cakes are mostly appreciated for adding the moistness and caramel flavor touch (while the beets themselves being completely disguised in the cake to absolutely no way you can tell them apart from chocolate). These facts got us hooked. We couldn’t wait to experiment with them and chocolate!
The recipe became a cross of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Chocolate & Beetroot Cake’ recipe with ground almonds (no flour or butter in it, just like we wanted), and beetroot ingredient being baked in advance (like in Anna Olson’s recipe).  Quick note: most of the recipes stipulated that the beet should be baked, so we decided to skip raw beets and use the cooked ones (although may be next time we will dare to use them raw – we just didn’t want to take a chance this time).  As for the icing we’ve selected Martha Stewart’s ganache recipe (thusly, adding some butter and cream to what otherwise was supposed to be just a melted chocolate drizzle). 
This recipe is not complicated:  we found it simple and relatively fast to prepare (guess what, it’s coming from the Jamie’s Garden Project with Kids series, so, clearly, you can engage your kids into play when making it for more fun).
For the chocolate ganache glaze, place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over chocolate cake.
As for the swaps I used 50/50 golden and red beets. I assume you can replace them with raw zucchini or pumpkin (excess water squeezed out). Ground almonds can swap with ground hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan or macadamia. The crowning glory of the chocolate ganache coating can swap with just melted chocolate drizzle and/or powder sugar dusting, and/or fresh berries, like raspberries. The chocolate and cocoa are, naturally, irreplaceable for now. So far, and Ummm, for the next XXX years?  
Finally, one last note: according to Jamie Oliver, measuring the ingredients is ‘a key to the success of this cake, so please use the scale to exact the amounts.
Have fun and indulge your senses!

For the Cake:

Olive oil to grease the baking pan
Flour (regular or gluten-free if necessary) for dusting the form
10.5 oz (300 g) quality dark (bittersweet)chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
9 oz (250g) baked beet root, peeled and coarsely grated
4 large eggs
5.3 oz (150 g) caster (powder) sugar
1 1/5 cup (120 g) ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp quality cocoa powder
For the Glaze (Ganache) (optional):
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heave cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Cognac or rum (optional)
Berries, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm cake spring form with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper, size of the bottom of the tin, to line the base. Dust the sides of the tin lightly with flour, then tap the tin to get rid of any excess.
Break 7oz (200g) of the chocolate up into small pieces and add to a heatproof bowl over the barely simmering water to melt.
Place the grated beetroot into a big bowl.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a separate large mixing bowl and adding the yolks to the beetroot, then wash your hands.
Stir the sugar, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the beetroot and mix together well.
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.
Use a flexible spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the beetroot mixture to loosen, then, once combined, fold the rest, but try not to over mix.
Add the mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly using a spatula.
Bake in the hot oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and cooked through. Check with the cocktail stick if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If slightly sticky it needs to cook for a bit longer.
Allow the cake to cook slightly. Open the spring form and carefully move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  Discard the parchment paper.
When ready to serve, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake, or glaze it with chocolate ganache (see instructions above).
Serve with fresh berries, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Adapted from Chocolate & Beetroot Cake by Jamie Oliver, 2014

‘Nuts About You’ Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

As I’m writing this, most of you probably already have some kind of titillating chocolate cherub in the vicinity, so this post might first look redundant, but please keep reading if you wish to discover why these little cookies are my choice tonight.
No matter how commercial, patronizing and insipid the Valentine’s Day may feel, it’s still about LOVE, so it gives you and your significant one a chance to give each other some extra attention in so many ways. Sky is the limit, but for me, Valentine is also about celebrating the miraculous and things I like in general. Like cooking, discovering new ingredient, flavor or combination, etc. – today it happens to be the tiny Lady’s Kisses or Baci di Dama Italian sweet treat I was looking for quite a while and surprisingly discovered in Bonjour Paris website, while I was searching for something completely different. I made a small batch, almost climaxed trying it (think of life as a box of chocolates) and here we are, I am sharing the recipe with you… If for you it’s a cat, ukulele or working out the muscle, give yourself a slack and arrange for your own nirvana.
Life is short and there’s no need for a crystal ball to tell us what we need to do next to be happy. Love is everywhere, every day, every minute and I wish we would notice and celebrate it more often. In the meantime, here is a great dig of a Jimmy Fallon’s Valentine songs during his SNL apprenticeship  back in 1999 to put a smile on your face.
The weather is a usual snow-storming today (let’s be positive: at least it’s not hailing), so good luck with all that reservations taken around the city tonight – it will be a Big Honking Deal.
As for me, a home-made winter warmer (supper + wine) with further cuddling and watching Olympics would fix it, not without a touch of my latest hazelnut cookies addiction to go with a cup of tea (a glass of champagne and some fresh berries might replace it tonight).  And did I tell you that my hubby goes nuts about them too? Why? Because you can’t go wrong with ethereally rose scented hazelnut mini-slabs hosting a decadent dark chocolate filling!  Gluten free, my friends, and you are welcome!

The dough is made of roasted and chopped hazelnuts, rice flour (you can still use regular unbleached flour), butter and sugar with the touch of salt and rose water (I suppose you can swap maple syrup for sugar, but you don’t need to add rose water in that case). Mix the ingredients with your hands in one ball, then cut it and roll it in short logs in batches (1.5 inch diameter), wrap in the film and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just leave it in a freezer for 15 minutes. Slice the logs quarter of an inch thick (about 5 mm), distribute in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 325 F for 15 minutes. Let cool without removing from the sheet, melt the chocolate in bain marie and sandwich a dollop of chocolate between two cookies until you run out of them. Start eating them right away.

Confessions: I doubled the recipe’s quantity and skipped the part of rolling the sliced dough into little rounds (the actual lady’s lips) like it is suggested in original recipe turning them into sandwiches. Heck, it saved me a lot of time and gave me something to talk about with my best half (‘Oh, crikey, I completely forgot to make the lady’s lips out of them, but they still look like cartoonish lips, and the taste is still there… and HEY that’s why I called them sandwiches!‘(say it in Italian, if you know Italian, for more drama)).  
Short in time or space? Go for the faster dessert option of a little Molten chocolate cake – so swoon-worthy for the Valentine! Or just buy a bunch of quality French macaron like I did last year – heavenly. 
 Have a Happy Valentine dear readers!
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger

Makes about 20-24 mini-sandwiches
1 ¼ cups roasted and skinned hazelnuts or blanched almonds
1 ¼ cup rice flour (or unbleached flour)
3.5 oz (100g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 g) sugar
½ tbsp rose water (or fleur d’oranger water)
Pinch of salt
2 oz (60g) bittersweet chocolate, melted in bain marie
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor to the semi-coarse, but not flour consistency.  Mix all ingredients, except the chocolate, with your hands in one ball, then cut it and roll it in short logs in batches (1.5 inch diameter), wrap each log in the film and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just leave it in a freezer for 15 minutes. Slice the logs quarter of an inch thick (about 5 mm), distribute in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool without removing from the sheet. In the meantime, melt the chocolate in bain marie and sandwich a dollop of chocolate between two cookies until you run out of them.  Enjoy right after the chocolate sets within 15 minutes.
Adapted from: Lady’s Kisses (Baci di Dama) by Theresa Murphy

Guilt Free Molten Chocolate Cake

If this little thing doesn’t scream EAT ME to you then I don’t know what will.  This lighter-than-air chocolate cake with gooey running inside pocket was the bang we made for Christmas. And, hopefully, will repeat today. ‘Cause hardly any other dessert can be more chocolaty or feathery light to go so well  with a glass of champagne.  Why guilt free?  Because it’s the New Year’s Eve (in Arctic cold weather), the cake is made of dark chocolate, without flour, with very little sugar) and … it is REALLY tiny (you can choose the individual size of the ramekin). And for the color and the year of the Horse …
Give a try to this exquisite and festive morsel with mostly 4 basic ingredients in it: dark chocolate, butter, (very little) sugar and eggs. We added a small pinch of cayenne pepper to increase the intensity and add a touch of the fire place warmth. 
The molten chocolate cake (which  also happens to be very easy and fast to make) is a truly nice step away from any heavy holiday classics, but if you don’t have time to make it today, then Valentine would be another perfect occasion…

Thank you for everything in 2013 and Cheers to the Happy and Easy 2014!
Molten Chocolate Cake
Yields: 6 to 8 small cakes in ramekins
8 oz (227 g) bittersweet or dark chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature + extra butter for greasing ramekins
2 tbsp cocoa powder
4 eggs
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
pinch of fleur de sel (or fine flaky sea salt)
1 tbsp white powdered sugar for sprinkling ramekins
whipped cream or ice cream to garnish
fresh blackberries to garnish (or other fresh berries)
Prepare and grease 6 to 8 very small ramekins.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Place the chocolate and butter in a small bowl. Bring a small pot of water to boil and place the bowl with chocolate and butter in it to melt, stirring over medium-low heat until completely melted and well mixed.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder and cayenne (optional), mix well. Set aside.
Beat the eggs with the brown sugar and vanilla until thick and pale. Pour in melted chocolate mix, add salt and mix well until smooth.
Divide the butter among 4 greased ramekins greased and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until the batter rises, the edges are set, but the center is still gooey.  Serve warm or cold garnished with whipped cream or ice cream and fresh berries.
Tip: after the cakes cool down, they will shrink and pull away from the sides. If necessary, run a paring knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen them. Carefully invert into a plate.

Heaven In Your Mouth: Easy Eggless Tiramisu

Today is an International Day of Italian Cuisine and tiramisu is a selected dish to master and compete in. For me, this dessert is not only the unique flavour of mascarpone, espresso, cocoa, liquor and lady biscuits combination that makes it so attractive. Most importantly, it does not require any baking and you can control the amount of sugar in it, which makes it a real delight to prepare and indulge in!
While the official event will take place in New York City at the International Culinary Center – School of Italian Studies, we have our own little celebration here as my daughter is making her own take on tiramisu in our kitchen. As you will see from the image she finished it with strawberries turning it into the fruit tiramisu category. Other than that the recipe follows authentic ingredients, but has no eggs in it. Why no eggs (any Italian chef would furiously inquire)? Simply because we just survived stomach flu and are going easy on our
gastric departments. For many others skipping zabaione (eggs/sugar/wine) layer would also mean much less calories… But no worries, this recipe is still as fresh and delicious as tiramisu can be, plus we will be adding a link to the authentic recipe of tiramisu below in case you would like to try both versions.

Despite its huge popularity and fame nowadays, tiramisu was not there during the times of Filippo Lippi or Giulio Romano when they were depicting their historical banquets. This heavenly dessert did not even exist 50 years ago: I could not find any trace of it in “The Cooking of Italy“ Foods of the World published by Life Time books in 1968. Whoever created it was definitely a genius as this little treat brought the fame of Italian cuisine to a whole new level.

Filippo Lippi, View of the fresco cycle in Prato Cathedral, Italy – Herod’s Banquet – Salome

Giulio Romano, Banquet of Amor and Psyche
The heart of this widely loved Italian dessert is mascarpone cheese. The next four most important ingredients are: few spoons of espresso, lady fingers cookies, few spoons of dark rum (Marsala liquor, porto or brandy) and cocoa powder. As for the rest of the ingredients (sugar, cream, eggs (if using)) you will definitely have them in your pantry.

As in any dessert preparation, the proportion is the key and be easy on the lady fingers rum-coffee soaking, they just need a very quick dip to get into the right condition, no need to make them soggy…

When layering the ramekins or martini glasses with lady fingers and mascarpone mix, you can go vertically, or horizontally, or even add some strawberry layers if you want. Top with cocoa powder and/or some chocolate shavings.

Allora andiamo, lets have the dessert “pick me up“ (as “tirami sù` translates from Italian)… 
Finally, here is the tiramisu authentic recipe, which calls for an egg and does not include strawberries.



125 grams (1 cup) mascarpone cheese
12-14 Italian lady fingers biscuits
4-6 tablespoon espresso coffee (or 3 in 1 instant coffee)
3 tablespoon dark rum (or Marsala or coffee liquor, or brandy, or porto)
1/2 vanilla extract
1 tablespoon caster (superfine sugar)
2 tablespoon thickened cream
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (or shaved dark chocolate) for dusting
few strawberries thinly sliced for garnish (optional)


In a bowl, mix mascarpone, vanilla extract, caster sugar, cream, yogurt and 1 tablespoon liquor until creamy consistency.
In a wide and shallow plate mix coffee and the rest of liquor and dip lady finger biscuits in it one by one.
Cut the biscuit to fit into your ramekin or martini glass. Add mascarpone mixture to cover the biscuits.
Chill the glass or ramekin for 15-30 minutes in the fridge. Dust with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings and top with strawberries when serving.
forget the ramekins and strawberries, layer the biscuits and mascarpone spread in the classic way – either way this eggless tiramisu will be a hit: