dessert

Caramel Apples: Not just for Halloween anymore!

Even though the Broncos didn’t manage to make it past the Colts in Sunday’s playoff game, up in the suites, the food was a major victory. We served ribs, beef tenderloin, poblano potato casserole, creamed spinach, crab cakes, heirloom tomato salad, mini Pavlovas with mint whipped cream and pickled peaches, and… this fan favorite– Caramel Apples.

It might surprise you to know that even in a professional kitchen, the interwebs are used as a resource for recipes. Contrary to what some might think, chefs don’t just walk around with an encyclopedic knowledge of every single recipe known to humanity in their brains, so when they’re looking at making 1,600 caramel apples, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they’d do exactly what you’d do– Google it.

The recipe comes straight from a source with which you are probably familiar– The Food Network! Although, I’ll point out that they got the recipe from a cookbook called “Retro Desserts” by Wayne Harley Brachman. I’m sharing it with you here because peoples, it’s f*cking delicious. This recipe will make 8 full sized apples, or 16-20 mini apples.

Equipment:

heavy bottomed sauce pan
candy thermometer
whisk
8 – 20 (depending on the size of your apples) sticks – We used sturdy wooden picks. You just need something that can hold the weight of an apple laden with caramel and what ever else you dip it into.
additional baking pans if you’re dipping the apples into a second topping such as crushed nuts
waxed paper
cookie sheet

Ingredients:
8 regular sized apples, or 16-20 mini apples (We used mini Lady apples)
1 cup heavy cream, divided (3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and thoroughly dry off the apples. Insert the sticks into the stem end of each one.

Prepare your pans of additional toppings. Line your cookie sheet with the waxed paper.

Fit the candy thermometer onto your heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook 3/4 of the cream, the butter, the corn syrup, and the sugar over high heat, until the mixture reaches firm ball stage (246° F). The syrup should be golden in color. Pull the pot off of the heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup cream and the vanilla, whisking carefully. NOTE: the caramel is super hot, and it will bubble up when you add the cream so give it just a second to calm down before you get too close.

While the caramel is hot, dip each of your apples. If you’re using an additional topping, roll the apple in those immediately after dipping. Set the apples on the waxed paper to cool.

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Some suggestions for additional toppings:

* chopped nuts
* crushed cookies
* sprinkles
*crushed candy bars (like Butterfinger)
* mini chocolate chips
* toasted coconut
* crushed M&M’s
* toffee candy bits

These are a fairly easy treat to make, and if you can get your hands on mini apples, they’d be a cute dessert for everything from a birthday party to a baby shower. You could even wrap them once they’re cool and hand them out as a take home gift.

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Have fun!

A pound you won’t mind gaining…

When I create a recipe, or use someone else’s recipe, I try to think about making that recipe as the least experienced cook who reads my blog. I don’t have any idea which of you that is, but you’re who I write to. So, when I got the big idea that I’d be doing this whole project of paring down my cookbook collection and sharing part of it with you all, one of the concerns I had was that some of the recipes would be… a little advanced. Or they would seem a little advanced because the instructions were a little unclear, or convoluted, or simply had too many steps for a novice home cook.

Turns out, that concern was well founded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to starting handing out cookbooks to all of you that I haven’t used or that I think suck. I love the recipes in the books I’ll be giving away, but after cooking a couple of them, one thought kept popping into my head.

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In that spirit, before I share a recipe from any of these cookbooks, I’m going to make sure I’m giving you a version that is actually workable for someone new to cooking. I don’t think the more experienced cooks among you will mind too much, either. If you’ve ever looked over a recipe and thought, “This is a lot more work than I thought it was going to be,” maybe this little exercise will help demonstrate that just because it’s written in a cookbook doesn’t make it gospel. If it seems like too many steps, or too many specialty ingredients, don’t just give up. You can absolutely re-work the recipe.

This recipe for “Papa’s Apple Pound Cake” comes from Payard Patisserie and Bistro in New York, via The New York Times Dessert Cookbook.

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This cookbook is a pretty hefty set of cake, tart, ice cream, dessert soup, and custard recipes collected from chefs from around the country, and edited by Florence Fabricant, a food critic for the NYT. One of the things I like most about it is the “Basics” chapter which gives you pretty simple recipes for things like pie crust and pastry cream. I don’t love that it’s the last chapter in the book, but, if you just bookmark page 519 it’s a great quick reference for those “blank canvas” types of recipes that you can use to build into your own creation.

Think of this as a “jazzed up” pound cake. It’s got a little more flavor and texture than a plain pound cake, and has the potential to be an inspirational jumping off point for those of you who like to play around with add ins.

Equipment:

1 loaf pan (the recipe in the book calls for and 8″ x 4″ x 2 1/2″ but the one I used was bigger.)
measuring cups and spoons
1 small pot
1 large mixing bowl
1 small mixing bowl
1 mixing spoon
1 small bowl (any old bowl is fine. this is for soaking your raisins.)
stand mixer, or hand held electric mixer
vegetable/fruit peeler
apple corer, if you have one
sifter, if you want to use it

Ingredients:

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little extra to butter the pan
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus a little more for flouring the pan
1 1/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons of dark rum, or you can use rum extract (I did, because the liquor store by me didn’t open until noon and I had to get this show on the road.)
2 Fuji apples, peeled and cored then cut into thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 large, room temperature eggs
4 tablespoons apricot preserves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour your loaf pan. If you’ve never done this, basically just smear butter over all the inside surfaces of the pan, and then lightly sprinkle flour on top of the butter. This video from Jennifer Armentrout at Fine Cooking does a good job showing you what this looks like.

If your raisins seem really dried out and hard, soak them in really hot water while you work on the rest of the recipe. My raisins were nice and soft, so I was able to skip this step. Use your best judgement. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and soak them. It won’t hurt anything.

Peel and core both apples, and cut them into thin wedges.

In your small mixing bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder. The recipe says to sift. I didn’t, because I don’t think it’s worth the time and mess. Most modern flours don’t need the extra sifting, but if you’re concerned about making sure the baking powder is evenly distributed through or that your flour is lumpy, do it. You have to feel confident about the finished product, and if sifting gives you that, make it so.

If you’ve soaked your raisins to soften them, you can drain them now. If you’re using actual rum, put the raisins back in the small bowl with a tablespoon of rum and let them hang out there for a bit while you finish mixing the batter. If you’re using extract, hang tight.

In the large mixing bowl with your handheld mixer, or in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the stick of butter until it’s smooth. A bit at a time, add the confectioners sugar until it’s incorporated into the butter. It should be fluffy and creamy.

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Add the eggs one at a time until everything is mixed together. This is the point where I added the rum extract straight into the batter. I just used a cap full. Extracts carry a punch, and a little goes a long way.

A bit at a time, mix the flour/baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients until it’s all incorporated, and the batter is smooth.

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If you have had your raisins soaking in the rum, go ahead and dump the whole bowl into the batter now, then fold the raisins into the batter until they’re evenly distributed.

Now, this is where I thought the recipe got just a little bit convoluted. It took a full paragraph to explain the process of getting the apples just so into and on top of the batter. I read it, then I read it to the boyfriend, and then I re-read it two more times and then I felt a tiny aneurysm start to form and I had to stop. If you want to go out and buy this book, or try to get my copy in the giveaway so you can use their instructions, I ain’t mad atcha. However, I’m going to tell you how I handled things, and I fully believe you will still be satisfied with the end result.

Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan. Push 10-12 of the little apple wedges into the batter, with the round side up. or just lay them on top and wiggle them into the batter a bit.

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Pour the rest of the batter on top of all that, and then arrange the rest of the apple slices on top in a way that pleases you. I did four rows of shingled slices. You can do whatever you think looks pretty.

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Put the pan into your preheated oven for about an hour. The book says to check it at 10 minutes in and cut a little slit down the center of the batter to help it rise evenly. I did that, but it was literally still just batter at that point and I’m pretty sure the slit just closed back up on itself, so I’m not entirely sure if it actually worked. Again, it doesn’t hurt anything if you want to do it anyway.

Check for doneness at around the 50 minute mark by inserting a wooden skewer or a butter knife into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If it’s still got some goo clinging to it, let it go another 5-10 minutes.

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While the cake is on it’s last 10 minutes, melt down the apricot preserves in the small pot on medium heat until it’s pourable.

When the cake is done, brush (or pour and then spread with the back of a spoon) the apricot preserves over the top and let it hang out for awhile until it’s all pretty and glazey.

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The book calls for a second layer of stuff on top. I didn’t do that because it was already pretty sweet, but if you want to do this second topping…

Combine the remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons of rum (or about 1/4 cap full of the extract and 2 teaspoons of water) with 1/3 of a cup of confectioners sugar. Stir it well until it looks like icing. Brush (or pour and spread with the back of a spoon) over the apricot glaze, and then put the pan back into the turned-off oven until the icing is dry. Remove the pan from the oven again, and let the whole she-bang cool until it’s time to serve it. At that point you can remove it from the pan or serve it straight out of there.

I brought this to a Rose Bowl party (Go Ducks!) and it was a success. I hope you’ll give it a try.

Oh! If you’re not a big raisin fan, I think currants or dried cranberries would work, or I don’t know… go crazy and add butterscotch chips or something!

I would like for one of you, my lovely readers, to have my copy of this book. So, if you’d like to be entered into a drawing to have all 567 pages of deliciousness for your very own, you just need to do one very simple thing– Answer this question in the comments:

If you had to give up one piece of kitchen equipment for a whole year, which one would be the most difficult to let go of?

I’ll draw the winner before midnight on Wednesday, January 7th. Good Luck!

This giveaway is not sponsored by or affiliated with the New York Times or the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Winner will be notified on the I’m Gonna Cook That Facebook page, on the I’m Gonna Cook That Twitter account, and of course, here on the blog. The winner will have 3 days to respond or the prize is forfeit. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

“You owe me one.”

That’s what chef said to me last night as he was assigning out recipes for the evening. I was ready to volunteer to make anything else on the menu other than dessert, even the pain in the ass crab soup,  after last week’s gingerbread debacle. He had other things in mind.

“I think we all know who is in charge of dessert tonight, ” he said as he looked me right in the eye. “You owe me one.” And just like that, I was making Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze.

So off I went to the bake shop to get the pans, then back to the kitchen to get something into the oven as quickly as possible and start working on the back-up just in case the first one failed again. Why did the gingerbread collapse last week? Because I didn’t mix it long enough. At home, I don’t have a stand mixer. I do everything by hand, so I mix and mix and mix those cake batters to death. I assumed that the mixing time would be shorter with the stand mixer, but as it turns out, that’s not the case. My batter was under mixed and my cupcakes fell. Simple as that.

So, this week, I took that lesson to heart and built in plenty of time for mixing. Also, instead of doubling the recipe up front, I simply made the recipe twice (well, one and a half times). I’m not the best at math and while doubling a recipe sounds pretty simple, it’s actually really easy to screw one up if your math isn’t spot on.

This recipe as it’s written is meant for a bundt cake pan, but feel free to just make two 8 inch layers instead. I ended up doing a full bundt cake, plus half the recipe for another single layer cake.

Equipment:
2 Mixing bowls and a spoon and your stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one
measuring cups and spoons
sifter
medium sized pot
pastry brush (a cheap 25 cent paint brush from Home Depot is fine)
small bowl
bundt pan, tube pan, or two 8 inch cake pans

Ingredients:
For the cake:
1 C unsalted butter at room temperature
2 C packed brown sugar
1 egg
3 C All Purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2 C unsweetened applesauce
1 C raisins
1 C coarsley chopped walnuts

For the glaze:
1 C brown sugar
1/4 C unsalted butter
1/4 C evaporated milk

Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease and flour your cake pan(s).

Sift together the 10 oz (about 2 and 1/3 cups) flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl. Set aside. Dredge the nuts and the raisins in the remaining flour so they’re well coated. This will help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and mix in well.

Alternate adding the applesauce and the sifted ingredients a bit at a time, mixing each addition in very well before adding the next, until all of it is incorporated and the batter is well mixed. (see? now i’m obsessed with mixing until my arm falls off!)

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Fold the raisins and nuts into the batter. Pour into your prepared pan(s), making sure the batter is evenly distributed.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester or skewer or knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. My bundt cake took about an hour and ten minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then carefully loosen the sides and invert onto a rack to continue cooling for another 30 minutes or so. This is a pretty moist cake, so it’s important to let it cool completely so it doesn’t fall apart on you when you try to cut into it.

While the cake is cooling, you can make the glaze.

Put at least a cup or so of cold water in the small bowl.

Combine the evaporated milk, the brown sugar, and the butter together in a pot over medium low heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Keep stirring (not too vigorously) as the mixture starts to cook. You want it to reach soft ball stage, or about 220° – 235° on a candy thermometer.

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Wash down the sides of the pot with your cold water and the pastry brush if you start to see the sugar crystallize on the sides.  You want to re-dissolve those crystals into the caramel before they have a chance to fall off in a big chunk into your mixture. Once that happens you have to start all over because just one little seed crystal can set the whole she-bang to solidifying. On top of having ruined the caramel, it becomes a giant pain in the tookus to clean the pan because it all seizes up into brown concrete.

When the caramel reaches the right temperature and consistency (drizzle-able? is that word? i think i just made it one), remove the pot from the heat and beat it with a whisk or a spoon until it thickens. If your cake isn’t ready to come out of the oven yet, leave the pot on the warm stove top while you wait so it doesn’t get too cool. You’ll probably have to give it another quick stir before you glaze your cake with it.

Once your cake is cool, it’s time to serve!

This is the bundt cake…

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annnd here’s the other single layer cake…

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As you can see, both are pretty delicious looking, so go with whatever works for the way you want to serve it.

I feel pretty vindicated this week… so vindicated, in fact, that I’m thinking I’m going to use this recipe for cupcakes to sell at our Blogger Bake Sale in a few weeks. Just a reminder, if you’re in the Denver area on May 2nd and want to stop by, feel free! If you are out of state and would like to hold your own bake sale, just join the team! Orrr… if you just want to contribute some cash to the cause, I won’t turn down your money!

Click here for all the details.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s get lucky.

Boy do I have a treat for you!

Last week, Sweet and Crumby attempted to make a lightened up version of this delicious Irish Whiskey Bread Pudding. It seems she has the same problem I do. We start out with the best of intentions, and then before we know it we’re adding all sorts of goodies that cause our recipes to take a bit of a detour. I’m not mad at her though, because the moment she admitted to throwing caution to the wind and simply focusing on making a really delicious dessert, I quite happily followed her lead.

I didn’t detour too much from her recipe, and I recommend that you click that link up there and go check out the original. I’ll walk you through it though, and include the very minor changes I made (some on purpose, and one completely accidental).  This recipe is easy enough to throw together that you still have time to make it in honor of today’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but I think once you’ve made this once, it’ll be a popular repeat in your dessert rotation.

Equipment:
9 x 11 baking pan of some sort
large sheet pan
measuring spoons and cups
large mixing bowl
mixing spoon

Ingredients for the Bread Pudding:
1 large loaf of Challah bread, torn into pieces
1/3 C Irish Whiskey (I used Jameson’s)
1 3/4 C 2% milk
one 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 T vanilla extract
2 lg eggs, beaten
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C melted butter
1 1/2 T cinnamon/sugar blend (I’ll let you decide the ratio)

Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 350°.

I was prepared enough to buy the bread a few days in advance, but not prepared enough to get it torn up and air dried ahead of time, so I dried it out a bit in the oven. Dry/stale bread soaks up the custard much better, while still retaining its basic structure. Her recipe calls for the bread to be left in slices and drizzled on both sides with the melted butter then put into the oven to toast. I melted the butter but totally spaced actually putting it on the bread, so I ended up just pouring it into the custard. What the hell, right?

Anyhoots, it won’t take too long to get the bread just dried out enough to be more absorbent. Remember, you’re not really trying to brown the bread, just toast it up a bit to accept the custard.

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While the bread is drying, you can mix up the custard.  In the original version, you’d put the raisins in the whiskey ahead of time to help plump them back up, but since I skipped the raisins I just poured it directly into the custard mixture, along with the milks, eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Dump your dried out bread into the custard and very gently fold it to combine. You don’t want to break those chunks of bread up too much. Add the chocolate chips and fold them in, too. Food Made Simply has a great explanation for the difference between stirring or mixing and folding here, if you’re a little confused about that. Basically, folding is much gentler and helps to ensure your pudding isn’t going to be over-mixed into mush.

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Use cooking spray or butter to lightly grease your pan, then pour the mixture into it. Spread it out a bit to get it into an even layer, but don’t smoosh it down too much. Sprinkle your cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top and pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes.

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While it’s baking, you can get the Whiskey sauce together.

Equipment:
small pot or saucepan
whisk
measuring spoons and cups
fine mesh sieve or some sort of strainer (you might not need this, but I did)

Ingredients:
1/4 C butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 beaten egg yolk
2 T water
2 T whiskey/bourbon

Instructions:
Melt the butter in your sauce pan, then add the remaining ingredients. Cook and stir or whisk for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until the sugar is all dissolved and the sauce comes to a boil.

Here’s where the strainer comes in– My egg yolk started to cook a little. If I had been thinking about it, I probably would have tempered it a little to minimize the chances of that happening, but if the same thing happens to you don’t panic. Just let the sauce finish cooking and then strain out any bits of egg before you serve it.

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I brought mine into work, so I just drizzled the sauce over the top of the whole thing, but if this is something you’re making to serve after dinner you can just serve it on the side.

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If whiskey isn’t your thing, but you still want to get in on the St. Patty’s dessert parade, Sweet and Crumby’s blog post from March 12th has a recipe for Bailey’s Chocolate Devastation Cookies that might be a little more up your alley. Yum!

This post really takes the cake.

Note: I realize this is usually where we’d have a Kitchen 101, but I’m putting together something kinda comprehensive for you and it’s taking just a bit longer than I thought. It’ll be here next Tuesday! Here’s a little hint– it’s a basic kitchen skill that will save you money on chicken.

So, every month I get the new issue of Bon Appétit and I get all excited about it. I get big plans to read it through and try out at least five recipes and maybe even make the time to cook the cover. Does that happen? Noooooooooo. Because I have class, and work, and homework, and blah blah blah and while I do generally get the whole thing read while on the train and the bus, I don’t make the time to cook from it.

This month, I decided that was going to change. Baby steps are better than no steps at all, and I was determined to make at least one recipe from the March issue in March. Within the article on how to use buttermilk in desserts, I found this little gem. That’s right, it’s a Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake. Nom nom nom.

Now, we all know I’m not much of a baker. I’m impatient. I don’t like having to follow recipes. But I already had most of the ingredients I needed, so after a quick trip to the store for coconut, I was ready to get down to business. Except, you know me, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.

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You can read the full, original recipe by clicking the link I gave you up yonder. I’ll give you my version, with the tweaks.

Equipment:
8 in x 4 in loaf pan
2 mixing bowls (One for dry ingredients, one for the wet. If they aren’t the same size, the wet ingredient bowl should be the bigger one.)
electric mixer
measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients:
1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a combination of 1/4 C black onyx cocoa powder and 1/4 C regular dutch process cocoa)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (I used sea salt because that’s what I keep around)
1/2 C virgin coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 C sugar (I used 1 C white sugar and 1/2 C brown sugar)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C buttermilk
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat your oven to 325°.

Spray your loaf pan generously with cooking spray. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In the 2nd (largest) bowl, beat the butter, coconut oil, and sugars together until pale and fluffy.

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Now you’re going to alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Add about a third of the dry mixture and mix on low to incorporate. Then 1/3 C of the buttermilk, then another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

If you’ve ever made a quick bread batter (like pumpkin or banana bread), your batter will be just a tiny bit thicker than that.

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Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan. Make a little channel down the middle and sprinkle about a tablespoon more of white sugar into it. Then top the whole she-bang with the coconut flakes.

I wish I had a good picture of this for you, but I got shmutz on the camera phone lens (one day, I’ll be a grown up with a real camera) and I didn’t realize it until after. All the pictures are hazy, as though I dreamed that step, and dream sequences in the middle of recipes are just so hokey, right?

Hopefully you’ll get the idea from this picture of the final product:

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Kinda pretty, no?

One word of caution. The BA recipe says this thing should bake for 70-80 minutes. I baked mine for 70, and I thought it came out just a little drier than I would have preferred. I think I probably could have pulled it out right at an hour and let the carry-over cooking take care of the rest, but that’s just me. I read a couple of comments on the BA site, and both of those folks said theirs were slightly underdone at 70 minutes and sunk a bit in the middle. Maybe it’s an altitude thing? I don’t claim to be  a food scientist, so I’ll just say stick a tester in around the hour mark, and if it’s not done enough for you give it the extra 10 or 20 minutes.

I will tell you that I’m the only one who felt the way I did about the the lack of moisture. I took it to work and got some pretty rave reviews. It was gobbled up well before lunch time, so maybe it’s just a personal preference thing. Other than that, I really liked the flavor of this cake. It was rich and very chocolaty, and that coconut oil really gives it that little something extra.

Just a little friendly reminder that the “An Edible Mosaic” cookbook giveaway is still going on until Saturday. All you need to do to enter is go like the I’m Gonna Cook That! Facebook page, OR follow me on Twitter, then come back over here and leave a comment on this post to let me know. Piece of cake, yeah?