*LATIN FUSION PASTA

My first solo apartment was in Los Angeles. The neighborhood was just as colorful as the building mosaic that announced the street name and number.

Thank you Google!

Thank you Google!

An obese bum lived up the road and spent most of his time at the bus stop or under a purple flower shade tree. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic was also on my block, in addition to one school, one church, a mechanic and a smog check place (100% satisfaction guaranteed). Peppered along the street were small homes, condos and/or apartments. Street parking was a premium; a 16-point turn was necessary to get into or out of a spot. Today, a savvy realtor might call this area “Los Feliz Adjacent.” When I lived there it was on the outskirts of Little Armenia and Thai Town was just west of that.

I loved my third floor walk up on the sunny narrow street. Even though it was considered a studio apartment, the closet was nearly 10×7, and could have been used as a bedroom. I was scared of earthquakes and intruders, so I slept on my Craigslist Futon in the main room, where I could keep my eye on the door. The ceilings were high, I painted one wall sun yellow, another blue and my kitchen cabinets Barbie pink. I hate Barbie, but living in Los Angeles in my very first apartment, having brightly colored cabinets felt natural. After all, the girls on Friends had brightly colored cabinets.

3-28-14 Monica's Apartment

Sonodoro and I had our coffee date on Earth Day (April 22, 2003). Despite my attraction, I made him wait the three dates before I cooked for him.

The local Food4Less was only a half-mile away and since I didn’t want to lose my premium parking spot (or pay for gas) I put on my favorite shorts and walked down. This was before I thought 60° was cold and my innocence was as deep as The Marianas Trench. I was excited about cooking for Sonodoro and this probably made my walk a little too flirty. Some guy, slightly older than 23, looked me in the eye and queried, “how much?” Naïve as could be, I ventured:

How much for what?

“For you.”

I snapped. I’m not for sale! I continued on my merry way, pissed but happy. Yeah, he wants me… I can’t wait to make dinner for Sonodoro.

Between savings and my retail job I was just making ends meet. While living away from the safety of college and home, I economized and spent $10 a week (or less) on groceries… all without eating the sodium-rich TopRamen.

Sonodoro was special and dinner needed to be special too; this meant spending money beyond my weekly $10 budget.

In hindsight what I cooked could be considered racially insensitive, but I thought I was being creative and honoring his Latino background. I did fusion pasta and thought of as many veggies that were germane to Latin American cooking as I could. Essentially relying on my fajita and taco experience, I included, cilantro, onion, tomato, various bell peppers and a couple black olives for good measure. (Again, ignorant, I know.) At this point in my life, I couldn’t afford meat, but I bought breakfast sausage to dice up and sauté.

I was anxiously anticipating Sondoro’s phone call telling me he was downstairs. (The buzzer, as with many other things in my building, building was broken. Before I knew it, there was a knock on my door. I still had on my cooking clothes and apron. Neither dinner nor I were ready. I rushed to the door in my apron and answered it.

It was Sonodoro! AND HE BROUGHT ME FLOWERS!

The big bouquet had white lilies and roses. Holy smokes! Not counting my parents, I only received flowers twice: once at camp (during our mid-summer extravaganza) and once from Cosby Sweater (college boyfriend).

While I finished cooking and setting the table, Sonodoro insisted on helping. While Sondoro scrubbed my pots, we got to know each other. We got to know each other better during dinner and conversation. (Apparently checking out a man’s housekeep skills are part of my foreplay.)

He marveled that I was unconcerned by the ghetto birds. I thought he was talking about pigeons. Again, my naïveté only served to highlight our differences.

No, he meant police helicopters.

Of course I was unconcerned; police are protecting us.  (I assumed police were patrolling. I eventually learned they were looking for perps who were evading arrest.)

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS
Penne Pasta
4 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half
5 sprigs cilantro
1 lime
salt and ground pepper to taste

 2014-03-27 19.34.30

If you desire 5 breakfast sausages diced.

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.

SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.

2014-03-27 19.59.01
Half your pitted black olives (about ½ cup) and put in a seperate bowl.

Chop the tomatoes….

PASTA
Cook according to package instructions.

SAUTEE
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook your onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Right before the pasta is done add ¼ cup of pasta water to veggies. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, cilantro and lime juice.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat.

 

*EASY SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

I met Sonodoro (Dreamer) through Yahoo Personals when I was 23(ish). With my dating history, I was cautious. Sonodoro didn’t push. He sent many emails.

He was a poet… always carefully selecting the right word. Good spelling. Good grammar.

YAY!

We had more phone conversations.

He was passionate about stories and was in fact a dreamer. He dreamt of publishing a book of poetry and short stories. He dreamt of travel. He loved his mom and family. He wanted his own family. He wanted a woman with similar passions and he wanted to dote on her.

Every time his name appeared on my caller ID, my heart raced. I could not wait to meet him in person!

We arranged to meet at the Starbucks at Western and Hollywood (in Los Angeles, CA).

3-21-14 Starbucks

I walked in the front door. I took a quick survey of the place…

A group of people eating and chatting.

Some girl doing the crosswords.

A dude reading a book.

Nope not there.

I didn’t make eye contact with anyone and certainly didn’t pause long enough to actually see if Sonodoro was there. With nerves of Jell-o, I walked straight through and out the back door.

While collecting myself, my phone rang. It was Sonodoro: “Did you just walk through?”

Yes.

I took a deep breath and walked back in. He waved me over. Yup, he was the dude with the book. (A guy that reads and likes words; I was in love.) He ordered a white chocolate thing and I ordered a caramel macchiato. We split a slice of sour cream coffee cake. And, he paid. (Something, I was not accustomed to since my college boyfriend insisted on going Dutch with everything, even special occasions.)

3-21-14 SB Sourcream Coffee Cake

Sonodoro took my hand and held it as we talked. He was just as poetic and caring as he was on the phone. His ears were pierced with 8mm gauged earrings. Even going to a ridiculously liberal arts college in Boston, this was still surprising.

I noted the tattoo on his forearm: flames with Chinese characters. I confessed that I didn’t know he had tattoos or piercings. He said those facts were clear in his profile pictures and telling me would be redundant.

My computer was 5 years old and was limping through the world wide web with its sad RAM and one of those free AOL dialup discs that everyone had in the early 2000s.

3-21-14 AOL disc

Part of me didn’t believe he had pictures, but a larger part wasn’t sure if my computer had the stamina to access them, even if they were there. Nonetheless…

Sonodoro was a poet and liked words!

He was unlike anyone I dated back in New England (not that my experience was that deep). He was raised in Los Angeles and was brought up by a coyote. As I puzzled through how he was raised by a pack of coyotes (like Mowgli in the Jungle Book who was raised by wolves), he clarified: He was born in Guatemala and with his family, he was brought north by a person who specializes in smuggling new residents across the border (a coyote).

3-21-14 Mowgli

Two hours later, I realized I had to get ready for my afternoon job and he was late to do home repairs for his mother. We made plans for another date….

RECIPE
This recipe is inspired by Ina Garten.

INGREDIENTS
Coffee Cake:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Streusel:
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Set oven racks to middle racks.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

MIXING
In a Medium bowl, cream together:
Butter, sugar and eggs.
Add sour cream and mix well.

3-21-14 Cream Ingredients

In a separate bowl sift together:
Flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Slowly add to the butter mixture. Your batter will feel a stiff and have more elasticity than traditional cake batter. When the ingredients are well blended, stop. (You don’t want to over-mix.)

3-21-14 Elastic Ingredients

THE REST
As with any recipe, it can be modified to suit your particular need. Rather than one giant coffee cake that doesn’t look nearly as beautiful after a couple slices have been taken, today, I opted to make individual coffee cakes. This way, I can give multiple little cakes away. Also, I’ll have some left over to freeze and eat throughout the week.

I used well-greased ramekins for some and broke out cupcake wrappers for others.

Streusel topping:
Put ingredients in a steep-rimmed bowl. Take two stainless-steel knives and cut the ingredients together. Eventually pea size (or smaller) bits will form.

2014-03-22 07.56.20

3-21-14 Coffee

Coffee helps get me through the tedium of cutting together the streusel topping.

Spoon dollops of batter into cupcake wrappers or ramekins. If you opt for a full cake,  put half of the batter into a well-greased pan. Spread with a knife.

Sprinkle batter with streusel. Spoon more batter on top of the streusel you just put down. The batter should be just past ¾ of the way up the wall in whatever cooking container you use.

2014-03-22 07.57.20

Sprinkle with more streusel.

Bake.
Muffins: 30 minutes
Cake: 40-50 minutes

When time is nearly up, check with a toothpick. When the toothpick comes out clean, remove cake(s) from oven and set out to cool.

3-21-14 Muffins

A Cautionary Tale:
The individual coffee cakes are slightly more labor-intensive than one may imagine. Also, as I was reminded this morning: Put ramekins on a baking sheet. This way, if streusel bubbles over it will not make a giant mess. This morning when the streusel caramelized, it dripped onto the bottom of the oven, setting off the smoke detector. The darn thing wouldn’t shut off and I had to unwire it. Then I locked the cat in a room and opened all the doors and windows to the outside. Once I realized what I did wrong, I ran to the oven and put the ramekins on a baking sheet. But, I still had a big mess to clean up.

3-21-14 Mess

For the…

EASIEST SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

Just go to Starbucks.

*SEGUE

On Friday, December 10, 2010 I collapsed at work. Paramedics drove a new-model ambulance to visit me; my boss insisted I return to the hospital with them. Going to the hospital was not part of my Friday night plans. I had a first date and he was taking me to an art reception. But, I made the best of the ride and got eligibility status on one of the paramedics for a co-worker. (He had a girlfriend.)

3-21-14 LA Ambulance

I sent two texts from the ambulance. One was to one of my best friends inviting her to join me in the ER if she had no plans and the other was to my date, “some girls will do anything to get out of going on a first date…  I’m going to the Emergency Room.”

His reply: Ok.

I thought the dizziness, back spasms, and fever I was suffering from was the flu, but several hours and one MRI later, I was diagnoses with “a mass” on my brain. The doctors admitted me and encouraged a weekend stay.

Saturday morning, I got a text from Southern Man. (We already had several dates.) He got a late start on his return trip from San Diego and asked if a late morning hike would be okay. I told him I was in the hospital. Even though I was looking forward to seeing him for the hike, I asked him not to visit.

He obliged.

I got a text from a guy I had a phone conversation with several weeks earlier. In that conversation he told me he was in a wheel chair from a car accident.

Ok. 

He followed it up saying he didn’t want anyone with health baggage (since he had his own). During the conversation I wondered:

If we are in an LTR and anything makes me “unhealthy” would he have the capacity to love me?

Later in the conversation, I gave him a modified “It’s Not You It’s Me” speech.

Apparently, something piqued his interest. Not knowing any of what happened in the last 24 hours, he sent me a text asking to meet up for coffee and try it again. I replied that I had a lot of stuff I was dealing with and didn’t want to talk. He said he could be a good friend. I responded, “I have enough friends.”

He didn’t respond.

To think of where I started to having a weekend where I rejected three men still astounds me. The dating journey since brain surgery has been different still. But, those are for other stories.

The forthcoming blog posts will resemble the classic song, “Jump Around” (they will not be in chronological order). To aid with digestion, I will group the stories by man.

*CHURCH CAMP CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CREAM PIE

Gaining the Freshman 15 is easy. My weapon of choice? Cheesecake. New York is known for its cheesecake and I was living outside of Manhattan. (Truthfully, I was living in Brookville, Long Island a 30+ minute ride on the LIRR to get to Manhattan.)

Let’s try that again. I  was living in Long Island and found it necessary to sample the varieties of cheesecake I encountered. My friends and I always found appropriate rationalizations, “I haven’t tried this one yet” or “this one is my favorite; it’s been awhile.”

IMG_1437My college Freshman year started soon after camp ended.  At the close of camp PK said, “Let’s be friends.” I believed it; quite possibly, he believed it too. I tried calling and writing (real letters with doodles and stuff). It seemed PK didn’t want to be friends. He never responded. Now, having more wisdom from experience, he was either A) Busy being a high school senior or B) Didn’t want the commitment of long-distance friendship so ignoring me was easier. No matter how many times you’ve done it, rationalizing yourself out of heartbreak does not come easy. I spent the first half of freshman year mourning the breakup of my first relationship.

To my new friends, my stories would often begin, “One time at Church Camp…” (1) During camp, I was able to shake off my “awkward girl” inner monologue and be at home in my soul. I always left camp with more self-confidence than when I arrived. Naturally, I was excited to be accepted on staff for another summer.

After seeing pictures from the Winter Formal, I realized I had over-achieved and gained the Freshman 15 + 5. Oh crap! I was twisted with my weight-loss incentives: Get back together with PK or make him jealous.

Extreme measures must be taken and I did the unthinkable. I stopped eating cheesecake! I also cut my coffee consumption (a bigger sacrifice than giving up cheesecake). Coffee, which included milk and two rounded teaspoons of sugar, went from two 10 oz cups in the morning and two 10 oz cups in the afternoon and maybe more during Sociology (one 16 oz cup) to 1 cup in the morning and one in the afternoon, each with 1 level teaspoon of sugar and less milk.

3-14-14 Sugar

I was consuming 45+ calories in sugar alone for each cup of coffee, resulting in a daily tally of 225+ sugar calroies.

My second afternoon cup was replaced by an hour of aerobics.

3-14-14 AEROBICS

I did not look like this.

For campus dining, I carefully selected meals that looked less greasy, cut portion sizes and skipped dessert (most of the time). Sometimes, my evenings were capped off with more workouts. I lost 2 dress sizes!

At camp, I was a baker again. Since my co-baker spent the previous summer mostly sick, management gave me the opportunity to run the bakery on my own and be the sole baker at the age of 20. PK was the camp photographer (working Up The Hill) and there was a new batch of Camp Family.

Being a baker must have had the lovable Pillsbury Dough Boy kryptonite factor. This particular summer one boy AND one girl from Family crushed on me. (She was much a much better flirt than he; he was more like a giant puppy.)

3-14-14 Black Lab Puppy

While flattered by the advances and attention, I’m hetero and again, he was like a giant puppy. Besides, my eyes were other places.

PK did not care we were Up The Hill together. I looked better than I did when we “dated,” but it was as if the previous summer didn’t happen.

He didn’t ignore me completely, though. He’d say cute little things like, “please pass the bread.”

Despite PK’s aloofness, camp, as it always did, bolstered my confidence, anchored my faith, and with the safety of co-workers, helped me sharpen my flirting skills that were butter knife dull.

It was a friend from my Camp Family summer I took to prom after I turned Red down. The following summer I dated PK. This summer, my third summer on staff, with cheesecake weight lost, ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

3-14-14 Brown Bag Lunch

In addition to baking, I made brown bag lunches for campers to take on their hiking or cycling trips. English Teacher was Deaning (leading) a Cycling Conference.  He was on staff for many summers before my Family Summer; he had a camp legacy. (He couldn’t have been more than 25.) My Family summer he’d volunteer and visit his camp girlfriend. (Their relationship lasted longer than a summer.) Of course I knew who he was, but I was surprised when I found out he knew who I was.

I had dutifully prepared the brown bag lunches so English Teacher and his campers could go cycling after Monday’s breakfast. It was then he approached me to discuss provisions.

He put his hand on my shoulder and told me to keep the next lunch easy… Give him a couple loaves of bread, a vat of peanut butter and some jam. He’ll hose his pickup truck off after the kids use it as a table to make their sandwiches. I looked at his beautiful blue eyes, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Then, he smiled at me with his gap-tooth-smile. (Wow.)

He was going to be an English teacher and I was majoring in English. He used to work at camp and I currently worked there. (And, we both breathe air!) We had so much in common!

My heart needed to talk to him more and throughout the week I made sure we did. I invited him to stay for Saturday dinner. (Saturday dinners were traditionally fancier since it was only the summer staff and the incoming Deans and counselors for the week.) I intended to use dessert as my bait.

With my love of cheesecake, I made a similar but less labor-intensive dessert and I whipped off a batch of Emeril Lagasse’s CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER PIE (a standing favorite of mine). I spooned some into Dixie Cups and gave one to English Teacher after Friday dinner. He took a bite and invited me to visit him and the campers that night. It was like being invited to sit at “the cool kids’ table.”

I was terrified. I could be marginally flirty and confident, but I couldn’t manage a visit. I stayed in the female dorm. The next day he chastised me for not visiting.

He had a lot of friends on staff, so he was often up visiting or volunteering. We kept re-connecting. No kissing. No holding hands. Just talking. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if I went for that Friday night visit. Maybe something, probably nothing. I still have good memories of that summer and our small exchanges and how I felt when I was able to entice him to stay for dessert.

RECIPE
You can make your own graham cracker crumb crust for this, or if you’re pressed for time, you can purchase a store-bought pie crust. Still use the plain graham cracker crust; that way you have a flavor contrast to the chocolate in the pie filling.

INGREDIENTS

PIE CRUST:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

FILLING:
8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts (I usually use more)
4 cups heavy cream, whipped until thick

GARNISH:
2 cups heavy cream, whipped until thick
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
4 ounces chocolate curls and shavings
2 cups chocolate sauce, slightly warm (see Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookie… add more milk)

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Set oven rack on bottom slot.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

THE CRUST
In a bowl combine the gram cracker crumbs, butter and ¼ cup peanut butter. Mix thoroughly. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan.

BAKE until golden and crisp, (6 to 8 minutes).

REMOVE from the oven and cool completely.

THE FILLING
Using an electric mixer (if you have one), or a wooden spoon (if you don’t) beat the cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Add the remaining ¾ cup peanut butter. Beat until smooth. Add the milk and roasted peanuts and beat well.

In a separate bowl whip the heavy cream. When it has light peaks, add the confectioner’s sugar. Fold 4 cups of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture.

3-14-14 Pie Filling-the-crust

I am sick & don’t want to make a pie that is germ-loaded & will ultimately need to be thrown away. (Another baker’s pic.)

Spoon into the prepared pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, (about 2 hours).

EATING
Remove from the refrigerator just before serving.

Pool your chocolate sauce on plates. Cut and plate pie slices. Garnish with whipped cream, chopped peanuts, chocolate shaving.

3-14-14 Choc Pie Better

I am sick & don’t want to make a pie that is germ-loaded & will ultimately need to be thrown away. (Another baker’s pic.)

Serves about 8-10.

Variance:
When whipping the cream, wait until it has soft peaks add confectioner’s sugar and lightly sweeten… one to two tablespoons.

Yes, I’m nerding out and using endnotes.

1)  American Pie came out the spring of my Freshman year; it did not help my cause. At least I was no longer the only one who began stories, “One time at camp…”

*CHURCH CAMP CHOCOLATE CAKE

My first boyfriend was two years younger than me. He was a Preacher’s Kid (PK) and we met at work the summer between high school and college— He was my camp boyfriend.

 

I had just turned Red down for prom, graduated high school, and ran away to work at a sleep-away church camp for the summer. The year I met PK, I was on second-year staff, working as one of two bakers. He was first-year staff, also known as Camp Family. Family is generalized help that lives “down the hill,” away from the main camp campus. This means that whenever Family helped other divisions of staff, we were their supervisors.

This particular summer, my co-baker spent the better part of the camp season sick, so most of the time, I was baking alone… At the age of 19, doing the work of two to ensure all 300+ campers and staff would have their freshly baked cookies, cakes, and treats.3-7-14 Chocolate Chip Cookies

Working on Family is like being in an apprentice program; you to learn a new skill so you can graduate to work on Up The Hill staff the following year.  Working on Family also means, you’re a bit like a super hero and go wherever help is needed.

3-7-14 Super heroes

One afternoon, early in the camp season, my co-baker got sick; PK was assigned to help me. Before I could trust him to measure 20 pounds of flour for dessert, he had to face a test. While he scrubbed my pots, I got to know him, (in the clothes-on mundane-type question “where are you from” sense). I got to know him better in the dry goods closet (in the clothes-on kissing sense).

The whole thing was surprising. I had to climb a stepladder to get supplies from the top shelf and I brought him in so he could take the supplies from me.  He took a kiss instead. He tasted sweet like the fruit punch he had been drinking. Catching my balance, I took a step down.  We were eye-to-eye, “kissable height.”

(One friend defined this as, “the optimum height difference between two people to have a comfortable kiss… No one has to stoop over too much or strain their neck to give/receive a kiss.”)

Being short, I was never “kissable height,” and therefore doomed to feel inadequate. In this brief moment of being “kissable height” I felt attractive. Generosity outweighing shyness, I returned PK’s  kiss.  Despite being two years younger than me, it was clear he had more experience. When I saw him at dinner that night it was awkward. I felt like I had done something wrong; I was his supervisor after all. Besides, having your first real kiss outside the confines of Truth or Dare in the dry goods closet at church camp is a real mind-fuck.

3-7-14 Dry Goods Closet

Later that week, when the evening was winding down, (and Family was almost done with their responsibilities) I went to visit him in the Dining Hall. I had that giddy feeling in the pit of my stomach with nervous anticipation/hope/fear that he might kiss me again. I knew I could expect a hug. This was church camp and staff liked hugging in the name of spreading Christ’s love. He was a foot taller than me, so I lead him to the hearth and stepped up so we could see eye-to-eye for a hug. We were spreading Christ’s love (hugging), when the minister for the week (his mom) walked in. PK stepped away so quickly he nearly tripped over his feet. Her only reaction was laughter and she kept walking through, but PK had already run away. When he resurfaced, I walked him to the top of the hill so he could start his 1/2 mile walk to the Family Cabin. In the shadows, he kissed me again. (Yay!)

I liked this kissing thing. The Bakery was not near the Dining Hall, and I often asked him to help me to retrieve the evening snack from the Bakery and carry it back after dinner. Family dubbed it “nookie and cookie.” There was no nookie, just kissing.  Any suggestion beyond that scared the focaccia right out of me. After all, I was supremely in-experienced and still had fears of any form of romantic intimacy.

We were a couple for the summer; when camp closed in August, it was over. But, before the break up, there was his July birthday. In addition to baking cookies, breads and treats, I made individualized birthday cakes for people celebrating their summer birthday at camp. This meant, using a box mix and decorating the cake to fit to the individual, but PK was my camp boyfriend. I needed to pull out the stops. I called my mom for the family chocolate cake recipe (which is really Fanny Farmer’s Buttermilk Chocolate Cake recipe, from her beloved cookbook).

RECIPE

3-7-14 Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

FAMILY DIFFERENCES:

1. My family leaves out the salt and vanilla.

2. If you don’t have buttermilk, use sour milk or add 1 teaspoon vinegar to regular milk to make it sour.

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Set oven rack to the bottom rack.

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

MIXING
In a large bowl, sift together: Flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt

3-7-14 Sifting

When it’s well-blended add: Vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla

3-7-14 Sifting Stage 2

(NOTE: I like adding vegetable oil first and then using the same measuring cup for the milk to ensure I can get as much oil in the cake, plus it makes for an easier clean-up.)

Beat mixture until smooth.

3-7-14 Mix Well

THE REST
Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan, ensuring that all sides are well-covered.

Alternatively, you can cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of your pan. Place on the bottom and grease the sides.

Spread batter in pan and bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Put on cooling rack away from oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

3-7-14 Parchement Paper Help

REMOVING FROM PAN
Tap cake pan on edges of counter, going around in a circle/square. Put serving dish on top of pan. Hold pan to dish firmly and flip cake onto dish. Set on counter and lift pan straight up off of dish.

In Laurie Colwin’s book, More Home Cooking: AWriter Returns to the Kitchen, she writes of Fanny Farmer’s Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, “It is hard to encapsulate the virtues of this cake. It is fast, easy, and scrumptious. It has a velvety, powdery feel – the result of all that cocoa. It is not so horribly bad for you, because you use buttermilk, which is relatively low in fat, and cocoa powder is defatted anyway. Furthermore, it keeps like a dream and tastes even better after a few days.”

FROSTING
Wait until the cake is completely cool before frosting, otherwise you’ll have a giant mess. Frost with your favorite flavor. I prefer a classic homemade buttercream frosting & find that it complements the cake nicely. 

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter or margarine (softened)
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and vanilla. Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered until ready to decorate the cake.

In all likelihood, you will have extra frosting, but I’ve always found it’s better to have ample frosting rather than stretching frosting too much. You can also dye the extra to create additional decorations.

3-7-14 Decorate

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
PK shook up my isolated world. If he hadn’t been bold enough to kiss me, it could have been years before my first real unforced lip-lock.  I wasn’t nearly as terrified about kissing as I was when I was 14, but kissing and dating were still not in my wheelhouse. I stumbled through a lot of common dating practices (like you don’t need to sit next to each other at every meal and spend all of your free time together). Most people don’t get it right the first time and it was clear I had a lot to learn.