The Cake Makers

Look at all the happy people who took my advice and made Ina Garten’s chocolate cake this weekend:





Those of you who missed the deadline, worry not: the Amateur Gourmet photo pool is still open, so if you make the cake this week, upload your pictures there and I’ll see them. Actually, if you make anything you want to share with other Amateur Gourmet readers post it to the Flickr pool–we want to know what you’re cooking.

Chocolate Cake


Ladies and gentleman, this has been a rough week. My flu mutated into a cold and then back into a flu again. I hardly have the energy to type these words, I’m rapidly fading. Yet, I am filled with hope as I harken back to two weeks ago when I made the chocolate cake you see above.

It comes from The Barefoot Contessa (click here for the recipe) and it’s the Platonic ideal of a chocolate cake. It’s moist and rich and complex (with hidden coffee flavors); I ate way more of it than I should have. Perhaps my flu is punishment for gluttony?

The startling thing about making a chocolate cake is how many people inevitably come over to eat it. Let’s call it my Field of Dreams theory about baking: “If you bake it, they will come.” Before I knew it: Patty, Lauren, Stella, and James were there eating chocolate cake during the Vice-Presidential debate; then Lisa and a choreographer and dancers and my friend Josh were eating it too.

This chocolate cake is like a people magnet, which is why I’m posting it today: Friday. If you make this cake this weekend, I bet you’ll have a better weekend than if you don’t make this cake. In fact, I’ll make you a deal: make this cake and keep a camera handy. When the people come to eat your chocolate cake, take a picture of yourself with your friends and your cake and upload it to The Amateur Gourmet group on Flickr (click here). Anyone who uploads a picture, will be featured on the main page next week. You’ll be a chocolate cake star!

As for me, I plan to curl up on the couch and dream of chocolate cakes past, present and future. Perhaps one day I’ll have the energy to make another one; until then, I’ll be dreaming of yours. Happy weekend baking.

Chocolate Covered Matzos


Passover is over, but I’d like to belatedly submit my review of the Dark Chocolate Egg Matzos I bought at Citarella a few weeks ago. Here’s my review: I didn’t really like it. Sometimes the combination of dry, crackly, salty bread-like substance (pretzels, for example) with creamy, bitter, unctuous chocolate is a winner, but not so with matzoh. Whereas pretzels have that salty edge, matzoh is pretty bland and chocolate can’t redeem it. It’s like on American Idol when Randy says, “If you can sing, you can sing anything.” Matzoh can’t really sing–it’s just a nice vehicle for other foods like that apple stuff I really like. Haroset. Give me matzoh and haroset any day, but keep the chocolate away.

Neil The Intern Makes Fudge

We haven’t really heard yet from Neil the Intern (remember our interns?) and so please enjoy his debut post; a post on making fudge.

Fudge closeup Cutting the Fudge

Fudge is wonderful. It’s creamy, crystalline, firm, and smooth all at the same time. It’s a treat whenever I eat it, but is especially good when it starts to get cold, and yesterday my father and I made fudge for a post-Thanksgiving treat.

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A Cookie Trick


As much as I miss Diana for her winning personality, I mostly miss her for her cookie sheets. It was with her cookie sheets that we first made the greatest cookies of our lives–you can read the recipe here. Meg of Megnut rejected these cookies when she tried them and called them “too thin,” but I still think they’re the best.

Yesterday I was all set to make them when I made a painful discovery: Diana, despite my efforts to thwart her, remembered to take her cookie sheets. Her cookie sheets, unlike mine, are flat with no sides and the cookies made on them came out perfect every time. The ones made on mine often got burnt around the edges or black underneath–my cookie sheets have sides.

I was almost ready to give up, when I had a “eureka” moment.

“What’s wrong?” asked Craig.

“I’m having a eurkea moment,” I answered.

The eureka was this: I could bake cookies on the BACK of my cookie sheets. Flip them upside down. Lay parchment across them and bake them that way. Look:


See what I mean?

So I made the batter as usual and, as I revealed in a previous post, I used an ice cream scoop to get the batter on to the sheets:


I also flattened them with a wet hand, a trick I learned from one of my regular TV shows (Barefoot Contessa)? They went into the 350 degree oven and I was going to switch the sheets after 9 minutes to cook another 9 minutes more, but at that point they were already a perfect golden brown and the edges were dark. So I made the executive decision to take them out 9 minutes early and guess what?

They were fantastic. I mean you saw that picture above, look at this one:


What more could you want from a cookie? And you can recreate these at home this weekend using my trick. Who needs Diana and her stinkin’ cookie sheets? From now on I will use her for her personality and nothing more.

A Piece of


Finally made Clotilde’s signature cake. Can you see the zucchini? You can’t? That’s because it sort of melts as it cooks. That’s important to note because when I first shredded the zucchini, using the food processor, it came out in long strands. I was worried there’d be long strands of zucchini in the finished product so I put in the blade and chopped them all up. But Clotilde assures me that, “size doesn’t matter. The zucchini blends into the texture of the cake, so they can be short or long, whatever’s easiest with the tools you have.”

This is a perfect dessert to make right now with zucchini still so abundant. You can trick yourself into thinking it’s healthy too and justify the giant piece that you cut for yourself, like the piece you see above. Just more proof that Chocolate & Zucchini is a book worth having.