In the midst of the craziness of the last week of school, a dear friend had her birthday. We got together to celebrate it Saturday night with dinner and drinks. I was asked to bring dessert, which I was more than happy to do, as she had made me a yummy chocolate cake for my birthday last fall and I wanted to return the favor. In addition to our two families were two others, with a kid count close to 10, so after some thought, I decided that the kids needed their own dessert. I realized that I wasn’t up for making two cakes, so when I woke up in the middle of the night with the genius idea of making a chocolate pudding pie for the girls, I was pretty proud of myself. When I realized I could use my mac daddy cake carrier to transport my two desserts, I was even more proud of myself. I used the stacking cupcake levels to hold the two desserts. What I love best about that thing is that it collapses for storage, so while it can hold 24 cupcakes, two cakes or a cake and pie as the case may be, it doesn’t sit around taking up the space of two cakes.
I made a chocolate pudding pie with a chocolate graham cracker crust for the kids. I smashed a packet of chocolate graham crackers, sprinkled in a little bit of sugar, melted 6 tablespoons of butter, poured it on top and combined it all, then spread it out in the pie plate. I chilled it briefly before pouring the pudding on top.
I used the chocolate pudding recipe from Wayne Harley Brachman’s Retro Desserts cookbook. I’ve blogged about this cookbook before – it’s my go-to dessert cookbook. Not only does it have great recipes, it talks about techniques, which are really key to baking. Homemade pudding is fairly easy and once you’ve had the homemade version, you will find it hard to eat the instant boxed version. (I’m including it here at the end of the post. Try it for yourself.)
I think the key to good pudding is using fresh, whole milk. I use a local dairy, Homestead Creamery, who bottle their products in glass. The difference in taste from any other dairy product you’ve ever had is something you just have to try for yourself.
After the pie cooled for a few hours, I spread a layer of fresh whipped cream on top of the pudding, then garnished the pie with fresh cherries.
As for the grown-ups dessert a few weeks ago, I happened to notice an old Bon Appetit my birthday celebrating friend was getting rid of that had a picture of what looked to be an amazing chocolate cake on the cover. I ended up ripping the recipe out and bringing it home. As I was looking for a cake to bake, I realized this cake was the perfect one to bring with us Saturday.
It’s from the September 2006 issue, La Bete Noire. I have never ever made a cake with this much chocolate in it – just the cake calls for 18 ounces, with the ganache on top calling for another 8 ounces. It’s a flourless cake, with the ingredients being butter, chocolate, eggs and a simple syrup. I think what appealed to me the most was the fact that you left the cake in the springform pan you baked it in, then dumped the ganache on top, making sure it was evenly distributed and then let it chill for a few hours. That is definitely my kind of frosting.
I garnished this cake with dollops of whipped cream and blueberries from our bushes and served it with more whipped cream and berries.
A chorus of girls serenaded the birthday girl. Once everyone tried the cake, it was agreed that chocolate pudding pie was a much better dessert for the girls. “The Black Beast” was intense. And divine. And actually pretty darn easy to make, which is key, because when you make a pie and a cake in the same day, you don’t want to spend the day slaving over them, especially when it’s close to 90 degrees outside.
I brought home the remnants of the chocolate pie as well as a little bit of the birthday cake, leaving the bulk of it for the birthday girl. I think I have found a new go-to cake that will leave everyone impressed with my baking abilities, although honestly, it’s just an ability to read a recipe and know which ingredients to use. You can never go wrong with 60% cacoa. Ever.
from Retro Desserts
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
Melt butter and chocolate.
Whisk the cornstarch, cocoa and 1/4 cup of the sugar into 1/2 cup of the milk, then whisk in eggs and yolks.
In heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining 2 cups of milk and 1/4 cup sugar just to the simmering point (it will wiggle in the pot). Drizzle this hot liquid into the egg mixture, while whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly. Cook until the mixture thickens. Mix in the melted chocolate. Pour into serving bowls,covering the surface with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled. Makes 6 servings or one pie.