Thursday, April 9, 2020

CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE: A Delicious Distraction - Guest Post by Kathy Boone Reel

Chocolate Cherry Cake, A Delicious Distraction 

In dealing with the isolation from our friends and families during the COVID-19 crisis, we all need some treats to brighten our days. I’m finding that normal activities for me are ones that are helping immensely, such as reading and blogging and spending time online with my reading community, which in my case is the mystery/crime community. But, I’ve added a few things, too. Calling friends and family more, staying in touch and keeping apprised of how they are coping and allowing me to talk about how I am coping. Then, my ten-year-old granddaughter and I have started doing video chats, talking for at least half an hour at a time (her video chat has parental controls for that amount of time).

Then, there’s the cooking and baking. I’m doing much more of those, and I’m trying to fix some dishes I haven’t fixed in a while or some new ones to keep it interesting. Of course, some of the tried and true menu items bring the most comfort. One of the treats I just fixed has been in my recipe drawer for around 25 years, and when my family wants a chocolate fix, it’s an almost unanimous choice. My son is a chocolate purist and doesn’t think cherries belong in the same cake pan as chocolate cake. The rest of us think that Chocolate Cherry Cake is da bomb.

One of the advantages/disadvantages to this cake is that its size in the 9 x 13 pan seems to make miles of cake to be eaten. When you have the family there, it’s a huge relief to know you have plenty of cake for everyone. When it’s just my husband and me, well, it seems a bit indulgent. However, I’ve already stated that in this time of isolation we need treats. So, I threw caution to the wind, laid out my stretch pants, and fixed the cake last night. I’ll send a couple of pieces to my mother-in-law (she won’t take more than that), but we will still be eating cake through the weekend.

So, let’s get to the recipe. I use the cake recipe that I copied all those years ago, but I don’t use the icing recipe that came with it. The chocolate icing recipe I use is something I searched for, an icing that would turn out delicious and consistent, one that I didn’t have worry about. I finally found it, and I recommend it for any bakery item calling for chocolate icing.

Chocolate Cherry Cake 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Grease (with Crisco) and flour a 13 x 9 x2 pan


1 box of SuperMoist Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake (I usually use Betty Crocker, but I’ve used Duncan Hines, too)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I usually use canola oil)
1 can cherry pie filling

1 stick butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons milk
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a 9 x 13 pan or dish (I always use a glass pan). Mix the cake ingredients together and pour into greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. (I usually start checking at around 32/33 minutes. I left it in 34 minutes this last time.) The top can be a little bumpy, or it might not be. When your butter knife comes out clean, it’s done. Let the cake cool completely, or as near as you or your husband can stand, before icing it.

Making the icing. Use a large pot. Melt stick of butter on the stovetop. Add cocoa. Add milk. I mix the cocoa up with the butter first and then stir in the milk. Bring to a rolling boil, which I consider the same as a bubbling boil. Stir it as it comes to boil (I stir it a lot, as I’m afraid it might stick if I don’t). Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar. I use the portable mixer to keep the icing smooth after the initial stirring it in a bit. Add the vanilla extract.

Use a knife to make holes in the cake. Yes, you want the icing to get in those slits. Now, comes the only tricky part. Get that icing onto the cake as quickly as you can. It sets up pretty fast and doesn’t take well to smoothing over after a minute or two of spreading it on the cake. It still tastes terrific, but if you want it to be its prettiest, don’t mess with it. Get icing on and leave it alone. (In the picture, you can see where I tried to mess with a spot.)

Now, serve with some vanilla ice cream for a complete treat.
When not suffering from a chocolate coma, Kathy Boone Reel reads great mystery/crime books and reviews them on her blog, The Reading Room at


A few years ago Jo Pratt posted this recipe for Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns - an Easter Recipe -- on the Mailonline. If you want to make hot cross buns and add chocolate without making a chocolate bun, you can make regular hot cross buns and add chocolate chips instead of raisins. But give this one a try. I've converted the measurements from the U.K. to the U.S. If you want to check out the original recipe with UK measurements, go HERE. Makes 12 buns.


1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp superfine sugar (castor sugar)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups white flour
4 tsp dark cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice  (combo of allspice, cinnamon, clove, coriander, ginger and nutmeg)
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 Tbsp chopped mixed peel (candied citrus peel)*
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 3/4 fast action dried yeast
1/2 cup or 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
1 egg, beaten
Flour for dusting

For the Crosses and Glaze
1/4 cup white flour
1 Tbsp sunflower oil
2-3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp caster sugar

Place milk in saucepan over low heat. Just before it boils, remove from heat and stir in sugar and butter, until dissolved. Add 1/4 cold water and leave to cool down until you can comfortably hold your finger in it for a few seconds.

Sift together flour, cocoa, mixed spice (if you're using it), and salt in large bowl and stir in mixed peel, orange zest, and yeast. Make a well in center and pour in warm milk mixture and beaten egg. Mix together until you have a sticky dough. Add chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, and knead on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place dough in large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with damp tea towel and leave to rise in  warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in volume. Punch dough and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide into 12 pieces and shape into buns.

Place on greased baking sheets, leaving enough space between each for rising. Cover with tea towel and leave to rise again until doubled in size – about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F.

For glaze, mix flour and oil with 2-3 Tbsp water until smooth.

Lightly cut cross in center of each of buns with knife to mark out your crosses. Using piping bag (or  plastic bag with corner snipped off), pipe on crosses. Cook buns for 15-18 minutes until golden and sound hollow when tapped underneath.

Place orange juice and sugar in small pan, and gently heat until sugar dissolves. As soon as  buns are out of oven, brush with glaze and leave to cool slightly on wire rack before serving warm.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

See's Candies: Easter Message in the time of the Coronavirus

From See's Candies

We are grateful for your continued support and loyalty during these challenging times. Quality Without Compromise and providing unparalleled customer service has been our North Star for the past 99 years.
We know that you expect the very best from us, and we realize how disappointing it is that we are not able to deliver some of your favorite candies during a time that we all need comfort from a familiar friend. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and understand that for many of you See’s is an Easter tradition that will be missed this year.

We are committed to the health and safety of our employees, and respect the direction from California authorities, where we make and ship all of our product, to focus on staying home, staying healthy and ensuring we are all taking care of one another.

We feel it is critical to honor and prioritize those values even above what we love most, delighting you with the best candy you can find anywhere. Even during Easter (a very consequential time for our business) and even though we had already made all of our holiday product, we’ve chosen the health of our employees and supporting safe communities first.

I am particularly saddened that the hard work from our talented artisans who decorate our eggs, and the many wonderful treats that our See’s team delights in providing to you, won’t make it to your tables and baskets this year. That means that we know we are letting many of you down. When we do resume operations, we will be even more committed than ever to providing you with the freshest and best candy on the planet, paired with our exceptional service.

As a part of our core values, we feel strongly that it is important to support workers on the front line and those in need. We are finding ways to give back to our communities by donating candy to local organizations like the YMCA and Meals on Wheels here at our headquarters as well as other communities with a See’s store. In addition, we continue to contribute candy to food banks, hospital staff and first responder organizations. We encourage everyone to find a way to reach out and support those in need and those who are helping all of us.

We are honored to be part of your sweet traditions, and our entire See’s family is working hard to make sure our employees are safe and focused on the best path forward. Please make no mistake—See’s isn’t going anywhere. We’ve been around for nearly a century, and we can’t wait to serve you for another 100 years. Like you, we recognize that this situation requires our serious attention, and in our case that means taking a pause to review and make changes to our daily business, and in turn depriving you of your favorite candies. We truly appreciate your continued patience and understanding throughout this time.

Wishing you a Sweet and Happy Easter


Passover starts tomorrow night, and you're probably Sheltered-in-Place, possibly 'attending' a seder with family and friends via Zoom. Here's a great recipe for a Passover Chocolate Walnut  Cake that you can enjoy while you 'participate.' This cake is delicious. I love the texture. I've mentioned before that many food product companies and food associations have great recipes on their websites. This recipe is adapted from Kraft recipes.


1 Tbsp matzo meal or matzo cake meal, for dusting
8 ounces semi-sweet dark chocolate, divided into 7 and 1 oz* (see optional directions below)
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup butter (or margarine), softened
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup fresh walnut pieces, finely ground (whirl in blender)

Optional: 1/4 cup apricot jam  (or orange marmalade)


PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Grease and dust side of 9-inch springform pan with matzo meal.
Melt 7 ounces of  chocolate in double boiler or a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water; set aside.
Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until thick and lemon colored.
Add butter (or margarine); beat until light and fluffy.
Add melted chocolate, orange zest, and walnuts; mix well.

BEAT egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir into chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared pan.

BAKE 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire rack 10 min. Run small knife or spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; remove rim of pan.
Gently loosen cake from bottom of pan with spatula; place cake on wire rack.
Cool completely.

Optional topping: (I don't do this because I like it the way it is and this makes it too sweet for me, but you might want to try it. If you want to top it with something less sweet, I have used thick cut Scottish orange marmalade with peel. This  works well since it is tart and adds texture)

Microwave jam in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 10 sec. Spread over top of cake.
Melt remaining 1 oz. chocolate; drizzle over cake. Let stand until chocolate is firm.

Photo: Kraft (with the topping)