Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

48th birthdayForty-eight.  How did I get to be 48?  Most days I wake up, and I guess I feel like I’m in my mid-thirties.  There are days, however, when I do feel like I’m pushing 50 — when I get up at 4:00 a.m. a couple of days in a row, or when I run too many days in a row my right hamstring and hip start aching, or a day of yard work in the heat…..then I definitely start to feel my age.  I for sure can’t go at the pace I used to, and when I say pace, I mean in both running (my PB was years ago and I continue to get slower) and in just the day-to-day bustle of life.  But yet, even though the number continues to creep up, I still get excited about my birthday.48th birthday 2

I’m fairly certain it is because my parents, still to this day, go out of their way to throw me a birthday party.  I pick the menu, I pick the cake, my mom loads me up with presents, and I sit at the table and let everyone serve me.  Who wouldn’t love that?  The dinner menu hasn’t changed for years — this year I again requested my dad’s ribs. I typically request a crunchy coleslaw to go with it, but this year the green beans were in and so were the potatoes.  So my mom cooked up a mess of green beans and then she made ‘new potatoes.’  This was a term my Grandpa always used for little potatoes from the garden.  You wash and then boil them until fork tender, peel the skin off, and pan sear them in a little oil until the outside is crispy, and finally generously sprinkle them with salt.  It was one of his favorite ways to eat potatoes and truthfully one of mine too.

Now let’s get to the important part of this meal — the cake.  It’s funny because my dad and sister are always consistent with their birthday ‘cake’ requests.  I say ‘cake’ because my dad asks for banana pudding and my sister asks for cherry delight.  Let’s all say it together now — “YUCK!”

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting (thank you insidebrucrewlife.com)

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Cake
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cooled strong coffee
Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Topping

  • peanut butter cups

Directions

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until mixed in. Stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together the milk and coffee. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter mixture. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour the batter in a foil lined greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool. Cut the cake in half and set aside. (My mom baked them in 2 – 8″ rounds.)

Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Beat in the sour cream. Sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly beat into the mixture. Spread the frosting on top of one side of the cake. Place the other layer on top.

Beat the butter and peanut butter. Add whipping cream, salt, honey and vanilla and cream again. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until creamy. Cover the cake with the frosting. Add chopped peanut butter cups to the top, and halved peanut butter cups to the sides, if desired. Store in a covered container. Serves 14.  (So she says.  I say it serves about 8-10.)

48th birthday 4

I thought this cake was really good, but if I ever make it, I won’t use honey in the frosting.  It gave the frosting an unusual floral aftertaste.  Instead, I think I’ll use honey roasted peanut butter, which is what I typically use in peanut butter buttercream.  But overall, it was a delicious cake.

 

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

“I miss having a garden,” I recently said to my father-in-law. “I thought you hated the garden,” he replied. I went on to explain that I have a love/hate relationship with having a garden. I love walking out at about 4:00 in the afternoon to see what is fresh and deciding what I can use for dinner that night. I hate the fact that a garden refuses to follow my schedule. I can’t tell you how many nights — after I’ve gotten up at 4:30 to run so I can volunteer at school until 2:30 and then come home and work while Gray does homework, then make dinner, and while I am trying to clean up, Matt brings in 2 buckets full of purple-hull peas to be shelled, washed, blanched, bagged, and then frozen. That doesn’t fit my schedule at 7:30 at night after a long day. But yet somehow I still miss the first part of the whole garden thing.

Toward the end of every July, Gray and I visit my parents for a week. We grace them with our presence so that they can spoil us with lots of fun, good food, oh and my birthday party. More on that last thing next week.  A bonus for visiting this time of year is that the garden is really coming on. So a few weeks ago, I traveled back to Tennessee from Indiana with a backseat full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash (plus homemade blackberry jelly). Gray quickly demolished the cucumbers, and I slowly worked on the other items, making my grilled cheese with tomatoes and having plenty of BLT’s. I made zucchini bread, grilled squash, and I still had quite a bit of stuff left. Produce from a parent’s garden is like gold — you should never let it go to waste, so Saturday night I put the remaining tomatoes, zucchini, and squash to yummy use.

First, I made homemade marinara sauce using this recipe.

marinara 2016

Next, I chunked up zucchini, squash, and onion; placed them on a cookie sheet; drizzled them with olive oil; seasoned them with sea salt; and roasted them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

zucchini squash mom and dads garden

After the vegetables were done, I cooked rigatoni pasta to al dente, then mixed it with about half the sauce, the roasted vegetables, a ball of diced fresh mozzarella, placed all of it in a casserole dish, topped it all with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and then baked it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

roasted veggie pasta

Yum!

roasted veggie pasta 2

And sadly now the produce from my parent’s garden is gone……. Hey Mom and Dad, didn’t you say you felt like coming to Tennessee this weekend?

Ham, Apple, Gruyere Panini

The story of the sandwich goes something like this —John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), a British statesman and notorious gambler, invented this food so that he would not have to leave his gaming table to have supper.  While his motive isn’t exactly honorable, I’m super pleased by the end result.  I think the sandwich is an incredibly ingenious invention — all the food groups, as well as chocolate, can be incorporated in between two slices of bread, and voila, you’ve got instant deliciousness in a convenient little package.

In my never-ending quest to find unusual sandwiches, I stumbled onto this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis, a Ham, Gruyère, and Apple Panini.  The Gruyère cheese is the thing that caught my eye on this one; I always have it in my refrigerator.  I love using it in frittata recipes and in grilled cheese.  It has a distinctive and slightly salty flavor but isn’t overpowering at all, plus it melts beautifully.  I like to think of Gruyère as Swiss cheese’s rich cousin.  It’s a bit more expensive but totally worth the price, but if you can’t find it, you can always use Swiss cheese.  Gray loves Gruyère it but he thinks it stinks when melting.  I have to agree with him on that one; it does have a pungent smell.

ham apple gruyere grilled cheese

Ham, Gruyère, and Apple Panini

1 teaspoon butter at room temperature
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 thick slices country-style white bread
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 ounces shredded Gruyère
2 slices Black Forest ham

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apple slices and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.Preheat a panini press. Spread each bread slice with mustard. Arrange cheese on a bread slice and top with 2 slices of ham. Place the apple mixture evenly on top of the ham. Top with other slice of bread. Grill in the panini press until the cheese has melted and the top is golden and crispy, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Long live the sandwich!