My friend Khen Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan will be bringing some of his monks to the Natural History Museum in January to make a sand mandala. I accompanied him on one of the planning visits and we got this great shot with the CGI dinosaurs.
Just got home from Philly, where I threw my mom a 65th birthday party. My mom is hanging in there. We are both trying to focus on the good things in life, such as monks, dinosaurs, and cake.
Per Rose Levy Berenbaum: "The molasses in the brown sugar gives this cake a distinctive and pleasantly bitter edge. The texture is soft and light yet moist with good chocolate flavor impact and a lingering bittersweet aftertaste. The particular bittersweet chocolate flavor of this cake goes splendidly with Milk Chocolate Buttercream."
3/4 C + 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-processed) OR 1 C nonalkalized cocoa such as Hershey's (if using nonalkalized cocoa, eliminate the baking powder and use a total of 1 1/4 tsp baking soda) 1 1/2 C boiling water 3 large eggs 1 1/2 tsp vanilla 3 C sifted cake flour 2 C firmly packed light brown sugar 2 1/4 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp baking soda 3/4 tsp salt 1 C softened unsalted butter
NOTE: Make sure to measure the flour and cocoa by lightly spooning them into your measuring cups, then levelling off the excess with the back of a knife. Don't ever tap down or scoop up dries.
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and line with parchment two 9-inch layer pans, then grease again and flour. Put the pans in the freezer until you fill them. It's not at all necessary, but I love Magicake strips, which you soak in water and wrap around the outside of the pans to ensure an even rise; it's the one gimmicky baking thing that actually makes a huge difference to the final product.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water. Let cool to room temp.
In another bowl, lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and the vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop structure. Gradually add the egg mixture in three additions, beating for 20 seconds after each addidition and stopping periodically to scrape down the sides. (I actually did this cake without an electric mixer; it can be done, just beat with a wooden spoon until it feels like your arm will fall off.)
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until a tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
Let the cakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a butter knife. Invert onto greased metal racks, then re-invert so the tops are up and cool completely before frosting with...
Break the chocolate into squares and melt in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over, but not in, hot water. Stir until chocolate melts, being careful not to let the water boil (milk chocolate burns faster than dark). Remove from heat and let cool until no longer warm to the touch. In a bowl, beat butter at medium speed for 30 seconds. Beat in the chocolate until uniform in color. Frost away!
TRICKS FOR DECORATING: This cake bakes up beautiful, high, and dense. You can write in white chocolate on it for birthdays. Put your melted white chocolate (and be careful because white chocolate burns easiest of all) into a ziplock bag. Snip off a tiny piece of one corner (start tiny, then widen it if you want a bigger line) and you have an instant cornet for writing. You can practice on a plate for a second, then when you feel confident, write on the cake. Cursive is easiest for cakes, and I always start by writing the word "Birthday" across the center, ensuring proper spacing. Before you write on a cake, always refrigerate the frosted cake until it's very cold. That way, the words hit the cold frosting and harden instantly, and if you mess up, you can use a toothpick to lift the hardened letters off the surface without smears. The toughest thing to get professional-looking is the sides of a cake. If your sides are imperfect, press chopped nuts, pralines, or toasted coconut onto them.
On Dec 16 at 6:30 PM, Kausthub Desikachar will speak at the Astanga Yoga Shala on 430 Broome St, #2. I wish I could go! Kausthub is the son of TKV Desikachar and the grandson of the legendary yogi Krishnamacharya:
Dr. Desikachar will be speaking about Krishnamacharya's relationship with his various disciples. This should be a fascinating lecture for anyone interested in the lineage of modern yoga.