Margaux says…

For my friend Billy’s birthday, I gave him the first honorary membership to the cake of the month club.  🙂  So every month, I will be baking a cake for him.  I’ll probably mix it up with cookies, pies and other desserts, but mostly cakes.

The first cake was his actual birthday cake, and I made him one of my favorite cakes of all time.  I’ve been making this cake almost yearly since I received my “Joy of Cooking” from Aunt Suzy, probably around 2000 or 2001.  The cake is very moist and tender, and has wonderful flavor! 

I used to make a basic chocolate butter frosting for this cake, with cocoa, butter, powdered sugar and milk.  It’s also delicious with a creamy vanilla buttercream.  But this frosting is THE BEST chocolate frosting I have ever had.  It is rich and creamy, has amazing flavor and texture.  Of course, leave it to Cook’s to come up with the best.

I’ve made this frosting several times now, and it always goes off without a hitch.  However, this time I didn’t let the chocolate cool enough, so when I added it to the mixture, all the ingredients separated and turned into a brown and white mess!  This was easily fixed (but time wasting, that’s for sure!) by putting it into the refrigerator for a few hours (I did it overnight), then bringing it out and letting it get back to almost room temperature.  I then just whipped it by hand with a wooden spoon, and it turned out perfectly.

You can also make this frosting with semi-sweet chocolate, and it is even richer.

Buttermilk Layer Cake
adapted from The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking

2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups superfine sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottoms of two 8×2″ round cake pans with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a large piece of waxed paper or into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2 to 4 minutes.

In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla lightly. Gradually add them to the butter and sugar mixture, beating on medium high, taking about 2 minutes.

Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Divide the batter between the pans and spread evenly. Bake until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pans. Invert the cake and peel off the paper liners, and let cool right side up on the rack. Let cool completely before frosting, but do not let them sit out for too long or they will become dry.

Milk Chocolate Frosting
from Cook’s Illustrated

20 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dutch cocoa
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch table salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz. milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed, about 30 seconds. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5-10 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10-15 minutes.

Aunt Suzy says . . .
It’s time for summer “side” salads – salads to accompany grilled items now that we can get out and grill! I was recently at my brother John’s and family in Batavia, IL, and we grilled Moroccan Lamb Sausages that we picked up yesterday at the mega-Whole Foods on North Ave in Chicago. This reminded me of a simple couscous salad from the Joy of Cooking. It’s not Moroccan, but it’s fresh-tasting and a snap to make. We served it with the sausages, roasted golden and red beets and sauteed beet greens. Yum!

COUSCOUS SALAD WITH LEMON-CUMIN DRESSING

The salad
1 box couscous cooked according to directions OR
2 cups dry couscous (I use whole wheat) and
2 cups boiling water
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
zest of one lemon
zest of one lime
1/2-3/4 cup chopped cilantro (to taste)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped parsley

Put the couscous in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the couscous and let sit for 15 minutes and then fluff with a fork. (I prefer this method to cooking in a saucepan on the stove because you never get gummy couscous this way.) When cooled slightly, toss the couscous with the remainder of ingredients. If you do not like cilantro, this is pretty good with just the parsley.

The dressing
3-4 Tablespoons EV olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
pinch cayenne pepper, optional or to taste

Blend thoroughly to emulsify slightly. Pour over couscous mixture and mix until distributed evenly. I like to mix with my hands so that I can break up lumps if there are any in the couscous.