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Dessert Great Memories

Alex is Getting Married? But She’s Only 12, Isn’t She?

July 24, 2015
Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex helping me bathe Milena in the sink.

Alex is getting married.  I find this hard to believe because, according to my calculations, she is still twelve and helping me bathe my daughter in the kitchen sink. I was never good at math.

Milena's first swimming lessons with Alex and Natasa.

Milena’s first swimming lessons with Alex and Natasa.

Alex was my neighbor for 13 years and a sweetheart. She and our other neighbor Natasa were permanent fixtures at my house for the first few years we lived there. They loved my daughter, who was one at the time.

Alex, Andy and Milena, just hanging out.

Alex, Andy and Milena, just hanging out.

They would always come over and play with her and my son or just hang out. They were so sweet and loved helping me, so it was mutually beneficial.

The photos are such a slice of life from back then, it made me a little teary because Alex is not 12 anymore, she’s all grown up and so are my kids. (This is astounding because I have not aged a day!)

Alex is ridiculously bright and hard-working. She graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. in Exercise Biology, a degree that exhausts my two brain cells just thinking about it. She now has her own wellness blog, AEWellness, which you should check out. I learn something every time I go there.

Robot Andy, Alex and Milena the dalmation on Halloween.

Robot Andy, Alex and Milena the Dalmatian on Halloween.

Which makes my baking chocolate cupcakes for her rehearsal dinner only a little ironic. Although chocolate may not be health food — there are benefits to eating dark chocolate dammit! Even Alex would admit that. Plus, a person’s gotta have fun sometime, and there’s no better excuse than a wedding.

Alex helping Milena collect Easter eggs.

Alex helping Milena collect Easter eggs.

So, since Alex was raised by Pam and Brian, two pretty raging chocoholics, there was no question the cupcakes would be chocolate. But how far did I dare go on the chocolate scale?

I made a  a chocolate cake from the “New Basics Cookbook,” that I remembered as being good (but added another ounce of chocolate just to be on the safe side) and made a chocolate buttercream frosting.

I love this shot. They're singing,

I love this shot. They’re singing, “Stop, in the Name of Love,” into ice cream scoopers.

But that didn’t seem chocolatey enough, so I made chocolate ganache and started with little dots, then graduated to swirls, then went for a full dollop of chocolate on top to appease the parents. Hopefully, there will be one for every level of chocolate lover at the rehearsal dinner.

A lovely shot of Alex taken by my ex. He sure did know how to take a good photo.

A lovely shot of Alex taken by my ex. He sure did know how to take a good photo.

Making these cupcakes was a labor of love for a sweet girl who gave me some wonderful moments to look back on. Alex, I wish you and Anthony all the best in life. Maybe if you’re lucky, one day you’ll get a neighbor girl, or two — around 12-years-old, who love hanging out with your kids!

The final contenders.  Clearly, my decorating skills are severely limited to dots, bad swirls and blobs.

The final contenders. Clearly, my decorating skills are severely limited to dots, bad swirls and blobs.

Kathleen’s Devils Food Cake – from the New Basics Cookbook

3 oz. good quality unsweetened chocolate (I used 4 oz.)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp.

2 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups cake flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup boiling water

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans, or just make cupcakes, it’s much easier!  Place the chocolate in a small, heavy saucepan and melt it over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the melted chocolate.

Combine the cake flour, baking soda and the salt. Alternating between the two, addd the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture in three stages, ending with flour. (I screwed up this part and it still turned out OK, so don’t freak out!) Slowly stir in the boiling water and the vanilla.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and bak until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 18 to 20 minutes for cupcakes, 30 minutes for pans. Remove pans from oven and let the layers sit for five minutes, then invert the pans releasing the cakes.  Let the cake cool completely.

Cover the top of one layer with chocolate icing, then place the second layer on top and ice top and sides.

Gotta love that chocolate ganache!

Gotta love that chocolate ganache!

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1 cup unsalted butter

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla

3 TBSP. whipping cream

Beat butter for about 2 minutes until smooth. Turn to low and add confectioner’s sugar, cocoa and salt. Beat together then add vanilla and whipping cream.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I tried Guittard and they were good)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp. Karo syrup

Place the chocolate chips and cream and Karo in a small, heavy saucepan on the stove, and heat the chocolate over low heat until it melts.  Remove from heat and let it cool a little before using.

  • Reply
    Leslie
    July 26, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    What a sweet story! May Alex have a lovely marriage and a future full of joy!
    I know what you mean about the years not making sense… my son turned 35 last weekend and I cannot figure out this new math because I myself am only 37! At least that’s the way I see it! 🙂
    Now, regarding the cupcakes — man oh man, you’ve got my stomach growling again, Fran! But I say forget the cake, let’s just bring on the buttercream frosting and the ganache!
    As always, it’s a pleasure to read your posts. You have such lovely encounters!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 29, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      Hey Leslie, let’s start a campaign to make chocolate ganache a new food group! Thanks for always reading!

  • Reply
    nycstylecannoli
    July 26, 2015 at 9:08 am

    What great vintage photos! I love looking at all my old photographs as they just make me smile! I agree time flies by very fast, I am also liking your recipe too I just may have to try that one! Thanks!!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 29, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Leslie, You are absolutely right, the buttercream and ganache are where it’s at. Thanks for bringing me back to my senses. And thanks for always reading!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 29, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks Rosemary, yes, they make me smile and force me to think back and reassess whether I appreciated them enough when they were happening. They are such precious memories.

  • Reply
    Matilda Novak
    July 25, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Beloved Fran,
    i haven’t had time to read a blog in ages!
    Loved this one….as i have the others. Congratulations to Alex. It’s so weird how time races by…. (And i agree, you haven’t changed a bit in the years i’ve known you). This recipe (and the accompanying photos make me wish i had been there to “taste test” and make sure they were good enough. (It’s a gift i have).
    Melina was such a cute baby….and is Gorgeous now.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 29, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      Matilda, so good to have you back! Thanks for reading and any time you are in the area, stop by, we’ll find something to test! Thanks for the sweet words re: Milena. They grow up so dang fast!

  • Reply
    nicolzanzarella
    July 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Pretty sure Milena is going to give you a death stare for a month or two for that photo of her in the sink (even though it’s pretty spectacular!) 🙂 Congratulations to Alex and to all the lucky folks who get to eat your cupcakes! You are a treasure, Fran. It’s no wonder you find good people who enjoy hanging out with you and your kids. You attract like energy!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 29, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Nicol, it’s clear that you know Milena. She wasn’t too bad about the sink photo, but I usually post first and ask permission second. Thank you for your wonderful words and for being such a great friend.

  • Reply
    Mary j. Tunno
    July 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Nice memories,Fran. Would have liked to see a picture of Alex as she looks now. Pretty girl!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 29, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      She looked positively stunning in her gorgeous wedding dress. I think she has a Facebook Page where you can see some photos. It was a lovely wedding and we danced ourselves silly at the reception.

  • Reply
    Linda Friday
    July 24, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    OMG! Alex is getting married! Kate will be 25 in under a month. Andy
    and Milena are all grown up. How on earth did all of this happen so quickly? She won’t remember me, but give her a hug anyway (and give one to Pam, too).

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 25, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      Thanks Linda, I know. One day you’re 36 and the next, you’re staring down the barrel at 60. It’s very weird. Thanks for understanding.

  • Reply
    Kimberly
    July 24, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    So sweet. Just so stinkin’ sweet!!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 25, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks Kimmers. I appreciate you always reading!

  • Reply
    Diane Finley
    July 24, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    You always make me smile. Love your blogs

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 25, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Thank you Di, you are such a great friend to always read my blog! I’m so glad you enjoy them! xoxo!

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