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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.