Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Tortes

I remembered that I found a list of famous European tortes and decided that I wanted to make them all.  I’ve been making “cakes” since I was about six.  The first one I made I did so kneeling on a chair at the kitchen table so I would be tall enough to reach.  I remember my mom showing me how to measure properly by using a knife to even out the dry ingredients in the measuring cup and getting down to eye level to read the liquid measure.  I became the official cake baker for the birthday cakes in my family and with seven siblings and two parents that gave me a good deal of practice over the years.  I think I was a teenager before I ever used a boxed mix.  The thing is they were all basically the same.  The Americanized cake.  I didn’t realize until much later in life how many types of cake there actually are.  The chocolate hazelnut torte became a family favorite in recent years.  I found it fascinating that there were no leavening agents used and only enough flour to keep the nuts from turning to a butter when they were ground.  I discovered ganache instead of frosting and found a chocolate butter cream that I just love made with egg whites.  All those years I had no idea how many variations there were.  So when I saw this list of tortes it really excited me.  Today I decided on the Schwarzwald Kirsch kuchen or black forest cake and I put it that way (instead if kirschtorte) because there are so many variations and some are like tortes and some are like sponge cakes…. Most of the tortes use whipped egg whites to give it the volume and make it light and fluffy.  There is no leavening.   I can see that this is going to be one of those that I make several of to see which is better.  Today I felt like a soft chocolatey cake with some chocolate  butter cream inside with the cherries and then topped with the whipped cream.  I also chose this one because it calls for buttermilk and I just happened to be experimenting and made some kefir buttermilk which I had yet to try.  I recently started making kefir and I just love experimenting.

So I started with cherries. I was at the produce market today and just happened to get just enough for this project. I didn’t want to use alcohol in the cake so I used a pound of them to make cherry juice to use instead of the Kirsch which is a cherry brandy from around the black forest area.  You are supposed to soak the 1.5 pounds used in the filling overnight in a half cup of Kirsch so mine are soaking in the juice.  I don’t have a pitter so I put on gloves and used a paring knife and cut all the cherries in half removing the stems and pits as I did.  I put 1 pound in a pot with the juice from a small jar of maraschino cherries and 1/4 cup of sugar.  I cooked and mashed them for 15 min on low.


I put the whole pot of stuff into a little bullet type blender and pureed it.  I then strained out the pulp, added a half teaspoon each of cherry and rum flavoring and added the other pound and a half of cherries.  After I started them soaking I made the cakes.  The link to the original recipe is below.  The cakes are now cooling and the cherries are soaking so in the morning I can drain off the juice and pour it over the cakes.

It is now a couple of days later.  As usual I haven’t been able to keep up with normal day-to-day chores and do this too.  The cherries didn’t soften up at all from mascerating in the sweet juice that I left them in so I put them in a pot and simmered them for a few minutes and removed them to cool.  That did the trick.  I made the cake from the recipe (link below) that I decided on and the butter cream that has become my go to recipe.  I pierced each layer with a toothpick and ladled the juice over the first one after placing it on the plate.  The layers were too thin and fragile to do it and then move them around.   After it had a few minutes to soak in I spread a layer of the butter cream and topped it with half of the cherries and then another layer.  Again with the juice, butter cream and cherries.  Finally the third layer went on and I frosted the sides leaving a lip of frosting at the top edge of the cake.  I made whipped cream with a little vanilla and cherry extracts and a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar.  I used this to cover the top of the cake and decorated it with the 10 cherries I had saved out for decorations and grated a little bittersweet over the top.  A cake decorator I am not.  After all these years I never did it to be showie, it has always been just because I enjoy it and love the people that I cook for. It came out really good but I am having a hard time eating it.  I gave my taste tester several large slices and my neighbors got a couple too.  It is like that with most sweets that I make.  I give them away.  I love to make them but am trying to lose weight.  Most people think I eat it all because of my weight, but I just haven’t been able to lose all the weight I gained with the steroids I had to take for three and a half years.  I will continue to work on that but it is not going to stop me from doing something that I enjoy so much.  It’s way more fun when my little helpers (nieces) are here.  I haven’t seen them much lately and I really love and miss them.  We always make good stuff in the kitchen!



The cake recipe:

Ina Garten’s  Chocolate Butter Cream:



Too Tired

It’s my birthday and I’m so tired I just can’t seem to get moving.  I need to do laundry and clean my kitchen.  I’ll have to look through the freezer and see what I have that doesn’t need a lot of work.  I haven’t even had the energy to put on my compression stockings so I need to lay back down with my feet up for a little while so I can.

That was a couple of days ago and…

Now that was 2 months ago. I have since fractured the right side of my pelvis. Christmas eve 2012 it was the left side in two places. I am up to 37 fractures now in the last 28 months. I am still tired but feeling way better.  I have done my laundry and cleaned my kitchen many times since I started this post.  I want to make something but I don’t know what yet. That always cheers me up and improves my mood.  I already made the cannoli completely from scratch and got macarons to come out pretty well.  I haven’t tried madelines but they just seem too easy.  I will however gladly accept any recipes for them.  I want something more exotic.   It has to be something new that I have never tried.  Maybe by the time I mix up some hummus to dip my celery sticks in I will have an idea.  The celery will allow me the extra calories in whatever I make.

Since I have a few new followers from other countries and/or who are a little (or a lot) more worldly than I maybe I can get a few suggestions.

Stuffed Cabbage and Pierogi

I never had much luck with cabbage rolls. The cabbage tears and they fall apart. Nothing spectacular about them. But I have fond memories of them from my childhood and had been craving some. I took the same steps I normally do, reading a bunch of recipes on the web. I discovered that they are originally an eastern European dish so I ended up leaning towards a Polish recipe and made pierogi to go with it. That was a two night experiment. I first cooked them on top of the cabbage rolls, in the bubbling tomato sauce. They came out a lot better the next night when I sautéed them in butter.
It turns out that savoy cabbage is sturdier than plain green cabbage and it looks better. Instead of removing the leaves and cooking them, I put the whole cabbage in a pot of water after I had removed the main part of the core.
DSC00142As the leaves were done, after about three minutes the started peeling off of the head. As they did I ran cold water over them and put them on a towel to drain.
When all the leaves were harvested, I cut the thick part if the vein out and began to roll them. One change I made to the filling that made a big difference to me was I used barley instead of rice.

I put the cabbage rolls in my deep cast iron skillet and  made the sauce.  I poured the sauce over and cooked on the stove top for about 1 hour.  Recipe below.

Stuffed Cabbage

1 medium head cabbage

1-1/2 cups chopped onion, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 cup cooked barley

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound lean ground beef (90%)

1/4 pound bulk Italian sausage

1/2 cup V8 juice


1. In a Dutch oven, cook cabbage in boiling water for 10 minutes or until outer leaves are tender; drain. Rinse in cold water; drain. Remove eight large outer leaves (refrigerate remaining cabbage for another use); set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, saute’ 1 cup onion in butter until tender. Add the tomatoes, garlic, brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the rice, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and remaining onion and salt. Crumble beef and sausage over mixture and mix well.

4. Remove thick vein from cabbage leaves for easier rolling. Place about 1/2 cup meat mixture on each leaf; fold in sides. Starting at an unfolded edge, roll up leaf to completely enclose filling. Place seam side down in a skillet. Top with the sauce.

5. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour. Add V8 juice and cook for another 20 min.

Below is a link to the pierogi  recipe I started with.  I had no processed cheese spread so I added more grated cheese.   I also added a half of a finely diced and sautéed onion.  I tried doing it just like it says in the recipe but it was taking way to long.  I broke out the pasta roller and made them like I was making ravioli.  I halved the recipe.  As I said above on the first night I just put them on top of the sauce for the last 10 min.  They weren’t as good as the second night where I just sautéed them in butter.  They were really good that way.  If I didn’t already have leftover 8 cheese mac and cheese I would make some for tonight.