November 2012

I was busy Sunday morning.

BAKING! BAKING! You thought I drank all that?!

Quite honestly, I’m not sure where all my bourbon went. I think little elves get into my supply when I’m not looking. A full cup went into this bourbon-licious cake I baked.

It sure did smell amazing here yesterday–a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a bourbon distillery. THAT scent, amici, would be one helluva Yankee Candle! But let’s get back to the recipe.

If you’ve ever seen the Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe from the New York Times, this recipe is pretty much it. And I say “pretty much” because I’m guessing the original recipe, on which it must surely be based, is baking maven Maida Heatter’s 86-Proof Chocolate Cake. Maida’s instructions are both detailed and logical, so I’ve incorporated some of them here in this melding of the minds: Maida, Melissa and me!

I’ve also included a neato tip from Cook’s Illustrated–cake release for chocolate cakes. So, take your whiskey home and let’s get baking!

adapted from Maida Heatter, Melissa Clark and Cook’s Illustrated

Chocolate cake release (for the pan):
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (have I told you lately I very much like Kate’s?)
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 ounces dark chocolate (I used Valrhona 70% Guanaja feves)
1/4 cup instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup bourbon (you can use any other whiskey, but what is not to love about BOURBON?!)–more for sprinkling over the cake
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional). Whipped cream is a nice option, too.

First, combine 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa to make the cake release. Use a pastry brush to coat a 10-cup capacity Bundt pan.

Adjust rack 1/3 up from bottom of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Sift together the flour and baking soda. Kosher salt, of course, won’t sift so just combine it with the flour and soda and set aside.

Melt chocolate (I use the defrost setting on the microwave; you can use a double-boiler); set aside.

Add espresso and cocoa powders to a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to reach the 1-cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Add whiskey; set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat 1 cup butter until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla, beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.

Then, on low speed, alternate adding the sifted dry ingredients (in three additions) with the whiskey mixture (in two additions). Add the whiskey mixture very slowly to avoid splashing; scrape the bowl with a spatula after each addition and beat until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for one hour and 10 to 15 minutes (1:10-1:15). Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry.

Cool cake in the pan for about 15 minutes.

Then cover with a rack and invert. Remove the pan, sprinkle the cake with more bourbon. Two tablespoons sounded like the right amount of MORE to me.

See that? Not just one heap of happiness, but twoTWO HEAPS because I want you to be TWICE AS HAPPY! Two heaps of happiness in the form of bourbon! WOOHOO!

Leave the cake on a rack to cool.

Before serving, you can sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top with a fine-mesh strainer. I skipped the confectioners’ sugar. Whipped cream, lightly sweetened with a touch of almond extract is even nicer, if you like. And I like A LOT!

Wishing you two heaps of happiness and a lasting supply of bourbon in your bottles!


My mom, a.k.a. Janey, had a bad case of laryngitis this past week. We come from a long line of chiacchierone (chatterboxes), so imagine what it’s like NOT TO TALK–not even whisper! Apparently, that makes it worse. It’s almost like trying to speak while sitting on your hands (another genetic affliction, HA HA). I thought it would be a good time to make some pasta fazool, or pasta e fagioli, if we’re being proper and not speaking in the dialect.

Mine is a riff on one of Giada’s recipes. Funny sidebar about Giada while we’re talking about my mom: you may have noticed “Jane” isn’t an Italian name. So, Poppy’s parents, who emigrated here in the early 1900s, called my mom “Giadi”–rhymes with Marie.

Little Giadi

Little Giadi had that touch of mischief in her then, and still displays it proudly now, at age 77. I’m happy to report her voice has returned today. Was it the magic of my pasta fazool? I’ll never know. What I do know is we both really like this recipe. So, andiamo–let’s get cookin’!


4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots (4 if they’re smaller, as the organic ones often are), crinkle-cut…this is how we roll in ma famiglia!
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 pound chicken sausage (local folks, please try the sun-dried tomato version at Lino’s Market in Durham)
4 cloves garlic, pressed
5 cups chicken stock (my current favorite is Kitchen Basics stock in a box)
1 cup Meridian chardonnay or dry white wine (I very much like to cook with Meridian and don’t mind drinking it, either!)
2 (14.5-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed—my fave are small white beans from Goya, cannellini beans are another good choice, just a little bigger
1 cup of your favorite small-bite-sized pasta, uncooked: I used Sclafani cavatelli, but like Barilla pipette, too
Freshly ground black pepper
½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I frequently use Aleppo pepper)

You’ll want to have some grated Pecorino Romano on hand for serving, too.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute till the onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add sausage (casings removed), cook and break into small pieces as you go.

Once the sausage has cooked, add broth, wine, beans and herbs–just toss the sprigs of thyme and rosemary right in there with the bay leaf. You’ll remove them after the flavor has cooked in a bit. Bring to a boil over high heat, add pasta and then decrease the heat to a simmer for the amount of time the pasta needs to cook. See package directions based on the shape you choose. Discard the herbs.

Add freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste. Serve with Pecorino Romano.

Poppy, Janey and Nanny (1979) at 216. My mom in this picture is the same age I am today.