Saturday, July 14, 2012

BETTER-THAN-BROWNIES CHOCOLATE FROSTED CAKE BARS

A BUMP OR TWO IN THE ROAD

All of life is a foreign country. 
– Jack Kerouac 


A turbulent, highly emotional week. We all have them, don’t we? Where the stars simply refuse to align, when it feels as if someone is skulking in the shadows and tossing sticks and rocks in the road, along your path, to trip you up. Things are going absolutely swimmingly, everything is falling into place just beautifully, people who count are offering you lovely words and promises on silver platters, roses for the plucking. Things just can’t get any better, can they? You have been waiting years and years for things to happen in just this way and then…. Oooh you have one of those weeks. Inexplicable, unfathomable, bewildering.


It all started out so perfectly, you say. A romantic anniversary trip with the man of your life, one son finally… um, one son moving out, a new apartment on the horizon and life was good. You were at the height of your popularity; opportunity had not only knocked but walked right in, sat down in your best armchair and made himself at home, like an old friend. A good haircut and regular exercise and you were feeling tip top.



When it rains, it pours, as the old saying goes. When everything is going smoothly and well, when we are showered with accolades, crowned with laurels, we smile in contentment and whisper to ourselves “Ah, yes, it’s about time, ain’t life grand!” We jump to the conclusion that after all of the hard times that life has laid at our doorstep, after all the troubles and tears, our reward has finally come. Everything that we now are reaping is well deserved for our hard work and patience, our diligence and honesty. We smile to ourselves and slap each other contentedly on the back and congratulations all around that we have finally passed over the hump and are on smooth ground and rolling forward fast. And we gather all of the good things that begin coming our way, ticking each one off on our fingers: it’s a veritable onslaught of greatness and success and it looks like this is the beginning of the rest of our life! Bring it on!

You must learn to deal with the odd and even in life, as well as in figures. 
- George Eliot, Adam Bede 


And then BOOM it all comes tumbling down, crumbling around our feet fast and furious. The first little thing happens and we try and catch it quickly quickly like a flitting butterfly just out of reach. It slips through our fingers and we sigh and shrug our shoulders and think to ourselves “Oh well, everything else is going so beautifully. This is just a tiny bump in the road.” And then another thing falls and a third and so on and so forth and when it rains, it pours. What happened? Just when it was going all so perfectly! “No! No! No!” we scream! “This can’t be happening to me! Not now! Not when everything that I’ve built up was just starting to work! Not when everyone was so happy!

Any fool can have bad luck; the art consists in knowing how to exploit it. 
Frank Wedekind 

Oh well. What can we do? We take a huge breath, dig in our heels and come to the decision that we won’t cave in. Nope. Won’t give in. We’ll put up a fight, right? We hold court, discuss with family and friends, plan our war strategy and yell “No more Mr. Nice Guy!” Things may all happen at once; it may seem as if our world is falling down around us, but we have stopped accepting what we once considered the inevitable. Our little dog ends up in hospital, the apartment owner is pushing us around and not keeping to his word or his promises, editors change, the summer holiday is rained out and, well, you get the picture, but don’t worry. Things will all turn out for the best. They will. I promise.

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on. 
Robert Frost 


And what better way to soothe our souls and lift up our spirits than something dense and gooey and oh-so chocolaty? Add to that a thick, rich dark chocolate ganache frosting and you can curl up on the sofa in front of a good archeology documentary or a trashy reality show and thank your lucky stars that you are surrounded by people you love. And who love you back! Son is settling in his apartment only coming home to do a load of laundry and drag out another sack or two of stuff. And meanwhile he is working in the neighboring town redesigning the waterfront. And young son, no, he’s not found a summer job and doesn’t much seem like he’s really looking for one; but meanwhile he and his year’s experience of construction and renovation in New Orleans are lined up to help us with apartment renovations. And two of his friends have even volunteered to work alongside of him, the only payment they ask are regular meals and dessert. Marty was rushed to the hospital but has made it through surgery just fine and will be home in just a few days.


This is yet another recipe from my Taste of Home Baking cookbook which I love. Taste of Home, generous sponsors of From Plate to Page, test all recipes so one can be assured that each delicious, homey, comforting recipe really works. This wonderful frosted cake bar – in the book they are called brownies – is better than a brownie, dense and moist, almost chewy, so full of chocolate flavor which is heightened by the glossy, creamy ganache frosting. I added whole macadamia nuts, but these can be replaced by any nut, from hazelnuts to traditional walnuts or pecans to fun salted peanuts. One can also add a variety of flavors to the cake batter: cinnamon, grated orange zest, orange or coffee extract, instant espresso powder… and the list goes on. (stay tuned for an incredible series of giveaways on The Plate to Page website & blog!)

The house seems so empty. Waking up in the morning without hearing the distant rumble of dog snoring, knowing that he won’t be bounding happily into the bedroom and diving into the bed with us leaves us feeling rather lonely. We realize how important he is to the family and what a huge space he takes up in our home and our lives. We put our foot down and stood up for our rights and cancelled the apartment signing; the owner scrambled and took care of what he had to take care of and now we have a new signing date. We are now back to discussing kitchens, bathrooms and paint color. More updates as they happen.



You may have read my post about the loss of a wonderful, generous, much-loved fellow food blogger and friend Barbara of Winos & Foodies. This month's Monthly Mingle event, created by Meeta of What's For Lunch, Honey? is being hosted by Jeanne of Cook Sister! and in honor of Barbara the theme is A Taste of Yellow for Barbara. I ask each of you to participate.




I was interviewed by my friend Mark of Javelin Warrior for his series Food Fetish Friday as his Featured Foodie! Don't miss it!






BETTER THAN BROWNIES CHOCOLATE FROSTED CAKE BARS

1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (400 g) sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup (140 g) flour
¾ cup (about 80 g) cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon, optional
1 cup nuts, whole or coarsely chopped, or more, as desired

Frosting:
1 ½ cups (about 200 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or chips
2/3 cup (165 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, softened

(Here I must give the quantities in the cookbook: 2 cups chocolate chips, about 12 ounces/340 g; 1 cup/250 ml heavy whipping cream; 2 Tbs/30 g unsalted butter. I felt these quantities would give too much frosting. I also found that 12 ounces chocolate would come to much more than 2 cups. So I cut back on all ingredients.)

Prepare the Chocolate Brownie Cake Bars:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk or beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the last egg. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt (and a teaspoon of cinnamon, if desired) and gradually beat or stir into the batter. Fold in the nuts.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until just set in the center. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.

Prepare the frosting by melting the chocolate with the cream in a microwave; stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the softened butter; it may look curdled and greasy but continue to stir or whisk vigorously until it turns into a very smooth, creamy, glossy frosting, just a couple of minutes.

Immediately spread evenly over the chocolate cake. Allow to set before cutting into bars.


Store in the refrigerator.

36 comments:

shruti said...

hope marty gets better soon. the frosted bars look so yummy, chocolate is my favorite :D

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those bars look ever so comforting and luscious! Soul-uplifting food par excellence...

Mmmhhh, I'm used to things going pear-shaped and to not being lucky. I wonder when it'll stop. some peace would be welcome. ;-)

Hope things are going better for you now! :-)

Cheers,

Rosa

tasteofbeirut said...

love a little bit of chocolate and these bars would fit the bill! Your life sound so glamorous through your writing!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

The downs make us stronger Jamie. They are what makes fighters out of us. We pick up and dust ourselves off and are wiser. Stay strong and with your sisters around things can never go too wrong. ;o) Love you babes. And if I get a nibble of this rich looking chocolate bar I'll love you more :o)

Javelin Warrior said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Marty and the trips downhill always do some to come right at that moment when we're at our loftiest point - I can sympathize with the feeling and now when things get going too smoothly, I start looking around for the start of the down-hill trip :( But, these cake bars look like the perfect forget-the-world escape... Wow, I feel compelled to share... And thanks for the shout-out

Rose&Thorn said...

I had a downhill trip on a very bumpy road, for the last year. It started with a death of a dear friend. I have only now started to feel that I am back in a good place, really happy.
These chocolate bars certainly will cheer anyone up. Lovely.

Lisa said...

Poor Marty, but I'm so glad he pulled through surgery and will be home soon. Our fur babies are unconditional love, and seeing them sick or suffering is devastating. These brownies look phenomenal, Jamie. The new camera and lessons have more than paid off already,..the photos are gorgeous!

Lisa said...

Excusez-moi! Cake bars ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Darling Jamie, I hope everything is ok with Marty. I know what you mean, this past week has been a doozy! I know they say that when it rains it pours but that's little consolation when you're going through it all. *hugs*

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Life. It goes on. What a beautiful reminder of that. And of the fact that chocolate always helps.

Junglefrog said...

I really hope Marty will be back soon into the loving arms of his parents and being the happy little dog he was before. It's so tough when pets get sick! Keeping my fingers crossed Jamie... I also hope the apartment signing now goes according to plan and in the meantime I could really use a piece of this delicious brownie!

Liz W (EmmaEats) said...

It sounds like it's been a trying time for you, Jamie. So sorry to hear that -- I do hope that things start to turn around soon.

These brownies look fantastic and would be so therapeutic! I'm looking forward to giving these a try soon.

Maureen said...

You have the best attitude and you're my heros for not knuckling under and taking it. Just proves my theory that all problems are temporary. I think your life is still pretty spiffy.

Prayers for Marty. I sniffled a little bit when I read that part about not hopping in bed.

Terra said...

These brownies would not last long in my house! I love how moist they look, and your addition of cinnamon sounds wonderful. Cinnamon is my most favorite spice, a beautiful sweet and spicy flavor in your brownies:-) Lovely, Hugs, Terra

Terra said...

Sending lots of positive thoughts for your sweet puppy! They are so special in our families:-) Sending hugs to Marty!

Mairi @ Toast said...

Hoping Marty gets better soon! And yes I know what you mean about those weeks! But apparently what doesn't kill us makes us stronger & things will all work out in the end! And if they haven't yet worked out then it is not the end...! So here's to us all & have a happy, productive, positive week ahead :)

WiseMóna said...

Hang in there Jamie... What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? Such an amount of stress...moving, and poor wee Marty! The little buggers do weasel their way in to our hearts and homes and it is horrible when they fall ill. Sending you hugs from Ireland xx

Amanda said...

Dearest Jamie, I so hope that all goes well with Marty and he's back snoring on your bed as soon as possible. I've always been of the belief that chocolate (and/or wine) can help in almost any situation so you seem to have written your own perfect prescription.
(We've recently dislodged our first child from the nest and it leaves an oddly incomplete feeling about the house, although she shows up regularly for food and money!)

Jamie said...

@Amanda: we, too, just "dislodged" our older son from the house which makes it seem even emptier, for sure! And ha ha ha yes, ours already came back once to do laundry though happily is making his own money.

Bunkycooks said...

I know this has been a rough week for you and it will get better once Marty's sweet little face is back in your home. These other things will work themselves out, as you well know. I always believe that things happen for a reason and that when one door closes, another opens. Life just seems to work that way. Of course, this perfect recipe for brownies makes everything better. Now I want to make them since I have macadamia nuts in my pantry. :-) We are keeping you all in our thoughts.

Deeba PAB said...

Sweet sweet Marty.... life will get better soon. You gave me that hope, and I give iot back to you sweet sistah! When it rains, it pours ... UFF! Why is life so cruel for so long. I know how it feels ...br brave my dahling... and you will sail thru it! 5Love the brownies...pure comfort! HUGS!!

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I've had a two and a half year bump in the road. My not walking after an injury is just words to others; to me it's meant loss of work, loss of friends (yes, that does happen!), a garden gone to hell and more. If I lived each day seeing a glass way less than half full I would be in trouble but I can't and neither can you.

You are strong and capable and you will stop being pushed around I know so my concern is your dear sweet Marty.

My dog is old and spends most days lying at my feet on the cool kitchen floor while I work. She lives more for a treat than my attention nowadays yet even the thought of something happening to her is so painful; losing her right now might put me over the edge. Hang in there Jamie; we're here for you!

Baker Street said...

Oh no! I hope marty feels better soon!

Love these decadent bars! Luscious chocolate ganache really takes these over the top! :)

Cake Duchess said...

I'm thinking healing thoughts for sweet Marty. I know it is not easy to go through. These bars are decadent and fantastic. Taste of Home recipes are always spot on! I will check out your interview at Mark's.:)xx

Robin | what-about-the-food said...

Bravo to sticking to your guns and deciding to not give in. Sometimes, the suckerpunches of life's fragile balance leave us dazed and hurting. How wonderfully you adapt, regroup and do better than perservere dear friend. Eat Brownies!!!!!!

A Canadian Foodie said...

Why is life like this? It makes no sense, yet perfect sense as it has happened to me too many times to take anything for granted... but, it does build character, as the old saying goes. And, that is true. The more %$#@ one goes through in life with that positive "CAN DO" attitude you have expressed here, the more you learn to love yourself - as you witness yourself triumph, again and again and again amidst all odds. Good for you, Jamie, for keeping your chin up. Puppies are so precious, and it is heart breaking enough to find a pet suffering in any way - but, it is like Big Brother is watching and flips the "dark" switch to pour it all on at once. At my age, I just breath, and there is no question that this too, will pass.
XO
Valerie

Rambling Tart said...

I'm so sorry you've had such a wretched week, Jamie. I can sure identify and found myself grinning in understanding as I read your post. Life is a bugger sometimes, and I'm SO glad it doesn't stay that way. :-) These bars look amazing, and now I'm going to get up and make something decadent too. :-)

Robyn said...

These frosted cake bars look like a hug on a plate! You can't go wrong with chocolate cake!

I hope Marty is better soon and things swing back in the positive direction for you.

{{Hugs}}

Jeanne said...

Makes me think of the Alannis Morisett song: "It's like rain on your wedding day; It's like a free ride when you've already paid" - sometimes you just have to put your head down and get through it... Hope Marty is up and about (and HOME) soon - these bars look incredibly decadent!

Lorraine Joy Alegria-Vizcarra said...

The brownies look wonderful.

Minnie@thelady8home said...

I hope your little fur kid feels better real soon. Just thinking of them in pain hurts. Good luck.

The chocolate bar looks so great. Found it just in time - I needed to make some for the hungry kids at home. Thanks so much!!

lizzie said...

Hope the rest of your week perks up.
I agree with Robyn, that these look like hugs on a plate.
Just what you need when you need a little pick me up.

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

What can we do but deal with what life brings in the best way we can. And a nice slice of a good dessert certainly helps. I hope Marty recovers quickly.

Sarah said...

Hope things rearrange themselves soon, summer sometimes puts everything in the air like that. My thoughts are with Marty, wishing him an easy time. It's never easy. The chocolate bar looks like the perfect solution for these types of weeks.

Javelin Warrior said...

I hope Marty is doing better, Jamie - I feel so bad for you all. Just wanted to drop by and also let you know I'm featuring this post in Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and thanks for creating such amazing food…

KG said...

simply sinful, i must make this!

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