Dark Chocolate ‘Beer’ Cake with Sour Cream Caramel Frosting

Chocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting RecipeIt’s official!  I finally had my first beer –  in a cake that is.  ;)  In all the hundreds of cakes I have eaten to date, not one had beer in it.  My Dad was an incredible cake baker, and although he was forever pulling one from the oven, I don’t ever remember him baking one with beer.  Which is ironic since my Dad loved his beer.  I vividly remember begging sips of brew from him as he enjoyed a can or two after a long day’s work at the factory.  Dad was a perfectionist when it came to the glass he used for his beer.  Not the shape, rather the cleanliness.  Once, he even gave me a demonstration on the proper way to clean a beer glass.  ‘You have to clean it really well with hot soapy water, then rinse it with cold water.  Cold water kills the suds.  Any soap residue left on the glass will make the beer go flat, and a great glass of beer has to have a nice head of foam’.  Those were his precise instructions.
Chocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting RecipeChocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting Recipe

Anyway, back to cake!

A cake craving hit the other day and I just knew I wasn’t going to rest until I had a slice.  I quickly scoured a half dozen of my baking books and jumped around on the internet until I hit upon a recipe that sounded irresistible.  Improvisation was required if I was going to sate my craving speedily.  The original recipe called for Stout but I only had a more demure pale lager on hand.  Since my objective was to find a cake deeply rich and decadently chocolate, I wasn’t as concerned about how much flavor the beer would impart.  In general, I wanted to end up with a ‘wow’ cake that required very little time and effort.  In that vein, when it came to the salted caramel sauce, I used purchased from a jar.
Chocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting RecipeChocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting RecipeBaking a ‘Looker of a Cake’ doesn’t need to be complicated.  This chocolate wonder is easy enough for novice bakers and impressive enough for any special occasion.  And if decorating a cake isn’t among one of your many talents, go with flowers.  Flowers are magical!  They elevate even the ordinary into something quite spectacular.
Chocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting RecipeChocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting RecipeChocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting Recipe 

Chocolate 'Beer' Cake w Sour Cream Caramel Frosting Recipe 

Salted Sesame Caramel Macaroons

Salted Sesame Caramel Macaroons RecipeAround this time of year, I start flipping through my ‘Passover’ file to get reacquainted with the recipes I have collected specifically for the celebration of Passover – most of them are recipes for desserts that don’t contain flour.   There are tons of great gluten-free sweets available these days but since I’m not gluten intolerant, I don’t usually give the subject much thought.  Occasionally a gluten-free recipe will show up here on the blog, but on average, flour is a constant in my everyday recipes.  So when faced with the question ‘ what to make for Passover dessert’, I’m always looking for something new and interesting.
Salted Sesame Caramel Macaroons RecipeIt is typical in Passover dessert recipes for matzah meal or matzah cake meal to take the place of flour.  Truth be told, I find both can detract from the deliciousness of a dessert.  Instead, I choose recipes that rely on other leavening ingredients like eggs and egg whites.  A few of my favorites are Flourless Chocolate Cake, Cheesecake, and Pavlova.
Salted Sesame Caramel Macaroons RecipeCoconut macaroons are traditionally eaten during Passover.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been a big fan.  In analyzing the reasons for my aversion to macaroons ( not to be mistaken for French Macarons), one thought that came to mind is their undisguised sweetness.   Sweetened condensed milk, sweetened coconut, and sugar are typical ingredients in most macaroon recipes.  Add to that a bit of egg white, a sprinkle of salt, and a dash of vanilla, and the common coconut macaroon is just too sweet for me.  Until now!  Everything changed with the arrival of my April/May Fine Cooking magazine.  Dan Cohen gave a welcomed make-over to this classic cookie with a half dozen flavor variations to the basic macaroon.  I wasn’t sure which to try first.  Today I’m sharing with you my favorite so far.  I adapted his recipe one step further by replacing half the sweetened coconut in his version with the same amount of unsweetened coconut.  The result is a cookie that is tasty, not overly sweet, and one I will be making all year long.  If you like coconut, you are going to love this cookie.
Salted Sesame Caramel Macaroons RecipeNote:  I converted to Judaism nearly 3 decades ago and all these years later I find I am still learning new aspects regarding the  dietary guidelines associated with Passover.  Sesame seeds are not considered kosher for Ashkenazi Jews during Passover.  They are acceptable for Sephardic Jews.



Raspberry Ricotta Cake

Raspberry Ricotta Cake RecipeI promised myself I wasn’t going to bake and write a post while I was on vacation. Although I packed my camera and tripod, it would strictly be used for practicing landscape photography.  After all, we were staying in a charming beach house just steps from the water, all I wanted was to take photos of the sand, waves, and any sea creatures willing enough to be my subject.

By day number two, I was feeling the pangs of withdrawal.  The house had such a baking-friendly kitchen, open and bright.  From the center island I could gaze the waves as they crashed against the sand.  And the light!  Goodness, there were so many areas in the house for taking beautiful photos.  The fresh venue ignited a spark of creativity.  Before long, I was searching the internet for recipes.
,It just so happened that my inbox that day had an email from Bon Appetit with a recipe for a simple, yet intriguing, ricotta snack cake.  As lovely as it was, the house we were staying in did not come with a well-stocked pantry. I was able to rustle up a few basic ingredients, but a trip to the local market was a must if I was going to bake a cake.  With a quick trip to pick up some cheese and berries, I could have a raspberry studded ricotta cake in the oven in no time.
Raspberry Ricotta Cake RecipeMy mother is famous for saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and since the house didn’t come equipped with a 9-inch cake pan, I had to use some ingenuity when it came to a substitute.  A skillet was the obvious choice, and actually, my only option.   It worked perfectly and I loved the added rustic and homey look it lent the cake.
Raspberry Ricotta Cake Recipe
This is what I refer to as a ‘last minute’ cake.  Although it takes an hour to bake, it literally comes together in minutes.  Bake it for breakfast, and then enjoy it later as an afternoon snack.  Topped with a scoop of ice cream, it’s compelling enough to be served as dessert.
Raspberry Ricotta Cake Recipe

I eventually made it outside with my camera.

 Beach House-March-4155-2Beach House-March-4157-2

Pink Sky at Sunset



Black Cocoa Bundt Cake with Butter Bourbon Glaze + A Book Giveaway

Black Cocoa Bundt Cake RecipeThe months pass and I am drawn back to my kitchen and camera over and over again.  It’s been three years now, and still I find baking to be as enticing and intoxicating as ever.  Sure, there are days, many days, when I ask myself why I continue writing a blog.  Some days I have answers, some days not.  Nevertheless, I return.  This blog, this space I have created to share my deep passion for baking continues to feed my soul, and that is the best answer I have at the moment.  It is enough.
Black Cocoa Bundt Cake RecipeSpecial occasions hunger to be celebrated with memorable cakes.  My third year blogging birthday being no exception.  With my penchant for both chocolate and bourbon, this recipe from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito was the ideal cake for celebrating such a personal milestone.
Black Cocoa Bundt Cake RecipeThank you readers for coming back post after post.  It warms my heart just knowing I have kept you interested.  If you’ve just now stumbled into my little corner of the blogging world, welcome!  Do stay around.  I’ll try my very best to keep you enticed.

As a way of showing my appreciation for all of you who follow along here at Sifting Focus, I am giving away a copy of Baked Occasions.

*   Please leave a comment telling me what special occasion you like to celebrate with cake; and, what is your favorite celebration cake.  To complete your entry, click on the widget below.

*   Entries accepted until 12:00am Pacific Time, Thursday, March 26, 2015

*   One winner will be randomly selected and notified by email.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email notification, otherwise an alternate winner will be selected.

Black Cocoa Bundt Cake Recipe


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Black Cocoa Bundt Cake Recipe


M & B’s Apricot Cherry Crumb Bars

Apricot Cherry Crumb Bars RecipeEven though I live three thousand miles away from my family, I see them a lot!  I journey to Kentucky four or five times a year, and when I’m very blessed, one of my family members makes it to California to visit me.  Having a brother, sister, niece, or nephew in MY home is a precious gift.  There were trade-offs in choosing a life in Los Angeles, living so far from family has been the most difficult by far. Continue reading