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Erin go Braugh and a Piece of Stout Cake

I will begin with the disclaimer that I am not Irish, except of course on March 17th.  According to the family tree, our ancestry is primarily of German origin and we are the offspring of immigrants who settled in Nebraska in the 1800s to grow wheat.  That said, St. Patrick’s Day has always been a special day with different foods, shamrocks and and an Irish coffee or green beer.

When celebrating our first married St. Patrick’s Day, I was informed by my new husband that he didn’t really “care for corned beef (gasp!)” and I was forced to find other dishes that celebrated our American-Irish sans the traditional main course.  Below is a recipe from for a Chocolate Stout Cake as he does “care for” Guinness.  It has become known as The Compromise of St. Patrick’s Day – my husband would eat bark if it meant he could wash it down with a piece of this rich, dense, dark chocolate delight!

Makes 12 servings


  1. Cake
    • 2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
    • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
    • 4 cups all purpose flour
    • 4 cups sugar
    • 1 tablespoon baking soda
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  2. Icing
    • 2 cups whipping cream
    • 1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  1. For cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
    2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.
  2. For icing:
    1. Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. (I often add a few teaspoons of flavoring at this point, i.e., vanilla, orange, bourbon, rum or Irish whiskey).  Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
    2. Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

“Wherever you go and whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you,”


St Patricks Hat

Hooray for Homicide!


This Sunday, February 28, 2016, the 88th Academy Awards ceremony will take place.  You probably already knew that.  Unless you have shunned technology and refused to glance at magazines displayed on every grocery check-out stand, you’ve been aware of the coming event for several weeks.  From the nominations, to the fashion predictions, to tips on throwing your own Academy Awards party (Yes, me too! Check out my FB page for recipes or Pinterest “Hooray for Homicide” board), you just can’t seem to avoid at least a peripheral knowledge of Hollywood’s big night.  This was not the original intent of the Academy and it’s hard to say what the stars of those early years would have thought of Sunday’s elaborate show.

The first Academy Awards ceremony took place in the form of a banquet at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. Best Picture was awarded to silent film, Wings, with Janet Gaynor as Best Actress and Emil Jannings as Best Actor.  Only two hundred seventy people were in attendance, with the winners having been announced by Academy president, Douglas Fairbanks, three months earlier.

The following year, the results were kept secret until the ceremony.  The Academy did, in advance, provide a list of winners to the newspapers for publication in their 11 o’clock additions.  However, in 1940, the Los Angeles Times published early.  This breach resulted in the sealed envelope system we are familiar with today.  The Oscar’s, as they would affectionately become known, was first televised in 1953, broadcast in color in 1966.

The Academy statuette, officially named the Academy Award of Merit, was designed in 1928 by MGM’s art director, Cedric Gibbons, depicting a knight, standing on a reel of film, holding a sword.  The reel features five spokes, each representing the five original branches of the Academy:  actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. The statuette is affectionately known as, “Oscar,” though the origin of the name is unclear.  Legend holds that an Academy librarian, Margaret Herrick, remarked, “It looks like my Uncle Oscar.” Though the Academy did not adopt the name officially until 1939, the nick-name can be found in print as early as 1934.

In spite of its humble origins and intent, the Academy Awards is now televised in over 200 countries and draws an estimated audience of  nearly 40 million viewers.

Whether you live for the annual event or avoid it like last weeks sushi, my “Hooray for Homicide” murder mystery is an enjoyable parody of Hollywood and its infinite levels of intrigue.

Regardless of how you plan to spend your Sunday night, may your evening be golden and your fans legion,


“I thought maybe we could make ginger bread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands.” Buddy the Elf

Gingerbread HouseMore than anything else, the smell of gingerbread says Christmas to me – cake or cookie form, either will do!  Along those lines, or course, is the gingerbread house. I made my first gingerbread house when I was about 19.  It was a gift for a boyfriend’s young cousin and it nearly killed me when she opened it and proceeded to eat the decorations immediately, only pausing to mumble “thank you,” with her mouth full when her mother prompted!

I’ve matured and mellowed some since then, partly from age and largely from having survived a house full of my own children.  Gingerbread houses became a wonderful vehicle to gather around the kitchen table and spend time completely engrossed in a family holiday project.  Some years they were made of graham crackers, some became part of a village and one was rather large and ambitious.

If you are interested in trying your hand at Christmas architecture, the gingerbread recipe below varies slightly from that for eating.  This recipe will also work well for gingerbread ornaments:

Gingerbread for Houses

INGREDIENTS:  5 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp EACH cloves & nutmeg (where the wonderful smell comes from!), 2 tsp EACH cinnamon & ginger, 1 cup vegetable shortening, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/4 cup molasses, 2 eggs beaten

INSTRUCTIONS:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend the dry ingredients together.  In a large saucepan, melt the shortening.  Cool slightly, then add sugar, molasses and eggs.  Mix well.  Add dry ingredients one cup at a time and mix just until blended.    Roll dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap, which you have sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray (Pam).  Chill for a minimum of 1 hour.

When ready to roll dough for cutting, remove from refrigeration and allow to come to near room temperature.  Cut several sheets of parchment paper to fit the cookie sheets you will be baking them on.  Roll dough out on each sheet to a consistent 1/4″ thickness.  If dough becomes “sticky,” return to refrigerator. Lightly flour the pattern pieces and lay them on the dough.  Cut around the shapes with a non-serrated pizza cutter or pastry wheel.  Remove excess dough – should have approximately 1″ spacing around your pieces.  Pick parchment paper up from opposite corners and place on your baking sheet.  DO NOT remove dough pieces from parchment paper – this would cause your dough to stretch and is the leading cause of misshapen pieces!

BAKE: Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until pieces begin to brown along the edges.  Allow gingerbread pieces to cool completely before removing from parchment paper.  Gingerbread “walls” should be allowed to cure for 24 hours to better withstand assembly.

For inspiration, be it to decorate a store bought kit or completing your own creation, check out for “Top Gingerbread Houses.”

Merry Christmas.  May your December be filled with love and joy and icing!





Let the Holiday Season Begin…

I was at a local craft store this week and wandered down an aisle that held the 75% clearance Halloween/Fall décor on one side and the Christmas decorations on the opposing .  My brain immediately jumped to how many days before Christmas, which equated into how many paychecks, the lead-time for mailing gifts and how early should I send out invitations for the annual cookie exchange?  Multiply that by party invitations, out of town relatives arriving and the list of home chores to be completed by D-Day and you can work yourself into a well deserved panic attack – whew! In this coming week, however, we will pause as a nation to be “thankful.”

My menu and grocery list have been prepared and I am at the moment posting as a form of procrastination as I am not quite ready to face the grocery store this morning.  However, as the deed must be done, I will leave you with a few fun Thanksgiving day facts from Bon Appetit magazine:  1) The average time you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner is 28 minutes later than you planned.  2)  8% of you will drop your turkey on the floor – all most all of you will serve it anyway.

So, things will not go according to plan, but you will eat!  Please take time to remember the reason for the day and count your blessings as an individual, as a family and as a nation.


1 – 12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup spiced rum (bourbon or Jack Daniel’s would also work)

Zest and juice from one small orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees F

Combine the cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice and half of the rum.  Cover and bake for 55 minutes.  Remove cover and stir, adding the remaining rum.  Return dish to the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 10 mins, until juices begin to thicken and berries are soft.  Serve warm or cold.  Sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving,