Christmas

old-fashioned marble cake #bundtbakers

Are y’all ready for a very special holiday edition of #bundtbakers?

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

My mom recently renovated and moved into a new house, and a while she was unpacking she asked me if I wanted any of her old cookbooks. She was trying to downsize but the only one I asked for was a well worn book from the 1940s called “The Modern Family Cookbook” by Meta Given. She’d actually had it for so long that she couldn’t even remember where’d she’d gotten it, but thinks it was probably her Grandmother’s.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

As soon as I got it home I started pouring over the recipes and wondering about all the funny old fashioned foods that no one eats anymore. It’s just filled with all kinds of things that I honestly can’t wait to try.

As you can probably imagine, I was most interested in the desserts. Surprise!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

While flipping through the cakes section I came across a recipe that I instantly knew I needed to try. It was actually the caption under the title that really caught my eye.
“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.”

I’d never heard of a marble cake darkened with molasses. Have you?

In my mind marble cakes are always a mix of chocolate and vanilla, and to be honest, I’ve never really been a huge fan. I love chocolate and I love vanilla, but I prefer them as separate flavors. I feel like they sort of get lost in each other, and bring each other down rather than elevating one another when marbled together. But molasses and spice? Now that I could get into!

This version just sounded so terribly interesting, not to mention delicious!  I’ve always been fascinated by food history, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of making a recipe for a marble cake that pre-dates the one we all know today.

old fashioned marble cake | before chocolate, marble cake was darkened with molasses and spice | Brooklyn Homemaker

I find the very idea that the marble cake has evolved from one flavor profile to another completely intriguing. This got me to thinking about how and why this could have happened in the first place.

“Old-Fashioned Marble Cake always has its dark part darkened with molasses and spices, because that’s the way Grandma used to make it.” I soon realized that if this recipe was published in 1942, and it was the author’s grandmother’s recipe, then the recipe itself was probably from the late 1800s. Then it dawned on me that at that time in history cocoa and vanilla were rare, exotic, and expensive ingredients that many bakers just didn’t have access to. Molasses and spice were easy enough to find, so I’m sure that’s why they were used first.

Maybe it’s just the food nerd in me, but I find all this stuff to be so much fun and I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe and the story behind it with the bundt bakers!

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I almost went ahead with this recipe back when I first saw it, but ultimately decided that I should wait until the holidays because it sounded so similar in flavor to gingerbread (just without the ginger). I was a little worried that I’d wait all that time and then my cake wouldn’t fit with the bundt bakers theme for December, but I decided I’d cross that river when I came to it.

Lucky for me, Liv of Liv for Cake played right into my hand and chose “naughty or nice” as the theme this month. How perfect is that? Richly spiced cake with dark, earthy molasses juxtaposed against an ethereal light and airy white cake. Naughty AND nice mixed and marbled together into one perfect holiday cake. Please make sure to scroll down past the recipe and check out all the other naught and nice cakes this month!

The original recipe didn’t call for a glaze but just said, “Frost if desired, but no frosting is required.” I thought I may as well go ahead and drive the naughty point home with a nice boozy rum glaze.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This cake lends itself perfectly to being baked as a bundt. The original recipe said to bake it in a tube pan like an angel food cake, but only because the bundt pan hadn’t yet been invented! They didn’t hit the scene until the 1950s.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but did decide to add just a touch of vanilla to the white cake part. The original recipe didn’t call for it because it wasn’t readily available or affordable when it was developed, but now that it is available and affordable I saw no reason to leave it out. I’m sure it’d still be great without it, but thought it would really add a nice boost of flavor to the white cake.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

It was sort of a a funny exercise rewriting a 70 year old cake recipe. The first paragraph was just about triple sifting the flour before measuring because flour back then didn’t come pre-sifted. The recipe was also sort of vague and inexact in some places, because most housewives back then already knew how to follow a recipe. It actually said to “bake in a slow oven for about an hour”.

I tried my best to update it and make it easier for the modern baker to follow. If the finished cake was any indication, I think I did a pretty good job.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so glad to have the opportunity to revive a recipe that’s probably over a century old, and even more glad that it came out so absolutely wonderful! The cake is super light and tender, with a healthy dose of rich earthy molasses and a lovely bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove. When I first read the recipe I worried that the clove might be a bit overpowering, but I worried for nothing and wouldn’t change a thing. It tastes and smells just like the holidays, but if you want it to taste even more like gingerbread, you could easily add two or three teaspoons of ground ginger.

Ginger or no, this recipe is as fun and festive a holiday cake as you could ask for.

The rum glaze really adds another level of holiday cheer too, but if you’d prefer to keep this cake kiddo safe though, feel free to skip the rum and use an equal amount of milk instead.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

Old-Fashioned Marble Cake

Adapted from Meta Given’s 1942 Modern Family Cookbook

Light Part: 
2 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Dark Part:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons molasses
3/4 cup buttermilk

Rum Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Generously butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan and tap out excess flour. Refrigerate pan.

Light Part:
Measure flour, baking powder, and salt for the light part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. Beat egg whites until they reach stiff (but not dry) peaks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually mix in 1/4 cup of the sugar. Transfer to a small bowl and cover while you proceed.

In the same mixer bowl, cream butter and blend thoroughly with remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar. In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) mix buttermilk with vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition. Gently fold beaten egg whites into batter being careful not to overmix or deflate the whites. Transfer batter to another bowl and cover while you proceed.

Dark Part: 
Measure flour, soda, salt and spices for the dark part into a bowl and whisk together until evenly distributed. In the mixer bowl, cream butter until soft and smooth; add brown sugar and cream together thoroughly. Add beaten egg yolks and molasses, and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour and beating until smooth after each addition.

Drop alternating large spoonfuls of dark and light batter into the pan until all batter is used. Use a dull knife to make a swirled pattern in the batter for a marbled effect.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly with fingertips. Place on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes to cool before inverting to remove cake and cool completely.

To make the glaze whisk the sugar, rum, & milk together in a small bowl until lump free. If too thick, add a drop or two of milk until you reach the desired texture. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Drizzle glaze over completely cooled cake. Cake should keep, well covered and air tight at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

old fashioned marble cake | this heritage marble cake recipe is darkened with molasses and spice rather than chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This month is filled with enough naughty and nice to make Santa’s head spin! Even the naughty cakes though, are plenty nice. I wish I could try each and every one!

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BundtBakers

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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

Happy holidays y’all!

nusstaler

What is it about cookies that makes them the (un)official dessert of the holiday season?

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

With all the baking people are doing this time of year, and with all the desserts that fit the bill for the holidays, why the humble cookie? You got your cakes, your tarts, your pies, your puddings and custards, your candies, and all manner of other sweet treats that feel just as festive and celebratory.

Perhaps cookies take the cake because they’re so sharable. Because they’re such a social dessert. Even though they’re essentially single serving, homemade cookies are always best eaten with friends and family.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maybe it’s because they make such excellent gifts. Unlike cakes and pies, cookies keep well at room temperature for a long while, so they store, pack, and ship well. A batch of cookies that comes out of an oven in New York City can be enjoyed by a California grandmother just a few days later.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maybe it’s because they’re so customizable and widely varied. Spiced cookies, iced cookies, soft cookies, crunchy cookies, chewy cookies, thin cookies, thick cookies, sandwich cookies, stuffed cookies, cutout cookies, chocolate cookies, nutty cookies, fruity cookies, oaty cookies, buttery cookies, olive oil cookies, endless kinds of cookies!

Fill a tray to overflowing will all of your favorites, and it’s an instant party!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

A cookie swap is a great way to make sure your holiday party has that obligatory cookie platter, without being stuck in the kitchen for days to roll and cut and decorate fifteen different recipes.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a cookie swap, each person bakes up a huge batch of one recipe, and then everyone gets together and swaps everything. You show up with a boatload of own your recipe, but leave with half a dozen of several different cookies to share with your family. It’s like a baker’s dream party. A pre-holiday-party holiday party!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I absolutely love the idea of a cookie swap, I’ve never actually been to one! Thankfully, most food bloggers love to bake (and eat) cookies just as much as I do, and a few years ago two of my favorite bloggers decided to get creative with the cookie swap concept.

the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

Thanks to Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen, we now have the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Food bloggers from across the nation and across the globe get to interact and share cookies with each other from the comforts of home. We’re assigned three blogs to send our cookies to, and three blogs send cookies our way. It’s like secret santa by mail, but with homemade cookies!

It’s a great way to meet new bloggers and taste some seriously delicious cookies. It’s also a great cause, as donations are collected for participating, and all proceeds benefit Cookies for Kid’s Cander, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Coming up with a cookie recipe worthy of sharing with other food bloggers was a job I took extremely seriously.  We’ve already established that I’m a bit of an over achiever, so I found the infinite number of cookie recipes out there pretty daunting.

When it comes to the holidays, I usually like to stick to my German heritage, but I was running out of ideas. A few years back I made some traditional pfeffernusse, and last year I made a gingerbread linzer cookie for my first time participating in the cookie swap.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whenever I get kind of stumped I like to pour over Pinterest for inspiration. That’s where I found a recipe from Saveur for a traditional Bavarian Christmas cookie called nusstaler that caught my eye. I was intrigued. They looked beautiful and sounded delicious. Absolutely. You betcha. I couldn’t wait.

Then I read the reviews.

Almost everyone who attempted to make their recipe said there were problems with it. I won’t get into all the details but from what I was reading this recipe had obviously not been thoroughly tested before publishing and had some serious technical flaws. I liked the idea of this cookie so much though, that I took to google looking for other recipes with better reviews. The problem is that Nusstaler are largely unknown in the US and the only recipes I could find were in German. The real barrier wasn’t the language though, it was the measurements. Google translates websites for you at the click of a button, but converting metric recipes isn’t quite so easy. You can easily find out the equivalents in cups and teaspoons, but they don’t always work out the way you’d want. I realized that a direct translation and conversion would mean my recipe would included measurements like 1.865 cups of flour, and I was almost ready to give up and ditch the whole thing.

But it was too late. I was bewitched by the very idea of these nutty chocolatey little cookies. I’d spent so much time digging for recipes that I was determined to stick with it. So, I decided to just try to figure it out on my own. Mind you, this is a cookie I’ve never tasted, never even heard of before seeing them on pinterest, but I was just going to wing it.

The basic idea was simple enough. Nusstaler are hazelnut shortbread dipped or coated in chocolate. After a little research I learned that they’re supposed to be sort of coin shaped. Nuss means nut, and Taler is a German spelling of Thaler, an ancient silver coin that was used in Europe for centuries. Thaler is actually the root of the word Dollar! So, essentially, nusstaler translates to nut coins. Yum!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I can’t promise that my version of the nusstaler is completely authentic or traditional, I can promise that they’re absolutely delicous.

I was expecting them to be crumbly and crunchy like other shortbreads I’ve had, but these were actually pretty tender and delicate. I think this comes from the high nut to flour ratio in the shortbread base. Much of what I read online said nusstaler is usually made with equal parts white flour and finely ground hazelnut flour, so that’s what I went with.

The flavor is buttery, earthy, nutty, delicate, and perfect; with a touch of crunch from the whole toasted hazelnut topping each cookie. They’re just barely sweet in such a way that the coating of rich bittersweet dark chocolate on the bottoms really adds something. I thought that they might end up tasting a bit like nutella, but the flavors of the chocolate and the hazelnuts acutally reach your tongue separately so you’re able to enjoy each flavor individually.

I hope you’ll give these Bavarian Christmas cookies a try. If you do, I’m sure that these funny little nut coins are sure to become a new holiday favorite!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Nusstaler

  • Servings: makes about 2 dozen cookies
  • Print
1 cup whole hazelnuts, plus more for garnish
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 8 ounces good quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F.
Arrange hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and rub hazelnuts, a small handful at a time, in a kitchen towel to remove the husk. It won’t all come off, and that’s okay.

Transfer 1 cup of hazelnuts to a blender or food processor and grind very finely into a coarse flour. Pulse in flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa, just to combine. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat just until combined. Gradually mix in flour mixture until well combined. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Portion dough into 1 inch scoops, about 1 1/2 tablespoons each, and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets, spaced about 2″ apart. Press a hazelnut into the top of each. Bake at 350F until just beginning to brown around the bottom edge, about 10 to 13 minutes.

While cookies cool, roughly chop chocolate and melt over low heat in a double boiler.
Dip bottoms of cooled cookies into melted chocolate, carefully lifting out with a fork. Return to parchment lined baking sheets until chocolate is completely cooled and set.

Cookies should keep for about a week in an airtight container

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache #bundtbakers

It seems that no one single flavor is more universally popular during the holidays than peppermint!

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Appropriately enough, the theme for this month’s #bundtbakers event was mint! Fresh mint, mint extract, mint oil, mint candies, mint chocolates, candy canes, you name it. It’s all fair game this month. I want to say a great big thank you to our host this month, Laura Tabacca of The Spiced Life, and encourage you to scroll down past the recipe to check out all the other amazing minty bundts this month!

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was growing up I was a HUGE mint fan, and always got a pack of Andes mints and peppermint Altoids in my stocking for Christmas. I also loved baking with mint and drove my mother crazy putting peppermint extract in everything.

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

I remember when I was just learning to bake, my sister and I made a peppermint cake that stuck to the pan when we tried to invert it. Instead of accepting defeat, we just scraped the cake out of the pan into a tupperware container. We then took the tupperware full of minty cake crumbs to my grandmother’s house and proudly presented them as “dessert”. We were young and I keep telling myself that we didn’t know any better.

Now that I’m older my taste for mint has waned a bit. I still like mint candies, and I only chew mint flavored gum (I don’t know why, but I HATE fruit flavored gum), but these days I almost never bake with mint.

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since I bake with mint so rarely, I felt a lot of (self-imposed) pressure when coming up with my bundt this month. I went through a ton of ideas, bouncing some off friends at work and actually laying awake at night thinking about what I might do. Finally I decided to keep it classic and simple, and went for a really solid chocolate bundt cake topped with peppermint dark chocolate ganache.

There’s no mint in the cake itself because I thought it would be the perfect subtle touch if it were just in the ganache. Once the cake is topped with crushed peppermint candies there is plenty of minty goodness happening here, trust me.

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

I used peppermint oil in the ganache rather than extract. The oil has a much fresher, greener, herbal mint flavor than extract, which has more of a peppermint candy flavor. I did this, again, in the name of subtlety and elegance, and I was really happy with the way it came out. I will warn you though that, if you’re used to working with the extract, the oil is MUCH stronger and more concentrated, and should be used very sparingly. When I first made my ganache I actually used WAAAAY too much (1/2 teaspoon) and it tasted like chocolate toothpaste. I adjusted the recipe and decided just a few drops was plenty to give the ganache all the mint flavor it needed. If you really like mint you may want to use a few more drops, but don’t go crazy or you’ll regret it.

If you can’t find peppermint oil, or don’t want to buy one more thing for the pantry, peppermint extract would be totally delicious too. Since it’s not as strongly concentrated, you’ll probably want to use a bit more, but I suggest you start with about a 1/4 a teaspoon first and see if you need to add more.

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

After all that planning and brainstorming, I’m so happy that I went with these classic flavors.

I cannot say enough about this chocolate bundt cake recipe. It’s adapted from my favorite chocolate bundt cake ever, and it’s my go-to recipe whenever I want chocolate to be the star of the show. It’s unbelievably moist and tender and richly, deeply, darkly chocolatey. The original recipe calls for brewed coffee, but I didn’t want the coffee flavor to compete with the mint so I just used water this time. It’s highly adaptable, and I’ve even had great success substituting an equal amount of orange juice for the coffee (or water), in my chocolate orange bundt cake.

The peppermint dark chocolate ganache on top takes everything to a whole other level of holiday perfection. It’s the perfect touch of mint to make this cake scream “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” To break up all the dark brown chocolate and add a pop of festive holiday color, I sprinkled crushed peppermint candies over the ganache before it set. Not only does it look pretty, but it adds even more of that sweet peppermint flavor!

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

Best Chocolate Bundt Cake with Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ganache

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup peanut oil or any neutral vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

For the Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ganache:
4 oz best quality dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
a few small drops of peppermint oil
1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes, if desired.

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Liberally butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside.

Whisk water and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low for just one minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.
Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes more.  Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. The batter will seem quite loose and liquid.  Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 55-65, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.

To make the ganache, heat the heavy cream in a heavy pot, just until it begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let the chocolate melt for a minute or so, then whisk to combine. Add a few small drops of peppermint oil, and taste to see if you’d like to add more. DO NOT add more than 1/4 teaspoon. Peppermint oil is STRONG.
If using peppermint extract, start with 1/4 teaspoon, taste, and adjust if necessary.

Drizzle ganache over the cake while it’s still warm and liquid. Sprinkle crushed peppermint candies over the top if desired. Let the ganache set for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Don’t make this too far in advance of serving, or the candies may begin to melt. If you want to make in advance, I’d just bake the cake ahead, cover tightly with wrap, and wait to top with ganache and candies until you’re almost ready to serve.

best chocolate bundt cake with peppermint dark chocolate ganache | Brooklyn Homemaker

All these amazing minty bundts sound so festive and delicious! Check ’em out y’all!

BundtBakers

Interested in learning more about us? #BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the BundtBaker home page here.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com. If you are just a lover of Bundt baking, you can find all of our recipe links by clicking our badge above or on our group Pinterest board.

Mexican dark hot chocolate

So, the other day, I took the subway seven stops clutching a small tree.

 Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This time of year it’s not that rare to see otherwise sane looking adults dragging whole trees, minus the roots, through the streets of New York. Tourists point and stare at grown men in expensive coats struggling against the weight of the trees on their backs as they try to walk down the subway stairs. Women in heels choose trees twice their size and tip delivery men because they know better.

Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was growing up we always had an artificial tree so, of course, I always wanted a real one. If we’d always had real trees I’d probably be sitting here writing about the joys of fluffing and shaping artificial branches.

Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

Every year since getting my first apartment I’ve had a real tree. This year I went for a modest 3-footer, but over the years I’ve had big ones, small ones, potted ones, cut ones, and little tiny live ones that came with teeny tiny ornaments attached. A few years ago we just decorated a house plant because we were so strapped for cash that we didn’t want to waste money on a tree. It was a 3 foot dwarf palm with string lights and blue, green, and purple bulbs. No star.

Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’d had those blue and green and purple ornaments for years, and I bought a few of them from the dollar store in Saranac Lake, New York for my very first tree in my first apartment. Last year we decided to finally put them to rest, and to simplify with a white and silver scheme instead.

When I was little I’d made craft dough Christmas ornaments with my mother and sister, so last year I adapted the idea and made “gingerbread” salt dough ornaments cut into the shapes of snowflakes and furry woodland creatures. If you want to try the project out for yourself, check out my gingerbread salt dough ornament tutorial.

Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

To warm us up while we decorated I made a spiced Mexican dark hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream. I recommend using the highest quality chocolate you can get for this. Use a chocolate bar that you would eat on it’s own, not something you find in the baking aisle. Since there’s little more to this than milk, a bit of spice, and the chocolate; the chocolate you choose will make a big difference in the flavor.

Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

This hot chocolate is rich and dark and thick and creamy. It’s got just a hint of spicy warmth, and a tiny bit of caramel-y sweetness from a touch of brown sugar. It’s just barely sweet, but is still so rich that a small serving is completely satisfying. If you don’t care for dark chocolate and want to use milk instead, I’d recommend you skip the addition of brown sugar or it may end up too sweet. If you like to get down, I’d also highly recommend adding an ounce or two of whiskey to each serving. If you don’t want to get too crazy but like a touch of the sauce, you could add a tablespoon or so to your whipped cream instead.

Mexican dark hot chocolate | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mexican Dark Hot Chocolate

adapted, just barely, from Ina Garten for Food Network

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
4 ounces good dark chocolate (about 70%), chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
more cinnamon, for dusting

Place the milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Off the heat add the chocolate and vanilla. Let the chocolate sit and melt in the milk for a minute or two before whisking in to combine. If necessary, reheat the hot chocolate over low heat just until it simmers.

In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the cream and powdered sugar until the cream whips up into stiff peaks. You can use a hand mixer or stand mixer if desired, but it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes or so to do by hand, and you’re not making much.

Divide the hot chocolate between mugs and top with whipped cream. If desired, dust very lightly with cinnamon before serving.