The Sweet Side of Baking

My sister and her sister-in-law, Jessie, came for a short visit, so I wanted to make something special for them—something I was sure they would like even though I’d never made it before.  In perusing Jo Hiestand’s Cider, Swords & Straw, celebrating British customs cookbook, I found two recipes I had to make: Midnight Chocolate Cake (pp.360-361) and Eggnog Cranberry Tea Bread (p 368).  As expected, they were both great hits.

My altered recipes are below, but go to Jo’s cookbook ( for the original recipes and for more information on fall British customs—as well as her intriguing British mystery series.

Midnight Chocolate Cake

Midnight Chocolate Cate with Emmer Flour



1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 cup emmer flour

1 ¾ cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened baking cocoa

1 ¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 ¼ cup almond milk

¾ cup butter

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract (made with brandy)


2 large eggs, separated, preferably at room temperature

2 ½ cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup water

2 sticks butter, softened

2 square unsweetened chocolate; melted

1 tsp vanilla extract


[your favorite chocolate butter frosting—I used the one on Hersey’s cocoa can]


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease 2-9 inch round cake pans; coat lightly with flour.


—  In large bowl, combine dry ingredients: flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking poweder, and salt.

—  Mix almond milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter.

— Blend wet ingredients in with dry ingredients.  Mix until smooth.

— Pour into cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of cakes comes out clean.

— Set on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove pans and allow to cool on wire racks.

— Wrap cakes in saran wrap then tin foil and put in freezer over night or at least for a couple of hours

—  After frozen cut each cake into 2 horizontal layers-  this is much easier after the cake is frozen.  However, you can skip freezing the cake and simply slice each one into 2 horizontal layers, the freezing just make this part easier.

— You now have 4 cake layers.


—  In electric mixer bowl, beat egg whites to peaks

— Gradually sprinkle in ¼ cup powdered sugar, beating until sugar is dissolved and white stand in stiff peaks.

— Melt butter with chocolate together in microwave, stir well. Let cool slightly

—  In a separate bowl, gradually mix remaining sugar with egg yolks, water, butter, melted chocolate and vanilla.

— Fold in egg white mixture, using rubber spatula.

Assemble cake:

— Spread the filling between the cake layers.  I felt the need to use 3 toothpicks to hold the layers in place because I didn’t make the cake surface flat.  That is, I forgot to slice off the slight dome that forms with a cake bakes; having a nice flat surface on each side of the cake makes for a more symmetrical final presentation.

— Frost the entire outside of the cake with your chosen chocolate frosting.

Enjoy with ice cream or whipped cream along side of slice of cake.

Eggnog Cranberry Tea Bread

Eggnog Cranberry Tea Bread with Emmer Flour

Eggnog Cranberry Tea Bread with Emmer Flour

I pretty much followed Jo’s recipe for this fun spoon bread.  The only changes I made were the substitution of

  • 1 ¼ cup emmer flour for the all-purpose flour and
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour for the whole wheat flour.

Also, after the 45 minutes of baking time recommended, my bread was still so unbaked that I added another 23 minutes and increased the temperature to 375 degrees.  Your oven may vary, just be sure to use a toothpick to poke into the center of the bread when you think it’s done.  The toothpick should come out clean.

ENJOY!  We all need a special dessert or sweet bread at some time.  Try these, you’ll be happy you did.

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