Chocolate Kahlua Bundt Cake

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Greetings, friends! I have resisted posting this recipe because it is not wholly from scratch, and I personally have a weird, foodie sort of dedication to baking mostly from scratch. That being said, this is my absolute favorite chocolate cake, ever, so after making it three different times I simply had to share it. I have made many different scratch versions of this cake, and none of them equal this one. Some were too fudgy, others too dry, others too bitter.

You may already have many of the ingredients on hand to make it, and it would almost certainly be a hit with your family as a holiday dessert. Here’s the recipe.

CHOCOLATE KAHLUA BUNDT CAKE

The cake part of the recipe:

1 Devil’s Food Cake Mix (I used Pillsbury)
1 box (3 oz.) Chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup of heated water containing 1 tsp. Medaglia de oro instant coffee, then cooled.
3/4 cup Kahlua
1 10 oz. pkg. mini chocolate chips, or 1 cup chopped nuts, to fold in last (optional for either)

Grease and flour a bundt pan or spray it with vegetable spray. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. Mix just until blended and no lumps are visible. Stir in the chocolate chips if you are adding them.

Bake at 325-350 on the center shelf of your oven for about 45-50 minutes. Allow it to cool in the pan on a cake rack, at least 20-25 minutes before attempting to dump it out.

As you can see by the below photo, the cake will rise slightly above the pan while baking, but the visible, shallow surface cracks are a characteristic of this cake, and nothing to worry about.

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Invert the bundt pan over a cake rack by kind of slamming the pan down onto the cake rack. It should release from the pan easily. If it doesn’t, give it another thwack or two. It dumps out easier when still faintly warm than it does at room temperature. If you try to dump it when it is too warm, it may crack or break the cake.

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Ganache glaze for cake

8 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate/or high quality semi-sweet chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream, scalded!
1 Tablespoon liquor, if desired, added last after the chocolate is dissolved into the whipping cream.

If the chocolate is in bar form, shave it with a knife, starting from a corner of the bar. Place the shavings (or chips) in a bowl, and either pour the hot whipping cream over them, or dump the chocolate into the hot whipping cream. Stir and fold it together gently with a spatula. Stir in a Tablespoon of Kahlua if desired. Pour or drizzle over the cake when the chocolate mixture is about 70-75 degrees.

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I usually make a double batch of the above Ganache, to entirely coat the outside of the cake. But you could make the above batch and drizzle it artistically over the cake. Up to you. I do like some left over to keep in the refrigerator or freezer because it makes the BEST hot fudge sauce!

My first choice would be Belgian Bittersweet couverture chocolate, which I became accustomed to when I baked professionally. Some stores sell some brand of Bittersweet in 10-12 oz. bars or you can get 11# of it by ordering from somewhere like King Arthur Flour Co. or other suppliers. It keeps for quite some time. European couverture chocolate has 35-39% cocoa butter in it, which makes it a smooth standout from most American chocolates.

The only bad thing about making Ganache is that it is SO good! There is inevitably a lot left in the bowl that must be dealt with, and I usually volunteer to just eat it.

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Just remember…

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Have a lovely winter-fest holiday, however you celebrate!

A Christmas Merry Go Round

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Winter greetings, friends! In this time of Covid isolation and observing attitudes around the country, I have seen too much ugliness to pretend that the Christmas season will ring in peace, people will care about their fellow man and all is well because, after all, it is Christmas time. I’m just not feeling it. The tree above is last year’s tree.  My husband and I are retired, and I do recognize that for families with young children, the season must go on. If I had small children right now, I would strive to instill in them the idea of gifting service to those with less, making handcrafted gifts for others, and exploring tools that add to their creative skills, rather than what the commercials tell them they should want.

I have always loved the Christmas season, personally. I love to make handmade gifts for people, bake Christmas treats and share the bounty and goodwill of the season. In fact, I have sometimes been a study of excess myself this time of the year. But I’m not seeing the “goodwill to men” this year. I’m seeing a split down the middle of our country drawn by selfishness and greed. Christmas is not going to make that better.

Christmas television commercials and store ads are accompanied by the usual frenzy of hyped-up holiday music, and a friendly, reasonable voice urging, “Ask Santa for this, ask your parents for that, don’t you deserve to have this?” There is no accommodation or recognition, not even as a side note, for the very deep loss, grief and illness that envelops our country. Even THIS year, of all years! Even during Covid, when SO many do not have enough to eat, are worried about losing their homes, being evicted, or have lost a loved one, the hype goes on, the same as usual.

I should add, I am not personally offended by any of it. I have not lost a loved one to Covid, I am not depressed, we have plenty to eat. In fact, we have a surplus of anything we want or need. But I am deeply and humanly offended, not only by the long arm capitalist reach of this country, but by the attitudes of some I know that call themselves Christians. I am not willing to live my life in the business as usual mode, in the midst of all the people and families that are suffering. I am not willing to pretend for two days or two weeks that life is normal right now. It most definitely is not.

Instead of decking the halls as usual, spending $70+ dollars for a fresh Balsam Fir Christmas tree, and several hundred more on sparkly gifts we don’t really need under the Christmas tree, we are jumping off the Christmas merry-go-round. We will still give a few (hopefully) thoughtful gifts to people we are close to, because we enjoy doing that. I will still make some special cookies and candies I usually make this time of the year. I don’t hate Christmas. I just don’t like how narcissistically commercialized it has become. I don’t like how it has taken on a life of its own depite the suffering throughout the world.

We have decided to donate the amount we usually spend on a tree and gifts to a local food bank, which we hope might help a few people feel happier during these cold months. That is a truly joyful thought to us. I wish you a lovely holiday however you choose to observe it.  Here’s to some snow days!  Marci

Easing Into Fall

Fall greetings!

Our herbs are just about done for the year. This has been a great year for Garlic, Basil and Tomatoes, here. Bell peppers? Not so much. Last year we grew huge ones, but this year they are like little dwarf peppers.

Four plants of Sweet Basil have turned into 3 pints of Basil Pesto for the freezer, so far, several rounds of Caprese salad, and a few nicely seasoned batches of marinara sauce. It appears I may have one more good harvest of Basil. I did find a few new Calendula flowers yesterday, and you can never have too many of those. Oh, and a few stragglers of Echinacea. But mostly my focus has moved on to Hops and Jalapeños at this point.

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Hop vines have to share my attention with the last of the tomatoes on the vines and the super hot jalapeños that have turned from green to black, then red.

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I like pickled green jalapeños, but once they turn color on the vines they are much hotter. My husband loves all peppers, the hotter the better. The red ones are just way too hot for me. I usually end up canning two batches so we can both enjoy them.

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Hop flowers take about a week to dry, if you turn and stir them once a day so they dry evenly. Once they are dry, just rubbing the petals will separate them. They are a great addition to my sleepy tea blends and sleep pillows. See the little papery, round flower petals in the photo below? That is my Peace-Out tea blend in the works.

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Our three year old American Elder tree had about 18 clusters of berries this year, but I was only able to harvest two clusters, enough for one batch of fresh syrup. The birds greedily took the rest of them, though they haven’t bothered them in years past. I am wondering if that is a sign of a hard winter ahead.

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Elderberry gummy candies caught my interest this year. There are many recipes online, many of them huge batches, including some with fruit juice or other additions. I wanted to make them as simply and basic as possible, and I didn’t want to waste any of my precious one bottle of syrup on errors. I poured 1/2 cup of syrup in a measuring cup, and sprinkled 1 1/2 Tablespoon of powdered gelatin evenly over the surface. I whisked it in gently and allowed it to dissolve, swell and bloom. It seemed a bit too thick, so I whisked in about 2 Tablespoons of water, and microwaved it for 10 seconds.

The Gummy molds I ordered came with a neat little eyedropper to fill the molds with. I soon realized it would be impossible to fill those little cavities without it!

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That one half cup of syrup was enough to fill almost two molds. I recommend you start with a small amount, too, if you decide to make some yourself. I had to stop and nuke the mixture again after about 10 minutes, because it thickened as it cooled.

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I am pretty happy with the way they turned out. I let them dry a full day on a cutting board after removing them from the molds. So far, they are holding nicely in a jar in my herb cupboard. They are a wee bit sticky, but separate easy enough. It is recommended that they be stored in the refrigerator, but since there was already vodka in the syrup to render it shelf-stable, I decided to push it to see how long they would keep.

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I would make them again, and they are delicious. If you have children, gummy bears would be much easier for little ones to handle than a messy syrup.

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Mediumship, a Perspective

A blogging buddy inquired about my recent post where I mentioned I was pursuing certification in mediumship. The Course in Mediumship is offered by a wonderful British medium who is an approved tutor at Arthur Findley College in the UK, and the founder of the UK Academy of Mediumship. The course is centered around the theory and practice of mediumship, spirituality, psychic aptitudes and techniques to be the best medium you can be. It has answered many questions for me, and I have learned a great deal.

Since certification is a course option, I am working on qualifying for it. It requires extensive notes, including my personal narrative and interpretation of video lectures to be evaluated by the UK Academy of Mediumship. It won’t certify me as a medium, per se. Only spirit and other mediums can confirm that, and they have already done so.

Certification will offer a credential of effort, stating that I have studied and understood the theory and foundation of mediumship, including professional ethics, spiritual and self development, and techniques of the medium. I don’t have a wow-wall, but a certificate that caps a lifetime of navigating random experiences with spirits will feel meaningful to me. Because mediumship is not a licensed profession, whatever competencies one can grow into seem valuable.

The more I have learned about mediumship, the less I feel I actually know. Evidential Mental Mediumship is a telepathically based endeavor, aided by good psychic skills, people skills, logic, the visual skills of an artist, a flexible mind, curiosity, good communication skills, a sense of humor and the heart to be a helper.

Empathy is crucial, as is a commitment to personal spiritual development, the ability to mentally multi-task and strong boundaries. There is a great deal more to it than most people realize. It has zero to do with tarot cards or crystal balls. It takes place entirely within the mind.

Mediumship skills are greatly boosted when paired with a working knowledge of our physical world, including geography, sociological and cultural education, medical terminology, anatomy, symbols, history, historical fashion trends, people’s names and psychology. One doesn’t have to be a scholar or have all those attributes, but any and all are helpful because spirits themselves communicate with extraordinary intelligence. A lack of knowledge may cause the medium to misinterpret the intent or details of the communication.

If you have never experienced a sitting with a really excellent medium, you may associate mediumship with velvet tapestries, parlor tricks, or shadowy seances from haunted house movies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Good mediums lead normal everyday lives except that they have the ability to communicate with spirits. They don’t require, and generally don’t use, props of any kind. They are, by definition, well-rounded human beings. They are also professional, in every sense of the word.

I have been mediumistic since I was a child. Many of the mediums I know, myself included, didn’t ask for their abilities. In fact, I and many others tried for a very long time to ignore and avoid them! When it became clear, early on, that my family did not believe in my experiences and were embarrassed or irritated by them, I learned to keep them to myself, including becoming adept at hiding them from my friends and colleagues. I didn’t realize my experiences had significant meaning for who I was ultimately becoming or what my random experiences meant. Though sometimes helpful to me, my encounters with spirit didn’t follow any exact pattern except the gift returned periodically, no matter how many ways I tried to stuff it. I was middle-aged by the time the books I had read on the topic filled several bookshelves. The internet opened other vistas and I finally realized my experiences fit the pattern and mold of a medium. Doh! As I accepted the idea privately, and started meditating every day, the experiences increased in volume and frequency.

I am not looking for a full-time career at this point in my life. Because I am happily retired I will offer my skills to benefit others as I am able to, while still enjoying the rest of my life. I am not looking for fame or fortune, only a way to use my skills to offer the healing of spirit and mediumship to others small scale.