A Sweet Start to the New Year

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By Susan Baldani

I just found out that January 27 is Chocolate Cake Appreciation Day. Of course, card companies are always coming up with special days so they can sell more cards. However, any day that encourages me to eat chocolate is my kind of day. And it doesn’t have to be in cake form; almost any variety will do.

I find it interesting that this holiday comes at the end of January instead of at the beginning. I guess they figure by then all those New Year’s Eve resolutions to lose weight have already fallen by the wayside.

But seriously (and I’m always serious when it comes to chocolate), this is one food I couldn’t live without. There’s just something about chocolate that makes me happy. And it’s not just the sugar. There’s something about the taste of chocolate that is comforting too.

When I was a little kid, any kind of chocolate would do. But, now that I’m older and have a somewhat more discerning palate, specialty chocolates are my favorites, especially anything that has been made in Switzerland. My ancestors really knew what they were doing (my maiden name is Burkhardt). The gourmet brands of chocolates are not always easy to find, especially in big brand stores. You sometimes have to hunt them down. Many small gift and boutique stores usually have them though if you take the time to look around.

In the last few years, I’ve heard reports that chocolate can even be good for you, but that usually only goes for dark. I am a milk chocolate aficionado and will not eat any other kind (and don’t even mention white chocolate. I mean, what is that anyway?).

As much as I love chocolate, I know that sweets should be consumed in moderation, and I try to follow that guideline; I really do. So, if I’m going to treat myself, I’m going for the good stuff.

This is not to say I don’t like a good ole Hershey Bar once in a while or unwrapping some of those creamy Dove candies; they have their place. I’m not a total chocolate snob. But, oh, those packages that say “milk chocolate flavored.” Well, those should be outlawed. Whenever I see a chocolate bunny or other item labeled with those awful words, I want scoop them all off the shelf lest some little kid be lured into eating one. That might turn him off of chocolate forever.

So, on Chocolate Cake Appreciation Day, I also want the best. I have nothing against boxed cake mixes and tubs of ready-made icing. They come in handy for last-minute desserts, or for a child’s birthday party, and most are actually pretty good. But, on Chocolate Cake Appreciation Day, why not make the real thing? The only danger is that you may never want to go back to the store-bought variety again.

Written for the Country Register, which is distributed all over the U.S. and Canada.

 

CHOCOLATE CAKE APPRECIATION DAY CAKE

Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter, softened

1-2/3 cups sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking cocoa

1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/3 cups whole milk

 

Directions:

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and add milk a little at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9-inch pan.

Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. When cake is cool, frost with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

Dash salt

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

 

Beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, salt, milk and vanilla and mix well. Spread over cooled cake. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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