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The Celebratory Cake

20 Jul
“Ate” – pronounced “ah-tay,” basically means “older sister” in Tagalog. While I don’t actually have an older sister by blood, I do have amazing ladies in my life whom I call “ate.” I’ve known one of them, Liz, since college. I joined the Filipino Student Association, where everyone is paired with an older “brother” and “sister” (we were a lot like a sorority or fraternity). Many people end up unofficially “adopting” younger members whom they get along really well with, which is what happened with Liz and I. I’m happy to say, even years out of college, we’re still really great friends. I still call her Ate Liz.
Ate Liz was here for both work and play during the 4th of July weekend (yes I realize this post is a long time coming). She told me about this cake and since I was craving dessert after dinner with friends on the Sunday night she was here, she offered to show me how to make it. It’s not a complicated recipe at all, unless you decide to make the cake portion from scratch. Either way, the biggest thing you’ll need for this is patience. It’ll be awhile until you can dig in, as it requires quite a bit of refrigeration. But once it’s ready, it’s so worth it – it’s creamy, sweet but not cloying, and those toffee pieces add to the caramel flavor with a bit of crunch.
Apparently Liz only makes this cake when she’s celebrating something, thus the nickname “Celebratory Cake”. She said a friend of hers back in Orlando would be jealous to find out she was making the cake for me, without any big, celebratory intention. Though it was Independence Day weekend, there was a different occasion for making the cake. We ate it while watching movies and cracking inside jokes and reminiscing about college days. Isn’t rare quality time with old friends – “sisters” really – a reason to celebrate?
Liz’s Chocolate Tres Leches – a.k.a. The Celebratory Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 boxed cake mix, like devil’s food or chocolate OR a chocolate cake made from scratch
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 jar caramel topping (the kind you put on ice cream)
  • 1 tub of cold whipped topping (i.e. Cool Whip)
  • 1 bag of toffee pieces (i.e. Heath Bar toffee)
Directions (hopefully I remembered this all correctly…)
If you’re using a boxed mix, make the cake according to package directions. Otherwise make a chocolate-based cake using your own recipe. While the cake is baking, empty the contents of the evaporated milk can into a large bowl. Pour the entire jar of caramel into the bowl and mix thoroughly with the milk.
When the cake is finished baking, remove from the oven and using a knife, make slits into the cake. Pour the bowl of the evaporated milk-caramel mixture over the entire cake, allowing the liquid to seep into the slits so the cake can soak up the liquid. Stick the cake into the refrigerator and let it cool completely. This may take a few hours so if you’re in a hurry, you could stick it in the freezer for maybe 30 minutes or so. I wouldn’t keep it in long because I don’t know how the liquid would react in the freezer. Refrigerating it is best.
Once cooled, remove the cake and completely “frost” the top with the whipped topping/Cool Whip. Sprinkle toffee pieces throughout the top. You can enjoy this now or chilled further in the refrigerator. This tastes best when it’s cold and the cake has been completely soaked with the caramel milk.

Do you have a go-to recipe for when you’re celebrating something?

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Sweet inspiration

11 Jul

Can I be totally honest with you guys? My desire to undertake new and/or daunting recipes in the kitchen has been small lately. I don’t know if it’s lack of time, or lack of energy when I do have the time, or something else, but I’ve only been willing to stick to recipes I know or things that I know won’t take more than 45 minutes to make.

My motivation has been coming in random spurts, however. It usually happens when my sister and I (we live together), end up having a surplus of some random ingredient, or something is sitting in the fridge or cupboard that threatens to expire soon. You know me and how I hate to waste anything. I’ll either eat it someway or another.

But what about 1 random ingredient, that isn’t very appetizing to eat alone but is perfectly useful not to throw away? When our mom was visiting, she stocked up on croissants at the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sundays, but left us way too many of them when she went back to Orlando. We ended up with 1 plain croissant after all the almond and chocolate ones were finished. I’m not much of a plain croissant kind of gal, though, and by the time I realized it had been sitting in a tupperware on our counter for awhile, it was going stale.

But when I think of stale bread, I think of bread pudding. And while one croissant certainly isn’t enough for regular-sized pudding, it is plenty for at least a single serving. I found a great recipe as a starting off point and then tweaked some of the cooking process, knowing how a regular bread pudding is made. I exchanged and added some choice ingredients as well. After I had popped them in the oven, I actually waited nervously for about 30 minutes, checking the puddings after 20 minutes, every 5 minutes or so, for doneness. I dreaded having to throw away cups of inedible goo that could very possibly result. But I pulled the little puddings out, let them cool for a bit, and then took a bite out of one.

Success! The bread pudding was creamy, but had a nice, crisp crust on top, and the melted chocolate and peanut butter tasted wonderful with the buttery croissant. I felt completely satisfied but not too full after having just one, it was the perfect size.

I know I need to find my motivation more than just randomly, but at least I know that finding it brings good results!

Single- Serving Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding (makes 2)

  • 1 croissant (slightly stale works best)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (could use soy or regular milk if desired)
  • 1/8 cup white sugar (basically 1/2 of the 1/4 cup)
  • dark chocolate chips
  • about 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. (My oven seems to be hotter than most, plus I converted the Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit from the original recipe). Slice the croissant in half and spread peanut butter on the insides of both halves. Rip or cut the halves into smaller (about 1-inch) pieces. Place 1 layer of the pieces on the bottom of 2 ramekins or oven-safe jars. Add a few chocolate chips, then place another layer of croissant pieces. Add more chocolate chips to your liking, tucking them in whatever space available.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and sugar. Carefully pour the mixture into both ramekins, filling close to the top. At this point, you can put these in the fridge and allow the the mixture to soak the bread for 30 minutes to an hour. But I’m impatient so I went ahead to the next step.

Place the ramekins in a small baking dish (I used a glass pie dish). Pull the middle wire shelf from the oven out and place the dish on it, and then fill the dish with hot water, until it reaches about half way up the ramekins. Push the shelf in and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, although it may take a little more time (for me, it took closer to 30 minutes). To check for doneness, pull the shelf out and shake the dish to see if the pudding jiggles a little, or you can pierce one with a knife or toothpick. If it comes out clean (unless you poke a chocolate chip), it’s ready.

Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

 

What do you do when you’re running low in motivation or inspiration?

Aesop’s fable lied to me.

20 Jun

Lately my weekends for the most part lately have been pretty laid-back. I suppose this is what happens when you get older and you start paying more attention to your bank account and your expenses, and realizing that one is bigger than the other when it shouldn’t be. I also felt burnt out by the middle of May when my spring semester of class was over. So it’s nice to be able to just sleep in, watch crappy movies on basic cable, experiment in the kitchen, or read. I’m not sure how long this feeling will last, however, because ultimately the part of me who thrives on being productive will kick in and I won’t be able to stay in my apartment for longer than an hour at a time during the weekend.

Case in point: I did manage to do a few fun things other than watch Star Wars for the 37th time in my life just because it was playing on Spike TV…

Go to Washington Nationals game on Friday. This was part of a secret santa gift I had given my friend Carolyn, who’s goal is to go to a game for every team that the DC area has. Nats: check. Now she’s got DC United, the Capitals, the Wizards, and the Redskins. Considering how cheap I got these seats for, I don’t think this’ll be a very difficult or expensive goal to accomplish.

I also…

Made mini peanut butter and chocolate bread puddings on Saturday night. My younger sister, Anna, and I had a stale croissant that I kept saying I’d make into a bread pudding. My initial thought was that I’d buy more croissants at the grocery store and make a big pudding, but the thought of having that around and the subsequent poundage I’d gain freaked me out. So I researched single-serving bread puddings, came across a very easy and tweak-able recipe, and attempted. And then I succeeded. These turned out very delicious AND the perfect portion size, without any leftovers to be tempted with. And yes, I will post the recipe for this soon.

Then on Sunday…

I finished Kara Goucher’s Runing for Women: From First Steps to Marathons, and while it was an easy read, I still learned quite a bit about training properly for any distance race, keeping motivated and staying fit as a runner. Plus, it provided a lot of inspiration: through the quotes she has inserted throughout the book from other world-class runners, as well as from her personal feelings about the sport. It made me even more excited to go out for my 6am runs and it reminded me to take training slow and steady.

This is photo is misleading but I swear I didn't finish last! In a related note, please ignore the massive sweat stains.

But then I did the Georgetown Running Company’s Father’s Day 8k. This didn’t go as well for me as I had hoped. But at least I did it, right? 🙂 I thought about my dad while running – he got me started on running in the first place – and I knew he’d be proud of me even if I finished first or last. Granted, I finished in about the same time as I did with my first 8k, which I guess is ok. At least I wasn’t slower than last time. I tried really hard to pace myself but also have negative splits after the first half of the race, which wasn’t totally successful. The few times I’d glance at my Garmin to check my pace, I seemed to be going the same rate throughout. Oh well. I’ll continue to deal with the fact that I am still insanely slow (not yet at 10-minute mile average pace). My slowness kind of annoys me, but I’m also really determined to get to that 10-minute mile pace by the time the fall season comes around. So I’m really looking forward to more tempo runs and speedwork in my training for the next couple of weeks. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race, but I will continue to cross more finish lines as fast as I possibly can!

Any fun things you did over the weekend? Any good eats or recipes you found?

Hits and misses

4 Mar

You’re going to hate me. Or at least think I’m full of crap. I swear I’m not!

So I saw Healthy Coconut’s decadent-looking recipe for chocolate bread pudding awhile back and had been set on trying it myself. But, I had been doing so well with cutting back on sweets that I was really hesitant to make something that would end up being full of temptation for me.

I made it anyways. Can you blame me? It really sounded delicious. But honestly, I was itching to just try a new baking recipe. Plus, I’ve been good about including more fruits and vegetables in my diet.

I had half a loaf of wheat French bread, plus 6 slices of multi-grain bread sitting in our cupboard. (My sister and I had decided to go with another brand without finishing that loaf. Dropped it like a hot potato!) And I had most of a carton of 2% milk left from when I decided to make macaroni & cheese from scratch. I know, mac & cheese is also not that healthy, but I figured making it from scratch is a step up from making the blue box. I don’t drink 2% otherwise. So I figured, “better to use up all these leftover ingredients than to just dump them.” At least I’m trying to not be wasteful! That counts for something, right?

I also had an elongated burst of energy on Sunday in between a 3-hour dance practice and my friend Amanda’s ballet show (she was featured in these posts here, here and here). I often dub Sundays as “Test Kitchen Sundays” since that’s usually when I have time to try new recipes and play around with ingredients. I probably should’ve devoted more time to making this, but I’m ambitious (sometimes to a fault), so I challenged myself to squeeze it in my schedule.

So I used Lea’s recipe as a guide while drawing from other recipes that I researched, subbing certain ingredients for others that I already had and working with the kind of bread available. I think because I used mostly 2% milk, as opposed to a thicker milk like heavy cream or coconut milk, the custard turned out a bit runnier than I expected – I’m wondering if I had had the time to leave it in the oven longer than 25 minutes, it would’ve thickened more. I did have heavy cream on hand, so in hindsight, I should’ve tried using that, or mixing it with the milk. If you guys know that my theory is totally wrong, let me know. I don’t think in any way it was undercooked – it tasted fine, and the next day it thickened from chilling in the freezer. Plus I’ve eaten like 1/3 of it already and I’m not dead, so I’m pretty sure it’s at least cooked properly.

I also should’ve immersed all the bread under the custard, instead of shingling the pieces as I had seen in other recipes. I would also scale back on the amount of coffee grinds I used – I drink bold, strong coffee and I could really notice the flavor in the finished product. It’s not a bad thing, for me at least, I actually like the taste. But Lil Sis was all, “DAMN this has lots of coffee.” So change according to your tastes.

Below I’m posting what I did, but including adjustments I would make in future iterations. If you would rather follow what is probably a better tried-and-true recipe, use Lea’s. But if you want to be  a taste tester for my leftovers, I’ve got 2/3 of a bread pudding in my fridge and I don’t want to end up eating it all myself. Any takers? 🙂

Chocolate Bread Pudding (slightly adapted from Healthy Coconut)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 10 slices and pieces of whole wheat bread (I used French loaf and sliced multi-grain – mixing the two actually didn’t take away from the taste or consistency)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk, plus ½ cup heavy cream (I used 2% but I would actually go thicker, or combine it in equal parts with half-and-half or heavy cream – or use coconut milk)
  • 3.5 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee (unless you really like coffee flavor, I would use just 1 teaspoon, at least if you’re using strong grinds)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Toppings: semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped hazelnuts – or whatever tickles your fancy and goes well with chocolate!

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush melted butter on both sides of each bread slice/piece and toast in the oven, about 5-7 minutes per side. In an ungreased 9-inch baking dish, layer slices (if you shingle them like I did, the custard won’t cover everything).Whisk the cocoa and salt in a medium saucepan, then gradually whisk in the milk (or milk mixture). Warm the mixture gradually on medium low heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate and whisk until it melts. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, maple sugar, instant coffee and vanilla. Gradually whisk the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the custard over the bread in the baking dish, allowing it to cover all pieces. Press down on the bread, if necessary. Let stand for 20 minutes, then add toppings. Meanwhile, boil water for the water bath.

Set baking dish in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Add boiling water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of baking dish. (Don’t be an idiot like me and glaze over these directions and attempt to transfer the entire thing with hot water to the oven). Bake pudding until just set – for me it took at least 25 minutes, possibly could’ve used more. According to Lea, the middle will be slightly runny on top and jiggly, but the bread in mine was sticking out and the custard was more pudding-like.

Remove baking dish from roasting pan and cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. It can be frozen – just seal it tightly in a container. And trust me, it’s delicious for a few days after!

Party Pairing Monday: Valentine’s Day Edition

14 Feb

Hey lovebirds and bitter singletons! It’s that day of the year, where you’re either eyelid-fluttering in love with your special someone or you’re wearing all black and gagging at every flower display you pass. I did the latter for the majority of my life until I met The Bf and actually had a valentine for once. I don’t mind the holiday as much anymore (granted I am wearing black and gray today), but this year, we’re not bothering to go all out and book a fancy-schmancy dinner and feed each other chocolate-covered strawberries or something elaborate like that. I literally fixed a pot of slow cooker chili this morning, and for dessert, it will probably be this awesome Fudge Pie. PLUS, Stacy from Winobee has a wine pairing to go perfectly with it! See, even on Valentine’s Day, us food and wine bloggers don’t let you guys down. Especially if you’re desperate for a last-minute dessert-and-drinks idea. 😉

This pie may not be as pretty as boxed chocolates, it may not be as luxurious as cake, nor as sexy as melted chocolate with strawberries. But, this fudge pie is rich and delicious. Plus, it’s quick and easy to make, which leaves you time for, um, more romantic things. It can easily be made in the morning to be eaten in the evening after a dinner date, or can be enjoyed still warm from the oven.

I actually got this recipe from The Bf, who got it from his mom. So it has a special place in both my boyfriend’s and my hearts. It reminds me of the different kinds of love that exist: between girlfriend and boyfriend, mother and son, heck even mother and son’s girlfriend.

I don’t like to tweak much with The Bf’s Mom’s tried and true recipe, but I do like to add a little bit extra to give it my own touch. When I don’t have time to make a pie crust from scratch, I like to use a pre-made crust that can be found in the baking aisle. But I love to make a graham cracker crust that goes great with the chocolate in the filling. And to put on top of that fudge filling, I like homemade whipped cream, with a touch of vanilla. But Cool Whip can serve as an easy, time-saving and equally delicious creamy topping. I’ve included the recipes for the graham cracker crust and for the whipped cream, just in case you want to go that extra mile for your valentine.

Fudge Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of salted butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 unbaked pie crust (or 1 pre-baked graham cracker crust)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients except for the pie shell in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • I box of graham crackers (at least 24 crackers)
  • 6 tblsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice

Directions

Melt the butter. Crush the graham crackers in a bag with a rolling pin until it’s in fine pieces. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs and pour into a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar and the melted butter. Mix the ingredients together to blend, then transfer to a pie pan and press into it firmly.

To pre-bake, bake it in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 350F.

Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Whip the cream in a stand mixer until almost stiff. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until the cream holds peaks.

It’s Valentine’s Day so anything goes, especially anything thats sensual (as I’m sure you saw from our featured pairings in Redbook last week – winky, winky!) So why not tickle your tastebuds with some SEX. Yes, SEX!!

M. Lawrence SEX is a brut rose made in Michigan (can you believe that?) and I just discovered it last night while serving at @TishWine’s “Sexy Wines” tasting at VinoVino, but it was quite the hit. Made from 100% locally grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, you’ll get a beautiful salmon color on the eye, sensual raspberry and strawberries notes on the tongue and a crisp finish.
Team it up with this Fudge Pie and you’re guaranteeing the ultimate foodgasm!
Cost: $15/bottle

 

A daughter’s dilemma

3 Feb

Presents for parents. I think this is a constant issue that stumps many of us with parents who don’t have any big hobbies, never really need anything, or would enjoy things that we can’t afford.

My father, as much as I love him, is THE hardest person in the world to buy a gift for. He never asks for presents on Christmas or his birthday or Father’s day; instead he insists that he doesn’t need anything. And really, he doesn’t. He’s got the basic human necessities, so other than that, he needs a car and a computer and a bike to exercise. But he has them already! He’s a self-prescribed workaholic, so his job is his only hobby. How do I work with that, buy him another stethoscope or a set of scalpels? I don’t think so. And he’s always been interested in cars, but for me to buy him one would require spending an entire year’s salary.

But now that I’ve been (slowly) developing my baking chops, a whole new category of potential presents has opened up. For my Dad’s recent birthday, I was completely clueless on what to get him, until my mother casually slipped a suggestion in. We were just having a conversation about how Dad was coming up to visit, and she’s all, “Oh you should bake a cake for him,” – as if it’s something I do on a daily basis. I said, “Oh yeah! Good idea!” while in my head, I’m like, “Uhhhh….crap!”

I’ve only baked a cake from scratch once before, and that ended up being really thick and kind of intense, with chocolate ganache and cream cheese frosting and all. It also didn’t turn out as moist as I like my cakes to be, so I specifically Googled “moist chocolate cake” when I started doing my research for this. The cake also initially began in my head as a raspberry-chocolate concoction with ganache (Can you tell I love chocolate ganache?), which then evolved into two small chocolate and almond cakes, which finalized into plans of making one regular-sized chocolate-and-almond cake. (Ed. note: My sister thought of doing something chocolate and almond, because our father likes chocolate-covered almonds. So she helped a little. :P) I actually planned to put ganache between the layers, but upon seeing how thick the frosting was turning out while I was making it, I realized that would be overkill. I normally don’t attempt to experiment with baking recipes, but at least with the composition of the cake itself, I was able to make some last-minute changes that ended up being good decisions.

After completing the cake, I also developed an even higher regard for bakers than I had before, especially cake makers. How do they do this every day, on a budget, within deadlines, and to the specific desires of each client? I only managed to finish the entire cake before 11pm on a Thursday because DC was hit with a small snowstorm, so my office had closed early, allowing me lots of time at home. My knees even got sore from standing all afternoon and evening while making this. So to professional bakers: much respect.

But I did it, from scratch, and it didn’t look half bad. It ended up tasting pretty great as well. What really made it all worthwhile was seeing my Dad smile at my creation the next day, witnessing him enjoy each bite and telling me that it was good.

So once again, I had somehow managed to solve the riddle, “What the heck do I give as a gift for Dad?” Father’s Day, however, will be yet another enigma…

Chocolate Almond (Birthday) Cake

For the chocolate layer (slightly adapted from Lick My Spoon)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

I made the mistake of thinking that I needed to fit ALL of the batter in one 9-inch cake pan. Friends, when you’re baking a cake, take a good look at how much batter you have and how big your pans are. I could’ve easily made two layers with this recipe, but I thought I had to fill one pan as much as possible and just discard the rest. (Can you tell this was just the second time I baked a cake on my own?)

So start by preheating your oven to 350 F and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease and flour two cake pans (I find that vegetable shortening greases best). Cut two circular pieces of parchment paper the same size as the bottom of your cake pans, place those in the pan, and grease and flour those as well – this will allow the cakes to very easily remove from the pans.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Create a well in the center and add the wet ingredients EXCEPT the coffee. Mix everything until just combined, then add the coffee. Mix the batter again (it will be more liquid-like than a regular cake batter). Pour into the 2 cake pans. Spread the batter evenly in the pans by rotating the pans back and forth (like a steering wheel). Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. Use one layer for the cake, and another for something else, like cake balls.

For the almond layer (slightly adapted from Italian Dessert Recipes )

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour

Directions:

Being the novice that I am, I had pretty much chosen the easiest and simplest almond cake I could find, which turned out to be a cake that is usually meant to be eaten by itself, topped with sugar and slivered almonds. Whatever. Its preparation is slightly different than most cakes, which makes for a thicker, kind of gummier consistency (sort of like marzipan but not as chewy). I actually loved how it turned out and I would definitely make this on its own in the future. It didn’t end up weighing the chocolate layer down, thank God. And the two flavors went great together.

Preheat your oven at 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-in cake pan (and add a parchment circle like the one above). In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then pour it in a large heatproof bowl. Stir in the sugar until fully incorporated. Allow this mixture to cool for a few minutes (you don’t want to scramble the eggs). Then add the eggs and stir until it’s a creamy consistency. Add the remaining ingredients. And stir until combined. Spread the batter in the pan evenly using the rotating motion. Bake for 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.

Chocolate-Almond Buttercream (from grouprecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound or 3 ½ cups of confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) of room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 4-5 tablespoons of milk (possibly more)

Directions:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Sift again with the cocoa powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the butter until it becomes a pale yellow color, about 2-3 minutes. Add about a third of the powdered sugar/cocoa/salt mixture. Start the mixer on low to incorporate, then slowly increase the speed to combine. If need be, stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and mix more.

Stop the mixer. Add another third of the sugar mixture, plus 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix again (slowly at first). When that is completely combined, stop the mixer again and add the remaining sugar mixture and 2 more tablespoons of milk. After mixing slowly at first and then increasing speed, mix on high to completely incorporate. (My frosting was actually very thick and difficult to spread at this point, so I added another 2 tablespoons of milk and mixed again. The frosting should be thick, but still easy to spread on cake).

Assembly:

This is totally up to you. I put the chocolate layer down first because I figured chocolate frosting right on top of the chocolate cake might make for too much chocolate on one end. I cut 4 pieces of parchment paper and arranged them on my cake pedestal, overlapping each other but covering the pedestal so as to not get frosting on it. I had to trim my chocolate layer (you probably won’t have to if you allot the batter to two pans). Then I put a plate on top of the pan and flipped it, and the cake slid right out. I put that on the pedestal, spread a thin layer of frosting on top, then removed the almond layer from its pan and placed that on top of the frosting. Then I frosted the whole thing using an offset spatula and removed the parchment papers from underneath the cake. Then I got a sugar high from licking the spatula…and the mixing bowl.