Tuesday, November 13, 2012



A renovation. A move. An election. I have been wrapped up in all of the nerve-wracking, nail-biting excitement, bogged down with so much frustrating, passionate activity. It has taken me away, dragged me body and soul from my work, my writing, even my cooking and baking. Lunches were more often than not sandwiches bought at the corner bakery washed down with cans of cola; dinners were more often than not pizza or kabobs. Evenings found us blottis, slumped on the sofa, cocooned deeply in layers of blankets and pillows, too exhausted both physically and mentally to do anything other than zone out in front of a movie. Nothing outside of those three activities got done in any way, shape or form. Now, I tell you one thing, I could always drag this on and on as we are still surrounded by cartons and suitcases, there are still walls to be finished and lighting fixtures to be hung. I could use this as an excuse, the excuse of the lazy, to procrastinate further, to put off until tomorrow what I should do today. But as much as I truly think that I needed that break, needed to step away for a few weeks from the expectations and deadlines, I am actually anxious to get back to work.
Focus is necessary. A clean kitchen and an orderly workspace are crucial. The head must be perfectly clear of worry, the body free from stress, the marriage in perfect working order, the children…well at their age nothing is guaranteed. A place for everything, as the old saying goes, and everything in its place. We need to create a Zen environment, Feng Shui for the soul. Bottles of wine lined up on the countertop, grumps kept at arm’s length and if all goes well I might just get a little writing done.

Although toolboxes still clutter the entryway and odds and ends litter the floors, our kitchen is in good working order, the oven a dream, the stovetop burning and spluttering away non-stop as our pleasure in cooking is renewed. Husband and I have taken turns preparing homey, warming, comforting meals while the other sits perched on a stool on the other side of the island, chattering, typing or just keeping company. Sausages with lentils, a traditional Potée Limousin, chicken and mushrooms even cheese fondue and the scents and warmth pervade our new apartment turning a house into a home. Marty slips and slides across the new parquet flooring, hoping, waiting for some tasty tidbit to flip up and plop onto the floor.

I have now also set up shop in the kitchen, my laptop no longer teetering atop a pile of cookbooks and magazines on the edge of a small stand in front of our dusty, crumb-spewing toaster nor sitting on the rickety, rocking table collecting flour and sugar in between the keys, getting butter smeared across the screen and losing internet if I close the door for privacy. I can now keep one eye on the cake in the oven, jump up and give a stir to whatever is simmering on the fire and keep typing, keep writing, keep chatting to my heart’s content. And, yes, I can now get back to my regularly scheduled program…

But just wait a minute there…. Not the regular regularly scheduled programming! You see, with the new home and the new workspace and the new outlook, I have decided to embrace my lovely city of Nantes and begin a journey of discovery… my own and yours. I recently attended a soirée dedicated to Le Guide Les Tables de Nantes and connected with Nantes Tourisme and Voyages à Nantes, organizations devoted to everything cultural and gastronomic about my city so I will be sharing more with you. I have also been schlepping around… oh no, sorry, strolling the streets of Nantes armed with an iphone and seeing the world through other eyes, noting the beautiful, the comic, the historic, excited at the multitude of layers and cultures surrounding me, in hidden view for all the world to see if only the world would stop and look. And these I will continue to share with you.

And Ilva, Jeanne, Meeta and I are now well ensconced in the organization of our next From Plate to Page workshop. How does Dublin, Ireland in the lovely month of May sound to you? We are tightening up the program, readying our famous post-it note challenges and have even dusted off our old website and shined it all up spiffy new…. And to kick it all off, we are offering all of our readers a very creative challenge with the chance to win one of our Somerset Plate to Page goodie bags…just read all about it here!

And in between, I have been baking. After my comforting Apple Almond Bundt Cake I craved something rich and chocolate. I returned to a favorite recipe, the Heavenly Chocolate Cupcakes, and turned it into a Bundt cake. Although, I will admit here, that the most-distinctive Bundt bumps stuck to the non-stick pan when turning it out, yet the cake came out perfect despite this gentle glitch! As I wrote in the Cupcake post:

I decided to delve into Abigail Serves, the community cookbook put together, under the watchful and formidable eye of my mother’s aunt, Great Aunt Mae in 1956. Abigail Serves is the collected recipes of The United Order of True Sisters of Albany, New York. Perusing the yellowed, faded pages of this self-published cookbook, I couldn’t help myself when I came across Heavenly Chocolate Cake; with such a name, who could resist? Before the days when adding a box of pudding mix to cake batter was all the rage, this recipe is based upon this very idea to create a dense, moist cake. A chocolate pudding-like cream or custard is prepared with sugar, milk, cocoa powder and an egg then added to the cake batter to create a luxuriously thick and creamy mixture. Once baked, the cake is a deep, dark chocolate, the sweetness perfectly balanced, the texture extra moist without being overly gooey and dense. Light, fluffy yet moist and tender, full-flavored, the chocolate kissed by the barest hint of espresso as I decided to replace some of the water in the batter with prepared coffee. Add to that chocolate’s best friend, cinnamon, and pour it all into a Bundt pan and you have the ideal cake. No frosting needed, although lightly sweetened whipped cream never hurt anyone.

I love Bundt cakes and want to share this with Lora and Anuradha for their #BundtAMonth challenge Spicy November! Go to either of their blogs on the posts that I have linked to and see all this months fabulous entries!

And looking for even more fantastic Bundt cake recipes? How about

Grand Marnier Bundt with Chocolate Ganache Glaze

 Chestnut Fondant Bundlets

Chocolate Chip Yeast Kuchen Bundt

Glazed Lemon Bundt

Apple Almond Bundt

Chocolate One-Bowl Emergency Bundlets


For the chocolate cream:

¾ cup (150 g) sugar
¾ cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup (185 ml) milk
1 large egg

For the batter:

2/3 cup (150 g) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups (250 g) sugar
3 large eggs
2 ¼ cup (260 g) sifted flour (sifted BEFORE measuring, not measured then sifted)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (165 ml) cold water (replace half or all of the water with prepared coffee)
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ tsp baking soda
¼ cup (62 ml) warm water

Prepare the Chocolate Custard:

Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder, milk and egg together in a medium saucepan until thick, creamy and very smooth. Place the saucepan over low heat and very gently bring to a low boil. Whisking constantly, continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer until it becomes a thick sauce or custard. (Once the mixture is heated, the sauce thins and then re-thickens as it cooks.) Remove from the heat, set aside and allow to cool. As I use Le Creuset, which continue to heat even after the pan is removed from the flame, I immediately scraped the custard into a heatproof Pyrex bowl to cool.

Prepare the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter one classic Bundt pan or a smaller 8 ½- or 9-inch in diameter (22-cm) and about 3 ½-inch high (9-cm) fluted pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time just until blended. Beat or stir in the chocolate custard in a few additions, blending thoroughly. Stir the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together; beat the flour mixture into the batter in three additions alternating with the cold water in two, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla.

Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water then stir quickly into the cake batter until very well blended. Pour into the prepared Bundt pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon both your oven and the size of the Bundt pan being used until risen, the cake is set and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry.

Allow to cool on a rack for at least 10 or 15 minutes before running a sharp knife around the cake or loosening and turning out onto the rack to cool completely.


Cookin' Canuck said...

It sounds as though you are thoroughly enjoying your new work space. How fun! This bundt cake looks wonderful, and I'm sure it lives up to its "heavenly" name.

tasteofbeirut said...

Your writing (so lyrical) makes me (almost) want to be married again and living the domestic life with a man in the kitchen. hmm.
Great cake, love the moderate amount of butter!

Holly @ abakershouse.com said...

Gosh you make beautiful cakes and this one looks as heavenly as it must have tasted! I enjoyed your post- thanks!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A gorgeous cake! I love bundts.

Thanks for sharing those lovely pictures of Nantes with us.



Meeta K. Wolff said...

Ahh it's so good to get back into the swing of things isn't it? All that in a new space. Congrats Jamie and wishing you the best of writing, storytelling, cooking and chatting oh and planning P2P in your new space. Love all your decadent chocolate cakes and this one in no exception!

Lora said...

Chocolate and cinnamon - oh yes the perfect pairing for the fall season. Looovely cake. xox

Kate | Food Babbles said...

I am so happy to hear that you're getting settled in and your kitchen sounds like an amazing space. I love the pictures of Nantes and look forward to seeing more. This cake truly sounds heavenly. I adore cinnamon and chocolate together. Perfection!

Baker Street said...

Wow! It looks like you're really having a great time at your new space. This is one of my favorite combinations, Jamie! Your cake is absolutely stunning! Thank you for linking up to #bundtamonth.

Cake Duchess said...

So nice to see the first results of you baking in your new space. Considering what happened when you flipped it, this is gorgeous!Thanks for mentioning Bundt a Month, bella xxoo (wish I could go to P2P!!)

Junglefrog said...

It's exhausting having to move and redo your whole living environment but it sounds like it is more then worth it as is this gorgeous bundt cake. You know I love bundt cakes too! Cannot resist them and this is a fine example!

Not Quite Nigella said...

I can't wait to read more about Nantes now that I've been there! It feels like it was ages since my visit-well, it has been actually! Love the shot of your black shoes against the black ground :)

RSA QLD said...

I'm craving for that chocolate with cinnamon bundt!

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

A place for everything.....I envy your move. I've been in a big house with lots of storage space for nearly 13 years. The stuff in those cupboards worries me!!

Good luck in your new home - and looking forward to more pics from Nantes - love the eagle -eye view.

Dixya said...

First of all the cake looks heavenly, so rich & moist. I hope you will have a great time in Nantes and enjoy new life there :)

Barb | Creative Culinary said...

All I can say is it's about time you had a decent kitchen and OVEN. Considering what you pulled off without those? Well, the pressure is on friend!

Seriously...so excited for you and hoping the boxes find their home and all of you enjoy the peace and serenity of YOUR OWN PLACE!! XOXO

Amanda said...

There's nothing like baking to settle you back into yourself, is there? I find it so restorative, although my bundt cakes frequently stick too, taking the shine of my happy feelings. Thanks for sharing the pic's of Nantes and I look forward to more of them - I especially loved the old doorway shot - lovely!

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I knew you'd get cranking in the kitchen once you got it set up and you haven't let any of us down. :) That chocolate cake doesn't need a drop of frosting but you're right about the cream.

Lisa said...

I'm so happy your new apartment is proving to be so much more convenient when it comes to kitchen play. I have to run back and forth to look at stuff on my laptop when cooking or baking because my space is so limited and I don't want to chance it. This cake is divine..love cinnamon with chocolate. As always, you rocked the 'fudgy' interior' factor! xo

A Canadian Foodie said...

You may remember that I have been to Nates and the amazing food market in the main square!!!! Bought lots and took it with us for a picnic under the aquaducts a short distance away. I am eager to hear more about the food of your city and what you have gleaned from developing these new relationships! Dublin! Wish it was SEPTEMBER! I would definitely go. I am going to a workshop there in September that Bea is doing - I bought in on a whim - and your next Plate2Page wasn't out - mom was sick, etc... darn! You will have a BLAST. Wish I could get to one of them. Plan to. Do you have any other tentative schedules or ideas?
Chocolate cake is clearly "you"! I cannot count how many of them I have read about on this site. Each looking moist, flavourful and made with love.

Manju said...

I love that Chocolate Bundt cake...I once made a similar looking Devils Chocolate food cake...anything Chocolate is so heavenly right? Nice to have met you here!


Fresh Local and Best said...

Those are some of the most stressful things in life fortunately all of them ended well and you can look forward to your new workspace! So lucky! I love chocolate and cinnamon together.

wendy@chezchloe said...

Looking good... and I do believe I saw a photo of your bundt cake on TS. Way to stay at it!
I wish I could come to Dublin and cook for you and your participants. I look forward to following along vicariously. x wt

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I might be borrowing this recipe soon...I've been looking for an alternative bundt cake recipe.

Straight into the favourites!

Jeanne said...

Moving - who needs it?? I had to laugh at your desire for a Zen environment before any real work could get done... That's what I used to say too, until I realised that I was just using this as (yet another) procrastination tool! Hahaha! Love the cake - and the foot shots ;) #notatypo

Opasna said...

I like your blog a lot, especially this cake. I'm sure that it will be tried soon.

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

How on earth did I miss this post, Jamie? I'm glad to say I found it recently and your ears must have been positively ringing with the sound of happiness from my daughter and her friends. We tried this recipe for her 11th birthday cake and it sure was heaven! Thank you xo


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