Top O’ the Mornin’ to You From a Safe Distance (with Gluten Free Fudge Cake)

During my senior year of high school, through a combination of familial and cultural influences (read as: nurse mother and Grey’s Anatomy) I decided I wanted to become a doctor. Fast forward to the second semester of my freshman year and I was majoring in English and sociology, so you’ll deduce how that went.

I loved chemistry but hated biology and it turns out you need, like, a lot of biology classes for a pre-med track. I know this because a) they told me and b) my best friend (currently in medical school and crushing it) took approximately 1.482 bajillion biology courses.

All of this is to say that I am not a doctor, so I won’t weigh in on the whole global pandemic thing except to say that you should listen to the real doctors and virologists and pandemic professionals and do as they say — i.e. wash your hands and stay home.

Now, I’m not a doctor, but I am a writer, baker & cook, and working-from-home pro, so I do feel comfortable making the following recommendations if you suddenly find yourself confined to your residence.

  1. Open the windows and blinds! Let the light and fresh air in, my friends. That is, unless you live in Iowa, for instance, and then let the fresh air in until such a time as the overwhelming scent of manure takes over the entire state.
  2. Move around as much as you can. Get away from the computer for a few minutes every hour and get the blood pumping! Now is the perfect time to take up squats or push-ups or this thumbs-up face plant. 
  3. Cuddle with pug, if applicable. Don’t trouble yourself if the pug’s face looks like this:
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  4. Find non-screen ways to fill your time, like reading, de-cluttering, or making a cake.

In other news, the calendar goes on, and it’s St. Patrick’s Day! Probably won’t be the same out there without (or fingers crossed without) the parades and crowded bars, but you can still stuff yourself with some Irish food! Check out my recipe for colcannon, a traditional (and delicious) Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage. Later today I’ll be making a roast chicken version of a stew from My Irish Table by Cathal Armstrong and David Hagedorn.

Since we like to take that whole green thing and translate it to food, and often mint, I’ll also offer up this cake. I made it for my birthday, which was Sunday. The cake is gluten free and the texture is really fudgey. I paired mine with a peppermint cream cheese frosting and loaded the middle layer with Andes mint pieces, then sprinkled more on the top. Throw some green food coloring in the frosting to make it a lil more festive for St. Paddy’s!

I do not like super sweet cakes, so this one isn’t. I think it balances nicely because with the frosting and the candy, you get plenty of sweetness. But just be aware that the cake itself is only lightly sweet.

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Gluten Free Fudge Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

for the cake
2 1/4 cups gluten free flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temp (1 1/2 sticks)
2 eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup water
Optional 6 ounces chocolate chips tossed with 1 Tbs GF flour

for the frosting
one 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbs butter, room temperature
approximately 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
green food coloring (optional)
5 ounces (half of a bag) Andes mint baking pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9″ round cake pans and coat with cocoa powder or flour. (Will also work as a Bundt or 9×13 sheet. Adjust baking times accordingly.)

Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Then add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet and thin out to a batter with the water. The batter will be fairly stiff.

If using, fold in chocolate chips, then divide batter evenly into the two pans. Bake cake layers for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks and then refrigerate or freeze for best results while frosting.

While the cakes are cooling, you can prepare the frosting. Cream together the cream cheese and the butter until smooth. Whisk in the peppermint extract. Sift in the powdered sugar one cup at a time until desired texture and taste is reached. If the mixture is seeming too stiff, a splash of milk or cream will help loosen it back up.

Once cake layers are cooled completely, assemble. Spread an even layer of frosting on the bottom layer of the cake (roughly 1/3 of the frosting), then sprinkle generously with Andes mint pieces. Top with the second cake layer and finish off with the frosting. Decorate with more Andes mint pieces.

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