I’m glad to once again be writing about cooking for The Daily Herald and Heraldnet.com.

It brings back good memories of working at The Daily Herald’s longtime office in downtown Everett a decade ago. My manager was so full of energy and vibrance. Her team was a bunch of talented and beautiful ladies. Our offices were in a loft space, and getting to the lunchroom on the other end of the office was like navigating a maze. I’d go there to heat up my lunch, read the paper and gaze at the amazing view of the waterfront.

The potlucks during the holidays were a feast. There would always be yummy bakes and dishes, especially those made by folks in the creative department. I miss working with all my old Herald colleagues.

But for now and the foreseeable future, until COVID-19 is under control, work from home it is.

In the meantime, here are three of my favorite desserts. For more recipes and videos, visit my blog at www.reshmaseetharam.com.

Chocolate rum ’n’ cream cake

Here is a dense, moist chocolate cake infused with warm rum syrup, sandwiched in a layer of strawberry jelly and topped with rum-infused whipped cream. After it is chilled, it’s garnished with grated dark chocolate for extra excitement. This makes a two-layer, 7-inch cake

For the cake:

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups dark brown sugar

½ cup cocoa powder

½ teaspoon instant coffee powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup vegetable or canola oil

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoons vinegar

For the filling:

3 tablespoons strawberry jelly

½ cup rum

2 teaspoons sugar

¾ cup warm water

For the frosting:

2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1 teaspoon clear vanilla

1 tablespoon rum

Grated dark chocolate bar for garnish

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt.

Dissolve the instant coffee powder in ¼ cup warm water. To this, add the oil, buttermilk and vinegar.

Beat the eggs, vanilla and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.

Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk-coffee mixture to the egg mixture in three batches, alternating them. Combine well after each addition.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease, flour-dust and parchment-line two 7-inch cake pans.

Pour the cake batter equally into two pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes on the middle rack. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pour the chilled whipped cream, vanilla and rum into a large bowl. Whip the cream on high for 4-5 minutes. Once it starts to form soft peaks, add icing sugar and whip until the peaks are stiff.

Once the cakes are cooled, remove the parchment paper from the base. Add a spoon of whipped cream on a serving platter. Place the first cake over it.

Combine rum, water and sugar. Mix until the sugar dissolves. Pour half of the syrup on one of the cakes, spreading it evenly to soak. Add a generous layer of strawberry jelly.

Place the second cake over it and soak with the remaining rum syrup. Top with the prepared whipping cream.

Garnish with chocolate shavings. Chill the cake for a few hours before serving.

Cardamom brioche French toast

Having grown up with the aroma of many home-grown spices in India, cardamom remains my favorite. It has a unique flavor and intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Always buy whole pods and store in an airtight container. When you need to use it, peel the seeds and pound it down along with a little sugar. The peeled shells can be saved for chai.

8 thick slices brioche or white bread

4 eggs

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon cardamom powder from 2 green cardamom pods

Pinch of turmeric

A pinch of nutmeg, preferably fresh-grated

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons butter to grease the skillet

Fresh raspberries and powdered sugar to garnish

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, turmeric and melted butter. Pour into a shallow plate, such as a pie plate.

Set a skillet on medium heat. Add butter and let it melt. Dip slices of bread in the egg mixture, place them in the skillet and fry until golden brown. Flip and repeat.

Serve with raspberries and a generous dusting of sugar.

Serves 4.

Decadent chocolate cake with chocolate ganache

This is a decadent, moist, three-layer, 6-inch cake. It’s filled with dark chocolate and frosted with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream.

For the cake:

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

¾ cup cocoa powder

1½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

¾ cup buttermilk

¾ cup warm water

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 eggs

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the chocolate ganache:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup dark chocolate chips

For the vanilla buttercream:

1 cup butter, at room temperature

4 cups icing sugar

3-4 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons clear vanilla

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons meringue powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour-dust three 6-inch round baking pans, and line them with parchment paper.

Sift all dry ingredients except sugar and coffee powder in a large bowl.

In a mixing bowl, whisk sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. To this, add buttermilk, warm water, oil, vinegar and coffee powder. Whisk for a minute until well combined.

Combine the wet and dry mixture gently with a spatula. Divide it into the three baking pans.

Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 24-26 minutes. Let the cakes cool in pans on a wire rack.

For the ganache, heat cream in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add in chocolate chips, let sit for a few minutes. Whisk well to form a smooth mixture. Let it cool.

To make the buttercream, sift icing sugar, salt and meringue powder, if using, together. Cream butter, vanilla and milk with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the sifted powder. Beat on medium for 6-8 minutes until light and creamy.

Divide icing equally into two portions. Fill a piping bag with plain vanilla buttercream. To the other portion, add a teaspoons of red coloring and whisk well. Add into another piping bag with a star tip.

Assemble the cake. Start by placing the first cake on a platter, adhering it with a dollop of buttercream to the base. Line a border of buttercream over it to create a well. Fill the center with ganache. Place the second cake over it and repeat. Top it with the third cake, gently press down and chill it for 10 minutes to set.

Cover the entire cake with a thin crumb coat of vanilla buttercream. Chill, then go over with another thin layer of buttercream. Smooth the top and sides with a palette knife dipped in warm water. Spoon the warm ganache on the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

With the red frosting, apply decorative swirls. Top with sprinkles. Chill to set. Serve at room temperature for the best flavor. Serves 6.

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