Some foods are just indisputably meant to be together, like peanut butter and jelly, like biscuits and gravy, like sweet corn and basil. But chocolate and blackberry? I never knew it before, but they're one of those classic combinations. Chocolate and blackberry are


, y'all.

There something magical about the combination of the deeply flavored, sweet berries playing against the tart, floral notes in intensely dark chocolate. I've made a thousand chocolate cakes before this one, and yet somehow there I was, combining these flavors for the first time. Swirling fresh blackberries into chocolate cake batter allows the two to combine and become something


than either flavor once baked, for lack of a better descriptive word. Just


. More like the ripe taste of late summer on your tongue. More chocolatey, somehow. More grownup, maybe, although it's one of those 'sophisticated' tastes that I suspect everyone will actually love. Tossing some whole berries into the batter as well allows for surprising little pockets of fruit that pop up in each bite, silky and jamlike and addictive. The whole thing is a wonder, really. I was lucky enough to make it just before blackberry season ended for the summer, and while I'm sure fresh is best, I have a suspicion that you could make this with frozen berries all winter long and bliss out on chocolate blackberry perfection just fine.

There's been a lot of extra love floating around in my world the last few months, a record-setting number of engagements and milestones and generally wonderful things. So why not chocolate and blackberries, after all? In a few hours from now, I'll be jumping on a plane to the opposite coast to watch two dear friends marry each other, and I couldn't be more excited--or more convinced that this cake is the perfect metaphor for all things matrimonial. Two main ingredients that compliment one another, each sharpening the flavor of the other as they join to become something greater in the pan than they were in the bowl? Sounds about right to me. Here's to love! Here's to perfect matches! And here's to chocolate's perfect match, the blackberry. Now, let's have some cake*.

[ *Yes, I know, I keep referring to this as a


when it's clearly titled Chocolate Blackberry Bread in the recipe. But come on. We all know this is a 'bread' in the same way that zucchini bread is a bread....which is to say that it isn't at all. Mazel tov, have a slice of cake already! ]

Chocolate Blackberry Bread

Makes one 9" x 4" loaf

small amount of butter or coconut oil for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup milk

6 oz fresh blackberries

4 ounces dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350, and lightly butter or apply oil to the sides of a 9" x 4" loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, yogurt and milk. Take half of the blackberries and puree in a food processor (you can also just smush them up a bit with a fork, if you prefer a more rustic texture or if you don't happen to have a food processor), add pureed blackberries to liquid mixture. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour liquid into it, mixing as you go until it combines into a thick batter.

Separate the chocolate into two piles and chop half of it into small pieces (about the size of chocolate chips). Fold remaining whole blackberries and chopped chocolate into batter, then pour into pan and place in oven. Bake for at least 65 minutes, testing with a knife or skewer after an hour (you may need a little longer depending on your oven; mine needed about 75 minutes). Bread is done when a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly. Take out of oven and let cool.

Melt remaining chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over room temperature Chocolate Blackberry Bread, then serve.


Carrot Apple Pecan Breakfast Cake

First we eat, then we do everything else.

- M.F. K. Fisher

What else could she have been talking about but breakfast? M.F.K. (whose name, because profanity always makes me giggle a bit, gives me great sorry, Mary Frances) Fisher's words were ringing in my ears the other day as I was out for my ritual morning walk* and dreamed up the idea for this hearty breakfast cake. A cake, but a good one, one you can feel good about eating for the first meal of the day. Lots of protein, ground almonds, yogurt, that sort of thing. It shouldn't feel too healthy though, there should be a certain amount of sin built in, just enough to promise fun for the day to come, so some sweet-and-ever-so-slightly-salty toasted pecans and a hit of real sugar in there, too. Gluten-free? Why not. Texture? Grated carrot and apple, for some extra sweetness, as well. Shape? Definitely a Bundt**. Let's do this breakfast thing.

( *The reason for getting out of bed at daybreak and doing that whole morning ritual walk thing in the first place? Two adorable, wet-nosed reasons. See below.

( **I've got Bundts on the brain lately, it seems)
Also, I've got to mention it just one more time....nominations for the 2015 Saveur Blog Awards close tonight, March 13th at midnight EST. Please consider nominating this site for this round of awards (just highlight/copy, then click over here to cast your nomination in Best New Voice/Best Writing/Best Photography, it couldn't be easier!), it would mean the world to me even to be a finalist in the best awards in food blogging. 

Carrot Apple Pecan Breakfast CakeSweet Laurel: Carrot Apple Pecan Breakfast Cake

I promise to keep the recipes for delicious things like Carrot Apple Breakfast Cake coming for a long time to come! Thanks for reading, all. On to the cake!!

Carrot Apple Breakfast Cake with Toasted Pecan Glaze*

( *Gluten-free!)

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup tapioca starch, plus about 1 tablespoon extra for dusting the pan
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup Greek yogurt + 1/4 cup milk (you could also substitute 3/4 buttermilk for this mixture)
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated apple
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces, divided
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon water (or more)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a cake pan (I used a 6-cup Bundt pan), lightly dust with tapioca starch, then tap off the excess. While oven is heating up, toast pecans on a baking sheet for a few minutes, until warmed and just beginning to brown. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl to cool (nuts burn easily; if you leave them on the hot baking sheet they may darken too much. Ask me how I know this. Go on, ask me).

Place oats, brown rice flour, almond meal, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl, stir to combine thoroughly. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and oil, then add egg and beat until well combined. Add yogurt + milk mixture (or buttermilk, if subsituting) and beat until smooth.

Add liquid mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients, stir until everything is blended. Add carrot, apple, and 3/4 cup of pecans (reserving the rest), mix until just blended. Pout batter into prepared cake pan and place in preheated oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the thickest part can be removed cleanly. Remove and let cool. Turn cake out onto a plate.

Place 1/2 cup toasted pecans (this should leave you with 1/4 cup of pecans remaining) in a food processor with confectioner's sugar and water, blend into a smooth paste (you may need to sprinkle in additional amounts of water to keep blending, do this sparingly). The ideal, pourable consistency for this mixture is something like honey, it should be a runny enough glaze to spread down the sides of the cake when you pour it on. Add the rest of the pecan pieces, toss to coat, then pour the mixture evenly over top of cake. Serve once glaze has set up a bit, after twenty minutes or so.

Add a cup of coffee to this morning cake ritual and experience paradise. Trust me. :)


[Originally posted on 2/14/15]

As symbols of romance go, some are unmistakable.

A single chocolate smudge clinging languorously to china. The whisper of a kiss etched in lipstick on the edge of a tipped over glass. An abandoned napkin, hastily swept from a lap, cast aside to lie in a mass of wrinkled linen as the main action switches from the dining room to another room entirely. A wisp of sinuous, bluish-grey smoke trailing from the wick of a just blown out candle.

But a single, chocolate-covered cherry may just be one of the most unmistakable edible symbols of all. In super-sized cake form? It might just turn out to be irresistible.

Romance is a difficult subject for some people, especially in this era of instant dating apps and Fifty Shades of Grey nonsense. I'm always all for romance, though, no matter what form it takes in your world. A meaningful gesture (beyond just clicking 'like' and adding a heart emoticon, please) is the very heart and soul of true romance. Stumped for ideas? There are just so many ways to show love. Give a handwritten note, a handful of picked flowers, or just an extra smattering of 'just because' kisses, just above the neckline. Give a freshly baked cake steaming from the oven, a naughty glance, an arched eyebrow. Give a hand-lettered note, give a smudgy and intense pencil sketch, give a heartsick glance, give a low whistle. Go corny, or be original. Just give your sweetheart something, choose to mark this all-too-often-fumbled-and-abused occasion with something more than digital ephemera.

In other words, you can't text your way out of this one, kids.

Go with a time-honored symbol of St. Valentine's Day, if you want to keep it classic. Give the waxy but heartfelt mixed chocolates in the red satin box, the dusty-sweet astringent 'conversation hearts'....or perhaps, the rich perfection of one syrupy cherry encased in deep dark chocolate. Love them or hate them, the chocolate-covered cherry is here to stay, and can be found absolutely everywhere--from velvet-draped tables in high end food markets to dusty, forgotten gas station shelves full of last minute gifts--in the days surrounding Valentine's Day. Sometimes they're amazing and sometimes they're truly terrible, especially if high fructose corn syrup doesn't fit with your vision of 'romance'.......but this year, why not re-invent the whole concept?

After all, the rich perfection of one syrupy cherry encased in deep dark chocolate is pretty hard to beat. I decided to expand the idea into one large dream of a cake, made of two shapely bundt layers of rich, sweet cherry-laced cake, draped in dark chocolate ganache. One slice of this will erase the memory of every unworthy chocolate-covered cherry you've ever been given in the past, and make you consider starting a new tradition with your sweetheart......romantic baking? ;)

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake

Makes ever so many more than two servings, so you can just go ahead and keep celebrating Valentine's Day over and over and over again.,...

Although February is a wonderful time for romance, it's not always the best time of year for fresh, juicy summer fruits like cherries and raspberries. I used frozen fruit this time because it's often the best out-of-season option, but if you miraculously happen to find some lovely fresh berries in your local market, I say go for it! Just substitute an equal amount of fresh fruit (be sure to pit the cherries, of course.....pits aren't romantic!).

For the cake:

5 cups flour, plus two extra tablespoons for flouring the pans
6 tsp (1/8 cup) baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites
3 1/2 sticks room temperature, unsalted butter, plus one extra tablespoon for buttering the pans
4 cups sugar
2 cups pureed raspberries (thawed completely if using frozen)
1 1/2 cups pureed dark sweet cherries (thawed)
3/4 cup milk
2 cups dark sweet cherries, halved

For the ganache:

8 oz dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt Dark 70%, this is two bars plus a little extra)
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt one tablespoon of butter and, using a pastry brush, cover the inside of one 12-cup bundt pan and one 6-cup bundt pan. Sprinkle the inside of each pan with a tablespoon of flour, tap and rotate pan until inside is evenly, lightly floured. Combine remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl, set aside.

Place egg whites in bowl of a stand mixer (or in mixing bowl to beat by hand), beat on high until they reach the stiff peak stage. Transfer beaten egg whites to another bowl and wipe out bowl of stand mixer. Cream butter and sugar together in stand mixer (or by hand) on medium until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Reduce speed to low and add fruit purees slowly to avoid splattering. Add milk, mix until smooth. With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture just until thoroughly combined (do not over-beat). Fold in egg white mixture just until combined.

Divide batter between the two pans. Sprinkle halved cherries over the batter, poking them gently down into the cake and smoothing the top of the batter afterward. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 60 minutes for the small pan, 75 minutes for the large pan, or until a knife inserted at the center of each cake can be removed cleanly. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then carefully invert onto plates and remove from pans.

Prepare ganache by breaking up chocolate and placing in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream just to a boil, then pour over chocolate and let sit for five minutes, undisturbed. Sprinkle salt over ganache, whisk to emulsify all ingredients. The ganache will at first look streaky, then more homogenous, and will eventually thicken into a creamy chocolate glaze that can be poured or spread over a cake. Be sure to taste some off a spoon first. You know, for science.

Once cakes have cooled completely, stack the small one on top of the larger one. Drizzle ganache slowly over cake. Decorating with candied, edible flowers (Gardenista has a great tutorial for sugared violas exactly like the ones I used) or fresh fruit is optional, but looks gorgeous. Pairs well with flickering candles, pearls, half-full crystal glasses of wine, and moodily draped floral arrangements, of course. Here's to romance! <3