Chocolate Honey Layer Cake with Salted Honey Flour Buttercream & Raw Cocoa Nibs

Chocolate Honey Cake with Honey Buttercream & Raw Cocoa Nibs
My husband Eugene is in a cake club at work. He and a group of other guys in his office pool together money that they then spend on monthly birthday cakes celebrating the guys in the group. The bakery options near his office are kind of limited, so they usually end up buying cakes from a popular financial district bakery called Financier, cleverly named for both the delicious little golden cakes, and their Wall Street clientele.

This month, the birthday boy (David) announced that he was tired of the options at Financier, and so Eugene offered to bring a cake from one of the bakeries in our neighborhood.

While he asked me about the options near us, I noted that if he wanted, I could actually just make them the cake myself. David agreed and sent over a short list of his favorite flavors, including chocolate and honey.

I decided to make a chocolate honey layer cake with honey flour buttercream.

The flour-based frosting is actually one that I'd been wanting to try for a while, and the thing that inspired the recipe. It's kind of an amazing thing as the process is totally different than regular buttercream. Instead, a flour-thickened pudding is made as the base, then cooled and whipped with butter until light and fluffy.

The result is a a super creamy and buttery frosting that's much less sweet than the typical powdered sugar concoctions. Another benefit of the flour buttercream is that it lets you play around with different flavors and infusions.

The original recipe for this honey buttercream came from the Baked cookbook, but, with only 3 tablespoons of honey, I didn't think their recipe had enough honey flavor. I ended up substituting 1/2 cup of the sugar with more honey just to make it super...um...honey-er?

Whatever the word, the results are awesome! If you're a honey-flavored dessert lover, you'll be very much into this frosting.

One other thing I noted is that the flavor actually tastes best at room temperature, so if you refrigerate it, let it warm up on a counter for at least 2-3 hours before serving. It honestly makes a WORLD of a difference.

I also urge you not to skip the finishing touches! The crunchy cocoa nibs work beautifully against the honey flavors of the buttercream and the sprinkle of flaky salt (I love maldon) gives it an added level of flavor reminiscent of salted caramel.

All around, seriously good stuff!

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Chocolate Honey Cake with Salted Honey Buttercream & Raw Cocoa Nibs
Makes 1 10-inch layer cake (12-15 servings)

Cake recipe adapted from Epicurious. Buttercream recipe adapted from Baked Expolorations via O Magazine

Ingredients
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup honey + 1/4 cup honey, divided
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cocoa nibs and flaky sea salt, for garnish

Directions

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and line two 10" round baking pans with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together chocolate chips and coffee. Set aside.

Whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until evenly combined.

In the base of an electric mixer beat eggs for 3 minutes until light. Mix in 1/2 cup honey, melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla, followed by the chocolate and coffee mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and gently mix in just until completely combined. Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake about 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Cool layers in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.

Make the frosting:
In a heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar and flour. Add the honey, milk, and heavy cream, and set over medium heat, stirring until ingredients are smooth and evenly combined. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously until sauce thickens and becomes pudding-like (about 12 minutes). Lower heat to low and continue to stir and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Let cool completely at room temperature (about 1 hour).

Once the flour mixture is cool, place the 1 1/2 cups butter in a stand mixer and beat until light and creamy. With the mixer still running, slowly pour in all the flour mixture and continue to beat until it is fluffy and smooth. Add the remaining honey and beat a bit longer until evenly incorporated.

Frost the cooled cakes with the honey buttercream, then decorate the tops with cocoa nibs and garnish with flaky salt. Serve the cake room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator at least 2-3 hours before serving so cake has a chance to reach room temperature (it tastes best at room temp!). Cake can be left unrefrigerated for up to about 6 hours.
Note: Both cake and frosting can be made in advance and refrigerated. Let frosting come back to room temperature before assembling cake.

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Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder

Last weekend, Eugene and I met my brother for brunch at a restaurant here in the city. It was kind of late in the day, and freezing outside, so as soon as I spotted clam chowder on the menu, I was sold. It was listed under the lunch entrees for $13, so I figured it would be a large-ish, hearty bowl, and didn't order anything else except a small appetizer of toast with fresh ricotta.

But when the food arrived, I was confused.

The bowl the waiter gave me was filled with the TINIEST amount of soup I have ever seen in my life. It was about 1/2-inch in depth and covered with a handful of oyster crackers. I put my spoon in, and the soup barely came halfway up the spoon.

There were seriously more crackers than soup.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
Both Eugene and my brother were equally shocked, leaning over to peer into my bowl and wondering if perhaps I'd ordered something from the appetizer menu (there was only one soup listing, and it was under entrees) or if it was one of those things where they give you the bowl with the fillings and then pour the broth on top (it was not one of those things).

Eugene mused that perhaps they were running out of soup and rationing it.

What made it worse is that the soup (all three tablespoons of it) was delicious! Creamy and smoky, with tiny perfectly cut cubes of potatoes and bacon. There were only 2 clams in it (literally), but at least they were lovely and chewy.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
Gone in less than a minute, I spent the rest of the meal thinking about how I definitely needed more soup.

Hence, this Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder recipe!

Let me clarify that this is NOT a classic, thick New England clam chowder.

This is something a bit looser and brothier, with a smoky and salty briny broth, loaded with chunks of clams, chorizo, celery, and (my own twist) rutabaga.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
It's still creamy, but it isn't thickened in any way with flour or cornstarch and the lack of potatoes helps keep it a bit looser. You can use potatoes if you prefer, but I honestly love the lightness of rutabaga in this otherwise hearty soup.

I'm not quite fully over the trauma of the world's tiniest bowl of soup, but this spicy generous chowder definitely did help a bit.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
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Loved this recipe? Here are three other spicy soup recipes you might like:


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Spicy Chorizo & Clam Chowder
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
4 pounds clams (such as manila or littleneck), shells scrubbed under cold running water
1/3 pound Spanish style chorizo, diced
2 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced (or use 2 large russet potatoes)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley and/or scallions, for garnish

Directions
Combine the rinsed clams with 2 cups cold water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and let steam until the clams open—about 8 minutes. Remove all the open clams, then re-cover and continue to cook any that haven’t opened for an additional 1-2 minutes. If they still don’t open, discard, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or other fabric, discarding any solids and reserving the remaining liquid.

Remove the clams from their shells, and place in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel (this keeps them from drying out).

Combine the chorizo and bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and sauté until bacon is rendered and chorizo is slightly crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and chorizo, leaving the fat in the pot. (If your bacon isn't very fatty, you may need to add a teaspoon or two of oil).

Add the celery, onions, garlic, paprika, and rutabaga, and sauté 2-3 minutes, just to soften them a bit. Add the strained clam liquid + 1 1/2 cups of water, and cook until the rutabaga is tender (about 10-15 minutes).

Add the milk, cream, chorizo and bacon, and let simmer gently for 10 minutes (do not let it boil or the milk will curdle). Stir in the clams, and let simmer an additional five minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with parsley and scallions before serving.



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Spiced Roasted Carrots with Ras el Hanout

Last winter I shared with you a recipe for popcorn with dark chocolate, almonds, and ras el hanout--a North African spice blend that is one of my firm favorites.

In that post, I actually talked about how I fell in love with it when I used it on some roasted carrots in place of the cumin that had run out earlier that day.

It took me a full year to realize that while I may have mentioned that recipe for the Roasted Carrots with Ras el Hanout...I never actually shared it with you!

What a tease! Am correcting this today, and I urge you to give it a try as soon as possible.

Ras el hanout is a somewhat sweet and savory spice mix that's absolutely wonderful with roasted vegetables. For this dish, I roughly peel the carrots (I used gorgeous multi-colored rainbow carrots, but any kind will do!), then rub them with olive oil, salt, and the spice. I also add a bit of cayenne because I love heat, though you can skip it if you don't.

Into a very hot oven they go for about 20-25 minutes, depending on how fat your carrots are (mine weren't very fat at all). Give them a toss about halfway through--you want to get the char marks on all sides, and then pull them out when they start to look just a tiny bit wrinkled.

I serve them all jumbled on a platter with a side of whipped Greek yogurt sprinkled with sumac or sesame seeds or whatever else is on hand.

(The tangy yogurt with the sweet and spicy carrots is perfections. Seriously.)

If you have some fresh mint, a few leaves torn on top would be lovely.

Serve this as a side with a lovely roasted main, and you'll have a wonderful winter meal.

Shopping tip: Ras el Hanout is pretty commonly found at well-stocked supermarkets like Whole Foods, online, or at spice shops. Note that the mixes can vary based on the spice combination, so shop around and find the one you like best.

Personally I go for the ones that are a little sweeter without too much cumin or turmeric (so look for something brown--not yellow). If you can't find it, Indian Garam Masala OR Chinese Five Spice would also work well in this recipe (each with slightly different, but similar, flavor profiles.) Buy Ras el Hanout online here.


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Roasted Carrots with Ras el Hanout
Serves 4, as a side

Ingredients
2 pounds medium-sized carrots, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Greek yogurt & flaky sea salt, for serving

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the carrots and arrange on a large metal baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, then sprinkle with ras el hanout, cayenne, and salt. Toss carrots to coat evenly.

Roast 15 minutes, toss once, then roast another 10 minutes, or until carrots are slightly charred and wrinkled. 

Place on a serving platter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Serve with Greek yogurt on the side for dipping.

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