Christmas trees and death by chocolate

18 Dec

Some of the things I love most about Christmas are the family traditions.

Ever since I can remember, my family has waited until after my brother’s birthday to get our tree – so that his birthday will feel like a birthday and not Christmas.

Yesterday, my family went out to get our Christmas tree.

We’ve gone to the same place for about 10 years now.

We always see the perfect tree within the first five minutes.  We always leave that tree thinking there will be better ones further up the hill.  That tree is usually the best one we see all day.

We have to walk around for at least half an hour.

Someone has to cry.  Usually that someone is me, although we’ve broken that tradition for the past four or five years.

My mother has to take pictures of the tree being cut down, and a couple of holdouts of me and her.  And her and my brother.  And her and me and my brother.

My dad always cuts down the tree.

My brother always helps him carry it down to the car and tie it on.

Afterwards, we always have hot chocolate and coffee in the crazy-tacky gift shop that sells ornaments and salt and pepper shakers and lots of fudge.

This year, I won.  My family finally liked a tree that I picked out, and now it’s sitting in our living room.

While my dad and brother brought the tree in and set it up on the stand, I baked these.

Chocolate ganache cakes for my brother’s birthday.

These cakes are death by chocolate.  But honestly, if you’re going to die, isn’t that the way to go?

CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prep your cupcake tins.  combine dry ingredients.  Combine wet ingredients.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet.  Mix just until combined.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  I baked mine in little 3 or 4 inch pans (this recipe made 6, each one feeds about 2 people).

GANACHE

  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c. milk + 1/2 c. creamer
  • 2 tbsp. margarine
Heat the milk and creamer in a sauce pan until it boils.  Turn off the heat and add the chocolate.  Let it sit and don’t touch it for a minute or two.  Then stir until it’s nice and smooth.  Add the margarine and stir until it’s all melted. (side note:  other amazing things you can do with ganache – stick it in the fridge until it’s completely set, then whip it up in your stand mixer and you can frost cakes with it, pipe with it; or just eat it with a spoon, that works too)

 

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1 c. margarine
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • enough milk to bring the mixture to the right consistency

Cream the butter with an electric mixer.  Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder a cup at a time.  Add the vanilla and milk.

To assemble your cakes,  flip them over and carve out part of the top.  Pipe some frosting into the cavities and smooth over the tops with a spatula.  Then, pour the ganache over the cakes and wait for it to set.  After the ganache has set, you can pipe designs on top of it with the buttercream if you so desire.

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