Chocolate Pastry Cream

aka puddin’

I came a little late to the pudding game. If you have been following along for any amount of time, you know that I grew up in a only homemade, no convenience food home. Pudding stayed in its box, on the shelf of the grocery store. And…to be honest…whenever I had it a friend’s house, I kinda didn’t see the allure. Don’t even get me started on banana pudding–talk about gaslighting.

I knew pastry cream, because my mom would make it to put in her eclairs, but it took me a while to realize that pastry cream and pudding are basically the same. Except pastry cream uses whole milk enriched with egg yolks and butter, rather than only relying on cornstarch to thicken.

This recipe is very easy and will have you whipping up puddin’ on the daily. It is basically breakfast food

try and convince me otherwise

I enjoy it topped with gently whipped {unsweetened} cream or creme fraiche and a brandied or Amarena cherry for further indulgence


  • 3 cups full-fat milk

  • 3 duck egg yolks, or 5 large chicken egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped bar (63-70%)

  • 1 oz unsalted butter at room temperature


  • Whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl until they are well incorporated
  • Heat the milk with the sugar over low heat until it comes to a simmer
  • Meanwhile place the chocolate, butter and vanilla in a separate bowl
  • When the milk has simmered, use it to temper the eggs. This is done by slowly whisking the milk into the egg mixture to slowly warm the eggs.
  • Turn the milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and heat on low, while continually whisking, as it thickens quite a bit. Once you start to see bubbles forming, remove it from the heat
  • Pour hot custard into sieve that is held over the bowl of chocolate/butter/vanilla and allow to fall over and melt the chocolate and butter. Discard any clumps of egg white remaining in the bowl of the sieve. Wait a few minutes, then whisk until butter, vanilla and chocolate are fully melted and incorporated.
  • Enjoy warm with a bit of cold cream, or place bowl over a larger bowl of ice water and stir to bring temperature down to room temperature. Place a bit of plastic wrap directly on top to keep a skin from forming. If you like the skin, skip that part. Place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to chill completely.
  • Serve cold with gobs of cream; cultured or whipped

Pumpernickel-Rye Chocolate Snacking Cake

I shouldn’t be snacking on cake. I should be snacking on 5 almonds and maybe {on my birthday} an apple with a piece of cheese. Cake? Not so much. But I am, and you can too!

As a baker and someone who loves to experiment with food, I have a lot of different types of flour in my pantry. That’s the good news. The challenging part is that flour does go bad; and the less processed, the quicker that happens. I find myself with quite a bit and varying types of rye flour right now. It makes great bread, and as it turns out, it adds incredible depth to other baked goods.

I found a simple recipe on the NY Times website by Melissa Clark for a chocolate cake with a citrus glaze. I grabbed the recipe and made very slight changes to it. I swapped the flour, exchanged full-fat yogurt for sour cream, and ignored the part where it said to use a flavorless oil…I only have lard and olive oil in my kitchen, so I used olive oil that is slightly forte. I also omitted the vanilla…mostly because I forgot, but I really didn’t miss it. Let’s make it optional.

I also changed up the icing; which I regret a wee bit. This cake would definitely shine with a bit of citrus. It would also shine with a simple dusting of powdered sugar, or a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Right now, as I enjoy my second slice of the day, I’m thinking a swipe of orange marmalade would be an amazing co-star. You can get nine generous {12 reasonable} slices out of this 9×9 cake, so try all adornments–ooh–what about sour cream with a bit of brown sugar stirred in and some sliced strawberries in a decidedly grown up “shortcake”.

Make this, then tell me all about it

Pumpernickel-Rye Chocolate Cake
Prepare a 9×9 cake pan by spraying with pan spray, lining with parchment, and spraying again. Set aside and preheat your oven to 350F.

1/3 cup olive oil
2 oz bittersweet (63% or higher) chocolate; chopped
6 oz hot strong coffee
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/3 cup plain (full fat) greek yogurt
3/4 cup pumpernickel-rye flour; toasted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
heaping 1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pour the hot coffee over the bittersweet chocolate and stir until melted. If chocolate does not melt completely, pop into the microwave to heat it up a bit more. Pour into a mixing bowl and whisk until completely amalgamated. Let cool slightly (can still be warm, but not hot) and whisk in oil, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla if using.
*toast the flour. Place flour into a dry skillet over med-low heat. Stir continually, careful not to burn until it is slightly toasted. Do not let it brown, let it just start to turn color. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes.

For chocolate bar topping:
Sprinkle milk, bittersweet, or a combination of the two chips over the top once removed from the oven. You can also just lay chocolate bars over the top and allow them to melt on top of the cake. Allow to melt, then simply spread until cake is covered. Sprinkle with caramelized cocoa nibs or sprinkles, or nothing. Let cool and enjoy

more nice ways to adorn:
-Sifted Powdered Sugar
-Sifted Cocoa Powder
-Sifted Spice Collection of powdered sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, & ginger
-Soak in Tia Maria, Baileys, Kamora, or Amarula
-Let cool and serve along side macerated or roasted strawberries
-Whipped Cream
-Ice Cream
–on and on and on…

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I must admit that the provenance of this recipe or idea of it anyway came from elsewhere. I have been making it for so many years and have futzed with it along the way, that I have no idea where it all started. It has become a favorite of ours and our farm stand guests mostly because it lives under the guise of being healthy. You know, with it being loaded with veggies and all.

We grow a ton of zucchini here. This is a story told by anyone who successfully grows zucchini. We are all trying to unload our bumper crop by mid-summer to anyone who makes eye contact. It is a prolific and delicious vegetable that is difficult to stay ahead of. Now that I grow my own, I am always amazed at the perfect (and small) grocery store versions of them. I imagine they must pay people to sleep in the field with a ruler in hand and harvest at just the right moment. Mine are always imperfect and sometimes downright giant. This cake is filled with grated zucchini. It can be a perfectly beautiful one or a monster from your garden, but I do recommend that you have more flesh than seed when grating.

The recipe calls for oil and duck eggs. I have had success using vegetable oil, olive oil and lard. I have not made this recipe with butter, nor have I substituted apple sauce and cannot endorse either. As for eggs, I use duck in most of my baking. For this rustic cake, I would use large or extra large chicken eggs if you cannot find duck. If you cannot find large or extra large, you can use what you have. It may alter the result, but it shouldn’t ruin it. If that just won’t work for you, look up the weight (liquid weight) of a, extra large chicken egg, multiply by two and then weigh the eggs you have until you get to the number you need. If you end up needing only half of your egg–whisk it before measuring. Baking is a science, but its not a science fair.

You will want to sneak this into your lunchbox on-the-daily despite it being loaded with veggies

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
2 duck or extra large chicken eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lard (melted) or oil of your choice
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (you can add more or less to your individual taste)
powdered sugar for decoration

Prepare an 8×13 high sided baking pan with vegetable spray or butter and preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are well incorporated and they begin to lighten. Add the lard (or oil) and whisk until fully emulsified. Whisk in the yogurt and extract and give it a good 30-second workout. Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in the salt, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Do not over mix, but make sure everything is incorporated. Stir in the zucchini. If your cake mix is stiff, add up to 1/4 cup of water to help loosen. You do not want it to be runny, it should be the consistency of warm pudding. Add chocolate chips and tip into your baking tin. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes. It is done when the top is resistant to your touch or a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Sift a bit of powdered sugar on top and serve straight from the pan. a

If I am to be honest, this cake gets about a 30-minute respite in our house. It is lovely served warm accompanied by a cold glass of milk

Gateau Noir

This cake is actually named “chocolate nemesis”. It is a wonderful invention of the brilliant ladies at River Cafe in London; and it is simply spectacular.
I call it gateau noir; because, well, it makes me smile. Gateau noir is the name we gave a suitor {not mine} of a girlfriend; whom in my retelling of the 30 year old story, lovingly prepared gateau noir for her in the hope she would be his steady.
Had he used this recipe he might have succeeded.

Gateau Noir
(adapted from river cafe cookbook)
3/4 lb 70% bittersweet chocolate pieces
(please do not make this with nestle or similar chocolate chips–you will not get the result you deserve)
5 large eggs–room temperature
10 1/2 oz granulated sugar
1/2 lb unsalted butter–room temperature
pinch salt (my addition)
1 tsp vanilla (my addition)
1/2 cup water

Place eggs, 1/3 of sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until the eggs have tripled in volume, and thickened. This will take a minimum of 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, place the remaining sugar in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil and let boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and chocolate…letting them melt completely. Allow to cool slightly then slowly pour into the whipped eggs. Whisk for 1 minute, if it doesn’t fully incorporate in that time, use a spatula and fold to fully incorporate. pour into prepared pan.
* to prepare the pan: use a springform pan and spray with pan spray…and then instead of flour, use cocoa powder to coat the pan, tapping out any excess.

there are two ways to bake this cake

To produce a creamy cake, a bit like pudding (this is in tune with the original recipe) bake the cake in a water bath (place your prepared pan, wrapped in foil, into a larger pan that will leave a “moat” of no less than 1″ on all sides. fill the “moat” with enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the prepared pan). It is best to do this with the cake pans already in the oven, to avoid spilling water all over the kitchen floor and into the cake batter.
Place prepared pan into a water bath and bake for approximately 35 minutes at 325. the cake is done when it no longer jiggles, but the center still seems a bit soft. if it begins to pull away from the sides, it is over-cooked. After 30 minutes, place your flat hand on top of the center of the cake, if it is no longer liquid, and looks as if it has a skin similar to that of chocolate pudding, and the cake doesn’t jiggle, it is fair to say it is baked enough.

For the more cakey, fallen souffle type of cake; pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake it in the oven without the water bath at 350 for about 30-40 minutes. the cake will rise considerably, then fall. it will look like a fallen souffle and have a light crispy exterior with a dense chewy interior. i love it this way…it tastes just as good and is not nearly as fussy.

Ding Dong Derivative

Why I have nostalgia for snacks I never actually ate as a kid is something for me to take up with my therapist. And when I say “my therapist”, I actually would be referring to my cat, or dog, or husband, or any poor soul who happens to be in the room listening to my audible reflections.

My mom did not allow “junk food” in her house. We had sweets, but everything was always made from scratch, and was mostly for special occasions. Snacks were cheese or a piece of fruit. Candy was for halloween, and ready-made cream filled cupcakes were for other people.

As a kid, I was always so envious of the kids with the silver wrapped delight in their lunch, while mind held an orange, or a christmas cookie; whiich is how I made it well past my 18th birthday before I ever had a ding-dong.

Without belaboring the point, skip the store-bought and make your own. You won’t be sorry.

devil’s food cake

3 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
1 1/2 cups hot coffee or hot water or mixture of the two (i use espresso with water)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 extra large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup milk or 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 
1 tsp vanilla

melt bittersweet chocolate in hot water/coffee.  Sift dry ingredients together (including sugar). Mix together the chocolate/coffee mixture, milk, sour cream and vanilla. In a mixer beat the eggs with the oil until thickened and doubled in volume (about 3-5 minutes).  Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients to the mixer, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just incorporated.Bake in 2-9″ rounds that have been prepared with cooking spray and lined with baking paper.
 *note…for ding dongs, i make in a sheet pan and use a cookie cutter to cut the rounds.
Oven temp should be 350 and bake until tester comes out clean. For the sheet pan, it will go fast…about 20 minutes. For the cake rounds allow about 50 minutes, but check on it after 30 minutes.

creamy filling

1 cup milk
5 Tbs flour
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup shortening or lard–room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter–room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
Over low heat, cook milk and flour in a saucepan until it makes a thick paste. Use a whisk to break up lumps. Let cool.  In mixer using whisk attachment, beat shortening, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add in cooled flour paste and whip until light and fluffy.  Add more sugar if you want a sweeter taste.


1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate–chopped
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs corn syrup
2 Tbs butter
Heat cream with sugar and corn syrup over medium heat.  Once cream begins to simmer and sugar is dissolved, pour over chocolate and butter. Let chocolate melt and then whisk together until it is thick and shiny


Cut rounds of the chocolate cake. Spread a layer of filling on top of one round and top with a second round.  Fill in nooks and large gaps with a bit more filling.  Place in fridge to harden.  
Meanwhile make ganache.  
Set cakes on a cooling rack over a lined sheet pan.  Pour ganache over cooled cakes and gently tap the rack to move the ganache over the cake. Use a small spatula warmed over a flame to nudge and smooth out the ganache. Let cool at room temp or in the fridge if you are in a rush.  You may loose some of the gloss if you refrigerate.  Serve as is, or wrap in foil for authenticity

Bourbon Pecan Hand Pies

The season is starting. The season where you would rather be standing at the first turn cheering your horse, than sitting inside, fork in hand. This weekend is a race and event, anticipated like Christmas and filled with tradition. Every Southerner I know has a menu they serve every year, and their favorite milliner on speed dial. In breaking with tradition, this year, I am servingg hand held derby-like pies. In your left hand a buttery crust, filled with bittersweet chocolate, pecans and bourbon custard, in your right hand a winning ticket. Add a ice cold mint julip for your very own trifecta.

Bourbon Pecan Hand Pies
makes about 10-4″ hand pies
1 recipe pie crust
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
generous pinch kosher salt
3 Tbs bourbon
3 large egg yolks
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup pecans-toasted
about 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Use your favorite pie crust recipe, or purchase already prepared.
Place honey, brown sugar, kosher salt, bourbon and egg yolks in a saucepan. Whisk until well incorporated. Place over low heat and stir continually with a rubber spatula until mixture thickens. Coat the spatula with the mixture and run your finger down the middle of it. If doesn’t run back together, then it is ready. Run through a strainer into a clean bowl. Add butter and stir until incorporated. Stir in pecans. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Roll out your pie crust to about 1/4″ thick. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out an even number of circles. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Place 1/2 of your rounds on the parchment, approximately 1/2″ apart.Place a tablespoon of chocolate chips in the center of the circle. Top with a generous spoonful of filling. Place a second round of crust on top. Brush with egg yolk and bake in 400F oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

The French Truffle

I do love the simplicity of a unfussed truffle. No gild or frill. Just quality chocolate, a bit of cream, a splash of cognac, a wisp of sea salt, and butter dipped and dusted.

The French Truffle

9 oz bittersweet chocolate (min 65%)
6 oz heavy cream
pinch sea salt
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs cognac
*chocolate for coating and cocoa powder (or powdered sugar) for dusting

Bring heavy cream and sea salt to a simmer over low heat. Place chocolate bits in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in bowl with chocolate. Remove cream from heat and swirl in cognac until incorporated. pour over the chocolate bits and allow to sit 1 minute before stirring. Stir until the chocolate and butter is melted and fully incorporated into the cream. The mixture should be thick. Allow to sit at room temperature until it hardens enough to form into balls. Using a small ice cream scoop, or melon baller, form filling into balls. Roll them between your palms until they are perfectly round. Allow to sit out (or place in the refrigerator) until they harden up again. if you put in the fridge, allow to come to room temperature. At this point, you may roll them directly into the cocoa powder or powdered sugar. I like to enrobe mine in chocolate. It gives them the rough exterior as well as helps preserve the delicate filling.
To enrobe:
It is not required to use tempered chocolate for this particular truffle because you will be rolling it immediately in cocoa powder. It is however, important that you do not heat your chocolate to too high a temperature otherwise it will not harden back up properly. Using a microwave safe bowl, cook about 8 oz of chocolate pieces 30 seconds at a time in the microwave. After the first 30 seconds, check the heat of the bowl. if it is really hot, you can melt the chocolate in its residual heat. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate. If it melts completely, then you are done. If it doesn’t melt at all…cook for another 30 seconds…if it is almost melted, go down to 10 second increments and watch to make sure that it doesn’t get too hot. When you are ready, place a shallow bowl of cocoa powder next to your bowl of melted chocolate. Dip each truffle in the melted chocolate, then immediately drop into the cocoa powder. Coat it completely, then remove to a lined baking sheet to cool. I do not recommend putting the truffles in the refrigerator before or after dipping (to harden) because it can cause the filling to expand and contract, and break through the coating. They should do fine at room temperature to firm up. I do however, recommend refrigeration for longer term storage.
You can also freeze the filling (once you have them formed into balls) well sealed for up to a month. Remove them and allow them to defrost in the refrigerator, then come to room temperature before dipping, being careful to remove any condensation.

Banoffee Brulee Bites

I can’t resist this perfect little bite. It is decadence in a shot. With a crackly pop of burnt sugar crust, they are irresistible. Fix a few for the person you love; especially, if it is you.

Banoffee Brulee Bites
1 recipe chocolate sable recipe here
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate-melted
dulce due leche prepared or 1 can sweetened condensed milk
small tub mascarpone
freshly grated nutmeg
edible gold leaf (optional)

If you are making your own dulce de leche, you need to start a day in advance. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a pie or cake pan at least 8″ in diameter. Place in a larger cake tin or oven safe pan that will leave at least a 1″ (moat) around the pan. Fill the larger pan with water, half way up the rim of the smaller pan (making a bain marie). cover the smaller pan with foil. Place in a 425F oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Check after about 45-50 minutes to make sure the water does not evaporate completely. Add more water if you see it getting low. after 1 1/2 hours the milk should be caramelized. remove it from the water and stir until it is smooth. allow to cool before using. will last in the refrigerator about a week.
bake off the chocolate sable in small tart tins (about 1- 1/2″). A mini muffin tin is a good mold for these. let cool and remove from tin. Using a small paint brush, cover the inside of each shell with a thin layer of melted chocolate. Allow to harden.

to assemble
Spread about 1/4 tsp of mascarpone in the bottom of each tart shell, allowing it to come up the sides. Top with a thin layer (about 1/4tsp) of dulce de leche. Top with a thin slice of banana (1/16″), spread just a whisp of dulce de leche on top of the banana, then top with another banana slice, a bit thicker (1/8″). Sprinkle a bit of sugar on top, and a light dust of freshly grated nutmeg. Using a torch, caramelize the sugar. for a thicker sugar crust, add a bit more sugar and caramelize with the torch again. Top with a bit of edible gold as an option

Mayan Truffle Cake

In celebration that today is rather than isn’t, I am sharing a special treat to honor the Mayans. They loved chocolate as much as I.

Mayan Truffle Cake for two
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon (plus more for dusting)
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
4 oz bittersweet (70%) chocolate–melted
cocoa powder for dusting

Spray 2-8oz ramekins with pan spray,then line with plastic wrap. Set aside. Pour cream in a bowl large enough for whipping. add in the salt, nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and smoked paprika. Whip to soft peaks. Allow to warm a little (you do not want the whipped cream to be super cold for the next step). Add about 1/4 of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture and stir until it has been fully incorporated. This will lighten the mixture a bit, which will make it easier to fold in the cream in the next step. Gently fold the remaining cream into the chocolate mixture. If your cream is too cold at this point, your chocolate will clump up and not incorporate well into the mixture, so be careful. Pour into prepared ramekins, smooth down the top and place in refrigerator for about 2 hours or longer, if you have the time.
When ready to serve, invert onto serving place and dust with cocoa powder and cinnamon. Serve with rich dark coffee

Chocolate Easter Eggs with a Surprise

I have always loved those giant chocolate eggs from Italy. This time of year they line the shelves of my local Italian market. Large and hollow, a handful of small candies tossed in the cavernous hole, and wrapped in bright mylar paper. Easter basket ready. The real joy is breaking through the chocolate shell to see what goodies lay within. This year, i am giving the Easter Bunny a helping hand. Extra special chocolate filled with toys and jewels; hand chosen for each recipient.
Imagine the joy and surprise when these beautiful eggs are cracked open.
tumbling out
A happy easter indeed.
If you want more details on how to make these leave a comment or drop me a line at sixtyacrebaker(at)gmail(dot)com

you can fill the eggs with anything edible and non.
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