Pascha, Easter Sweet Cheese Spread

In 2009 I posted about Festive Easter Breads and Cheese. My cookbooks are full of margin notes, so I thought I would update the recipes a bit.
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We enjoy spreading Pascha, the Easter Sweet Cheese Mold on the Paska, just like in one of our favorite children’s books, Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco. At first I was a bit confused, as the name for the dessert cheese is Pascha (or Pashka), very close to the Ukrainian name for the bread. And “Pascha” is the Orthodox name for Easter. Once I got the names sorted out, I was convinced I had to try the cheese. I didn’t have an “official” mold, so used the clean clay unglazed flowerpot. Be sure to make ahead (the recipe says 2-3 days. Wednesday or Holy Thursday is probably the latest). I omit the candied fruit and the almonds, as I want a smoother, creamier texture. My husband always requests this so I have been working on improving this every year.

The recipe I use is from A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Vitz. I’ve had the pleasure to meet her and some of her daughters (and even go on retreat with her and her daughter in law this month!). But I digress…

This is an absolutely beautiful and delicious dish; versions are prepared in Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, and Latvia. It is made in a tall mold (or flower pot), then turned out onto a large platter and decorated. Cool and rich, it tastes like a cross between ice cream and cheesecake. It goes wonderfully with other the sweet Easter breads, such as Kulich, or Paska Or Easter Sweet Bread or with various Easter cakes.

There was some discussion of the “farmer cheese” from the previous post. This is a more difficult ingredient to find. My grocery store carries this, the brand is “Friendship”, but you can also try ethnic grocery stores. Some people have had success with Mexican queso fresco. It is NOT an aged hard cheese, but a soft and crumbly, almost like ricotta, or a softer version of feta. It is usually found near the yogurt, cottage cheese and/or sour cream, but not in the cheese section.

If you cannot find farmer’s cheese and need to use large curd cottage cheese or ricotta, rinse the cheese with cold water and drain well in a fine colander. Ricotta might need to just be drained. Then take a fine mesh strainer and press the cheese through to make it finely sieved and ready to mix.

I’ve had trouble over the years having the mixture drain well so it becomes firm. Last year was my most successful year. The flowerpot that works well for me is an 8″ clay flowerpot. But I have found the shorter and wide flowerpot drained better than the tall pot. The picture below shows the two 8″ pots, but the one on the left is the one I use for both the bread Paska and the cheese spread. These are just clay pots made in Italy that I found in my local gardening store. I cleaned well before using.

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After covering with cheesecloth, I place a small plate on top, then used a weight (literally, one or two of my husband’s free weights) and then put the pot in a large bowl. Last year the bowl was shaped that the pot was suspended above a few inches, instead of flat on the bottom. This allowed more draining.

For decorating I just keep it simple. And face it — no matter how beautiful the presentation, after one small serving it never looks “pretty” again. But that doesn’t matter, because it is super delicious and everyone will keep coming back for more.

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Pascha

1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 pounds farmer cheese (see comments)
1/2 pound sweet butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fruit: raisins and/ or dried currants, mixed candied fruit peel (I omit)
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped (I omit)
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange or lemon rind (I use both, enough zest from one orange and 1 lemon)
For decorating:
Candied fruit peel, maraschino cherries, or nuts
Fresh strawberries to place around the base and on top

Beat the egg and the yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour into a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of the cream.

Heat over medium-low heat, beating constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not boil. Remove the pan from the heat and continue beating until the mixture has cooled to lukewarm.

(NOTE: I use a wire whisk to beat while heating. I have a gas stove, and using fresh cream from the farmer the mixture is already very thick. On the heat this takes about 10-15 minutes. You know it’s getting thicker when you see the sugar dissolving. At the beginning it’s very grainy. After removing from the heat I either put back in the stand mixer and just beat until cooled to lukewarm, or keep in saucepan and stir with the whisk. I don’t do it constantly, but very regularly, while I’m beating the other ingredients.)

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, butter, the other 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla. Cream until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg mixture, then the fruits, almonds, and orange or lemon rind. Blend thoroughly. (NOTE: At this point the mixture is very soupy.)

Line a flower pot or Pascha mold with 2 thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the pot over a bowl (to catch liquid), and pour the Pascha mixture into the pot. Put a layer or two of cheesecloth over the top, set a plate on it and something heavy on the plate. (The purpose is to press the extra liquid out of the Pascha and into the bowl below.) (NOTE: After pouring into the mold, I put a plate and then weight it down. I gradually add more weights, my husband’s free weights, after the mixture has chilled longer. Try to place a plate that covers the whole top. There will be oozing over. Do not panic.) Chill overnight or for a day or two.

Remove the top cheesecloth. Unmold the Pascha onto a large platter, and remove the rest of the cheesecloth.

Decorate the Pascha with the candied fruit peel or maraschino cherries or nuts to form the letters XB or CR (Christ is risen) on one side, and on the other side a cross. You may use the Western cross form or the Orthodox cross, or any other cross design that you prefer. In Russia, Pascha is often decorated with an angel and a lily, as well as the cross.

Around the base and on top of the Pascha, place fresh strawberries. Serve chilled.

Yield: 14 to 16 servings

The best part after making these goodies, was arranging the Easter basket for a blessing at our parish by the pastor. I included our Easter eggs, pysanky, ham, wine, butter lamb, paska and pashka. This year I bought a simple Easter basket cloth made by some Catholic ladies in Johnstown, PA, which I can’t wait to use.

A blessing on the Paschal feast, and your celebration!

Paska Ukrainian Easter Bread Updated

In 2009 I posted about Festive Easter Breads and Cheese. My cookbooks are full of margin notes, so I thought I would update the recipes a bit.
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For the Ukrainian Easter Bread, Paska, I now use Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions by Betsy Oppenneer. I highly recommend this cookbook– it is very detailed instructions and diagrams.

I find one of the most difficult aspects of baking cultural recipes is finding the right tools. This is an example — “Paska molds are somewhere between the height of a souffle dish and a 3-pound coffee can.” So this recipe uses either two 3-pound coffee cans or two 8-inch souffle dishes. I have neither on hand, and always forget this until it’s too late. So I’ve made due either with a Pyrex or Corning Ware casserole dish that is 8 inches across, or a wider mouthed (clean) flower pot that is also 8 inches across. (More on the flowerpot down below.)

The details on the recipes are two pages long, but basically you can compare the previous recipe for Paska. Here’s my adapted ingredient list:

Paska, Ukrainian Easter Bread
Ingredients
For the Dough:
1 scant Tablespoon or 1 (1/4 ounce) package of active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/2 cup warm milk (about 100 degrees F)
8 large egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange peel, zested
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon brandy or rum
4 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 cup golden raisins (soaked in brandy or rum)

For the Pan:
Butter
1 cup dried bread crumbs (I skip this and just use butter)

For the Topping:
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon cold water

Using a mixer: Sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften in the mixer bowl. Add the milk, yolks, butter, sugar, zest, vanilla, salt, brandy and 2 cups of the flour. Beat on medium-low for 2 minutes, adding the flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides. Change to the dough hook and and continue kneading on medium low, adding a tablespoon at a time.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl and coat the ball of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (This is one of my frustrations with my kitchen. This always takes longer for me, almost double the amount of time. I’m hoping my “proof” setting in my new oven will change this.) Meanwhile, heavily grease the pans, and if desired sprinkle the sides and bottoms with bread crumbs.

On an oiled surface, turn out the dough and set aside about one-fourth (1/4) of the dough and cover it. Divide the remaining dough and shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place the dough in the prepared molds. Divide the remaining piece of dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each one into a short dough equal to the diameter of the molds. Snip the ends of each rope about 1 inch. Lay 2 ropes at right angles to each other (the shape of a cross) on each loaf and curl the ends outward.
The decorations on top of the loaf are very individual, and can be ornate. These hints from Ukrainian Easter by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn are extremely helpful. I did a simple cross and made an Alpha and Omega on either side of the cross, reminiscent of the Paschal Candle decorations.
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Cover allow a second rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. with 10 minutes remaining. Right before baking beat the egg with the cold water and brush over the top of each loaf.

Bake for 25 minutes until the internal temperate of the bread is 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the pans  immediately let cool on a rack.

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Festive Easter Breads and Cheese: Paska and Pascha

Cross-posted at Catholic Cuisine
See updates and hints for recipes for the Easter bread Paska and cheese Pascha .
Since my family has no dominant ethnic heritage, I love to dig up cookbooks and be inspired by different cultural traditions for feast days. Florence Berger echoes my thoughts:

Being American Catholic, we can choose the best of the cultures of all the nations of the world and make them ours in Christ. We can call the songs, the stories, the dances and the foods of all peoples our own because in our American heritage there is blood and bone and spirit of these different men and women. If America is a melting pot, it can also be a cooking pot from which we women can serve up a Christian culture. (Cooking for Christ, NCRLC, 1949)

My favorite area is through festive breads (although I confess I haven’t been as adventurous since my son was diagnosed with food allergies). My interest in Ukrainian psyanky (and Polish pisanki) made me interested also in the Ukrainian and Polish foods used to celebrate Easter.

One year I made this very simple Paska, Ukrainian Easter Bread, from The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler (1982). It’s festive, but not heavy, and a perfect accompaniment to the sweet Easter cheese mold. This is usually included in the Easter Baskets brought to church for a blessing (also the Roman Ritual). I simply used a Corning Ware 1-1/2 quart round covered French White Casserole without the lid and it worked out fine (use what you have!).

Paska (Ukrainian Easter Bread)

1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup golden raisins (I used more, up to one cup)
1/2 cup milk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
melted butter, if desired

Beat egg and egg yolk until fluffy and light. Add 2 cups flour, sugar, salt yeast, lemon peel, orange peel, vanilla and raisins. Mix thoroughly.

Heat milk and butter to hot (120 to 130 degrees F). Add to flour mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth — about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double — about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Set aside a little of the dough to be used as decoration on top for the loaf. Shape the rest into a ball.

Place in greased cake pan 3 inches deep and 6 inches across or 1 quart souffle dish. Make cross of remaining piece of dough; place on top of loaf.

Cover; let rise in warm place until double — about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 45-60 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. While still warm, brush with melted butter if desired.

The decorations on top of the loaf are very individual, and can be ornate. These hints from Ukrainian Easter by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn are extremely helpful. I did a simple cross and made an Alpha and Omega on either side of the cross, reminiscent of the Paschal Candle decorations.

We enjoyed spreading the Easter Cheese Mold on the bread. At first I was a bit confused, as the name for the dessert cheese is Pascha (or Pashka), very close to the Ukrainian name for the bread. And “Pascha” is the Orthodox name for Easter. Once I got the names sorted out, I was convinced I had to try the cheese. I didn’t have an “official” mold, so used the clean clay unglazed flowerpot as per other’s directions. Be sure to make ahead (today or tomorrow). I omitted the candied fruit. My cheese did not mold (it didn’t drain), so I ended up serving from the flowerpot. It was still delicious.

Pascha

This is an absolutely beautiful and delicious dish; versions are prepared in Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, and Latvia. It is made in a tall mold (or flower pot), then turned out onto a large platter and decorated. Cool and rich, it tastes like a cross between ice cream and cheesecake. It goes wonderfully with the sweet Easter breads, such as Kulich, or with the various Easter cakes.

1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 pounds farmer cheese (see comments)
1/2 pound sweet butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fruit: raisins and/ or dried currants, mixed candied fruit peel
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange or lemon rind
For decorating:
Candied fruit peel, maraschino cherries, or nuts
Fresh strawberries to place around the base and on top

Beat the egg and the yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour into a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of the cream.

Heat over medium-low heat, beating constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not boil. Remove the pan from the heat and continue beating until the mixture has cooled to lukewarm.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, butter, the other 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla. Cream until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg mixture, then the fruits, almonds, and orange or lemon rind. Blend thoroughly.

Line a flower pot or Pascha mold with 2 thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the pot over a bowl (to catch liquid), and pour the Pascha mixture into the pot. Put a layer or two of cheesecloth over the top, set a plate on it and something heavy on the plate. (The purpose is to press the extra liquid out of the Pascha and into the bowl below.) Chill overnight or for a day or two.

Remove the top cheesecloth. Unmold the Pascha onto a large platter, and remove the rest of the cheesecloth.

Decorate the Pascha with the candied fruit peel or maraschino cherries or nuts to form the letters XB or CR (Christ is risen) on one side, and on the other side a cross. You may use the Western cross form or the Orthodox cross, or any other cross design that you prefer. In Russia, Pascha is often decorated with an angel and a lily, as well as the cross.

Around the base and on top of the Pascha, place fresh strawberries. Serve chilled.

Yield: 14 to 16 servings
From A Continual Feast by Evelyn Vitz

The best part after making these goodies, was arranging the Easter basket for a blessing at our parish by the pastor. I included our Easter eggs, pysanky, ham, wine, butter lamb, paska and pashka. I loved seeing all elaborate cloths and baskets and beautiful breads and goodies, and it inspired me to do more the next year.

Pictures from easteuropeanfood.about.com and FoodNetwork.com .

Third Sunday in Advent: St. Joseph’s Staff

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. We rejoice because the Lord is near!

We continue the focus on main figures of our Advent Wreath for the Christmas Story. Last week we celebrated St. John the Baptist. This week, the rose candle, the focus is on St. Joseph, the foster-father of the Child Jesus.

The food we will use to remember St. Joseph this week is the candy cane, either in a cookie, or the simple candy itself. Part of the pious legend of St. Joseph is that his staff is the one that bloomed with lilies so that everyone knew that he was to be the spouse of our Blessed Virgin Mary. So many nativity scenes have St. Joseph carrying or leaning on the staff, which is also a symbol of authority. Although he was not the father of Jesus, only the foster-father, Jesus and Mary still submitted to him.

In March the Sicilian tradition of St. Joseph’s Altar includes Vuccidrato — Joseph’s Staff, bread shaped in the shape of his staff, or other Symbolic Pastries in the shape of a staff. But since Christmas baking is at hand, Candy Cane Staff Cookies will do perfectly to remind us of St. Joseph’s fatherly authority, but his always humble submission to God’s will.

St. Joseph’s Staff — Candy Cane Cookies

Prep Time: 40 min, Total Time: 6 hours
Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened (or half butter, half shortening)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 egg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
2 Tablespoons finely crushed peppermint candies
2 Tablespoons sugar

Stir together 1 cup sugar, butter or margarine, milk, vanilla, peppermint extract, and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Divide dough in half. Stir red food coloring into 1 half of the dough. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Heat oven to 375ºF.

Stir together peppermint candy and 2 tablespoons sugar; set aside.

For each candy cane, shape 1 rounded teaspoon dough from each half into 4-inch rope by rolling back and forth on floured surface. Place 1 red and white rope side by side; press together lightly and twist. For best results, complete cookies one at a time–if all the dough of one color is shaped first, strips become too dry to twist.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve top of cookie down to form handle of cane.

Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until set and very light brown. Immediately sprinkle candy mixture over cookies. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Recipe from Betty Crocker).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near. (Phil 4:4,5)

Stir-Up Sunday: Jamaican Fruit Cake

Happy New Year!

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin a new church year, another Year of Grace, or Year of Our Lord. This time of Advent we focus on two comings: we remember the longing, the anticipation, the hope, the long patient wait for the Messiah. We also are remembering that Christ will come again at the end of time, and we prepare for that Final Judgment. Our time here is precious! The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this much more eloquently:

When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (CCC, 524)

And so, we need to stir up our hearts, renew ourselves to prepare for His coming. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the translation of the Collect (or Opening Prayer) of the Mass for the First Sunday of Advent invited that stirring:

O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A traditional English custom on this day was to make a Plum pudding, with every family member giving a good stir representing their hearts being stirred on that day. Plum pudding and fruit cake have taken a hard rap over the years. There are those who hate them and those who love them, and few fall in between. I know this is a bit late for actually stirring up on Sunday, but all week is a good time to do this. I’m offering this recipe as an alternative to standard fruitcake — because it contains rum AND no candied fruit. Perhaps this will suit someone’s fancy?

This recipe requires soaking the fruit in rum at least 3 days prior to mixing up all the ingredients, so on Wednesday or Thursday before Advent, start soaking. (The years that Thanksgiving is the week before Advent, just plan on having a cocktail with rum to remind you to start soaking!)

Jamaican Fruit Cake

1 lb. each of currants, seedless raisins, prunes, and dates.

Cut with scissors into small pieces.

Mix and stir in, soaking for 3 days:
1 pt. light rum
1 pt. white tablewine

After soaking fruits, sift together:
6 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. each nutmeg, cinnamon

Cream:
1 lb. butter
2 cups sugar

Add:
8 beaten eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well, then add flour mixture gradually.

Lastly, fold in fruit and liquor, and

1 cup English walnuts, if desired (chopped to desired size).

Grease and line with wax paper 4 bread pans or 2 tube pans. Place cakes on rack in middle of oven. Place shallow pan of water (hot) on bottom or slower oven (300 F.) Bake 3 hours, removing water last 30 minutes of baking.

When cakes are cold, wrap in aluminum foil. Store in air-tight container in a cool place. Allow at least 2 weeks, preferably longer for aging.

(If this is baked in a tube pan, it can be used as the Christ Child’s birthday cake, with as many candles on it as there are children in the family.)

Recipe adapted from Family Liturgical Customs, No. 1: Advent by Ethel Marbach, 1964, Abbey Press.

1st Sunday of Advent: Sugar Plum Cake

On the first Sunday of Advent, the Collect prayer from the 1962 Extraordinary Form of the Mass prays:

O Lord, stir up Your might and come! May we deserve Your protection. Deliver us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and be our salvation.

We begin our Advent journey to Christmas, and the Church begs Christ to come. Not only do we ask God to to God to “stir up” His might, we also are looking to stir up our hearts, to start preparing ourselves for His coming.

With this request to God to “stir up” His might, this day was traditionally called Stir-Up Sunday. Many families would begin a traditional plum pudding or fruit cake or some other recipe that everyone can take a turn to “stir-up”. This activity of stirring-up the ingredients symbolizes our hearts that must be stirred in preparation for Christ’s birth.

Usually batter needs to be mixed up well, and everyone in the family and guests should give a good stir.

I personally do not enjoy fruitcake or plum pudding, so I’m always trying to think of a different recipe that would need lots of stirring and can be saved and gets better with time. This recipe is a big contender.

This is a delicious, spice-filled, every-so-moist cake! Prunes have never had such a lovely presentation! This is my MIL’s recipe, and a traditional favorite for Christmas brunch. She makes it ahead of time and stores it in the refrigerator. It gets moister as time progresses.

Sugar Plum Cake

2 cups sugar
3 whole eggs
1 cup cooking oil
1 tsp. soda
2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cooked unpitted prunes*
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. each ground nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and salt

*Cooked prunes: Dried plums or prunes, add water and cook in saucepan until plumped up. Measure AFTER cooking. MIL cuts them in half.

Combine sugar, eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Add dry ingredients gradually and mix well. Fold in nuts and prunes. Pour into tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, or add glaze.

Glaze (optional)

1/4 cup cold milk
1/2 powdered sugar

Mix and pour on cooled cake.

Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Kahlua Cake, Take Two

Deja Vu. Six years ago we said Goodbye to my friend Steven and served Kahlua Cake. His stay on the West Coast lasted only one year, so he was back in the DC area for 5 more years.

Now he has a new teaching job at Lock Haven, PA. It’s not as far, and since we travel frequently to central PA, I know our paths will cross again. Yesterday we had a little goodbye dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant with my parents and two of my sisters and their families. (I can’t host right now because we’re in the middle of painting.)

I made the Kahlua Cake, but I’ve updated it a bit. I’m bothered by the use of vegetable oil. I’m also bothered by the box cake mix, so I know this recipe will have one more update when I figure out a homemade version. But for this time (since I barely had room or time in my kitchen to whip this up because of my better-half painter) I used the boxed cake. I did use organic sour cream and farm fresh eggs, and instead of vegetable oil I used butter, the Irish kind. I melted a cup, skimmed off the solids and it made about 3/4 cup.

The temperature of the oven needs to be reduced a bit, and the baking was faster, so I would set this at 350 degrees F. and check at 40 minutes and then 45 minutes.

Kahlua Cake

1 package Devil’s Food Cake mix (Duncan Hines my preference)
1 cup Kahlua (may substitute non-name brand of a coffee liqueur or chocolate liqueur)
3/4-1 cup butter melted, solids removed (clarified, let cool a little)
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (mini-morsels work best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt or tube pan.

Mix all ingredients except chips together and beat 2-3 minutes.

Add chocolate chips and beat 1 minute.

Pour into a greased and floured Bundt or tube pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. It’s okay to undercook — better moist. If toothpick inserted has a few crumbs but not liquid, cake is ready.

Before serving (after cooled) sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

I’ve also drizzled melted chocolate over top and garnished with strawberries in the center hole and dipped strawberries around the side of the cake. Presentation is important — but the taste is even better. This cake is moist, rich, chocolate-y and unbelievably good.

I recently made this for my brother-in-law’s 40th birthday. He personally requested it with a certain frosting with Courvoisier Cognac. I ended up making the large cake for the whole party, so it was a doubled and tripled double sheet cake and then a small football cake on top.

It was delicious and beautiful, but I don’t remember all I did!