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Kane’s Cuisine: Chocolate cake so MOIST

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – Trigger warning: I am going to use the word “moist” as often as possible in this article, because I know it tends to bother people. Yes, I’m a troll. 

Screenshot/DreamWorks Trolls 

Far be it from me to ever intentionally make something that’s vegan/gluten-free/low-carb/low-sugar/low-fat/keto/paleo/plant-based, but as it happens, this cake is dairy-free. Veritable proof that you don’t need cows’ milk to create something as dewy; as MOISTure-laden; as downright dank as the chocolate cake pictured here.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Speaking of the photos, you may have noticed the cake’s layers aren’t separated by the chocolate buttercream that decorates its exterior, and this is because I simply forgot to ice the top of the first layer when making the crumb coat. Look at me, copping to my baking mistakes like Julia Child (who once famously proclaimed, “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?” Words to live by.)

Author’s note: I used unsweetened almond milk by a brand called MALK, which sent me some product to try gratis, and it worked as well in my coffee as it did in this recipe. To be clear, this column is still not sponsored, but we’re one step closer thanks to your loyal readership. (Le Creuset, my DMs remain – and I can’t stress this enough – open.)

Before you begin to think I’ve become a shill for Big Milk (or MALK, as it were), I have another tip for helping to ensure you have the moistest cake imaginable, one that has nothing to do with your ingredients:

The baking times suggested below worked in my oven, yielding the moist layers of chocolate deliciousness pictured here, but each oven is unique. So, when you suspect your cake may have reached peak moistness, take it out and allow it to rest for five minutes (during which time it will continue cooking. Or do I mean baking?) and then test for doneness with a toothpick. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Let’s get started. 

Start by making the chocolate buttercream icing:

  1. In a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer (not sponsored, unfortunately), cream together one cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1.5 cups softened unsalted butter. Start by stirring until they’re combined so as to avoid covering your entire kitchen with a layer of chocolate powder, and then mix on medium-high for 2-3 minutes
  2. Slowly add 5 cups confectioner’s sugar and a half cup of milk, alternating between each as you mix on medium-high (you don’t have to use unsweetened almond MALK, unless you want the identical cake pictured here)
  3. Add two teaspoons vanilla extract and a teaspoon espresso powder, mixing until well combined and smooth

Now it’s time for that m-m-m-moist chocolate cake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350º F and grease two circular 9” cake pans
  2. In a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer, stir together two cups cake flour (all-purpose flour works, too), two cups white granulated sugar, ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, two teaspoons baking powder, 1½ teaspoons baking soda, one teaspoon kosher salt, and 1½ teaspoons espresso powder
  3. Add one cup milk (MALK), ½ cup vegetable oil, two large eggs, and two teaspoons vanilla extract, mixing on medium (but, again, stirring first to avoid making a mess) 
  4. Boil one cup water and add to the mixture, mixing until combined
  5. Distribute batter between the pans, bake for 30 minutes, and when the cakes are done, allow them to cool completely (seriously, they need to be room temp before you can do the next step, so be patient.)

Ice the cakes: 

  1. You’ll start by making what’s called a crumb coat, which you might think of as pre-icing. The idea is to smear the buttercream over the top of the bottom layer (the step I forgot to do), and then stack the cakes, using a spatula (ideally an offset spatula) to coat them in what will be an uneven layer of icing. You will find it very difficult – impossible, in fact – to coat the entire cake, but this is not your goal. She’s gonna look a mess, but that’s the point. 
  2. Cover your buttercream icing with plastic wrap and refrigerate your ugly cake for at least an hour or two (or overnight). Then, ice it again and you’ll find it’s exponentially easier this time around. She cleans up nice. Decorate with sprinkles, fresh fruit, whatever you have on hand.
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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: My easiest recipe (so far)

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – The toast pictured here was made with a homemade baguette. Yours doesn’t have to be, and there was no reason for me to flex like that because the point of today’s column is to demonstrate how a few easy steps can elevate the mundane into something extraordinary. 

This really is so easy. Low effort, high reward. A perfectly serviceable appetizer to serve guests at a dinner party and an equally satisfying lunch on the go. Plus, learning to make your own avocado toast will save you enough money to afford an undesirable home in the Valley in about 729 years. 

Plus, it’s officially spooky season. IYKYK. 

Using Props Properly: Christina Milian Explains The Toast | THE ROCKY HORROR  PICTURE SHOW - YouTube

The key ingredient, apart from the toast – obviously – is ricotta. From there, you can go sweet or savory. Fruit, fish, mushrooms…the world is your oyster.  

  1. Head a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium and toast a slice or two of bread (store-bought is fine. No, really.) 
  2. Spread ricotta over your toast. You can whip it with a whisk before you spread it. Or don’t. Just make sure it’s full-fat. 

Be creative with your toppings. Pictured here is prosciutto, capers, freshdill, and flakysalt. On other piece: sliced cherry tomatoes, chives, and honey.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

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Kane’s Cuisine: Amatriciana, one of the four pastas of Rome

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – The head cold or upper respiratory infection or whatever it is that I’m suffering from has worsened over the last 24 hours and I feel like complete garbage. So, what have I turned to for comfort on this weekend afternoon? 

That’s right, NyQuil chicken

But afterwards, a bowl of warm noodles (followed by a bowl of cold ice cream) all while re-watching Dance Moms. Look, if you can’t handle me at my worst, that is completely understandable because I am a monster. 

Today, we’re making one of the four pastas of Rome, amatriciana. I made some modifications that Italians might not approve of, but I don’t care. Oh, you learned everything there is to know about the Italian culinary arts from your study abroad? I don’t think so. 

“When I was in Lazio, our Pecorino Romano was crafted by local cheesemakers who raised sheep on the hillside, playing Giuseppe Verdi’s operas for at least four hours per day. These farmers, who were all named Salvatore, would sooner have eaten their own shoes than tasted an amatriciana prepared with canned tomatoes. Calling what they serve here in America ‘pasta’ is an insult. And don’t even get me STARTED on how much better the coffee is in Italy…”
  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil 
  2. In a large skillet or fry pan with a couple tablespoons olive oil, cook 4 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into ½ – inch cubes, on medium-low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally 
  3. Increase the heat slightly and add a sliced onion and cook for about 5-8 minutes. Add two teaspoons red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds to one minute
  4. Add a 28-ounce can of tomatoes (crushed, or whole and then crushed by hand or with a wooden spoon). Add a dash of fish sauce and season to taste with salt. Cook for about 20 minutes and set aside
  5. In your pot of boiling water, cook a 12-ounce box of pasta – whatever kind you like –until a few minutes before al dente (refer to package directions for cook times). Reserve one cup pasta water, strain the noodles and set aside 
  6. Add the pasta and half the reserved pasta water to your pan with the sauce. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring to make sure the noodles are evenly coated and the sauce is thickened 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Optional but encouraged: Season with flaky salt, black pepper, grated raw garlic, more red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and garnish with basil 

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: potato salad doesn’t have to be boring

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Is anyone ever that jazzed about potato salad? Always the side dish but never the bride, it’s somehow simultaneously the most omnipresent but least memorable food brought to a barbecue or potluck situation. Friends, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. 

To make my point, I should have done just the potato salad and not distracted you with the fried chicken pictured therewith. If you would like to make the fried chicken, I used the same recipe from my August 14 column

What makes this potato salad so special? Everything. It’s so much more than mayonnaise and boiled spuds. It’s got tangy citrus, salty umami-rich anchovies, fresh dill. Your German immigrant ancestors could never. Sorry. 

Oh, another thing: For those of us who are not infants and still have use of our teeth, I do not understand the appeal of any food that doesn’t have some texture. Another issue I have with other potato salads but not this one, which has a delightful crunch.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Bring this to a potluck and it will be gone faster than the Queen’s spirit traveled to Trisha Paytas’s baby. I need to get off Twitter because it’s rotting my brain. Also, when looking up the spelling of Paytas’s name, I discovered she named the baby Malibu Barbie. Don’t really have further comment on that matter but I thought you should know, too. 

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  1. Boil two pounds baby potatoes in three quarts of water with one cup of salt cup (yes, you read that right) until they can be easily pierced with a fork, or about eight to ten minutes. Strain out and discard the water 
  2. Smash and peel a few garlic cloves, adding a pinch of salt as you mash them into a paste. Chop a few anchovy filets and mash them into a paste, too. Combine your pastes and mash them together until their color and texture is uniform
  3. Add paste to a large bowl with a third cup mayonnaise, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon black pepper, whisking to combine. Continue whisking as you slowly add two tablespoons olive oil and the juice from one lemon. Season with salt
  4. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them lightly into a cutting board with your palm so they split open but aren’t totally mashed (does that make sense?) Add them to the dressing mixture, tossing evenly to coat
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Add six to eight thinly sliced radishes, a few scallions, or chives, radish and sunflower microgreens, and an ungodly amount of fresh dill. Some of the ingredients in this step are optional. The dill is not. Season again with salt and black pepper

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