Sunday, December 27, 2009

Black Forest Cherry Cake

I have always loved chocolate cake! I visited Germany many years ago. On a cold rainy afternoon a friend and myself visited a coffee shop and I will never forget the wonderful smell and taste of the coffee and delicious black forest cherry cake we enjoyed that specific afternoon!

Photo by alex-s

For months I looked for a black forest cherry cake recipe and found one that I liked but I was never a 100% satisfied with the chocolate cake. A few months back I found a chocolate cake recipe in the Barefoot Contessa's "At Home" recipe book. It is the best chocolate cake I have ever tasted! She said that Michael Grimm from Bridgehampton Florist made her this wonderful chocolate cake. Apparently his grandfather used to have a milk route in Pennsylvania Dutch country and his grandmohter baked this chocolate cake for him to deliver to customers with their milk. She says the secret to the chocolatey taste is a cup of hot coffee in the is very moist and I just love this heavenly chocolate cake!!

I decided to modify this chocolate cake recipe by adding dark sweet cherries and cream and turn it into a black forest cherry cake recipe!! Enjoy!!


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
one 340g (12 oz) bag of frozen dark sweet cherries
2 cups heavy cream, lightly whipped
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate for thin curls
chocolate frosting (I use Betty Crocker ready made rich and creamy chocolate frosting)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8 X 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans. Thaw the bag of dark sweet cherries.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Add the dark sweet cherries and spread evenly on the frosting (keep 5 or 6 cherries for decorating the cake). Spread some lightly whipped heavy cream on top of the dark sweet cherries. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Spread some lightly whipped heavy cream on top of the frosting. Use a potato peeler to shave off thin curls of the semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkle on the top of the cake and top with the 5 or 6 dark sweet cherries.

Chocolate frosting:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut (don't use chocolate chips because they contain stabilizers).
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scrapping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Black Forest Cherry Cake....what a joy of life!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Natural anti-aging and health remedies!

Lemons and extra virgin olive oil!

Fifteen years ago my husband and I visited a family friend and he told us that he did research on the health benefits of lemons and that he was using it on a regular daily basis because it is so healthy. I went to the store a few days later and bought some lemons. My husband and I would cut it into wedges and squeeze the lemon juice all over our food. Ever since that day that we visited our family friend I had an interest in lemons. I have done a lot of research over the years on lemons and have seen and experienced the health benefits thereof.

Lemons have cleansing properties for your digestive system and resolves constipation. Lemon juice mixed with water and some honey first thing in the morning is a wonderful remedy to clean your body and therefore has a positive effect on the way your skin looks. To prevent constipation lemon juice can be mixed with a little warm water. It is rich in vitamin C and is a fantastic alkaline that stabilizes the acid levels in your body.

Lemons stimulate your metabolism and is rich in potassium which in turn is great for your heart. Lemon juice cleanses your blood and helps with acne as well as to control a fatty skin. Lemon juice is diuretic and gives relief in bladder and kidney disorders.

Lemon juice is wonderful to quench thirst when mixed with water.

Olive oil is a fantastic anti-cholesterol remedy and protects against heart disease because it controls the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by raising the HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The health effects of olive oil are due to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of anti-oxidative substances. Spanish researchers suggest that by including olive oil in your diet it will help with the prevention of colon cancer.

If you use olive oil on a regular basis it has anti-aging benefits. I started making a Greek salad dressing with olive oil, lemons and honey a few years back and have seen a remarkable change in the way my skin looks. My skin has improved remarkably! All of us want to be healthy and look our best, don't we? Start to use extra virgin olive oil, lemons and honey.

Invest in buying Extra virgin olive oil because it comprises the oil from the first pressing of the olives.
Virgin olive oil
is of the second pressing.
Pure olive oil
undergoes some processing such as filtering and refining.
Extra light olive oil
undergoes considerable processing and retains only a mild olive flavor.

Greek salad dressing:
1/4 to 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
salt and pepper

Squeeze the lemon juice into a cup and add the olive oil and honey. Season with a little salt and pepper, if wished. Whisk the ingredients together just before the salad is served and pour over the salad and toss the salad.

I have found to start living a more healthy life style is to take it one little step at a time. Start with buying some lemons and squeezing a little bit of lemon juice into water and drink it in the morning and throughout the day. When you have the habit of doing that you can start with the salad dressing using extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and honey. I never buy salad dressings anymore because I use above mentioned salad dressing in all my salads....for some variation I sometimes add a little balsamic vinegar to my salad dressing.

To see anti-aging benefits you have to use it on a regular basis! Good luck and enjoy!

Photo by Avis Gaius

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Succulent Café.....a wonderful "Third Place!!"

"Succulent café" in Northcliff, Johannesburg, South Africa

I was so impressed with "Succulent Café" as a successful "third place" that I decided to put more pictures on my blog to inspire you to visit these "third places" and enjoy life! As I mentioned before, a "third place" is an informal gathering place where people can meet, put aside the concerns of home and work, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and some lively conversations.

I love "third places" because it helps me to recharge my batteries, whether it's to meet with a special friend, share my hearts desires or any concerns I have or to have a special time with my husband where it's just the two of us having a cup of coffee and catching up on the things in life or just to let my teeth sink into a beautiful decorative cup cake, a piece of chocolate cake or a lovely lunch! We all need these times and what I love about these places is that it is inexpensive. It doesn't cost a lot for a cup of tea or coffee and a delicious slice of chocolate cake!

These beautiful photographs above taken at Succulent café say it all!! I hope you are inspired by it....whether it is to visit a "third place", bake some cup cakes and decorate it or to start your own "third place!!!"

For more information on Succulent café:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Third places" - coffee shops, tea shops, cafés

Café Delicieux - Cape Town, South Africa

What a joy of life! - A "third place" - coffee shops, tea shops, cafés, etc.

One of the biggest treats in life that absolutely feeds my soul is a "third place"!

What is a "third place?"

The "third place" is a setting beyond home and work (the "first" and "second" places respectively) in which people relax in good company and do so on a regular basis - "Celebrating the Third Place"-Ray Oldenburg 2001, p.2

I did a dissertation project for my finals for my BA (Hons) in Interior Design at London Metropolitan University on "The third place" and "Restoring the third place to the American social fabric." Ray Oldenburg wrote in his book "Celebrating the Third Place" that ever since World War II Americans have been growing further apart from one another. Lifestyles have become increasingly privatized and competitive and residential areas increasingly devoid of communal places. There has been a sharp decline in the number of third places in the United States. I can not agree more! As an interior designer I realize that there is a great need for elegant, warm, cozy "third places" in the United States. Town planners, architects, engineers and interior designers should be giving people what they instinctively like and love and improve the quality of their lives!

"Third Places" or "Great Good Places" are informal public gathering places where people can gather, put aside the concerns of home and work, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and some lively conversations. "Third Places" usually occur in cafés, pubs, coffee shops, bookstores, exercise clubs, hair salons, bistros, etc. They are homes away from homes where people drink in the joys of blissful public congregation.

"Third Places" should encourage association, relaxation and community, lounging, loitering and hanging out. I spoke to a dear friend of mine today in South Africa and she told me about Café Delicieux which is situated in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. She said that the warm, calm and relaxed atmosphere is perfect for breakfasts, lunches and high teas. They use the freshest ingredients and serve home made cakes. They offer catering and picnic hampers as well. On my next visit to Cape Town I will definitely visit Café Delicieux because this sounds and looks (by judging the above photograph) like a great "Third Place"!

Café Delicieux can be contacted at:

Succulent Café - Northcliff, Johannesburg, South Africa - Photo by Karla Janse van Vuuren

A few days ago I read in a local newspaper of South Africa on the internet about another great "Third Place" called Succulent Café in Northcliff, Johannesburg. I love the tea cup chandelier (photo above), it is unique and is situated above a table with mosaic artwork made of broken plates. Displayed on this table are beautiful decorated cookies, small carrot cakes, lemon meringue tarts etc.

They serve breakfasts and lunches as well and can be contacted at:

I enjoy tea and coffee at home every day and make it a very special occasion for myself. It really does not take a lot to make a tea or coffee break special at home. We need to treat ourselves! I have a tray in the kitchen with a lace doily......I have a tea pot, milk jar, sugar bowl and tea cup on it. Nothing matches and it does not matter! I use it on a daily basis and it just makes that difference! Whether you have tea or coffee at home....please make it special for yourself. Treat yourself and enjoy the moment!

My daily tea tray at home!

More on the benefits of tea, having a coffee and tea break and "third places" in the near future on this blog!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Greek salad

This delicious Greek salad can be served with any dish. I love Mediterranean food and research has shown that the closer people follow a Mediterranean diet the less likely they are to die of a heart disease or cancer. I will share the benefits of a Mediterranean diet at a later stage. Extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice have incredible health benefits, as well as anti-aging benefits which I will share on my blog soon.

I use this easy, basic salad dressing in almost all my salads and it is so healthy. Just think about preservatives in this salad dressing! Enjoy!

8 to 10 fresh green romaine lettuce leaves
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1/4 cup red onion sliced
6 to 8 Greek kalamata olives
1/4 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese
dried or fresh oregano

Salad dressing:
1/4 to 1/2 lemon
1/2 to 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
salt and pepper

Break the lettuce leaves into pieces. Slice the tomatoes and add to the leaves. Slice the cucumber and red onion and add to the salad. Add the olives and feta cheese to the salad. Garnish with the oregano.

Dressing: Squeeze the lemon juice into a cup and add the olive oil and honey. Season with a little salt and pepper, if wished. Whisk the ingredients together just before the salad is served and pour over the salad and toss the salad.

Photo by Wolfgang Staudt


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