Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes

Mmmm. . . . chocolate!  I’m so happy we got to do a nice deep chocolate cake this week.

I’ve tried making molten chocolate cake before but I always seem to have trouble getting a nice gooey middle without the cake itself being underdone.  Rose has solved this problem by using chocolate ganache in the center so that it will stay liquid.  This seems like a pretty basic idea and I’m just wondering why in the world no one else has ever done this.  Kudos to Rose for coming up with a brilliant idea.

The ganache needs to be made a few hours ahead of time so that it can hold the shape of a ball.  Now I will be honest here — I read through the instructions and the whole saran wrap in an egg carton thing just sounded like a whole lot of work and mess to me.  Therefore, I decided to do this step my way which I think worked just fine.  I made the ganache by heating the cream and pouring it over the chopped chocolate.  Then I put the bowl of ganache into the fridge overnight.   The next day when I was ready to make the cakes, I scooped the cold ganache from the bowl using a small scoop.

The cake batter  is made by melting chocolate, cocoa and butter. Then eggs and creme are mixed into the chocolate.  The last step is to make a meringue from egg whites and sugar, which is also folded into the chocolate.

I was really wishing I had some small brioche pans or other decorative shaped pan.  Since I did not, I used a muffin pan.  The cups are filled three-fourths full and a ganache ball placed in the center.  The instructions say specifically not to push the ball down into the batter.  I baked the cakes for about 12 minutes and let them cool in the pan for about half an hour.  The cakes were very pretty and puffed up when I first took them out of the oven but after cooling, they fell.  The ganache seemed to be coming out of the tops of my cakes which I guess then becomes the bottom so I guess that’s okay.

I served the cakes with a little sweetened whipped cream and they were very well received.  I thought that it was a nice cake texture and really loved the soft ganache inside.

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Perfected Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes

This project was full of frustrations.  Not only did I burn myself on the caramel which resulted in a trip to the ER and blisters on my thumb and index finger, but after all that, the caramel is just too solid to work in the way it indicates it should in this recipe.   In the end though, I think I ended up with a pretty nice dessert.

The first step in this recipe is to make Creme Anglaise.  This sauce went together quite easily and I was actually thinking the cakes were  going to be a breeze to make.  The sauce is made by scalding cream and milk and then pouring it over eggs and sugar with a touch of nutmeg.  Then you pour the sauce over cubed brioche which I had made a few days earlier (see my previous post).  The brioche is refrigerated anywhere from 2 hours to 12 hours.

The next step is making the caramel.  Now I have made caramel quite a few times and I feel pretty comfortable with the process.  However, this caramel seemed to harden up almost immediately.  I put it in the measuring cup and then poured it into my ramekins.  The first four were just fine but by the time I got to 5 and 6, the caramel was solid before it spread out on the bottom of the ramekin.  No problem I thought to myself, I’ll just pop it in the microwave since Rose suggested doing that while still in the measuring cup.  When I took it out of the microwave it was all bubbly and thick but hadn’t spread out.  Now this was the point that I did something very very stupid and I can’t even tell you why.  But I poked my finger into the caramel to spread it out on the bottom of the ramekin and I don’t think I need to say that the caramel was VERY hot!  It’s one thing to accidentally spill hot caramel on you which results in a burn, but I can not believe that I actually put my finger right into the boiling hot caramel.    Well, my baking was done for that night.

So tonight I figured I’d whip this dessert together.  Hubby helped me by coring the pineapple with the corer we bought this summer.  I have to put a plug in for this nifty little gadget since I wasn’t sure it was going to be worth it to buy it.  But we have really used this a lot and it saves so much work when you eat pineapple.   Since I decided to go ahead and core the pineapple first, I had to alter the instructions just a bit.  I made the syrup and then just put the slices in to roast.  I was having trouble with the thermometer in such a small amount of liquid so I just used my own judgment on when it was ready.  My ramekins were the perfect size to put the pineapple rings in and I thought it would be pretty just to leave them whole so that is what I did.

The next step is to drain any creme anglaise not absorbed by the brioche.  Mine didn’t seem to have any extra which may have been due to the fact that it soaked an extra day.  All I know is there wasn’t any leftover to use as garnish.  The soaked brioche is spooned into the ramekins and baked in a water bath.

I baked the cakes for about 35 minutes, when the internal temperature was 160 degrees.  I let them cool about 5 minutes and then unmolded them onto a plate.  The caramel was still hard and was just a disk that was stuck in the bottom of the ramekin.  My caramel must not have been dark enough because it looked anemic when I removed it and put it on top of the pineapple cake.  I was trying to figure out whether to just throw it out altogether when I decided that I could take the torch to the caramel to brown it up a bit.  So that is what we did and tried it with the disk on the top of the pineapple as well as to the side.  Still, the caramel itself really didn’t taste that great and was rock hard.  After eating our little cakes and quite liking the taste of them without the caramel, we had an idea.  Why not forget the caramel altogether and just put a little turbino sugar on top of the pineapple and caramelize the sugar.  So that is what we did and I think out of the three options, the last one is the best.

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Apple Caramel Charlotte

Baking the Apple Caramel Charlotte was unlike anything I have ever baked before and will not likely do again soon.  I actually baked the Charlotte a week ago because I had made several baking commitments for this weekend and knew that something as involved as this Charlotte was just not going to work.  Even so, I really underestimated how much time this recipe would take and it was not what I needed to start off a very busy week.

The first step of this recipe was to make the biscuit or crust.  Mixing the batter was definitely the easiest part.  The eggs and sugar are mixed in the Kitchenaid.  Then you beat the egg whites into a meringue and fold it into the batter.

It is baked in a half-sheet pan until golden brown and then removed from the pan at once.  Then comes the more time consuming part: after the cake has cooled, you must cut the cake into an 8″ round circle and 4 strips that measure 8-1/4″x2-1/’.

The strips are stacked and layered with apricot preserves.  Then you wrap it and freeze it.

It was late so I decided to poach the apples the next day when I did the rest of the baking.  I couldn’t find any tart apples other than Granny Smith so that is what I used.  These were put into a pan just large enough to hold the apples in a single layer.  They are heated in sugar water with a little lemon juice, calvados and a vanilla bean.

After the apples were poached, I completed the crust.  I removed the strips from the freezer and cut them into 3/8″ slices.   Then I lined the mold with the crust slices.

Next came the Caramel Bavarian Cream Filling which has two main components: the apple caramel custard and meringue.  As I began to make the apple caramel custard, Hubby asked if he could use a burner on the stove.  I figured no big deal, all I need is a burner for the caramel.  Five minutes later, as I had pans heating on three burners, we decided that trying to share the stove may not be a good idea.   You must heat some poaching liquid along with gelatin in one pan.  Another pan has egg yolks in it and the third pan is needed to make caramel.  After the caramel is ready, you add the poaching liquid/gelatin to it, and then you combine the yolks.  This whole mixture must then be brought to the boiling point and put through a strainer to chill.  As I went to make the caramel I made a very careless mistake by confusing the amounts for the water and the sugar which meant I had far too much water added with the sugar and after heating and heating, it was just never going to turn into caramel.  All the while, the poaching liquid was boiling on the back burner.  So I had to redo the caramel and I was back on track.

Component two for the filling is an Italian Meringue made by making a simple syrup of sugar and water and then combining it with egg whites that have been beaten to stiff peaks.

Finally, after you have the custard and the meringue made, you must combine them both with some cream and Calvados. This would seem pretty straightforward but this part really gave me grief.  This was because Rose has you cool the apple caramel custard in an ice water bath and you are to get it to a point you can drop it off a spoon and it will lightly mound.  Well, my custard was already almost to a gelatinous consistency before trying to cool it down and I could see that there was no way it was going to drop off a spoon and mound.  (You can see the horrible consistency in the picture.)  I proceeded to have a small meltdown because I had already spent so much time on this dessert and now it appeared I wasn’t going to be able to complete the next step. I was ready to quit and be done with this whole recipe but Hubby stepped in with his cool analytical mind and figured out how to salvage things.  We decided that I must have lost some of the liquid when I was having trouble with the caramel and had the poaching liquid boiling for an extended period of time on the back burner.  So Hubby reheated the custard mixture and added some liquid.  It seemed to be working so I continued on.  Cooling this mixture down just doesn’t seem to make sense to me and and as we cooled it down it again started turning gelatinous so I am still questioning what this step is all about but whatever. We did manage to get everything combined and the completed Bavarian Cream Filling promptly went into the crust.  

Next came the slicing of the apples and then arranging them into a rose.  Normally this would be my favorite part but by this point I just wanted the thing done.

The final step is to make a glaze that is brushed over the top of the apples.  The Charlotte then goes into the refrigerator overnight.  Once its in the fridge, you can begin the major cleanup involved after dirtying so many dishes and pans.

The next night we had a friend over for dinner.  It was nice that the dessert could just be pulled from the fridge and be ready to go at that point.  The appearance of the dessert is really quite spectacular.  The taste was good but not the wow that I anticipated.  I admit that some of this may be because I was still holding a small grudge over how long this took to make.  Hubby liked it a lot but agreed it was a lot of work to make.  My friend enjoyed it also but she observed that while the crust of this dessert is very beautiful, flavor wise it doesn’t really seem to complement the apples and custard.  She said it was like it should go with some other dessert, and I agree.

So, there you have it.  I would not totally rule out ever making it again and perhaps it would go a little smoother the second time around. But at the same time, it was not so amazing of a dessert that I felt like it warranted the work involved.

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Lemon Canadian Crown

The last few weeks have been a bit crazy for me and as a result I haven’t been baking.  As a friend once told me, “Baking is my happy place,” which really is true for me.  I have missed the whirr of my KitchenAid and the aroma of sweet smells whafting from my oven.

Last week’s Heavenly Cake baking assignment was the Lemon Canadian Crown.  Fortunately for me, I baked this cake for my husband’s birthday in September.  Out of all the cakes in Rose’s book, Hubby chose this one for his special day.  Since we are not allowed to post about cakes before they have been assigned, I did not post about it at the time.  I figured I would end up making it again when the rest of the group baked it, but with everything going on I wasn’t able to. This cake definitely lived up to its expectations.

The frozen dessert needs to be made at least 5 hours ahead so it can firm up before eating.  It calls for ladyfingers which can be store bought or homemade.  Generally I would have leaped into making the ladyfingers but I didn’t have time so I went with store-bought. You cut the bottoms off and of the ladyfingers and line the pan with them.  It took two packages for this.

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Free Choice – Torta De Las Tres Leches

This week was free choice and I had such a hard time deciding what to make. Finally I enlisted the help of my husband and we decided on the Tres Leches Cake. I’ve never made one before and so I thought this would be fun.

The cake is really pretty easy to make. You begin by mixing eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl and setting the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until it is warm to the touch. Then you immediately transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. The mixture should quadruple in volume. You add the flour and that is it for the batter.

Now I made a little mistake at this point. I was halving the recipe and so I decided to use a 6-inch pan. But I wasn’t paying attention that we were to bake all the batter in one pan. I am so used to always using two cake pans per recipe that I pulled out two 6-inch cake pans and divided the batter between the two. Oops!

The cakes baked up fine and I removed them from the pan immediately as instructed. In the meantime, I prepared the “leche mixture.” Nonfat milk and whole milk are boiled until reduced by half. Then you add sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream, along with a little sugar.

The top crust of the cake is cut off, leaving a small mound on top. You pour the “leche mixture” onto the top of the cake and it soaks right in. Then the cake has to sit overnight in the fridge.

The next day you can frost with whipped cream and eat! Since I made two layers of cake instead of the one, I just ended up frosting them individually and gave one to a friend.

We really loved this cake. I liked how easy it was and we loved the flavor of it. We will definitely make this again.

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Gold Ingots — Plain and Fancy

I am so honored to have been chosen as featured baker last week.  I didn’t even think to explain how I decorated the cake when I posted so since there was quite a bit of interest I thought I would share what I did.  I love seeing how everyone adds their unique touches to their cakes and it gives me such inspiration.  So last week after I saw so many beautiful renditions of the cake I decided that I could not just have some plain old cake and decided to come up with something.  Of course the cake had caramel ganache so I tried to think of something that would complement the caramel.  Then I remembered that I had a can of Dulce de Leche left over from some flan I made a while back.  I put the caramel in a pastry bag and microwaved it just a touch to soften it up (make sure you take the decorating tip off) and that is what I used to pipe the design on my cake.  It really is a great little item that can be used to dress up a dessert by pooling some on a plate or drizzling it over the top.

Well, today’s baking assignment turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  I’ve secretly been dreading these little cakes for a while because I was afraid they would be just too plain for my liking (no chocolate AND no icing).  But I found this nifty little pan at Hobby Lobby and I started feeling a bit more positive about the whole thing.  This actually turned out to be the PERFECT pan for making the financiers.  Not only is it a really nice size for the cakes, but while most silicone pans are a real pain to work with because they flop around, this pan actually has a steel reinforced rim which keeps it rigid when you are putting it in and out of the oven or removing the cakes.  It is made by Davison ( and is called a Dessert Bar Pan in case anyone is interested in it.

I usually start checking the blogs on Sunday afternoon to see if I can get a little preview of what is to come and see if there is any advice that I can use in my own baking experience.  The couple of entries that I happened to see were not very complimentary of the ingots and I started to worry.  It sounded like they  really were going to be as unexciting as I had figured (or worse) and I considered not even making them.  Instead, I started hatching a plan of how to salvage the recipe (more on that later).

The recipe is pretty easy.  It requires toasting slivered almonds (I used sliced) which are then ground with sugar in the food processor.  The other ingredient that gives these cakes flavor is the beurre noisette.  I’m actually getting pretty good at making the beurre noisetts  since it’s about the third time we’ve had to make it in the last several months. Once the almonds and butter are ready, they are mixed with egg whites and Wondra flour and it mixes up in about five minutes.

Rose instructs you to put it in the fridge for about an hour and then pipe it into the pan using a pastry bag.  Since I really didn’t want to wait around an hour, I decided to just put it directly into the baking pan.  I put the batter in a measuring cup and then poured it into each cavity.  I didn’t have any problem with this and would highly recommend others to do it this way.  I was also very happy when my batter came out perfectly for my pan and I had 12 little financiers.

I popped the cake in the oven and they baked up very nicely.  I let them cool a bit and then took them out of the pans.  As I said earlier, I had worries over these little cakes, so in the meantime I had whipped together a few items to dress them up — some chocolate ganache (can never go wrong with that) and custard.  These two items came to mind because I figured the ingots were going to taste a lot like yellow cake and I decided to make some mini boston creams out of them.

So this was the point where I was very pleasantly surprised!  The ingots didn’t taste like yellow cake at all and they weren’t at all lacking in flavor.   The almond and browned butter flavors came through very nicely and made for a very tasty little cake, with a nice texture,  that I think would go well with a little fruit compote or a few berries.  I would like to try making these in my little teacake pan  as I can picture them on a dessert plate drizzled with berry coulis.

Now since I already had my custard and ganache ready, I went ahead and tried the cakes that way too.  The custard was actually a bit sweet (not from scratch) which I felt detracted from the almond flavor of the cakes.  But I really liked the chocolate paired with the almond and it added just a touch of moistness and elegance to it.

This was a great little recipe and one that I am very glad that I tried.  I am sure that I will be making these again and again.

Next week is free choice and I really can’t decide what I want to make.  There are so many recipes I am interested in that I am having a hard time narrowing it down.  So I guess you will be surprised next week.




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Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

Seems so many of the other Heavenly Cake Bakers are disappointed when we bake something chocolatey.  This is something I really cannot comprehend.  I LOVE chocolate!  In fact, one of the reasons I decided to join the Heavenly Cake Bakers was to widen my horizons and force myself to bake more things that aren’t chocolate.  But I am always very happy when the assignment involves chocolate.

This week’s assignment was the Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache.  I made sure to read through the instructions a few times before starting so I wouldn’t have any surprises.  Since the ganache needed to sit for several hours I decided to start with that.

The first step to the ganache is making the caramel.   I have three little words that I suggest everyone write in the margin of their book:  Mis en place!  I started heating the water and sugar and thought I would get everything else together while it came up to temp.  Only problem was that there wasn’t a whole lot of time and the caramel was starting to darken by the time I finished getting the food processor out, chopping the chocolate and measuring the cream.  Next time I will have everything ready before I start the caramel.

Rose instructs you to check the temperature of the caramel which turned into a bit of a challenge.  I considered skipping that step but was afraid there might be something magic about 370 degrees so I figured I had better do it to avoid any problems.   I had to tip the hot pan to get enough liquid for the thermometer and every time I checked it was only a little over 300 degrees.  As the caramel kept getting darker and darker I suddenly realized that maybe my thermometer didn’t go any higher and sure enough, that was the problem.  So I let the caramel get a bit darker and then pulled it off the heat and added the cream.  I ended up with some chunks of caramel but was able to melt them back down over the burner.  Then I added the caramel to the chocolate in the food processor.  The end result was a very lovely and tasty ganache.

The cake is baked in one 9″ cake pan and then the cake is sliced into two layers.  The ganache is used as a filling between the layers and as icing on top.

The cake was very good and the ganche, which thickened up into a fudge-like consistency, was fabulous.  I would have preferred a stronger caramel flavor as it seemed rather subtle to me, but perhaps the caramel needed to be darker.  I will make this cake again and I will probably use this ganache with some of my other recipes as well.

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Marionberry Shortcake — Takes 1 and 2

MMMM — Marionberries!  They make me think of Oregon because of course that is where they are from.  Our family lived in Oregon for 7 years and we absolutely loved it.  We loved the climate, the people, and the lifestyle.  And I loved being so close to the ocean. My vision of a perfect day is to gather the family and head to Cannon Beach.  When I mentioned that I was making Marionberry Shortcake this week, the first thing my daughter said was that she missed going to Sauvie Island.   I miss that and so much more.

Because I live in small town USA I did not think that I would be able to find any frozen Marionberries so I was absolutely thrilled when I found them at my local store.  And I have to tell you that the Marionberries are really what made this dessert fantastic.

The genoise cake was pretty strait forward to make.  You first make beurre noisette.  Then you heat your eggs over steam just until they are lukewarm.  You whip the eggs on high in the KitchenAid for about 5 minutes.  Then it is just a process of folding in the flour and the beurre noisette.

Now I ended up making my cake twice.  This was not because I made it incorrectly, but I made a very bad choice in what pan to bake it in.  First of all, I should say that I was very good and resisted buying the Nordicware Shortcake Basket pan.  I really really wanted to buy it and I even saw that the local cooking store had it available.  But right now I am trying to be really good about not spending money I don’t need to.  So, I did not buy said pan.  So I wondered what else I might use to make it feel a little special.  I decided that I could use my mini bundt pan.  Now I DID ask myself if it would be a problem to make genoise in that type of a pan.  But, I figured that if we could make a genoise cake in a rose shaped pan, I should be able to use a bundt pan.   Well  — no, it did not work.  I greased the pan well, and the cakes looked great after coming out of the oven, but when I  attempted to take them out of the pan, they were just not coming out.

So, take 2 on the cake.  Made the batter again, and this time I decided to try my little mini cocotte dishes by Le Creuset.  I greased and lined them with parchment and popped them in the oven.  They baked up very nice.  And this time, they came out of the pans very easily and looked very nice.

I brushed the cakes with the marionberry syrup and made up a little whipped cream for the top.

All I can say is YUMMM!  Every bite made me feel like I was back in Oregon.  Hubby thinks the recipe is a definite keeper –so much so that he even thinks we should buy the basket pan!  I’ll probably wait until next summer for that, but I think we may be making this again soon.

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Chocolate Feather Bed

I had mixed feelings about this recipe from beginning to end but after all was said and done, I thought this cake was excellent!

Normally I only make half of the assigned recipe but since we were having a gathering at our house on Monday night I  decided that this week I was going to make the full recipe.  Figures that I would decide to do this on the one recipe that actually requires more work to make the full recipe and I notice most bakers only made half this time (lol).  But that’s okay. . . it was actually worth the effort.

For some reason I thought that the ganache was supposed to be made two hours before the cake.  So, I dove right in and made the ganache.  I skipped the food processor directions and just heated the milk and then poured it over the chopped chocolate.  It was a bit unusual to have twice as much cream as chocolate in the ganache.  I kept wondering if this could be right clear up to the point that the soft peaks appeared while beating it and I felt very relieved.  Then it needed to go into the refrigerator and stirred every 30 minutes until it reached 65-68 degrees.

With the ganache made, I proceeded to make the cake.  To make the full recipe, you must make two separate batches of batter and bake two separate pans of cake. Each cake is cut in half so that you have four layers to stack with the ganache layered between.  The egg yolks and egg whites are each beat separately so I felt like I would never quit beating eggs and the recipe would never end.  It probably didn’t help that I ran out of cream of tartar after the first batch so I had to run to the store to get more.

Finally, both cakes were baked!  But then I realized that I was supposed to chill the cake before I assembled it.  That was a small problem since my ganache had just reached 66 degrees.  Hmm. . . . well, I decided that I was just going to plow ahead.  I proceeded to beat the ganache and it came out perfect (although it took longer than the 30 seconds it says it will take in the book).  I popped the warmest layer of cake into the freezer for about 5 minutes (the other one was at room temp) and I proceeded to assemble.
The layers were pretty fragile but with the help of a cake lifter it was all good.   I put a full cup of ganache on top of the first cake layer (because that’s what the recipe says), but by the second layer I could see that there was not going to be enough ganache to put a cup on each layer.  So then I just spread it thinly on top of each layer and it came out perfect at the end.  I wrapped the whole cake in saran wrap and put it in the fridge.

Monday night I pulled the cake out of the fridge about an hour before our gathering was to begin.  I put some chocolate curls on top and voila!

The cake definitely seemed to be a hit.  I say this not because people were raving about it, but because I think nearly every person went back for seconds.

I wasn’t sure about the texture of the cake layers right after I made them.  But when the cake sits in the fridge overnight, the layers meld right together and it is completely transformed into an AMAZING cake.  It is intensely chocolate but actually has a very light texture. I guess that’s why they call it a chocolate feather bed!

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Plum and Blueberry Upside-Down Torte

The last several weeks have been pretty crazy for me.  I’ve had lots to do at work and lots going on at home too.  I didn’t even get last week’s assignment done.  So I told myself that I absolutely had to get this week’s baking project done.  Since I’m headed out of town on Sunday afternoon (back to Mayo for a few days), and since I ended up having a short work day today (Saturday) I decided to stop on my way home from work to get what I needed and get to work baking.  I honestly hadn’t even looked through the recipe until this morning so hadn’t had much time to ponder anything about it.  But it looked pretty straight forward.

Of course I had only one choice when it came to the plums because of my lovely small town (note the sarcasm).  Anyway, I bought said plums and blueberries and headed home.  There is no picture of this recipe in the book so I was excited to see what it was going to turn out like.  The first step in this baking project is to make caramel.  This is done by heating sugar and water together until it turns a deep amber color. You must watch carefully so that you pull it off at the right time.  The caramel is then poured into the bottom of a prepared pan.  I decided to halve the recipe and use a six inch pan because I didn’t want to make a whole recipe and have it go to waste.

Next, you remove the pits from the plums and then arrange the fruit in the bottom of the pan. I had PLENTY of fruit for my six inch pan so I left some of the blueberries out.

The final step is to make the batter.  You mix the dry ingredients first and then mix with the butter.  I decided to do this by hand (literally) instead of using the food processor.   Then you add the eggs and vanilla.  The batter could not have been easier to make.  I filled the pan and I was a little worried that the pan would overflow in the oven.  After I took the picture, I decided to remove a little batter.  The cake baked up perfectly and came out of the pan quite nicely.

We were pretty busy  most of the evening and so we didn’t actually try the cake until the next day.  My hubby, my daughter and I really liked it and we definitely will make it again.  I definitely liked how easy it was to make.   My husband liked that it wasn’t too sweet  yet  it was still sweet enough for the rest of us.  It was just a nice balance of flavors.

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