Saturday, April 2, 2011

March 26th Communal Dinner -- Next Event April 9th!

view from the deck
It was a very grand evening starting with a view to die for...

... where guests sipped bubbles and  crunched on crostini topped with olive and anchovy tapenade...

... before settling into a three dish starter at two beautifully set tables in the dining room. I'm a particular fan of the artwork.

Starter included slippery peppers topped with Burratta and basil chiffonade, stuffed grape leaves with greek yogurt studded with cucumber and scented with honey and cinnamon and cannelini hummus with pita chips.

slipper peppers with Burratta and basil chiffonade

grape leaves stuffed with rice

Entrees followed and we celebrated a guest's birthday with a double chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting that was mind-blowingly good or at least everyone said so...

I couldn't have managed any of it without my amazing and supportive team:  Ron Pascual, fabulous sous chef; Lisa van Eyssen and Stacie Isabella Turk, extraordinary documentarian and photographer; Tami Orloff, hostess and owner of the venue; Karin Rogers, front of the house and master of ceremonies.  And of course, my guests who make all the effort worthwhile.  As promised to Maria Cozzi... chocolate layer cake recipe follows.

Best Chocolate Layer Cake:


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups hot coffee (use water if you do not want coffee flavor in your cake)


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted (I kept it white for the party so omit unless you want chocolate frosting)
  • 1/2 cup cooled coffee (ditto)
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.
Frosting: In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and mix. Add the coffee and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix until well blended and fluffy. To frost the cake, use a spatula to cover 2 of the cake layers with frosting. Stack them together. Flip the third cake layer over and rest it on the top to create a very flat top for the cake. Frost on the sides and top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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