|My boyfriend, me, my mom and my bother (my sister hadn't gotten there yet)|
|brother, me and my sister in mannequin pose (don't ask)|
I come from a close knit family of weirdos. When you are the child of a white Utah Mormon (dad) and a black Southern belle (mom) things are pretty weird from the get-go. Halfies (mulattoes) weren't really a common thing when I was a kid and oddly instead of feeling weird about it all three of us (brother, sister and me) all decided to declare ourselves special and sort of bond together in like a secret club. Add to that about 10 years of homeschooling and there you go, close knit gaggle of weirdos.
Needless to say, my life has been pretty non-traditional. I've spent a lot of time trying to find a way of expressing the strange mutt culture I consider to be my "roots". Never is this feeling so evident as when a holiday rolls around. For the first wee years of my life we did everything my Dad's way; put the tree up December 1st, trimmed every corner of the house with either Santa Claus or baby Jesus and spent every hour (up to and including the big day) in church. Every Christmas Eve we ate tuna sandwiches and hot chocolate for diner (I never quite knew why) and we'd leave cookies out for Santa because that's what he did when he was a kid. Every old fashioned American tradition he was totally in to, and every one we went along with it cause hey, it's dad.
Somewhere around when I was 14 my parents divorced, we stopped going to church ( and being mormons) and the holiday celebrations we were used to started to feel sort of out dated. The following years in the Mom headed household were basically as free spirited and random as you can get which I think matched up pretty well with our new weirdo clubhouse.We changed our party year to year to suit our mood; homemade pizza with Perrier and A Christmas Story, Potato soup and cornbread muffins and Charlie Brown, Ice Cream Sundays with Honey Baked Ham and Andy Griffith. The only thing that stayed the same was that there was always a Christmas tree and we've always managed to see each other.
This year I was the party planner and usually when I plan parties I like to borrow traditions from other cultures. And so, keeping with our theme of "non-traditional" our menu was:
- Chili with Japaleno Cheddar snowman biscuits
- non alcoholic bubbly (hey it was my mom's house)
- and for dessert Andes Mint Chocolate Cake
- White Christmas, muted while we sang all the songs instead
This year's borrowed tradition:
The Chili and biscuits I made were a smitten kitchen recipe I'd tried out before that just rocked my socks off (which is exactly the kind of recipe you should bring out for a party). The only change I made at all was to cut the biscuits out with cookie cutters. Why? Well... I don't have biscuit cutters yet... *cough*
The cake however was a total gamble. I got it in my head a few weeks ago that I wanted to make a chocolate mint cake for Christmas, I think because we always get Andes in our stockings and I had a flavor flashback. Anyway I searched around epicurious and found a recipe for a mint chocolate cake that got rave reviews even though the recipe oddly had no eggs, and nobody had actually made the cake the way the recipe was written ( in the end I didn't either). This cake despite my fears was ORGASMIC and though it is probably the ugliest thing you will ever bake up. It was a HIT with my brother who is one of those people who would never lie to spare my feelings (believe me, when I make something terrible he always lets me know) and I'm totally making this again. Just as soon as I buy a bigger pair of pants.
Andes Mint Chocolate Cake
adapted from Bon Appétit | March 1996
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup corn oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) mint-flavored chocolate chips or Andes candy bits for baking
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 tablespoons (about) milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup (about 6 ounces) mint-flavored chocolate chips or Andes baking chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. I lined the bottom of my cake pans with parchment paper and lubed it up with cooking spray and was sooo glad I did. These cakes are crazy delicate when they're warm and I'm pretty sure if the parchment wasn't there I would have lost have the cake to sticking.
Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. In a large bowl whisk together 2 cups cold water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Gradually stir in the corn oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide cake batter between your three pans.* Sprinkle 1/2 cup mint-flavored chocolate chips over cake batter in each pan.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean (being careful to avoid the melted chocolate chip pockets since those will pretty much say wet and gooey.), about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely. They will look really ugly and they won't rise very much but that's okay
Combine powdered sugar, cocoa powder, unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons milk, peppermint extract and vanilla extract in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat frosting until smooth. Thin with more milk by tablespoonfuls, if necessary.
Place 1 cake layer, chocolate-chip side up, on platter. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Top with second cake layer, chocolate-chip side up. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Top with remaining cake layer, chocolate-chip side down. Spread remaining frosting over sides and top of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; let stand at room temperature.)
* Three nine inch cake pans wouldn't really fit in my oven so I left one pan out while I baked the first two, and just slide that last one in the bake once the others were done. I know this sounds fishy but it didn't do any damage since it was only a 25 minute wait.