Monday, September 19, 2011

Cause for Celebration

Most of the time, I live a fairly quiet life, but this week we had cause for celebration and a little bit of excitement.  For starters, we celebrated my mother's birthday. She still likes to putter around in her garden but these days, she leaves the baking to me.  When asked what she wanted for her birthday dinner, she said, "What I always want.  Hash browns!"

Naturally, she couldn't have a birthday without a cake, so I baked one of our favorites.  It's a Better Homes and Gardens recipe that cannot be beat.  Few ingredients, made in the blender(!), and it's absolutely delicious.  I admit that I have tried to improve on the recipe, but sometimes when a recipe works it's just exactly right the way it is.  The frosting is equally easy, based on whipped cream, not overly sweet, and complements the nutty cake.  Pecans can be substituted for the walnuts.  I have made it both ways and they both come out great.

Horizontally sliced layer.
It's worth noting that the batter is very thin, as are the layers.  They are sliced horizontally to make four layers.  If you don't slice perfectly, don't worry about it.  No one will notice because it all blends so nicely in the end.

I usually buy a pint of whipped cream so I'll have a little extra cream to pipe on as decoration, but other than that, I follow the recipe.  If you want some plain cream for decorating, whip that first and set it aside so you don't have to wash the beaters. I usually add 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the decorating cream when it begins to thicken.

The instructions recommend starting with a chilled bowl and chilled beaters.  If you forget to do that and your mocha frosting is a little bit too soft to work with, just pop it in the fridge for a half hour or so until it chills enough to handle nicely.

Oh, and there was one other little thing to celebrate this week.  I owe mammoth thanks to all of you who bought THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE!  Thank you so much.  Your overwhelming support put the divas on the The New York Times Bestseller List.  Well, the extended list.  We came in at number 27, surprising everyone, especially me!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Okay, so it's too small to read, but the divas are there at number 27!

Walnut Mocha Torte
(from Better Homes)

1 cup walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

Mix the nuts with the flour and baking powder.

Process the eggs and sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Add the nut mixture and process until smooth.

Pour into pans and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a rack until ready to frost.

Mocha Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate powder (I use Penzey's Natural Cocoa which has a deep, rich flavor.)

Chill mixing bowl and beaters.

Pour heavy cream into a mixing bowl.  Add the coffee and crush the coffee crystals until dissolved. Beat the cream.  When it begins to thicken, add the sugar and chocolate powder until stiff peaks form.

Slice each layer horizontally.  Place one layer on the cake plate and spread frosting on the top.  (Not too thick.)  Continue with each layer. Frost the top and sides and decorate as you like.


  1. Oooh! I'm emailing this recipe to my husband--he & my daughter are always looking for a mom-friendly birthday cake. ;) I am a nut fiend, so this sounds *perfect*.

  2. OH, that does look like a winner of a recipe! Easy and, of course, there's coffee in it, so I'm all over it. Continued happy congrats on the NY TIMES news, Krista, THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE is a wonderful read--the book *and* its author more than deserve the recognition! :)

    Happy Birthday to your mom, too. What a wonderful moment of celebration for you both.

    Champagne all around,
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse

  3. Congratulations to you, Krista, on "The Diva Haunts the House" making the NY Times list! We are all so proud of you. Hugs to your mom for her birthday and hope she had a happy day puttering in the garden.

    And...mmm...walnut mocha torte!!

  4. Wendy, this torte might become a Mom's Birthday tradition at your house. It's that good!

    ~ Krista

  5. Thanks, Cleo you're too kind. I have a hunch that you and Marc will like this cake. I wouldn't have thought that a teaspoon of instant coffee could make such a difference, but it does!

  6. Elizabeth, thank you so much. We had a terrific week around here!

    ~ Krista

  7. Congratulations on the NY Times listing for The Diva Haunts the House!

    Happy birthday to your Mom. What a wonderful cake.

  8. Congratulations, Krista. Great great news. You (and the divas) deserve it! Love the cake. Please wish your mother the very best birthday year!



  9. Thank you for posting the hash brown recipe! I never thought of pressing the potatoes for hash browns.I think we will have breakfast for dinner one night this week. There is a birthday in the house next week & the birthday girl likes both chocolate & walnuts. One Walnut Mocha Torte coming up :)
    Congrats on the New York Times.

  10. Thanks, Liz V! What a week!

    ~ Krista

  11. Thanks, Avery! In case anyone doesn't know, Avery, Janet Bolin, and I have been critique partners for many years. They deserve credit for the success of the divas, too!

    ~ Krista

  12. Helena Georgette, pressing the water out of the potatoes really makes a difference! I'm always surprised by the amount of liquid that comes out.

    When you make the cake, remember to use a light layer of frosting between layers. The frosting recipe makes just enough frosting for the cake.

    Happy Birthday to the birthday girl!

    ~ Krista

  13. Krista, this cake looks fabulous! Will be trying it very soon.

    Congrats on the NY Times listing. Just tracked my latest book shipment and I should have my copy of The Diva Haunts the House in my hot little hands by tomorrow!