Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!

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Authentic Black Forest Cherry Cake

IMG_6893This is one recipe that has been on my “cooking bucket list” for years.  My Mom would make this cake for special occasions, and unusual ones too!  I think my all time favorite memory was the time I was returning to go to Bible School in England after having spent Christmas with my parents in NJ.  My flight was out of  John F Kennedy Airport in NY and my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Long Island at the time met up with us… on a day when  there had been a snow storm and all the flights  were delayed.  So here we were in the terminal of the airport eating Black Forest Cherry Cake and having a mini family reunion with jealous passengers looking on in curiosity!  Great memory!  My High School was located in Kandern, Germany and we sometimes were able to sample the cherries that grew in the Black Forest region.  I have fond memories of Europe and still love to eat the foods in that region. The German name for this torte is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.

I invited my friend Lori to learn to make this cake too.  I cook much more than I bake.  Baking is exact science and I have to wait for layers to cool before taking the next step and I am often about instant gratification!  Well, we had fun.  The cake was not perfect, but it was delicious!  This dessert is not overly sweet – I think we American’s use way too much sugar in our desserts.  It took us 3 hours start to finish, so it is not a cake you can just pull out of the hat for an event.  Plan ahead!  It really is best if you refrigerate the cake for 24 hours before cutting into it.  The layers will be well refined and the flavors of the kirschwasser will have worked its magic as well.  I did not have the patience to wait even an hour after making it, but had some left over the next day, so I really do have to say the 24 hours makes a lot of difference in the flavor and texture.

The layers consist of an almost cookie crust chocolate layer as the base, then cherries and whipped cream, then at least two (or if you are great at slicing 3)  layers of  chocolate sponge cake which are separated by more cherries and whipped cream. The entire cake is then  covered with more whipped cream that has gelatin as a thickener and topped with cherries and sprinkled with milk chocolate shavings.

My cherries spilled out of the layers and onto the base of the cake, so when I covered the cake with the coating of whipped cream the cream turned pink in color but it was still beautiful to look at.  When I encounter errors like this, I rename it rustic and it is all good!  Perfection is for the 4th time I make this! ;-)  I used a 9 inch spring form pan to bake my cake, my friend Lori used a 10 inch. They both turned out great, but mine was a little taller and actually works a little better for this torte.  Though the original recipe called for a 10 inch.. use what you have.

Cherry Filling:

Image 4-12-14 at 4.10 PMI found Morello Cherries at Trader Joes (24 oz).  They are a product of Germany and are sweet with just a hint of tart. It is with light syrup and needed to be thickened.  I added 3 ounces of Kirschwasser (if you really cannot find any, use Rum).  To thicken, I combined 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water and added them to my pan with the cherries and kirschwasser.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 30 seconds to a minute longer and the mixture has thickened.  Then transfer to a bowl and cool completely.  Before you use the cherry filling in the layers pull out 10-20 cherries to decorate the top of your torte.

You could use a cherry pie filling, but I find them to be overly sweet.


Bottom Chocolate Crust

Image 4-12-14 at 4.31 PMPreheat oven to 375°F.

Combine the dry ingredients and whisk them together: 3/4 cup flour, 2 Tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking powder.

In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/3 cup sugar.

Combine the two mixtures together and make a thick dough.

Line a 9 inch spring-form pan with parchment paper. And press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Poke the dough with a fork and then bake for 15 minutes.

After it baked, allow it to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before removing it from the spring-form pan.  Carefully transfer to your plate. It may crack, but it will be okay. Be as careful as possible.

Here  is a picture of my baked crust:

IMG_6867 I allowed this to cool completely while I made the sponge cake layers.









Image 4-12-14 at 5.04 PMFor the Sponge Cake Layers:

Combine 4 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons warm water, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Beat with an electric mixer until the egg yolks are pale.

Sift together dry ingredients: 2/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup cornstarch, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

Whip the 4 egg whites with 1/3 cup of sugar until it is stiff.

First add the flour mixture to the egg yolks and combine and then fold the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula, about half the egg whites first and then the remaining half of the whipped egg whites after it is fairly well combined.


Image 4-12-14 at 5.21 PMPrepare the spring-form pan for the sponge cake by inserting parchment paper both on the bottom and the sides of the pan. I find that butter keeps it in place nicely and since it is outside the paper does not affect the cake any.

Pour the sponge cake batter in and spread it evenly in the pan.

Bake at 375°F for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing it to a separate plate.  Once it cools completely, cut it horizontally into two layers. Try to cut them as evenly as possible.

For the Whipped Cream: Beat 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  When it is stiff, divide the whipped cream into two batches.  Use one half for the filling and the second half will be used for the topping, but is thickened with gelatin for extra stability.

1 1/2 packets of Knox Gelatin is combined with 2 tablespoons of water and brought to a boil and then cooled slightly and whipped into the second batch of whipped cream.

Now for the fun stuff: the assembly of your Black Forest Cherry cake.

Image 4-12-14 at 5.39 PMTop your cake base with half of the cherries.  Top the cherries with half of the whipped cream (that has not been stabilized with the gelatin).  Top with the bottom disk of the sponge cake and repeat by topping with the remaining half of cherries.  I should have not put as much of the thickened liquid.  It got a little sloppy… but a yummy sloppy, so I am okay with it.. remember if it is not perfect it is rustic!




Image 4-12-14 at 5.43 PMAdd the remaining whipped cream (not stabilized batch). Top with second layer of sponge cake.  Spread the stabilized whipped cream over the top and sides of the assembled cake. Mine should have been whipped just a tad longer, but it still worked okay.

Decorate with a circle of the reserved cherries.



IMG_6891 Then to finish decorating the torte, use a vegetable peeler and make chocolate curls by “peeling” a bar of milk chocolate over the cake.









It is best to let the cake set up in the refrigerator for a few hours before you slice into it. I am an impatient person though and was so excited to have made the cake that I could not wait to try it though. It turned out beautifully!

And it was as good as my Mom’s rendition too, which is a bonus.. now if only I could conjure up a snow storm and eat it in an airport!


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Viva Las Vegas

My husband and I got to enjoy a weekend away for our 21st Anniversary.  We made every effort to make our meals the best possible combination.  Now, Las Vegas has no shortage of food options. We ate at a breakfast buffet for breakfast and had soup at Noodles in Belagio for lunch before our reservation at Mesa Grill.  My husband and I doubted that we would have the appetite to eat anything further.  We both felt very full from breakfast and then  lunch, but once the food arrived and we started eating, we found we could not stop eating and did not feel badly about it.  We ate every last bit of the food served to us at Mesa Grill.

We ate at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Caesar’s Palace and also at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House in MGM Grand.

If I had to chose one, I would go with Mesa Grill.  Every item of our meal there was outstanding!  Even the free bread was remarkably delicious!  Their Jalapeno bread is among the best I have ever eaten.  As appetizer we had Goat Cheese Fondido with blue corn tortilla chips.  It was outstanding! We both enjoyed his pumpkin soup.  It was spicy and delicious.  I had salmon topped with tomatillo salsa.  My husband had the pork tenderloin our side, mashed potatoes. I have to say the mashed potatoes were also among the  best  I have ever eaten.  Unfortunately, we had a show to go to, so we could not enjoy the dessert there, but I am sure it would also have been outstanding.  In hindsight we should have skipped the show and had dessert at Flay’s Mesa Grill.

Pumpkin Soup Mesa Grill

Pumpkin Soup Mesa Grill

Goat Cheese Fondido Mesa Grill

Goat Cheese Fondido Mesa Grill

Jalapeno Bread

Jalapeno Bread

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

Trio of Pork Tenderloin Mesa Grill

Trio of Pork Tenderloin Mesa Grill

Salmon with Tomatillo Salsa

Salmon with Tomatillo Salsa










































Our experience at Emeril’s  New Orleans Fish House was tainted by the fact that we had an overly chatty waiter who went on an on about sports betting. My husband and I are are not into sports or betting – we were there to enjoy a meal and each other.  The waiter became a third wheel. The Jambalaya was really good there, but I was underwhelmed by the other foods that we ordered.  Their bread pudding was good, but not the best I had ever had.

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Garlic Sautéed Spinach

IMG_7203 - Version 2I am one of those people who happens to like spinach.  Especially fresh spinach.  This is another recipe by Ina Garten from her Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook (p 124).  I find that all her recipes I have made so far have excellent results.  I used 2 pounds of spinach instead of 1 1/2 because I had two bunches to use.  The ingredient list is short and preparation to table is minutes.  It was tasty enough that my husband and I had seconds.

Garlic Sautéed Spinach

adapted from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa Family Style p 124)

Serves 6


  • 2 (1 lb) bundles spinach, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner, stems removed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • juice of half a lemon
  • additional salt if desired


Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat and add olive oil.  Sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil, stirring frequently until fragrant, but not browned.  Add the washed and dried spinach to the stock pot and use tongs to coat the spinach with the garlic and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the lid.

It will have wilted down substantially.

Add butter and the juice of half a lemon.  Toss the spinach with tongs to make sure all the flavors are coating the spinach.  Remove the spinach to a serving bowl.  Season with additional lemon juice and more salt if desired.  Serve hot.

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Kale Chips

IMG_7009I am sorry, it is a green leafy vegetable and I want nothing of it… right? That is what you are thinking!  That is what I thought, but I had so many of my foodie friends making them and raving about them so I had to see what it was all about!  Guess what?  They are good! No, I should say addictive!  I have to play keep-away from my 10 year old son!  He may love them even more than I do!  I baked them in batches, and before the next batch was done, the previous ones were gone!  I may need a 12 step program for these.  I over salted the very first batch, but they were still good, less salt on  the second batch I made and they were better.  The third and fourth batches I added a quality balsamic vinegar before baking them.  They were not bad, but I think the pure salt method is the way to go.  The ingredient list is overwhelming – oh wait 3 ingredients.  I think even my husband can handle that!

I did find this recipe from Pinterest which led me to a site that had a wonderful step by step description (link).

Kale Chips

Adapted from

They are all the rage!

Serves 1 if you are home alone.. otherwise share with up to 3 other people.


  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ground sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Wash the bunch of kale and then take scissors or a knife and cut the stem going up into the leaf out (almost the full length of the leaf).  Tear the kale leaves into 2 inch pieces.  Dry completely between paper towels, toss and dry again.. you want them as dry as possible.

Place the kale leaf pieces in a large salad bowl and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top and toss them with your hands to get as many of the leaves as possible coated with some of the olive oil.  Place about 1/4 of the leaves (as many as will fit comfortably on  a silicone lined cookie sheet as possible, without overcrowding them)  Grind sea salt over the leaves.

Place in the oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes.  Depending on the type of kale you used it may take more or less time.  Mine was the curly kale and took a little over 12 minutes to crisp up and wilt some. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a pretty plate.. they will look pretty there for about 30 seconds before the vultures descend upon  the kale chips and make them vanish.

Notes: Kale will end up on my grocery list a lot more in the future because of this preparation.  What a great alternative to eating salty potato chips.  It satisfies the salty craving and is better for you too!  Will I be making these treasures again? Yes I think so, but now I am going to floss and brush my teeth because I have an appliance repair guy coming to fix my dryer!

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Hawaiian Potato Macaroni Salad II

IMG_7001This is my second recipe for Hawaiian Potato Macaroni Salad that I have made to replicate the salad I had at a Luau in Maui last year.  My husband and I both agree that this is the better recipe of the two Potato Mac Salads.  I received this recipe from an acquaintance on a food forum, who lives in Hawaii.  It is a winner!  I think the key ingredient that makes this recipe great is the Spike Seasoning.   You should be able to find it at your grocery store.  There was also 1 teaspoon salt added to this recipe, but I think I would omit it next time it makes it very salty.  If you feel it needs more salt though by all means add it.

Hawaiian Potato Macaroni Salad

Serves 6

adapted from Bill’s Kitchen


  • 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup dry elbow macaroni
  • 3 large eggs, hard boiled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium carrot peeled and grated on the finest grater
  • 1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tsp spike seasoning (look for at grocer)
  • Mayonnaise, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp mustard


Cover the potato cubes with cold salted water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cover, continuing to cook the potatoes for 12 to 15 minutes.  Drain immediately and set aside to cool completely.

Cover the eggs with cold water, bring to a boil.  Turn heat off, cover and allow the eggs to cook in the hot water for 10 minutes.  When the 10 minutes are up immediately shock the eggs in water with ice cubes added to them.  This prevents the eggs from developing a green ring around the yolk.  Peel and chop the eggs once cooled.

Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to cool them off and stop the cooking.

Grate the sweet onion and carrot with a grater and place the grated vegetables in a large salad bowl.  Add the frozen peas (don’t worry they thaw quickly – just make sure they are not super icy or you will add water to your salad too.. if it is frosty you can rinse them in warm water first).

Add the potato, elbow macaroni, boiled chopped egg to the vegetables.  Then add the sweet pickle relish, spike seasoning, enough mayo to make it creamy (to taste) and mustard.  Stir gently with a spatula to fold the salad together and not break the potatoes up too much.

Chill or serve immediately.  If you do chill it you may need to add more mayonnaise just before serving.

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Chopped Salad

IMG_6995My husband took me to Duane’s Steakhouse (@ the Mission Inn) for Valentines Day and we had a great meal that included a chopped salad.  It was unlike any other we had ever had. It had lettuce, hearts of palm, bacon crumbles, blue cheese, red onions, sliced green olives with pimentos, tossed in a garlic vinaigrette dressing. I went overboard in adding the green olives this time, but know to adjust that for next time.  It is a delicious combination that I will make again and again… now to replicate the dessert we had there.. wishful thinking – maybe we will just have to go back!

This salad is inspired by Duane’s Steakhouse (@The Mission Inn in Riverside, CA)

Chopped Salad

by goodcookbecky

Serves 2

  • 1/2 head lettuce, washed, drained and chopped
  • 4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sliced green olives and pimentos
  • 1 can hearts of palm, drained and sliced (Roland brand is good)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper


Prepare the Garlic Vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic paste (or 2 cloves minced), salt, pepper and whisk to combine.  Allow to sit while you make your salad, and mix the dressing again just before adding some of it to the salad and toss (do not use all the dressing, use as much as needed to dress the salad without overwhelming it. I used about 1/4 cup of the dressing and reserved the dressing for another time).

Prepare the chopped salad, combining the chopped lettuce, sliced hearts of palm, chopped red onion, sliced green olives, bacon crumbles, blue cheese crumbles.  Toss together.  Pour some dressing over the salad and toss again.  Start with about 2 tablespoons of dressing and add more after tasting to see if you like it and add more if desired, tossing again after adding more.

Divide the salad up between two bowls and eat immediately.

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Lemon Chicken

IMG_6988It has been a while since I made this dish.  I am not sure why I have not made it more often. It reminds me of Lemon Chicken that you can get at popular Chinese restaurants.  I did blog this recipe before, but in 2010 and without picture. The original recipe can be found here. It is a popular recipe on allrecipes, and my family gives it two thumbs up.

Lemon Chicken

adapted from allrecipes

Serves 6


  • 4 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves, sliced thinly


  • 2 Tbsp dry sherry
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

For frying:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups vegetable oil

Lemon Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon sliced


Slice the chicken breast halves into thin strips.

In a large zip top bag, combine the dry sherry, soy sauce and salt together.  Add the thin chicken strips to the marinade and allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, 1/4 cup cornstarch and baking powder until it forms a smooth batter.

To prepare the lemon sauce, combine the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, white sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, chicken broth, salt whisking until combined and add the lemon slices to the bowl.  Set aside until the chicken is ready.

Preheat the 1 1/2 to 2 cups oil over medium high heat in a non stick skillet. Also preheat your oven to 325°F to keep the chicken warm while you finish cooking.

Remove the chicken with tongs from the marinade, allowing the excess to drip off first.  Add to the prepared batter, toss to coat (it will make a thin coat, but don’t worry it will work perfectly).  Carefully add a few battered chicken strips to the hot oil without over crowding the skillet with chicken.  Fry for a minute or two until golden brown on one side and turn over with clean tongs. Cook on second side and then remove to a casserole dish (Keep chicken warm in pre heated oven while cooking remaining batches of chicken).  Cook remaining chicken the same way.

Pour off the excess hot frying oil and wipe the skillet with a paper towel.  Use the same skillet to heat the prepared lemon sauce.  Heat over medium high and stir until the sauce thickens.  Pour over the chicken pieces.  Serve with steamed white rice (or baked brown rice) and a vegetable to round out the meal.

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