Kathi’s “Dutch” (English) Chocolate Torte Cake

Have you ever had a piece of an Arnie’s “Dutch chocolate torte” cake? Until we moved to Grand Rapids, I always wanted a Mardi Gras cake for my birthday, but after discovering one of Grand Rapid’s best culinary achievements, I began looking for excuses to buy Arnie’s Dutch Chocolate Tortes. They are “the best,” and they’re hard to beat for a birthday party or special occasion, because Arnie’s Bakery also has masterful cake decorators, but if you don’t mind your cake looking less than perfect, I’ve developed a cake that at least competes in texture and flavor, and that’s what really counts, right?—especially if you can save $25 in the process! 🙂

Kathi’s English Chocolate Torte
Serves 12- 18 (very rich!)
(Okay, so maybe it should be “Dutch,” but I’m not Dutch.
“If you’re not Dutch, you’re not much!”
?? 😦 Well . . . I won’t go there . . .)

Bake your favorite chocolate cake. I used a Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Fudge cake, but make your own or use your favorite. (I find that Duncan Hines cakes are too soft, but home made or most store-bought mixes work fine.)

Use two pans, and after they are baked and cooled, cut each layer in half with a thread just when you are ready to frost.

Fluffy Butter Cream Frosting

Butter cream Filling:
2 pounds plus three cups powdered sugar
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Frost cake completely: each layer, the top and sides, and chill in the refrigerator until firm (several hours or overnight).

Four-layer chocolate cake filled and frosted with white buttercream frosting

Then, entirely frost the top and sides with chocolate ganache. Here’s how:

Chocolate Ganache:

 1 cup heavy cream, heated until it just starts to boil, then turn off the heat and immediately add 16 oz. (two cups) dark chocolate chips.

Chocolate Ganache

Whisk until it’s totally smooth.

Cool to room temperature, and then carefully drip over the chilled cake, spreading the ganache and smoothing it from the top down as you go.

Kathi’s “English” Dutch Chocolate Torte Cake

Return your masterpiece to the refrigerator and chill until the ganache is also firm.

Take it out of the refrigerator just minutes before serving. It’s easiest to cut if it’s cool, but it tastes best if it’s room temperature, so find the “sweet spot” time wise (maybe 10-15 minutes; if you want to serve it straight out of the refrigerator, try microwaving a single piece for 10-15 seconds to make it just about “perfect!”).

Kathi’s Dutch Chocolate Torte served with whipped cream and caramel sauce

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 106:1).

Beautiful Birthday Week

This year, something unique happened for my birthday! My two older brothers came from California and New York City to help me celebrate. We had SO MUCH FUN! Included were a host of special opportunities, and right at the top was a mini-reunion with our sister over in the east side of the state!

Other highlights included a “day at the farm” with our niece’s family,

and a day with my daughter and her family,
including a tour of my son-in-law’s studio,

where he heads up the videography department at their church.

Rebecca Louise Law’s The Womb Exhibit at Meijer Garden

Back in GR, we took a trip to Meijer Garden— always captivating!

We visited Alan’s office and toured the campus
of Pine Rest Christian Hospital, where Alan works.

We took a trip to Robinettes for cider and donuts! (What would fall in Michigan be without a cider mill and donuts?). We also took a mini tour of the publishing house where our youngest son works as an editor.

One night, we went to Grand Haven for dinner
and a walk along the pier at sunset.

However, we didn’t know that evening was the night of the lighting ceremony for the new catwalk (after four years of construction). The place was jammed with well wishers. We enjoyed marching band music, a flyover, and fireworks,

but the end of the pier was blocked off, so we didn’t get in our quiet stroll.

Nevertheless, it was a very memorable evening
on an amazingly balmy night for autumn!

We toured Exalta, where my son Daniel is the dental director.

We also saw Daniel and Brianna’s new home,
with its wonderful backyard where the children can play!

The grand finale was my birthday party, complete with great big balloons

and a nerf gun war (sponsored by four-year-old grandson, Sammy).

Needless to say, it was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday! I’m just a little groggy and tired this week, but I wouldn’t have traded it for a trip to some exotic island! Thank you, Lord, for the great privilege and joy of family!!

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip (or Spread)

Looking for a new twist on a dip this autumn? My sister passed on to me a recipe for a pumpkin dip she had at a party last weekend, so I thought I’d try it with my grand kids. The original recipe called for nutmeg, which my body reacts to, so I used allspice instead . . . and a little more to bring out the flavor.

Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip

I liked it, but I wasn’t sure my grands would, so I added touch of salt and a half a cup of peanut butter. With that bit of kid magic to enhance the flavor, it was a hit, so I’m going to pass it on to you with those modifications.

In a blender, combine:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) softened cream cream
1 cup (8 oz.) pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or whatever you use for syrup)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)

Blend until completely smooth. (I had to open and scrape the sides down once, because the maple syrup didn’t get completely mixed in the first time.)

I served it with red pepper strips, apple slices, and bananas, but I’m sure it would taste great with most any veggie, fruit, or cracker you like. I was going to try it on fresh bread, but the bread disappeared a little too fast last night!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spread on a Bagel for Breakfast!

However, I put the leftovers in the refrigerator and tried some this morning on a bagel with some hot chocolate. As a spread, it’s not as caloric as cream cheese or peanut butter, nor as sugary as jam, so it made a very yummy, pretty healthy breakfast! 🙂

He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:10-12; Job’s confession . . . and oh, that it might be ours too!).

Quick and Easy, Sweet and Zesty Meatballs

Labor Day Weekend (which is this weekend in America) signals the end of all the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and kicks off the fall season with its flurry of exciting activities.

My German-American grandchildren with their Schultüte
(One is starting first grade this year.)

If you’re young, it’s the beginning of school for the year (and I have lots of grand children who are celebrating the beginning of their schooling for the year). For those of us who are older (did you say OLD? 😦 ), the fall season still picks up with Sunday school (at least for me) and lots more organized social events. If you’re looking for something that everybody will love to eat but takes very little preparation time, here’s one super simple recipe for meatballs that works great either as an appetizer or as a main dish for potlucks and parties:

Sweet and Zesty Meatballs

The recipe is super simple! in a crock pot, combine:
5 pounds of prepared, Italian-style meatballs
1 jar (32 oz.) grape jelly
1 jar (32 oz.) ketchup
8 oz. horseradish
2 T. garlic
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste if needed

Once you’ve unceremoniously dumped everything into your crock pot, cover it and let it simmer for 2 hours on medium-low heat (although it can simmer longer or be reheated just before you serve it). Stir it occasionally (but with gentle care) to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. If you’re going to be simmering it for a longer time, make sure it has enough water so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. After it’s simmered for at least one hour (because it takes about the first hour just to heat everything slowly through to the point of simmering), test it for salt and pepper and “doctor it” up a little if you think it needs more spice.

In fact, I got so busy before our party that I failed to take photos of the finished product, but you can imagine. It should be uniform in color and texture and taste terrific! Hope you like it. We do. 🙂

There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods” (Job 20:21. Talk about taking a verse out of context! 🙂 However, if you’ll forgive my lightheartedness, I did come home with an empty pot when I took these meatballs to the party.)

Sweet ‘n’ Salty Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is one of those desserts that’s the perfect cross between candy and nuts . . .the perfect blend of sweet and salty. It’s sure to please, but don’t serve too much, because it’s so rich a little slice goes a long way! It needs to be eaten with care, savoring each bite slowly. I usually think of pecan pie as a Southern favorite any time of the year, or as a Northern pie to be made in winter, when the body needs more fuel to keep burning warmly, or during the holidays! My son has a friend who grew up in the South, and her grandma had a deal with her grandchildren: She’d bake all the pecans pie they wanted, as long as they picked and shelled the nuts for her from her pecan tree! Wow! I would have loved that deal as a kid, wouldn’t you?!

However, despite how fabulous pecan pies taste, this past winter I failed to make even one, so Alan requested pecan pie for Father’s Day. In case you’ve not fallen in love with this perennial Southern favorite yet, here’s my recipe to get you started!

Sweet and Salty Pecan Pie
(Serves about 10)
Fluted 11″ pie crust

Make 1 crust for an 11″ pie (but don’t bake it yet):

In a mixing bowl, combine:
1.75 cups flour
2/3 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water.
3. Mix in your blender just until a ball form. Roll out after sprinkling a little flour on top so it won’t stick to the rolling pin. I always roll the crust out on top of some saran wrap so I can get it off the counter and into the pie plate in one piece, but you have to flip the crust over so the saran ends up on top and can be pulled off. Also, if the saran slides around, put a few drops of water on the counter underneath the wrap to make it stay in place.
4. Arrange the crust in the pan, flute the edges, and prick some holes in the bottom with a fork
Spread 1/2 cups of salted, crushed pecans on top of the crust at the bottom of the pie plate
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Filling

In a large mixing bowl, add:
3 eggs, and beat them slightly
3/4 cup light corn syrup (I know corn syrup is out of vogue right now, and you can replace it with 3/4 cup brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons water, but it doesn’t turn out with quite the perfectly chewy smooth texture)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend together, then add and gently stir together:
2 cups chopped, salted pecans


Place the filling into the unbaked pie shell, then top with:
1.5 cups halved (or could be chopped, but halved are pretty), salted pecans

Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is firm.

Let it cool for an hour before serving, preferably topped with a little whipping cream or a scoop of ice cream, although it’s mighty good plain too!


Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds” (Genesis 43:11; I know our husbands aren’t exactly kings, but they are the kings of our home castles, and worthy of some special gifts from time to time too! 🙂 ).

Fresh Strawberry Pie for Brianna and Alan’s 369th Birthday!

Every family has a few unique “fun facts,” and one of my favorites in our family is that our oldest son was born on my birthday and our youngest daughter-in-law was born on my husband’s birthday! So, we’re often privileged to share a birthday party. This year was Brianna’s 36th and Alan’s 69th, so together they’ve lived 105 years . . . but it was also fun to arrange the candles so that it looked like even longer! 🙂 Fresh strawberry pie has been one of Alan’s favorite birthday desserts since early in our marriage, so I thought you might enjoy making it too.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
(Feeds 1, or possibly 8-9 🙂 )

I forgot to photo making the pie shell, I think because I’ve written it up before, but in case you don’t have a favorite recipe yet, here’s mine:

One 10-inch Baked Pie Shell

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine:
1.5 cups flour
2/3 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water.
3. Mix until a ball forms. Roll out (I always roll it out on top of some saran wrap so I can get it off the counter and into the pie plate in one piece, but you have to flip the crust over so the saran ends up on top and can be pulled off. Also, if the saran slides around, put a few drops of water on the counter underneath the wrap to make it stay in place.)
4. Arrange the crust in the pan, flute the edges, prick some holes in the bottom with a fork, and bake in a hot oven for 12 minutes or until it’s starting to turn a golden brown on the edges. Let it cool on the counter while you make the filling.

Strawberry Glaze

1. In a saucepan, stir together until completely blended:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup corn starch
2. Next, add:
2 cups water
1 three-oz. package of strawberry jello powder
3. Heat, stirring almost constantly, until it bubbles, thickens, and clarifies

Let it cool to room temperature, and then add:
1 cup fresh strawberry jam or fresh freezer jam
2 pounds or 2 quarts hulled but whole strawberries (about 5-6 cups)

Coat the berries completely, then gently fill the pie shell. The berries can be heaped quite high, depending on how many strawberries you’ve got and how big your pie shell is. (I’ve made it without the jam, but it really does add to the overall flavor if you have some available. Just follow the directions on the package, but you may want to have made the jam beforehand. I tend to buy the berries when they go on sale about once a year for $0.99 a quart and make my year’s supply in May.)

Chill thoroughly in refrigerator, and then, just before you serve it top with:

 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar, whipped together until medium peaks form

If you serve it right away and the peaks aren’t too stiff, it may turn out like this, but nobody seemed to fuss!

May you live long and celebrate many, many, many happy birthdays!

When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and ·fresh [green; verdant]” (Psalm 92:14, EXB “Expanded Bible”).

Orange-glazed, Chocolate Chip Scones

Here is a drool-worthy recipe that Joel makes, inspired by the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking with just a very few personal touches (to up the flavors). It’s perfect for tea time, breakfast, or . . .really anytime you want a scrumptious dessert!

Orange-glazed, Chocolate Chip Scones

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together thoroughly (by hand) in a mixing bowl:

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar (or just 1/3 cup if you plan to eat it with jam or don’t want it very sweet)

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Next, add:

6 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into chunks

Blend with a pastry blender (or a big fork) until the chunks are no more than pea-sized, but take care not to let the butter melt. It needs to be a little chunky still.

Finally, add 1 cup chocolate chips and stir until evenly mixed throughout

In a separate bowl, stir together:

1 large egg

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon grated zest from an orange

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir just enough to moisten.

Gather into a bowl and knead gently against the sides of the bowl until most all of the flour has been incorporated into the ball and the bowl is fairly clean. (This shouldn’t take more than 5-6 times; don’t overwork!) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8” round (which should be about ¾ inches thick).

Cut into 8 wedges (or up to 12 small ones, depending on how many people you want to serve). Bigger ones are moister, and they’re so good even children can usually happily eat a large one. Place at least a half an inch apart on a cookie sheet.

Brush the tops with cream (or milk).

Bake in the preheated over for 12-15 minutes, until starting to turn a golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool down to warm.

While still warm, frost with a glaze made from:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon softened butter

2 tablespoons orange zest plus enough juice to make a thick frosting. (If you make it too thin, it will all drip off. The cooler the scones, the thinner you can make the frosting.)

Serve warm. They really don’t need butter, clotted cream (whipped cream), or jam, but suit yourself!

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart:
so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).