Cooks Corner

Chocolate ‘sex’ cake still gets lots of love

Maybe it was the titillating title, racy for the ’80s, but ever since Better Than Sex Cake made the column, it has been a perennial reader favorite. It is a dense and triple-chocolate cake, so what isn’t to love?

“This has been our family celebration cake for more than 20 years,” L.M. wrote in nominating it for Cook’s Corner’s Top 10 all-time recipes. “I made it for my son’s first birthday and I just made it for his graduation.”

Added Patty Castillo: “I don’t bake, but this is one cake that never fails and just looks and tastes spectacular.”

Reader Response: Kale Soup

Anna P. asked for help making a kale soup her late mother-in-law made from her native Portugal. She remembered that back in the ’80s, before kale’s “rediscovery,” it was hard to find. Potatoes and chorizo were two ingredients she remembered being used as well.

“The soup inquired about in Sleuth’s Corner is Caldo Verde [literally ‘green soup’],” responded Jace Weaver. “It is a classic Portuguese (and Brazilian) kale soup. It is sometimes made with potatoes, sometimes not. The sausage, however is linguica, not chorizo. Recipes can be found in Portuguese or Brazilian cookbooks and on the Internet.”

D.I. of Miami uses a recipe from Emeril Lagasse, who is usually associated with his creative New Orleans Creole cuisine, but who grew up in a Portuguese-American community in Falls River, Mass. He learned Portuguese cooking from his mother.

“I’ve been making this soup since the late ’90s when I first saw Emeril prepare it on the early morning show on ABC News,” D.I. wrote. “It is from Emeril’s TV Dinners [1998].”

While researching his recipe, I learned Emeril has a “new” version of the soup at that does not call for long simmering of the kale, but for adding it at the end and cooking just until “the leaves are softened but still slightly crunchy.” I was inspired by this to simply throw baby kale leaves into my soup and just stirring until they warmed through.

To bean or not to bean? Perhaps influenced by my love for Cuban caldo gallego I made mine with cannellini. Emeril’s new version uses no beans, but the old one calls for a mixture of white and red beans. Barb G. sent a recipe from Rachael Ray that uses garbanzo beans.

Quick Fixes

• This super-easy, super-fast sweet chili shrimp recipe is perfect as we embrace barbecue season. Just be careful when you grill to keep an eye on the skewer since the sweetening agent in the sauce will make it go from a tasty burnish to burned really quickly.

For those unfamiliar, sweet chili sauce is a popular Thai condiment made primarily with red chile peppers, vinegar and a sweetener. Once available only in Asian markets, it has moved into mainstream supermarkets and is even bottled now by American brand Frank’s RedHot.

• Here’s a great cupcake decorating tip for graduation parties from McCormick’s: Have ready 24 cupcakes. Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons black food coloring into 16 ounces of homemade or purchased dark chocolate frosting. Dip 24 graham cracker squares into the frosting using a fork, and let any excess drip off. Let stand 30 minutes on parchment paper until frosting is firm.

Use sharp kitchen scissors to cut licorice strips into 2-inch tassels. Trim the tops of cupcakes to level if necessary. Place cupcakes upside down on serving platter. Use a drop of frosting to secure graham cracker square to top of cupcake. Place a licorice strip and a chocolate candy on top of each, securing with a drop of frosting.

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