Rosa’s Mud Cake From “How to Celebrate Everything”

By Christina Elston

family recipesJenny Rosenstrach doesn’t just write about food. She writes about family, rituals, traditions and how food brings all that together in the most delicious way. “One ritual, family dinner, is so fundamental to the psychological health of our household that we think of it as our North Star, something worth organizing our days – maybe even our lives – around,” she writes.

Her popular blog, “Dinner: a Love Story,” is dedicated to this daily ritual of coming together as a family to share a meal. Her previous cookbook, “Dinner: The Playbook,” deconstructed the ritual of daily planning, shopping and prepping to create inspired, kid-friendly and no-fuss dinners for busy families.

In her new book, “How to Celebrate Everything,” Rosenstrach goes beyond the family dinner and covers birthdays and holidays and every day in between. Beyond the recipes though, she conveys a powerful message: We can create enduring family memories through the food we cook and share together.

Celebrations, Rosenstrach reminds us, are not just Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day, but the ordinary moments we can make special. In her house, she makes a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes after the braces get tightened and her family looks forward to digging into her deluxe nachos while watching the Super Bowl every year.

The book has more than 100 recipes and menus including “sleepover breakfast” with popovers, apple fritters and pancakes; snickerdoodles for Father’s Day and a whole section on birthdays with a planner and fun recipes such as doughnuts and ice cream cakes. Here’s a sample:

ROSA’S MUD CAKE  family recipes

Rosa’s recipe calls for a cup of brewed coffee, which will help give the cake its dark “muddy” color, but the final product won’t taste like mocha. Just really outstanding chocolate. Also, warning: The cake can be extremely delicate, so make sure you are not stingy with the butter when greasing the pan, which will help remove it without any breakage.

Makes one 9-by-13-inch sheet cake, two 9-inch layers, or 25 to 30 cupcakes 

butter, for greasing the pan

2 cups sugar

1¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting the pan

¾ cups unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs

1 cup room-temperature strong black coffee (brewed, not grounds)

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup canola or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

⅔ cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch sheet pan or two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and lightly flour, shaking off any excess. (See below for cupcake instructions.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder. Add the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and chocolate chips, if using. Stir until incorporated, then pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a serrated knife along the edges until they pull away from the sides. Place a cooling rack on top of the cake and slowly, carefully invert the cake onto the rack to finish cooling.

When the cake is completely cooled, you have many options: You can top it with chocolate frosting (recipe follows); you can set the cake on a wire rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet and pour ganache glaze on top; or, you can simply top it with freshly whipped cream or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

For cupcakes: Since the cake is relatively delicate, I strongly recommend using cupcake papers instead of baking the batter in greased cupcake tins. Fill to two-thirds capacity and bake at 350°F for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Top with chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

Makes 1¼ cups

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups powdered sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon whole milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the chocolate, milk and vanilla until the mixture reaches spreadable consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.

Enjoy Rosenstrach’s warm writing style and food inspirations in her blog To purchase “How to Celebrate Everything” on Amazon click here.

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