German Chocolate Cake

Author: Matilda Lou // Category:
So, it's been a long time since I posted.  I've been busy with work, school, life, and the thought of this blog has been in the back of my mind, but always took a back seat to everything else.  However, as Sunday the 8th of January would have been my grandfather's 81st birthday, I decided to bake.

Grandma always baked a cake for Grandpa on his birthday.  In my memory, it was always German chocolate cake, but my mother recalls it being red velvet when she was growing up.   Having been raised in the era when red food coloring was not available on the market, I suppose that's the reason for the switch, but not being able to ask him now which he liked best, I went with my memory.

I've thought about tackling a German chocolate cake from scratch for a while, but was daunted by the idea the coconut pecan frosting would be complicated or involve making caramel...a process that intimidates me.  I searched for a recipe Saturday evening and found one that seemed to be held up as the supreme example and thus, the cake:
The coconut pecan filling was surprisingly simple and the final product was UHH-Mazing!  The ganache was not as firm as I wanted it to be, but it didn't matter once it was in your mouth.  Mary and her niece came over to share it and we sang to her as a belated birthday.

Happy birthday, Grandpa.  Not a week goes by that I don't repeat one of your sayings, wish I could ask your opinion or advice, and you are missed every day.  I hope Grandma made you a heavenly cake now that you're together again.

Love always,
Matilda Lou

German Chocolate Cake (recipe from David Leibovitz

One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

For the cake:
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons water
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted

For the syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum

For the chocolate icing:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ ounces unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream

1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.

4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.

7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.

8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake layers completely.  While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling:

1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.

2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)

3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

To make the syrup:

1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.

To make the icing:

1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.

2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature. (note: I put mine in the fridge to cool after about 45 minutes of waiting.  I'm impatient!)

To assemble the cake:

Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.

Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.

Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

(It may seem like a lot of chocolate icing, but use it all. Trust me. You won’t be sorry.)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Author: Matilda Lou // Category: , , ,

One of the things I hope everyone remembers Grandma for is her baking.  She really did do a lot of it in my lifetime.  She baked cakes here and there, but what I really remember her making is cookies.  Chocolate chip, boiled raisin (yuck, but she loved them), and my favorite...oatmeal butterscotch.  Oddly enough, as much as she loved peanut butter, I don't remember a lot of peanut butter cookies.

I've never been able to figure out how, but Grandma's cookies were always perfect.  Round, fluffy, with the right texture and color.  Mine...not so much.  I can make a killer cake or brownie, but my cookies are never anything like hers.  I think she told me once to use a tablespoon or so of extra flour, but I don't remember exactly and suppose I'll just have to keep trying.

As we (the grandkids nearby) got older, she started giving us the option at our birthdays to choose between getting the cash or getting cookies.  I would choose cookies, either oatmeal or oatmeal butterscotch.  When I lived in Seattle and had been home to collect my cookies one year, I remember smuggling them into my apartment and hiding them in a chest in my bedroom so I wouldn't have to share with my roommates.  Go away...those were MY Grandma cookies!

When I was talking to Stephanie tonight about our upcoming birthdays, we were asking each other what we wanted.  She asked for these cookies.  I'm posting the recipe here for her, and anyone else, so she can possibly make them and succeed where I fail.  I believe these measurements make approximately one dozen, so adjust as needed.

Maybe I'll try to bake these with butterscotch chips for my birthday...just because I'll be missing her.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
6 Tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oats
6 oz. (3/4 cup) chocolate chips

Cream together the sugars with the butter in a large bowl.  Add the vanilla and egg.  Mix the flour, salt and soda in until well combined, then add the oats.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 375 for 9-12 minutes. 

Be sure to follow Grandma's rules and drink a glass of milk with your cookie!

Note: If you want to be as authentic as possible, Grandma used Guittard milk chocolate chips in her cookies.  Those are the large ones and I believe the big bag can be found at Costco in the baking aisle.

Toni's Clam Chowder

Author: Matilda Lou // Category: , ,

This clam chowder, in the words of a former roommate of mine, is "slap your momma good"!  I got the recipe from my mother, who got it from Aunt Toni, who apparently passed it around since I found a recipe card in her handwriting in Grandma's recipe box.  We used to make this at the beach house during the summer, which could be a challenge since neither Grandpa nor the Kelleys like onions and Janice didn't like celery.

This is one of my favorite fall/winter meals to make.  A big bowl of chowder and a chunk of crusty, buttered French bread and you're set for a hot meal on a cold evening.

Toni's Clam Chowder

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 cups diced potato
2 cans minced clams
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
1 quart half and half (or milk for thinner chowder)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups finely cubed ham (or crumbled bacon)

Add onions, celery, and juice from the cans of clams to a pan.  Saute until vegetables are tender and set aside.  In a large pot, melt the butter and then add the flour.  Cook two minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the half and half and potatoes, cooking until the potatoes are tender and the chowder is smooth and thick.  Add the reserved vegetables with juice, the clams, the ham or bacon, and the salt, pepper, and sugar.  Heat through and serve steaming hot.

Teriyaki Steak

Author: Matilda Lou // Category: , , , , , ,

I keep referencing backyard barbecues, but there are so many to remember!  The menu was so often the same: Grandma's potato salad, chips, bean dip, pickles, some type of meat from the grill, and the punch we always made from cherry Kool-Aid and grapefruit soda.  

Of all the burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and other options, my favorite was always teriyaki steak or chicken.  Grandma would cut it into strips and marinate it, then hand it over to Grandpa to grill.  Before long, everyone was ready to eat!

Teriyaki Marinade

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Marinate one to two pounds round steak or chicken breasts, cut into thin strips, for several hours up to overnight.  Grill or broil to desired temperature.  Skewers are optional :) 

Grandpa's Banana Bread

Author: Matilda Lou // Category: , , ,

While I have heard stories about Grandpa Shade doing some of the cooking when my mother was growing up, I didn't see him do a lot of it.  If Grandpa was cooking, it was generally at the backyard grill or he was baking banana bread.  Banana bread was his "thing"...don't try to mess with it! 

I don't know where this recipe originally came from, but it looks like it may be from an old sugar bag (eta: Lindsey informed me it came from when Janice worked at U&I.  Thanks Linz!).  It makes two loaves, but he usually made it in a bundt pan as one big loaf.  You could also throw in chocolate chips for a sweeter version, but I prefer it with just the bananas and nuts.  Aunt Betty had been known to eat her piece with a slice of cheddar cheese on it.  I'm not brave enough to try it, but you're welcome to see if you're as unique as she was :)

Best Ever Banana Bread 

5 large bananas
4 large eggs, well beaten
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup broken walnuts 

Beat bananas to a liquid; add eggs.  In a separate bowl, cream the shortening thoroughly.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add the banana mixture and mix to combine.  Combine the flour, soda, and salt and blend into batter.  Stir in the walnuts.

Bake in two well-greased load pans (or one bundt pan) at 350 degrees for 75 minutes or until firm to the touch.

Trick for quick breads: Allow to cool on a rack for ten minutes, then immediately remove from the pan and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  The bread will continue to cool as it sits on the counter, but the steam that escapes the warm bread and gets trapped by the plastic wrap makes it super moist.  No more dry banana bread from sitting on the counter!

Slush Cake

Author: Matilda Lou // Category: , , ,
It's been a perennial family favorite.  We've all had it in one flavor or another, or sometimes many flavors.  Summer barbecues and parties wouldn't have been the same without at least one pan of slush cake in the fridge.

My personal favorite was always pistachio, though I know chocolate is the more popular choice.  Any pudding you like works.  Summer will be over soon, so grab a watermelon, some burger buns, and the ingredients for this before fall weather keeps everyone indoors.

Slush Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts work best)

Mix together and press into a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 for fifteen minutes.

2 8oz. packages cream cheese (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups Cool Whip

Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until combined.  Add Cool Whip.  Spread on crust and refrigerate.

3 small packages instant pudding
4 1/2 cups milk

Beat together until thick.  Spread on cream cheese mixture and top with remaining Cool Whip.  You may also add chopped nuts to the top if your family enjoys them.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Welcome to Grandma's Kitchen

Author: Matilda Lou // Category:
Welcome to Grandma's Shade's kitchen!  This blog is meant to serve as a collection of recipes, memories, and family stories for those of us who want to have access to Grandma's kitchen.  With only one set of handwritten recipes, a few old favorite cookbooks, and so many of us scattered around, it seemed like there had to be a way for everyone to be able to find the old family favorites from holidays, parties, barbecues, and just everyday meals we remember.

I'll be slowly working my way through the recipe boxes, keeping in mind that some of the written cards are pretty old and harder to read.  If there is anything people want to see sooner, please e-mail me at and I'll dig through and find it to be posted.  

I hope others are excited about this idea.  I'm excited to put it together.  Everything tasted better made by the hands that loved us, so if we can pass those memories's a worthwhile project.