Tu B’Shevat Chocolate Dirt Cakes
Do not adjust your computer screens. You are actually seeing a new post from me. I can’t believe I actually got my sh*t together enough to pull off cooking, staging, photographing and editing a post. It helped that I have been wanting to make this recipe in honor of Tu b’Shevat since I made a larger dirt cake last year for our dear friend, Dave’s, birthday Shabbat dinner, which just happened to fall on Tu b’Shevat. At the time I thought to myself, I said, “Self, you HAVE to remember this and do it better and cuter for next year’s Tu b’Shevat” and so, here we are!
So what’s been going on since I last posted WAY back in July? Welp, the biggest news is that I am currently 6 months pregnant with our 3rd kiddo. Yep, we took the plunge. If you are a loyal Jewhungry reader, you’ll remember that I was wrestling with the question or whether or not to get pregnant in a previous post. When we finally came to the decision that, yes, we were going to try for a third, I felt so certain in that decision. That being said, 6 months into the hardest pregnancy I’ve experienced, I am FREAKING OUT. Ok, I don’t know if it’s fair to say ‘freaking out’ in all caps but I am having a lot of misgivings. A lot of, “What was I thinking!?” has been running through my head in the last 5 months. I started getting sick almost immediately and the nausea hasn’t stopped, which hasn’t helped my doubts. I am like a she-beast. I must be fed every hour on the hour or else I will puke on you. Seriously, you think I over exaggerate but I do not. Just ask my beloved husband or co-workers. It’s not pretty.
Nausea aside, I keep thinking to myself that we have a nice little routine down with the girls and why on Earth did we decide to make a decision that was going to mess that up!? They have such a strong bond, will this new little critter threaten that? Also, dear Gd, these two girls sleep through the night have been since our current youngest was roughly 6 months old. Like, I get sleep and stuff. Why oh why did we f*ck with that scenario too!? I have enough experience as a mental health professional to know when I’m starting to spiral so I’ll stop here. I’m pretty confident you get the drift. That said, I’d be ever so grateful to know if you have more than 2 kids and had the same experiences of doubt. Please, seriously, normalize me!!!
Deeeeeeeep inhale and exhale.
So back to these here chocolate dirt cakes for Tu b’Shevat. In case you’re unfamiliar with the holiday, Tu b’Shevat occurs on the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat so the name of the holiday literally translates to 15th of Shevat. It’s also occasionally referred to as the New Year of Trees and is thought to be an agricultural day marking the first day of Spring. I’m sure if you’re reading this somewhere like Minnesota or Massachusetts you’re all, “Seriously? Spring in January!?” But remember, we’re talking about Biblical Israel here so it’s a wee bit warmer there this time of year.Tu b’Shevat technically a minor holiday but it’s just so dang fun that we make a point to ‘celebrate’ it in our household. A lot of commentary exists out there pointing to the fact that humans are “compared to the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19) and that the ‘fruit’ we bear is not only children (which is the first mitzvah in the Torah we are given to fulfill) but also the living of a life embedded in goodness. It’s become tradition that folks plant trees and/or hold a Tu b’Shevat seder during which it is customary to eat dried fruits and nuts, specifically figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. Many people also incorporate the Seven Species into their seders, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
I also encourage you to incorporate these chocolate treats into your seder cause they’re delicious and fun to make. Please note that the trees I used in my recipe are NOT edible. They are there cause they’re just too cute. What is edible? The several layers of chocolate used to assemble these treats. My favorite component is the homemade chocolate cookie crumble. You can also always take the trees out of the scenario and have yourself a fancy little trifle dessert for any day of the week. Enjoy!
(Makes for 4 – 5 mini trifles depending upon how much you use during assembly)
For the Cake and Pudding:
OK, so for the cake and pudding I used ready-made items cause I have 2 kids, a full time job and am 6 months pregnant so SOMETHING had to give. You can opt to also use Oreo cookies for your cookie crumbles but the chocolate cookie crumble recipe provided is so user-friendly and nets you incredibly delicious crumbles. For the cake, I used Betty Crocker’s Original Recipe Scratch Cake Mix but any ol’ boxed cake will do. The pudding was your trusted Jell-O Dark Chocolate Pudding Packs. I also incorporated chopped nuts into my recipe but feel free to omit if you have a nut allergy!
For the Chocolate Cookie Crumbles:
(makes 2 1/2 cups)
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F).
- Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low-speed until mixed.
- Add 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and paddle on low-speed until the mixture starts together in small clusters and clumps — at this point, it should look a little bit like wet sand.
- Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, using a dough scraper to break them up occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly most to the touch at that point; they will harden and dry as they cool.
- Let the crumbs cool completely before using in the recipe.
For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
- 3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 – 2 tablespoons milk or cream
- pinch of salt
Method for Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using an electric hand mixer whip the butter until light and creamy on medium/high-speed.
- Once the butter is pale in color and light slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar one spoon at a time on medium speed. Let the sugar fully incorporate before adding in more sugar.
- Add the vanilla extract, salt and cream.
- Whip on high-speed for another 3-4 minutes until very light, creamy, and fluffy.
- Use the buttercream straight away for keep it refrigerated for up to 4 weeks. Before use make sure it comes to room temperature.
I assembled by adding a base layer of pudding, then cookie crumble, vanilla buttercream (piped from a piping bag), chopped peanuts, another layer of cookie crumbs followed by chocolate cake that my kiddo crumbled up herself and then one final layer of cookie crumble. I encourage you to try-out your own order of assembly though it should be noted that this order got rave reviews from the husband and kiddo.