Curling up with a new cookbook always feels like a treat to me. When said book happens to be penned by a dear friend, is loaded with colorful photos, and literally takes the reader on a magic carpet ride from one end of the globe to the next, that cookbook rivals anything on the New York Times best sellers list!
Alice Phillips, known to friends as Ally, is one of the first people I met when I started The Fountain Avenue Kitchen. In her new book, Ally uses her background as an actress, cook and world traveler to tingle readers’ tastebuds with flavors from around the world. Chapters are organized by region–the stunning Mediterranean, an African excursion, middle eastern allure, Caribbean island eats, and more. Each recipe is introduced with personal insights and interesting snippets that bring the food alive while offering the reader a sense of Ally’s vibrant personality and bohemian charm.
From spice rubs and sauces that will bring life to a simple piece of chicken or fish to kabobs and sliders and comforting stews, Ally’s book paints a gorgeous picture of international flavors while using ingredients that are mostly familiar and readily available to the reader. Of course, no good cookbook would be complete without dessert, and that’s where I began!
The following recipe for Carribean-inspired chocolate jar cakes caught my eye for its clever cooking and serving container as well as its use of rice flour instead of all-purpose flour. Rice is ubiquitous throughout the cuisine of so many cultures, including that of the islands, so why not use the ground form on occasion? Economical rice flour is also naturally gluten-free, making this treat ideal for those with a gluten restriction. In the recipe below, I have included some of my own notes, as I did test the recipe with all-purpose flour and a gluten-free blend as well.
Whichever flour you choose, these jars are fudgy, decadent, and a novel twist on the usual chocolate cake. I’m not going to say that I tried this (wink, wink), but you could remove the top third of the cake, put a small scoop of ice cream on the remaining cake, and then replace the top. Just an idea. ; )
- 1 1/2 cups white rice flour (see notes for substitution options)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup milk of choice (see notes)
- 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- Mini chocolate chips for topping (about 1/4 cup or 1 rounded teaspoon per jar)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease 6 (8-ounce/half-pint) canning jars. In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, thoroughly combine the espresso mixture, eggs, milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir to fully incorporate.
- Evenly fill the jars with the batter. It will fill the jars about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle the chips evenly over the top.
- Place the jars in a deep casserole or baking dish and then add water to the dish so that it reaches about 1/3 of the way up the jars. For added ease in transferring to and from the oven, you can place the dish on a baking sheet with sides. Bake approximately 25 minutes, give or take a few depending on oven, or until the cakes pass the toothpick test. (Like a brownie, I have found that a hint of undercooking is enjoyed by many. But a word of caution: the batter of the rice flour version has a hint of graininess, and this may be detected if cakes made with rice flour are undercooked. They still taste great, though!)
- Once the jars are removed from the oven, place them on a wire rack to cool. Store any uneaten cakes, covered, in the refrigerator where they will maintain freshness for at least 3 days. The cakes can be removed from the jars by running a butter knife around the edges and gently prying them out. However, we like to eat them right from the jar!
- For testing purposes, I have made this recipe with all-purpose flour and a gluten-free flour blend.
- Ally's original recipe called for buttermilk and I have made it this way with excellent results. Regular milk, however, works equally well given the use of baking powder in addition to the baking soda. For a non-dairy option, I also tested almond milk with a perfect outcome.
The above photo shows Ally’s original version using rice flour. Below is a jar from the all-purpose flour batch which rose slightly higher. The textures are slightly different but each delicious in their own way. Interestingly, the colors are actually the same. The photos, however, were taken on two different days–one sunny, one cloudy.