I’ve been on a Cake Walk

For years I have been on a quest to find the best recipe for a chocolate cake. Yes, the cakes always look moist, shiny and delicious in book photos, but once I bake them… they fall short. They either dry out in one day or aren’t moist, or chocolatey enough to begin with. I have tried using melted chocolate, I have made versions with butter, I have tried oil, buttermilk and even mayonnaise and while I have never met a chocolate cake I didn’t like, none reached the level I was looking for… until now.  This cake is a version of a recipe that I found online and adapted for the menu at Acme Southern Kitchen. While most Southern chocolate cake recipes call for buttermilk, this cake uses Greek yogurt for the fat and acid component, and I think it is the key to this recipe, that and the addition of rye flour.  The rye gives it a nutty, more robust flavor in my opinion.  Though you can make it without the rye and use only All Purpose flour if you like, I just don’t want to hear that you told someone, “ oh that cake wasn’t all that great.”  Of course it’s not… because you didn’t add the rye flour.

 Also, don’t skimp – use good chocolate, it also makes all the difference in this cake. I made this cake using about every cocoa out there and the darker and the higher the quality (and yes…the more expensive) the better.


The Perfect Chocolate Cake

(and I’m not kidding)


1 ¾      cups                Granulated Sugar

1/3      cup                 Gently Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1          cup                 High Quality Dark Cocoa (I use Valrhona)

½         cup                 Rye Flour (just go with me on this)

1 ¼      cups                All-Purpose Flour

2          tsp                  Baking Soda

1          tsp                  Baking Powder

9          oz                    Coffee (room temp)

6          oz                    Canola Oil

1          cup                 Whole Fat Greek Yogurt, Unsweetened

1          tsp                  Vanilla Extract

½         tsp                  Finely Ground Black Pepper (just go with me on this)

2                                 Large Eggs

1          tsp                  Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter and flour (or use cocoa) a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Sift all of the dry ingredients, including chocolate, and set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer combine yogurt, eggs and vanilla; mix on low until combined. Add half of dry ingredients, mix completely. Add half of the coffee and mix until combined. Add remaining dry ingredients, mix until combined, add remaining coffee and mix until combined. Scrape bowl and mix another 30 seconds.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cake is starting to split and toothpick comes out clean.

The Most Delicious Chocolate Frosting


3 ½      cups    Confectioners’ sugar

1          stick    Butter (room tempera)

4          oz        Cream cheese (room temp)

1          cup     Valrhona Cocoa Powder

½         cup     Milk (room temp)

1          tsp      Vanilla extract

½         tsp      Salt

Sift together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.

Add butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla extract.

Mix on low speed until smooth, creamy and free of lumps.

For Your Sweeties

Hit them in their Sweet Spot this Valentine’s Day


Oh, let me count the ways.

I have BFF love for my girlfriends, most of whom I’ve known since grade school; I feel the warm love of my dog, Larry. There is the sweet, unconditional, and sometimes downright painful love I have for my children. And then, of course… one cannot forget that often fickle, or even sometimes elusive, romantic love.

For me, on Valentine’s Day there is no better way to express whatever kind of love I am feeling than to bake a batch of old-fashioned sugar cookies with royal icing .

This is a sugar cookie recipe that I used at Bake Sale Bakery, where we made sugar cookies to celebrate every occasion; from Valentine’s Day to POW!, BAM! and WOW! Comic-Con cookies and holiday ornament cookies. I do cut back a little on the butter in this version – and use a quarter cup cream cheese because I like the little extra bit of sturdiness it gives the cookie.

Make the icing in one batch – it will be white -and then divide, color and place into smaller bags for piping. There is no way around it… use your finger for the best result when working with royal icing.

Place some icing on the cookie

Tilt the cookie and spread with your index finger to the edges

Allow to dry before changing colors



2 ¾      cups unbleached AP Flour

1/2      tsp baking powder

1          tsp salt

1          stick of butter

¼         cup cream cheese – softened

1 ¼      cups granulated sugar

1          large egg

1 ½      tsp pure vanilla or almond extract

Sift and combine dry ingredients.

Blend the butter and cream cheese in a separate bowl with an electric mixer.

Add the sugar and cream until fluffy.

Add the egg and Mix well and scrape.

Add dry ingredients and mix for 30 seconds and scrape.

Mix another 30 seconds until dough is well combined.

Scrape the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap it into a ball. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Divide dough into two.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to approx. ¼ inch-thick.

Cut your cookies out, re-rolling the dough as you go.

Place 1 inch apart on a lined sheet pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 9-12 minutes until slightly browned.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.



5 ½      cups sifted confectioners sugar

7          tbsp pasteurized or fresh egg whites

½         tsp vanilla extract

Combine the confectioners sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle.

Beat on low to medium speed for approx. 1 minute.

Add the vanilla and beat another 30 seconds or until soft peaks form.

Scrape down sides of bowl, and then mix another 30 seconds.



Well If It’s National French Toast Day…

Then Who Better to be Talking Toast with than Terryl?


So this morning I was talking all about French Toast on Fox5 News and of course they wanted me to demo my famous Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast.

Every since Bobby Flay had me make it for him on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” a few years back it has been flying out the doors down at Cafe 222

It is such an embarrassingly simple recipe, that I asked if I could do a more “Holiday-ish” recipe as well.  

They obliged.

Thing is, this French Toast Stuffed with Cranberries and Ricotta, is also embarrassingly easy.  But I think that is half of the fun of making French Toast.  It’s easy and fail-proof…because after all, name one thing dipped in eggy, sweet batter, griddled in butter and sprinkled with maple syrup that would not be good?

This not only “looks” like holiday but it uses up those pesky cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  

This is so easy you can whip it up on Christmas morning or you can even make it the night before if you are one of those on-top-of-it people.


French Toast Stuffed with Cranberries and Ricotta


1 Loaf Brioche, Challah or Egg Bread

1 Stick Regular Full Fat Cream Cheese- room temp

4 oz Full Fat Ricotta- room temp

1 TBS Orange Zest

1/8 tsp Cinnamon

1 Cup Cranberry Sauce (jelly or with berries)

Butter For Grilling

In a small bowl combine the cheeses then add cinnamon and lemon zest, mix until combined.

Spread one slice of bread with cheese filling

Top with two tablespoons of cranberry sauce

Put together as to make a sandwich and set aside

To make batter:

Combine 6 eggs with 1/4 cup Half and Half, 2 tablespoons Dark Rum, 1 tsp Vanilla, 1 tsp Cinnamon and a dash of salt

Heat griddle to 350-degrees

Drop 1 tablespoon of butter on heated grill

Dip sandwich in batter let absorb, turn over, and place on griddle

Cook on each side about 3-4 minutes until deep golden brown

Place on rack until ready to plate to keep from getting soggy

Plate up and top with butter and maple syrup or powdered sugar

It’s National Waffle Day

I think I’ll wear one on my head


It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago this week I opened my first restaurant, Cafe 222.  It’s even harder to believe that I actually had the chutzpah to pose with a waffle on my head and sprinkle the city with billboards of me and my waffle hat. That’s an awfully large photo of a person, especially one who has always been self-conscience of their nose.  It sure looks a lot bigger up there… but oh well, it’s to late to worry about that.

I spent the morning with Fox 5 News shooting live from the Cafe helping me to celebrate 25-years of waffle-making– which happens to fall on National Waffle Day.  I decided that if we are going to create a bunch of hoopla about Waffle Day down there and if we are going to get the press to join us we should make it be about something good.

So today we are donating all of our sales from waffles to Feeding San Diego, a very special hunger relief organization in San Diego. Our funds will be specifically allocated to the Back Pack Program which sends kids home each Friday with a back pack of fresh food and produce for the weekend.  For more information about Feeding San Diego go to their website;  feedingsandiego.org.

Here is the recipe for our most popular waffle and one that has been on the menu for all of our 25-years in business.


Pumpkin Waffle

from Cafe 222

This is a moist and spice cake-like waffle.  It is wonderful with just butter and a little bit of syrup.

It is also great with fresh whipped cream some toasted pecans and a little sprinkle of grated fresh nutmeg on top.

2 ½  Cups AP Flour

¼     Cup Brown Sugar

1      TBS Baking Powder

½     Tsp Cinnamon

1      Tsp Ground Ginger

¾     Tsp Salt

¼     Tsp Ground Cloves

4       Large Eggs

2       Cups Whole Milk

1       Cup Fresh or Canned Pumpkin Pureed

¼      Cup Melted Butter

Splash Vanilla

Sift fingers through dry ingredients to break up brown sugar lumps.

Add the wet ingredients except the melted butter and mix.

Fold the butter in last and mix only until smooth.

Prepare according to manufacturers instruction for your waffle iron.


I know a man called Gubba

and he just loves coconut macaroons

He is called Gubba because when his grandson Samuel was a toddler, his version of “Grandpa” was Gubba; and the name has just sort of stuck with him over the years.

Gubba loves my coconut macaroons. And I love him for loving my macaroons.

Lightly browned on the outside, chewy and moist on the inside, what’s not to love about these heavenly little haystacks?

When my stepdaughter Rachel, Samuel’s sister, used to work with me at the bakery www.instagram.com/bakesalesd  she would take Gubba all the leftover macaroons from the case. One of the benefits of working at the bakery was whatever hadn’t sold at the end of the day went home in white paper bags.

I was going through some files this weekend and came across the beloved macaroon recipe and thought, “what a great recipe to share with everyone.” I am hoping that maybe Brian, Gubba’s son (and a hell of a chef himself) will make these for him. The thing is, you don’t have to be a chef or even a baker to make them; they are simple: toss all in one bowl, scoop and bake.

PS: Sometimes I like to stripe them or dip the tops with dark chocolate and make them into my version of Mounds Bars.


Gubba’s Coconut Macaroons


2            Cups             Sweetened Coconut

1 1/3      Cups             Unsweetened Coconut

1            14 oz Can     Sweetened Condensed Milk

1            tsp                Vanilla

2                                  Egg Whites – Slightly beaten

1            pinch            Kosher or Sea Salt


Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, mix well. With a 2-3 ounce scoop, scoop and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

A New Meaning for the Term “Lighten Up.”

Don’t you just hate it when someone tells you to “relax” or “lighten up?”


This time of year, avocados are literally dropping from the trees. (I know this because my dog, Larry, has been on a steady diet of avocados foraged from the yard – along with the tell-tail signs of his binge eating all over my grass.) But let’s face it, there comes a time when it’s a race between you and the avocado… can you eat it up before it goes all brown on you? We’ve all been there.

Deemed one of the healthiest fats you can eat, and encouraged in moderation for humans (and probably dogs too), I decided to healthy-up another one of my favorite, go-to, easy weekday lunch or dinner recipes by substituting avocados and yogurt for oil. In this quick and easy interpretation of creamy basil pesto, I substitute slivered almonds for the traditional pine nuts used in most pestos, and I have also used toasted sunflower seeds (a new “superfood”) for them with delicious results. Feel free to play with it.

All ingredients are tossed into a food processor and combined for an easy clean-up, too. It is best served just-warm, room temperature or cold as a salad, so it is wonderful for alfresco dining on hot summer nights. But don’t leave your plate unattended – keep your eye on the dog.

Pasta with Creamy Avocado and Yogurt Pesto

This is a healthy and quick take on traditional pasta with pesto sauce. All ingredients are tossed into a food processor and combined for an easy clean-up as well. It is best served just-warm, room temperature or cold as a salad, so it is wonderful for alfresco dining on hot summer nights.

1          16 oz. package             Dry pasta of choice

½         Bunch (6 oz.)             Basil (stems removed)

½         Bunch (6 oz.)             Cilantro (stems removed)

1          Handful (6 oz.)           Baby Spinach

1          Large                           Ripe Avocado (pitted)

2          TBS                             Avocado or Olive Oil

¼         Cup                            Plain Whole Milk Yogurt

½         Cup                            Toasted Slivered Almonds

2/3      Cups                           Finely grated Parmesan cheese

1          Tsp                              Salt

½         Tsp                            Pepper or more to taste

Cook off pasta and allow cool so no longer steaming. Do not rinse.

Place toasted almonds, basil, cilantro and spinach in the base of a food processor. Pour oil over the top and pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until all are combined and has the consistency of a creamy salad dressing. Taste and adjust with more salt, pepper or cheese as needed.

In a separate bowl, toss desired amount of pasta and desired amount of sauce until lightly dressed. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and chopped cherry tomatoes, if you wish.

Recipe courtesy of Terryl Gavre

Proprietor, Cafe 222; Co-Proprietor, BANKERS HILL BAR + Restaurant


Bring on the Corn

Alright maybe it’s a little June-gloomy here is San Diego but it is the start of corn season and I decided to do a riff on my old “Spaghetti with Corn and Garlic” recipe (circa 1992) which headlined my opening dinner menu at Cafe 222.

So… just like everything with 25 years of age on it, it’s time for a little update.  As we all know the trend today is everything healthy… so here is a version where instead of pasta (rejoice all you gluten-free-ers) this dish uses riced cauliflower.  It looks like risotto… it tastes like risotto, it creams like risotto, but it ain’t risotto…so you can dish yourself up another bowl!

Riced Cauliflower and Fresh Corn “Risotto”


1          12 oz. bag                  Riced Cauliflower

3          Ears                           Fresh Corn (cut off cob)

2          Cloves                       Fresh Garlic

½         Medium                  Sweet Onion – diced small

3          TBS                           Olive Oil

1          TBS                            Butter

½         Tsp                           Kosher Salt

½         Cup                          Fresh Grated Parmesan or Asiago Cheese

2          TBS                           Water

Heat a large sauté pan over medium flame. Add olive oil and butter, and heat until butter melts and begins to bubble. Swirl pan around to combine the fats and add the cauliflower and onions. Turn heat up to med-high. Stir and cook for approx. 2 minutes, or until they begin to become translucent but not browned. Add corn and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring regularly. Add garlic and salt, and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until the fragrance of nutty garlic and corn becomes evident. Add all but 1 TBS of the grated cheese to the pan along with 1 TBS water and continue to stir so that the cheese melts along with water to form a light sauce. Allow to cook until no water is visible. Taste for seasoning adding more salt (and pepper) if desired. Plate and top with remaining cheese.

Serves 2

Recipe courtesy of Terryl Gavre

Proprietor, Cafe 222; Co-Proprietor, BANKERS HILL BAR + Restaurant

Six Degrees of Strawberry Shortcake

A sure sign of Spring in San Diego is when we see our local farm stands move all their annual produce to the back rows, and move the beautiful, sweet, fragrant strawberries to front and center.

This week I went on the CW6 Morning News (along with my young assistant and official taster, my son Elliott) to share my ideas for fun riff’s on Strawberry Shortcake.

Here are just a few that we shared:

   Traditional Strawberry Shortcake, a sweet biscuit or “shortcake” layered with strawberries, whipped cream and a drizzle of strawberry sauce.

   Shortcake in a Pot, I used vanilla cupcakes for my “shortcake” and layered a little mason jar with cake, strawberries and whipped cream.  Fun for a party.

   Glazed Donut Shortcake, this decadent version uses a plain glazed donut for the “shortcake” which is a proven kid-favorite. (Note, see Elliott in photo.)

   Twinkie Strawberry Shortcake.  This is another kid-favorite… well, I must admit, it’s an adult favorite too.  What could be better than a Hostess Twinkie,  cream-filled sponge cake topped with fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries?

Good Morning my Sweet Valentine(s)

This year I am spoiling my kids with breakfast in bed

It’s Valentine’s Day, but even if you don’t have a sweetie this year, you can certainly spoil your mom, your dad, or your sweet kiddos with these decadent dark chocolate waffles.  Because they are made with bittersweet chocolate as well as brown sugar rather than white refined sugar, they are not as sweet as one might think.

I have a collection of waffle irons so I always use the heart iron for Valentine’s Day and birthdays. If you don’t have one however, don’t let that stop you.  Before I bought the specialty heart iron I used to just take a pair of kitchen scissors to a round waffle and make it into a heart.

Have fun with the toppings too, in addition to topping them with good ol’ whipping cream, I make “sweet cream” out of sour cream by adding powdered sugar and vanilla.  I like it because it’s not too sweet. My kids happen to favor a dollop of Marshmallow cream straight out of the jar, go figure.

Dark Chocolate Valentines Day Waffles

2    cups  all-purpose flour

½   cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼    cup (packed) brown sugar

2    tsp baking powder

1    tsp baking soda

1    tsp salt

3    lg    eggs- separated

2    cups  buttermilk

½   cup olive oil

1    tsp vanilla paste

6    oz   bittersweet chocolate – chopped small (like choc chips)

Non-stick vegetable spray for waffle iron.

Preheat waffle iron.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add egg yolks, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Blend with a fork, then gradually incorporate dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Working in 2 batches, fold egg whites into batter just until combined.

Gently fold in chocolate.

Lightly coat waffle iron with nonstick spray. Working in batches, cook waffles until cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm in oven until ready to serve.

It’s Spaghetti for Breakfast

Hey, I like my bacon and eggs and well as the next guy… but after 25 years of serving them up at Café 222, a girl has got to start to get creative in the morning.

Here’s what we have been doing around our house on weekends around 11:30 a.m. Just as the big hand starts to work it’s way up to the 12, and it’s “okay” to have a nice glass of Rose, we start the pasta pot, fry up some bacon and whisk us some eggs. It’s spaghetti for breakfast.

Spaghetti Carbonara

1    lb    Packaged dry thick spaghetti

1    lb    Bacon- cooked to crispy

1    tbs Butter

1    ea   Small Leek (whites only) sliced thin

6    oz   Kale

1    tbs      Salt

8    lg    Eggs

8    oz   Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano Cheese

Cut bacon into 1” pieces and cook off until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Wisk eggs in a large bowl with ¾ of the cheese and half of the salt. Set aside.

Cook leeks and kale in butter and remaining salt over medium heat just until tender.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil (just toss some in this is not part of the 1 TBS)

Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Take a measuring cup and scoop out about 1 cup of the starchy water in case you need it to thin out the sauce.

Once pasta is cooked quickly strain it and toss immediately into the egg mixture, keep tossing as the heat will start to cook the eggs.  While tossing add the kale mixture and the bacon until evenly distributed.

If sauce gets too thick, add a little of the pasta water until it is consistency that you like.

Place in serving container and top with remaining cheese and black pepper.

I like a lot of black pepper, but that’s just me.