SF Ferry Building & Ultimate Chocolate Cake


My travel challenge the past few weeks has been squeezing blog adventures into extraordinarily quick trips. When work brought me to San Francisco, for example, I had only three hours to explore. For days before I left, I perseverated over how to spend that precious free time. But as soon as the plane landed, I got out into the warm sunshine, and realized it was Thursday, I knew where I was headed!

Thursday is a Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market day at the San Francisco Ferry Building.


Known as one of the top farmer’s markets in the country, the market is stocked with everything from flowers,


cheese, and fruits and vegetables, to meat and eggs from small regional farmers.


On Thursdays, the market features artisan street food


and is packed with people who work nearby in the financial district.


Opened in 1898, the Ferry Building Marketplace is located along the Embarcadero. Spanish for “the place to embark,” the Embarcadero is the point where the City meets the Bay. It is the largest waterfront district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a place traversed by boats, pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers.


The building is most often recognized by its 245-foot-tall clock tower, which was modeled after the 12th century bell tower in the Seville Cathedral in Spain.


Its history is fascinating, for the opening of two San Francisco landmarks – the Bay Bridge in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 – significantly impacted the use of the Ferry Building. Increased automobile traffic and the opening of the bridges greatly reduced the number of people commuting to the city by ferry. By the 1950s, the building was hardly used and was virtually out of sight by 1957 when the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway was built across the face of the building. It wasn’t until a 1989 earthquake damaged the freeway that it was torn down and the Ferry Building became a prominent site on the waterfront again. After extensive renovations, the building is now used by tens of thousands of visitors every week for ferry departures and shopping.

Located within the historic Ferry Building


is a collection of shops and vendors, restaurants and cafes, that includes everything from meat and fish,


to exotic mushrooms!

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The marketplace showcases small regional producers and local chefs, including confectioner Michael Recchiuti.


This San Francisco-based chocolate maker and award-winning chocolatier makes his products locally and had his beginnings in the City by the Bay. All chocolates and confections are handmade and the Ferry Building shop even has exclusive flavors from Michael’s test kitchen.


Visitors to Recchiuti can select their own assortment of chocolates from a menu that ranges from Cardamom Nougat and Honeycomb Malt to Tarragon Grapefruit and Spring Jasmine Tea.


When I asked the salesperson which flavors were most popular, she said each had its own following and all were a very intense chocolate.

She was right and each bite — both milk and dark — had a deep chocolate flavor complemented by its infusion. When I think of intense chocolate, I think of this recipe for Ultimate Chocolate Cake! Perhaps unlike Recchiuti’s confections, it’s quite simple to make, though its presentation is similarly beautiful.


Click Here to Print This Recipe.


For the Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

For the Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


For the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch round cake pan; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, and espresso powder.
  • In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt butter, water, and cocoa. (Microwave approximately 3 minutes, stirring halfway through.)
  • Whisk dry ingredients into melted butter, water, and cocoa.
  • Add egg, buttermilk, vanilla; stir well.
  • Pour batter into pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.


For the Frosting:

  • In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate. Whisk until blended.
  • Add milk and vanilla. Stir well.
  • Slowly add powdered sugar, whisking until smooth.

Putting It Together:

  • Using an offset spatula, generously frost top and edges of cake to completely cover cake.
  • Allow cake to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using a spoon, drizzle frosting across top of cake until desired thickness or decoration is achieved. (Note: If frosting gets too thick, briefly heat frosting in microwave.)



This recipe was adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine.

Classic Cars of Havana & Pineapple Upside Down Cake


Along the streets of Havana, among the pedicabs,


Soviet-era cars,


and horse-drawn carriages


is a parade of classic American cars.


In fact, nearly 60,000 American cars from the 1950s are still on the roads in Cuba.


Until October 2011, Cuban government permission was required to buy and sell cars, and laws restricted the purchase and sale of cars to those that were in use before the 1959 Revolution. Remarkably, more than 50 years later, many of the cars are still in fantastic condition.



Because of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, these cars have been kept on the road with Cuban ingenuity, using household products and Soviet technology to create the parts needed for repairs.


Many of these cars are used as taxis



and the colors are often as vibrant as the buildings that serve as the backdrop to these magnificent vehicles.



While these cars are very much part of everyday life in Cuba,


they are a true gem for tourists to see, ride in, and be transported back in time!

When these cars were on the road in the United States, the Pineapple Upside Down Cake was on the dessert table of many American households. Like the classic cars of Havana, it’s bright in color with a sweet and rich interior.

This recipe comes straight from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, published in 1950.


Click Here to Print This Recipe


  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • Pineapple slices (drained from 14-0z can; juice reserved)
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt



  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. In 9-inch square pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over melted butter. Arrange pineapple slices over brown sugar. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice.
  • In medium bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored (5 minutes). Gradually beat in sugar. Mix in pineapple juice and vanilla.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; beat into batter all at once.


  • Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.


  • Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately turn upside-down on serving plate. Do not remove pan for a few minutes. Brown sugar mixture will run down over cake. Serve warm with plain or whipped cream.


First on the First: Candy Cane Red Velvet Jars

 “At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.” – Albert Camus

While I can’t say I know myself like the palm of my hand and haven’t calculated the exact number of my defects and qualities (despite being older than 30), I can fortell my failures and accept them — at least in the kitchen! Candy canes, December’s First on the First challenge, was a foretold failure, since I hate to make candy and am rarely successful at it.

I do, however, love to bake so I created these Candy Cane Red Velvet Jars. They share the festive red and white motif and peppermint flavor of candy canes without the need for a candy thermometer or pulling.

(If in examining the palm of your hand, candy-making isn’t one of your defects, check out the links below to First on the First posts by blogger friends who took on the challenge!)


Click Here to Print This Recipe.


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (2-pound) package powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • Optional: Crushed candy canes, whole candy canes, peppermint bark


For the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • On low, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
  • Divide cake batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans.
  • One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.


For the Frosting:

  • In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until smooth. Add extracts, beating until blended. Add whole milk; beat on medium-high for 3-5 minutes.


Putting It Together:

  • Place one layer of cake into jar, pipe frosting to cover cake, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of frosting. Repeat until jar is full.
  • Top with candy cane and peppermint bark, if desired.


This recipe was adapted from Sara Moulton’s Southern Red Velvet Cake and Southern Living’s Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

More Candy Cane Treats from First on the First Bloggers!

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