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.

Bonus Post: Irish Soda Bread

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St.Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, and there’s still time to make this Irish Soda Bread! Though traditionalists will tell you that what we call Irish soda bread bears little resemblance to the traditional Irish bread developed in the 1800s, one thing hasn’t changed — butter is always slathered on the finished product liberally. :)

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  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange zest
  • 5-6 ounces raisins
  • For basting: 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter and 1/4 cup buttermilk


  • Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a large baking sheet; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Cut in 1/2 cup butter.
  • Stir in 1 cup buttermilk, egg, vanilla. Add raisins and orange zest.


  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round loaf and place on prepared baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup buttermilk. Brush loaf with mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the loaf.
  • Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Continue to brush the loaf with butter mixture every 15 minutes.

Image-188 This recipe was adapted from allrecipes.com

Varadero Beach & Coconut Cardamom Chip Ice Cream


I’ve been hibernating. Yesterday when I began my walk to work, a mandatory departure from the cozy confines of my condo, it was 12 degrees with a wind chill of zero degrees. This winter has felt terribly long, and I’ve clung to the short hours of warm sunshine I’ve been able to gather when work called for overnights in Miami and Varadero Beach.

Midway through my time in Cuba, we traveled out of Havana to visit artists, museums, and historical sites in Matanzas, the second largest province.


Since Matanzas is roughly 90 miles east of Havana and we had stops to make over two days, we spent the night in Varadero, one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean.


Varadero has the most popular — and some say the most beautiful — beaches on the island.


With more than 12 miles of oceanfront, Varadero welcomes primarily European and Canadian tourists. Because of US government restrictions, there aren’t many Americans who are able to visit this gorgeous area. In fact, I was sorry we didn’t have time to visit the nearby caves and cays.


We’re expecting more snow in Philly tomorrow, which promises to push us past the current distinction of third snowiest winter on record. I’m planning to continue my hibernation, wishing desperately for the sun to set on winter,


while basking in warm memories and flavors of Varadero by eating a bowl of Coconut Cardamom Chip Ice Cream.


Click Here to Print This Recipe.


  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans of coconut milk; refrigerated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 13.5 ounces chopped dark chocolate*

*I used dark chocolate with sea salt


  • Combine all ingredients except chocolate in blender and mix until smooth.
  • Transfer batter to ice cream maker. Mix for 15-20 minutes, adding chocolate during the last minute.
  • Serve immediately or freeze in an airtight container.



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