Chocolate Mocha Torte

All of my Grandma Murphy‘s desserts are delicious, but some are popular than others. Take for example, the beloved chocolate mocha torte.

chocolate mocha cake recipeThis tall, dark and handsome dessert is practically a celebrity in my family. When I asked relatives to share their favorite of Grandma’s recipes, almost all of the replies included the mocha torte. With its layers of moist chocolate chiffon cake and creamy mocha frosting, it’s totally worthy of its superstar status.

For me, this cake is synonymous with celebrations. It’s been my favorite cake for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I liked the rich mocha flavor and it was often the highlight of my childhood birthday parties. My mom loves this cake, too. For years, my grandma made it for her on her birthday, and I can’t think of this dessert without imagining my mom blowing out candles, her bright smile spread across her beautiful face.

If you try this recipe, I hope your family loves it as much as mine does. Enjoy!

For the cake: 
3/4 cup boiling water
4 squares sweet or semi-sweet chocolate 
1 2/3 cups sifted cake flour*
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 eggs, separated
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 

For the frosting: 
3 cups whipping cream, chilled
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa 
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant coffee 

Preheat oven to 350 F

Combine chocolate in boiling water. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir well and let cool. 

Sift flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, coffee, baking powder, and salt into small mixer bowl. Make a well in the mixture and add oil, egg yolks, and chocolate. Beat well. 

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar and beat until frothy. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in chocolate batter until well mixed. Bake in an angel food cake pan for 45 to 50 minutes. Upturn pan until cool. 

For the frosting, combine cream, sugar, cocoa, salt, and coffee. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes. Beat mixture with electric beaters until stiff. 

Split cake into three layers and ice liberally. 

*Can substitute with all-purpose flour.


Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon meringue pie reminds me of my dad. It was his favorite dessert, and he especially liked Grandma Murphy’s version, with its tart filling and fluffy mountain of meringue. My grandma often came over to our house for Sunday dinner when I was little, and she always brought dessert. My dad was most excited when he discovered a lemon meringue smiling up at him from under her plastic cake carrier.


I made lemon meringue pie for the first time last summer. As I rolled out the pastry, whipped the egg whites to soft peaks and mixed the lemon filling, all I could think of was my dad. I imagined that he was coming to visit, and that I was making this pie just for him. I took meticulous care with every step. I imagined that once the pie had cooled, I would cut him a slice. A giant wedge with a thick ribbon of lemon filling and heaps of meringue with stiff, golden peaks. Then I would cut myself a slice just like it. And we would sit at my kitchen table, the afternoon sun streaming through the back windows, and shoot the breeze and eat pie, savoring every perfect bite, savoring the moment itself, because isn’t it wonderful to be alive.

lemon meringue pie My dad would be 62 years old today. It’s hard to imagine how he might have changed in the past 16 years. Would his hair and beard be completely gray? Would you be able to count more lines around his eyes when he smiled? Would he still blare his favorite records when no else was home and he had the house all to himself?

It’s funny, I didn’t actually like lemon meringue pie when I was a kid (fruit-based desserts were seriously sub-par to chocolate ones at the time), but I’ve grown to love it, and will continue to make it for special occasions, and just-because ones, in memory of my dad.

lemon meringue pie1 pie crust
1 box Shirriff’s lemon pie filling*
3 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F

Prepare pie crust and bake according to recipe instructions. Blind bake raw pie shell for 10 to 12 minutes. My grandma often pre-bakes her pie shell the day before filling it, so that it’s completely cooled.

Preheat oven to 350°F

Prepare the Shirriff’s lemon pie filling according to directions on the box and add to cooled crust.

Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is very firm; standing peaks should form when you remove the beaters. Spread over filling, arranging meringue in attractive peaks. Bake until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.

I was surprised that my grandma, who makes everything from scratch, uses (gasp!) store-bought filling for this recipe. “There’s no point going to the fuss of making it yourself because Shirriff’s lemon pie filling is so good,” Grandma says. Who can argue with that?!

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

My favorite childhood moments with my Grandma Murphy involve pulling up a chair to the edge of the counter and helping her stir batter or roll out dough. Many of these memories include my brother, Colin, and my cousin Julie. The three of us spent lots of time in the kitchen with our grandma when we were younger, and she always had two rules: 1). Clean as you go and 2). Don’t eat the batter.

chocolate chip cookie As kids, we couldn’t resist Grandma’s delicious chocolate chip cookie dough, and we snuck it by the spoonful when she had her back turned or left the room. She always noticed the missing batter and we, of course, blamed it on the dog.

As an adult, I still follow at least one of Grandma’s rules because, let’s face it, sometimes the best part of making chocolate chip cookies is eating the batter.

Here’s my grandma’s foolproof recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

3/4 cup Crisco
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 375°F

In large bowl, cream together Crisco, brown sugar, milk and vanilla and blend until creamy. Add egg to mixture and blend.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture and blend. Stir in chocolate chips and pecan pieces.

Use a tablespoon to drop cookie dough 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies (they will appear light and moist) or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Grandma Murphy’s Pantry: A Cookbook Made With Love

I was sitting at the kitchen table sometime in February, jotting down a grocery list when it hit me: I should make a cookbook of my Grandma Murphy’s baking recipes.

Grandma Murphy & KateMy mom’s mom, Mary Murphy, has fed the hearts and bellies of three generations of Murphys with her fabulous cakes, pies, cookies and squares. She started cooking and baking when she and my grandpa, Jack Murphy, got married in 1943, which means she’s been baking for 70 years. She’s 91 years old now, so she’s not baking as often as she did when she was raising her five daughters, but she still makes muffins and the occasional pie (with homemade pastry, of course) or chiffon layer cake. Which is pretty mind-blowing if you ask me.

So, anyway, I got the idea to write, edit and photograph a collection of her recipes and set about making it happen. I ran the idea by my grandma and the next thing I knew, I was on the train to Windsor to spend the weekend with her, gather the recipes and record her stories about baking, family, life and love.

whiteicing_15_instagramThe recipes in this book are comfort food at its best: delicious, not-too-fussy treats that have been passed on from one generation of our family to the next. We each have our favourites, and we all have memories associated with these baked goods. For me, shortbread cookies conjure the warmth of family gatherings at Christmastime. I can’t look at a mocha torte without imagining my mother, Kathie, blowing out birthday candles. Those flaky tea biscuits will forever remind me of the time Grandma taught my brother, Colin, my cousin Julie and me how to make them, each of us eager for a turn to roll out the dough. And it’s impossible for me to make lemon meringue pie without remembering my dad, Harry, who loved the tangy tart.

I finished the book in September and had the pleasure of delivering the final product, Grandma Murphy’s Pantry, to my grandma in October. The cookbook also includes recipes from my mom and her sisters, who are all whizzes in the kitchen and inherited Grandma’s love of cooking, baking and feeding the people they love. Over the next couple of months I’ll be updating this blog with recipes, photos and stories from the book — because recipes this good are too tasty not to share.

Just-Because Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night I made chocolate chip cookies.


There wasn’t a birthday or anything particularly special to celebrate. Just a random Monday at the end of March and a girl’s craving for something sweet.

IMG_2393Sometimes the soul just needs ooey-gooey, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.


Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana “Frozen Yogurt”

It’s no secret that I have a sweet tooth and ice cream is my #1 weakness. While I often daydream about subsisting entirely on a diet of frozen dairy mixed with chunks of peanut butter and chocolate or swirls of blueberry, I’m sure the reality would be a painful combo of unbearable stomach aches and about 200lbs of excess body fat.

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Six-Layer Salted-Caramel Chocolate Cake

My gorgeous cousin Julie is one of my life’s VIPs. We were born six months apart and spent most of our childhood in Windsor together, making up skits and building forts. We nursed broken limbs at the same time (her arm; my collarbone) and were maid of honour in each other’s weddings. We’re lucky to live in the same city as adults and spending time with her is one of my favourite pastimes. She is a sister, cousin and best friend all rolled into one totally awesome person.

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