Chocolate Loaf Cake

July 24, 2009


Show your guests how much you love them with this easy food gift idea,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.

Happy entertaining!


I like to bake this rich cake in paper mini loaf pans and hand them out as party favors. When the cakes have cooled completely, simply wrap a strip of parchment paper around each one and tie with pretty ribbon.

There’s nothing really special about this cake except its simplicity. It’s just a good, basic chocolate cake that’s delicious plain, frosted, or topped with ice cream or whipped cream and berries. It’s the only cake recipe that I know by heart and can make without looking at the recipe. Don’t know when or where I committed it to memory, but whenever I need to whip up a cake on the fly, this is the one I make. The original recipe must have come from one of my mother’s old cookbooks…


(Makes one 9 by 5-inch loaf or about 6 minis, depending on the size of your mini pans. Reduce baking time to 15 to 20 minutes for minis.)

1 ½ sticks butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 ¾ cups unsifted flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 (8-ounce) carton plain yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Cream together butter and sugars, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well after each addition.
  3. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove cake from pan and let cool completely on a rack.





And not a necktie or playlist among them…

not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Happy Father’s Day from Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets!

News Flash: World renowned just posted a lovely review of my gift baskets! Check it out here.


  1. Animal Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches – Kids will love helping make these bite-size beauties. Sandwich ice cream or sherbet between two animal crackers using a melon baller to make mini-scoops. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and freeze. Decorate a plain round tin with circus animal stickers and layer the wrapped sandwiches inside. Since the filled tin will need to be stored in the freezer, you may wish to present Dad with a card listing mysterious clues that eventually lead him to his present in the freezer.
  2.  Tree of Promises – Purchase a ready-to-plant potted tree, such as a Dogwood, from a nursery or home supply store. Buy fancy tags from a craft supply store (or, make your own on the computer.) Have each family member think of two or three chores or favors they are willing to promise to do for Dad. Younger kids might promise to shine his shoes or read him a story, while teenagers could commit to washing the car or babysitting their young siblings while Mom & Dad have a night on the town. Write each promise on a tag and hang it on the tree for Dad to pluck when he needs a special treat. When all the tags are gone, Dad can plant the tree outside and use it to hold tags for family celebrations for years to come.
  3. Daddy DossierYou Tube has turned us all into amateur cinematographers. Gather your siblings and make a movie of memories for Dad. Visit spots around your area where Dad earned his reputation for being the best Dad in the world… The local baseball field where he, fearlessly and without the aid of controlled substances, taught you how to drive… The row of 40-foot walnut trees that you and Dad planted as seedlings for a school 4-H project… The Wishnik troll doll (am I dating myself?) that Dad gallantly rescued after it accidentally flew out the car window on I-95. Film each other on location documenting the events in your lives that shaped treasured memories of Dad.
  4. King for a Day – Plan a full day of activities that Dad loves and type up a fancy itinerary on your computer. Entries might include breakfast in bed, followed by a round of golf, followed by a picnic in the park, followed by his choice of movies and so on. Put the itinerary in a box and wrap with pretty paper and ribbon. Present it on a tray along with the breakfast in bed.
  5. Thrill of the Grill – Mix up a couple of barbeque spice rubs for grilling. Check out my previous post for two good recipes. Put the rubs in airtight bottles or jars and add pretty labels. Buy a large washtub (that can later be filled with ice for chilling drinks), a bag of charcoal, grilling tools, an apron and perhaps a 6-pack of beer. Arrange all the items in the washtub and add a big bow. 
  6. Storytime – This is a great gift for grandfathers. Choose one day a week, or one day a month, depending on your availability, to read aloud to your recipient. Pick a book you both like and read a chapter each visit. Sure, you could just buy a couple of books on CD, but that’s not the point. This is actually nothing more than a commitment to spend time with a loved one. Besides, with a book on CD you can’t stop and discuss the plot with the reader, or share a cup of tea, or a hug.
  7. Cookie Emergency Kit – Nothing tastes better than freshly baked cookies, still warm from the oven. Mix up cookie doughs in three or four flavors you know Dad will like. An assortment of chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter and sugar cookies makes a good combo. Shape the doughs into logs and wrap each in parchment paper. Attach a tag with baking instructions to each log of dough. Buy a nonstick cookie sheet, an oven mitt, and a metal spatula. Arrange the logs of dough, mitt and spatula on the cookie sheet and tie with a pretty ribbon. Dad can store the doughs in the freezer and lop off a chunk whenever he is craving homemade cookies. He can bake a whole plateful or just slice off enough dough to make one or two cookies at a time. (Like anybody just eats one or two cookies at a time!)
  8. Young Wine – This is a great gift for a young Dad-to-be. Ask the folks at your local wine shop to help you pick out a wine that needs to age for several years before it becomes truly spectacular. Give it to the Dad with a note that says, “Drink this wine to celebrate your baby’s 13th birthday,” or “Do not open until the day you write your first school tuition check.”
  9. Tub-o-Treats – Maybe Dallas Cowboys season tickets are not in your budget, but you can still surprise Dad with an impressive gift that keeps on giving. Collect lots of little things that Dad can use while he watches his favorite sports events on TV. Wrap each one in pretty paper and ribbons and put them in a large bucket or canvas tote. Let Dad open one gift every time he sits down to watch a sports event. Items might include a large tin of gourmet nuts, a baseball cap with his team’s logo, a Rubik’s Cube, a beverage can cozy, a case of microwave popcorn, a stadium blanket, a TV remote holder and a book about his favorite sport.
  10. Cook the Book – If you like to cook and your Dad lives nearby, this is for you. Buy a cookbook with recipes for foods Dad likes. Wrap it in fancy paper and include a special handmade coupon with the card. The coupon entitles the bearer to one recipe of his choice per month, prepared and delivered by you. For example, if Dad has a sweet tooth, you might give him a dessert cookbook. The card could say something like, “Real men eat dessert first. Here’s a coupon for one sweet treat a month for the next year. You pick it and I’ll make it.”  


Make a Cookie Gift

April 15, 2009


Happy Earth Day (April 22) from Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets!

If you’re on a budget, but still want to make an impressive gift, homemade cookies are the answer. Everyone loves cookies, and even if you’re not the world’s best baker, they’ll love the idea that you cared enough to make a special gift just for them. This recipe for rich, brownie-like cookies is pretty hard to mess up, so tie on your apron and get busy. Present your creations in a pretty tin, boxcookie jar, or simply tied in a stack with ribbon and tucked into a small shopping bag. Or, make several logs of different cookie doughs, wrap them in parchment, attach baking directions and deliver them in a pretty basket. Your recipient can have warm, freshly baked cookies any time he wants by just slicing and baking a few at a time. The rest can be stored in the freezer until the next cookie craving hits. Who wouldn’t love that!


These cookies taste like skinny, round brownies. Substitute chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or butterscotch chips for the white chunks, if you like. During the winter holidays I make them with peppermint chocolate chips. For the white chocolate chunks used here, I buy good quality white chocolate bars and chop them myself.

(Makes 18 to 20 cookies)


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup flour

¾ cup white chocolate chunks



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the cocoa, then the flour. Stir in the white chocolate chunks.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheet(s), spacing them about 2 inches apart. (Alternatively, form the dough into a log, wrap in waxed paper, and freeze until ready to bake. Thaw briefly before slicing and baking.)
  3. Bake until the tops look dry, but cookies are still soft, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days or frozen up to 1 month.



Happy Easter from Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets!

Get the whole family involved in this easy, economical, Easter craft. Repurpose peat pots and paper cones or cups into charming take-home favors for kids. Grown-ups will love them too!

Use scissors to cut fused peat pots apart to make individual “baskets.” Line with Easter grass and fill with eggs and candy.

To make the paper cone baskets, punch a hole in either side of the cup, thread pretty ribbon through to make a handle and knot it on the inside. (Make the knot nice and big so it holds the handle in place.) Hand the filled baskets out as party favors, or add a nametag and drop one into each person’s glass to create place cards for the Easter dinner table.