Alison Nelson and Matt Lewis stop by with some recipes from their book “Chocolate Bar: Recipes and Entertaining Ideas For Living the Sweet Life”:

• Red Velvet Cake-Makes 1 triple-layer 8-inch cake

We love Red Velvet Cake! It is towering, loud, brash, slightly trashy and perfect for any party. This cake almost always shows up at our holiday parties in November and December and it makes its requisite appearance during Valentines Day, but you can bake it for any occasion.

The crumb on this cake is slightly flaky and fluffy which lends itself perfectly to the rich vanilla icing.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (2 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter-flavored shortening at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 ounce red food coloring (1 bottle)
4 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder such as Valrhona
2 tablespoon boiling water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

*Red food color adds a gorgeous tint to this cake but may stain plastics as well as your clothes, so be careful when using.

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and place rack in the middle position. Butter and flour sides of 3 (8-inch) cake tins and line bottoms with parchment circles (butter the parchment as well).
2. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, red food coloring and 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Set aside to cool.
3. Sift flour and salt together. Mix buttermilk and vanilla together.
4. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening on high speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and continue beating for approximately 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.
5. Add eggs and yolk one at a time, blending well after each.
6. Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until combined.
7. Dissolve baking soda in vinegar (mixture will fizz) and add to mixer until just combined.
8. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans, smoothing top and taping gently on the bottom and sides to remove any air bubbles. Bake 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs
9. Cool on rack 10 minutes and invert tins to release cakes. Cool to room temperature and make frosting while cakes are cooling. Use a serrated knife to level off the tops of the cakes until they are perfectly flat and even.

• Speckled White Frosting

Vanilla beans give a wonderful look and flavor to this white frosting. If a completely white frosting is preferred, simply replace the vanilla paste with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla paste

Method:
1. Whisk together sugar and flour in a 1-quart heavy saucepan. Add milk and cream and whisk constantly over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and stir constantly for 3 minutes.
2. Transfer mixture to a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add butter, until incorporated.
3. Lastly, add the vanilla paste and mix until combined.
4. Allow the buttercream to chill for about 1 hour before using. If too soft, the buttercream will cause the cake layers to slide. If the buttercream becomes too hard, it can be softened over a pot of simmering water.
5. Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of buttercream on each cake layer and smooth out the top before placing another cake layer on top. Finish the surface of the cake with a slightly thicker layer and even out the sides.
6. Decorate as you wish.

For a beautiful, simple garnish, reserve some crumbs from the cake (easily rubbed off the sides before frosting) and sprinkle minimally on top. Chill for 1 hour before serving. Keep refrigerated, loosely covered with plastic wrap. (Butter cream absorbs refrigerator odors easily.)

• Chocolate Body Scrub-Makes One body treatment

Get yourself clean with this quick and easy body scrub. It’s a great, all-natural exfoliant for the chocolate obsessed.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:
Mix ingredients together thoroughly in a glass or plastic bowl. Apply the mixture to moistened skin and scrub. Rinse thoroughly.

It’s that easy!

• Chocolate Martini-Makes 1 serving

A Chocolate Martini is not a serious drink. It is strictly a fun concoction, especially blended for parties and light-hearted socializing. Our recipe is easy enough for the home mixologist and swank enough for the discerning martini drinker.

Ingredients:
½ tablespoon good-quality Dutch process cocoa powder
½ tablespoon sugar
1½ shots chocolate liqueur
1½ shots Crème de Cacao
½ shot vanilla-flavored vodka
2½ shots half-and-half

Method:
Mix cocoa and sugar together. Rim a chilled martini glass with water and dip into cocoa and sugar mixture. Shake chocolate liqueur, Crème de Cacao, vodka, and half-and-half in a cocktail shaker over ice. Pour into martini glass.