Green Collection: Find Your Dosha

September 9th, 2014

Green collection PLC1 Green Collection: Find Your DoshaGreen Collection: Find Your Dosha

Over 10 years ago, I first launched the Green Truffle Collection to further explore the flavors of Japan, India, Thailand and Malaysia that I had discovered during my travels. For the past few years, the fresh flavors of green made way for new collections. This fall, I decided to make a small batch of the old favorite. It has returned from the Vosges Haut-Chocolat archives for a limited time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dividing Space

October 9th, 2013

Sari Dividing Space2 Dividing Space

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with space and the notion of dividing it in interesting and temple-esque ways. My most recent spatial experiment involves a special set of 18′ long braided saris. I am hypnotized by the beautiful, colorful visualizations of India and coupled with my love for eclectic, international art, design, and clothing they are shaping the look and feel of our new offices. The saris made their first appearance at my wedding back in September of 2005. The ceremony took place at my childhood home in Fort Wayne, IN and the reception, at the nearby horse farm. For the festivities, we transformed the saris into tablecloths.

The next stop on their journey was our previous Vosges Haut-Chocolat office, where they were hung from tall ceilings in the loft. They billowed down into the space below, creating texture and color in the office. They also gave our work space some sound insulation and a bohemian vibe.
sari5 Dividing Space
We recently moved into our new location at ‘The Chocolate Temple’ in Chicago, where in their third life, the saris have found themselves hanging from the ceilings once again, but this time as braided walls of cloth. I’ve been working with Jane, our resident artist, on the project.
sari6 Dividing Space
We have been cutting each sari into 2″ x 18′ sections, braiding them, and then suspending them from above. It is just one of our approaches to dividing up the space a much more welcoming solution than cubical walls and other typical office partitions.
Sari Finished Dividing Space

There are many happenings at The Chocolate Temple — it houses our corporate headquarters, innovation lab, manufacturing plant, over fifty Vosges Haut-Chocolat employees and soon to be our visitor wing. It is the beating heart of our endeavors and a hub of creativity.

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April 8th, 2013

Momenteer1 Momenteer
WHEN: April 12 & 13
WHAT: In Home Yoga Retreat

I am thrilled to team up with my good friend and “Momenteer Movement” pioneer David Romanelli for his latest inspiring initiative in the world of Yoga + Chocolate. David and I will bring the Yoga + Chocolate experience into your home for the next edition of In Home Retreat as co-presenters of a savory, healing experience filled with relaxation, inspiration, and Vosges Haut-Chocolat exotic chocolate.

Sound tempting? This is how it works:

Prior to the retreat, you will be mailed an unforgettable package of Vosges Haut-Chocolat collections including our 4-piece Exotic Truffle Collection, 4-piece Tarte Exotic Caramel Collection, an Exotic Chocolate Bar Library, and a 2-piece mystery bar experience. Then, we’ll ask you to do the most difficult part, SAVE THE CHOCOLATE until the retreat, which takes place on April 12 and 13. The retreat will be live and online. If you can’t make the date, you can watch the recorded version at your convenience.

The beauty of David’s In Home Retreat is that you don’t even have to leave your home to get the complete, rich Yoga + Chocolate experience. I hope you will join us. Learn more here.

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Easter Traditions

March 28th, 2013

Easter Morning Easter Traditions

There are certain times of the year that are especially memorable for children. Depending on your traditions, the scenes in your memories may change but often they include gatherings, food and celebration. For my family, Easter has always been a bit like the Kentucky Derby – the best excuse to wear the biggest and grandest hats!

You won’t be surprised to learn that we are food-centric family. I am of Macedonian decent and every holiday is filled with plentiful family and too much food. Part of the fun is the preparation. We gather in the kitchen, set a beautiful table and spend hours enjoying each other’s company and indulging in our traditional family dishes.

Even before we had little kids running the hallways, I found every reason to sprinkle the house with chocolate – in little nests, as part of our centerpieces and hidden in a myriad of unsuspecting nooks and crannies. This is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the symbols of spring and signs of fertility – *eggs, rabbits and nests.

As a Midwesterner, the spring is especially welcome and an extreme contrast to the cold winters. I can already see flowers peeking up from the ground and buds preparing themselves to burst open, filling the trees with foliage again.

Wishing those of you who celebrate a happy Easter and wishing all feelings of rejuvenation and warmth this spring!

*This is a seasonal collection that is usually available in limited quantities in the spring.

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Meet Wild Ophelia

March 5th, 2013

Wild Ophelia Header Meet Wild Ophelia
Most often, my creations are driven by falling in love. Something captures my heart and imagination and I must communicate my emotion through chocolate. Occasionally, my initial scheming is sparked by the desire to fill a need.

This year, as Vosges Haut-Chocolat continues to mature, I am nurturing a new brand in its infancy. Wild Ophelia is my new baby. It is a line of chocolate bars filled with ingredients from American farms and fellow food artisans. Like a little sister, this brand is more feisty, more restless and more outspoken. I wanted to use America as the focus of the brand, exposing consumers to the sustainable agricultural movement by introducing them to different seed varietals, craft processes and farmers. Like all my chocolate, I have continued my commitment to all natural ingredients and environmental consciousness. With this spirited sister of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, I plan to revolutionize the main stream chocolate aisles by spreading Wild Ophelia chocolate bars far and wide.

Wild Ophelia is a colorful character born of my imagination and love of the South. She is outspoken, strong and principled while still being carefree and fun. A Tennessee girl and a free spirit, she is known to hit the road in her pick up truck on a moment’s notice to seek the path less traveled and connect with like-minded foodies.

Through food traceability storytelling, Wild Ophelia is on a mission to bring about awareness of how your food is grown and continue the conversation by encourage all to consistently ask “how is my food grown?” Explore Wild Ophelia chocolate bar flavors on the website here. Find a store that carries them near you here.

Get to know Ophelia and keep in touch regularly on her Facebook page and on Pinterest.

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Curating a Cheese Platter

January 15th, 2013

Cheese platter Curating a Cheese Platter

The best cheese platter is a result of careful curation. It doesn’t take much culinary skill to pull together a thoughtfully delicious spread. Over the years, I have kept track of my favorite offerings, sometimes swapping in new discoveries or seasonally appropriate foods.

When gathering cheeses, I think is important to include a variety of textures and various flavor profiles. I include a blue cheese, a goat cheese, one washed rind cheese, a hard cheese and often a pressed curd variety. A few of my current favorites are Humboldt Fog from Cypress Valley and an ash-covered goat cheese I recently discovered.

Over the past decade, in tandem with the local and natural food movement, dozens of small, local dairies have popped up all over the country. When traveling, I seek small goat farms and local creameries. Often, you can visit the farms where you will meet some of the hardest working, dedicated foodies around.

Rooster crackers Curating a Cheese Platter

Of course, a focal element of my cheese platters are the chocolate pairings. The Rooster truffle is a must. It was my first serious exploration into the combination of cheese and chocolate. It combines taleggio cheese with organic walnuts and bittersweet, dark chocolate. Eating the pyramidal truffle alongside other cheeses will help the palate discover more of the cheese nuances in the dark chocolate ganache. I often place other truffles and chocolate bars near cheeses that would serve as appropriate pairings. Try to pair light flavors with white chocolate and stronger flavors with darker chocolate. Your guests experimentations with the best combinations will be part of the fun.

Non cheese accouterments such as dried fruits, nuts, crackers, honey or preserves, are as important to the presentation as the right accessories are to a perfect outfit. They provide additional textures, aromas and flavors to enhance the cheeses. A few of my must-haves are charcoal crackers from The Fine Cheese Company (they can be found at specialty food stores), Rock Creek Crisps and any type of local honey.

The non-edibles are also worth consideration. When arranging my grouping of cheese, chocolate and accouterments, I prefer a large, wooden board. The bigger the better for a grand, jaw dropping, gluttonous display! I am also particularly attached to my white handled cheese knives.

cheese knives Curating a Cheese Platter

No need to hold off on entertaining because you can’t tackle a large, culinary feat. Just practice pulling together your favorite cheeses, experiment with pairings and buy a few bottles of wine. Your guests will surely be impressed and palates will be pleased.

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Limited Edition Holiday Gifts

December 7th, 2012

Holiday Gift Package1 Limited Edition Holiday Gifts

Our Limited Edition Holiday Gift Packaging
Each year, we work diligently to not only present flavors that invoke the holiday spirit but to package them so that they will stun those lucky enough to receive them!

From a young age, I was captivated by packaging of finely crafted treasures; the ribbons, texture of the paper boxes, the stories and layers to the experience. My mother exposed me to 100-year-old + brands that valued craftsmanship above all else and adhered to their values in good times and bad. After the meticulous creation of my chocolates, I knew that equally thoughtful packaging was essential to the holistic experience. Though perhaps we shouldn’t, people do judge a book by its cover.

At the holidays especially, we pay heed to our designs and strive to create a bespoke chocolate gift experience. For the past few years, we have created limited edition packaging to cradle our holiday collections. This season, I am completely entranced with our final product!

The limited edition holiday gift packaging this year is a regal dark purple with detailed ornamentation in accents of gold embossing. A keepsake indeed. You wouldn’t dare throw it out! Rich, lush and jewelry-esque, the design was inspired by Paris’ Place Vendôme in the first arrondissement. A stunning, ornately carved, bronze column rises from the center of the square. The finest jewelry ateliers border the square providing looking glass display boxes proudly boasting their masterpieces. I wanted to capture this height of elegance, craftsmanship and finery and bring to it a touch of modernity.

Once you pull the bow of these precious, purple treasure chests and tip back the lid, you’ll discover our limited edition holiday chocolates. The truffle recipes were originally inspired by the Victorian era and the rich holiday traditions of the time. Families prepared for months, hanging evergreens, mistletoe, holly and ivy. Plum puddings were carefully crafted and warmed, spiced drinks were served in celebration. The holiday season often awakens nostalgia and so will these perfumes: egg nog, Italian chestnut and pistachio, all natural peppermint candy cane and holiday plum pudding.

Our limited edition Holiday Gift Box also includes a quarter pound of the famous and addicting Bapchi’s Caramel Toffee and a gift tube of our new Petits Chocolats. The little chocolate bites each hide a burst of liquid caramel inside.

My hope is that every detail – the ribbon, embossing, the carefully selected ingredients, the beauty and the gilt – will lure the gift giver and the recipient into the holiday spirit.

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Volcano Island Honey

November 29th, 2012

honey truffle bee collage Volcano Island Honey

After studying chemistry at Vanderbilt, I went to Paris and began my culinary career at Le Cordon Bleu. To get some real world experience, I was fortunate to work under Ferran and Alberta Adria at El Bulli in Spain. As the story goes, Ferran encouraged me to use my palate and imagination as my guide in my travels, I translated that into a trip around the world, studying people, cultures and their food. On my way home, I stopped in Hawaii.

While on the island of Oahu, I perused a local department store that had a fabulous food hall. I asked the clerk to show me foods that are local to Hawaii. Behold… my first encounter with Volcano Island Honey. I was enamored. Beekeeper, Richard Spiegel sells a rare, organic white honey. His precious nectar is like no other. It is has a silky smooth and thick texture, a pearlescent white color and exquisite taste. Your palate can detect a slight pineapple top note.

Initially, I was disappointed to hear from that Volcano Island Honey did not sell their jars of white gold to but a select retailers, let alone as an ingredient. They have so little honey that demand exceeds supply and he isn’t able to part with large quantities to any single source. Perhaps guided by fate, I called again and had a chance to talk to Richard himself.

The two of us must have talked for nearly two hours. We discussed his unique path that led him to beekeeping on Hawaii. We discussed his law practice in Washington D.C. to an intense exploration of subsistence living and even his heartbreak of losing his late wife. We connected and began what has become a lifelong friendship.
Honey Header Volcano Island Honey
For those who anxiously await our *limited edition truffle collection, you know that Richard did finally agree to sell me a small amount of honey each year! In the fall, he parts with just 80 or so pounds of rare organic white honey so that I may use it in my dark chocolate truffles. I don’t mix it into the chocolate but leave a pocket for the honey, preciously tucked inside the shell and awaiting discovery!

* This is a seasonal collection that is usually available in limited quantities in December.

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Sage and Pear Infused Maple Whiskey

November 21st, 2012

Whiskey infusion Sage and Pear Infused Maple Whiskey

This cocktail tastes like autumn in a glass. As the last few days of the season slip through our fingers and we turn to winter, you will be happy to have a bottle of this infused whiskey on hand to warm you from the inside out.

I need to be honest. Much of the magic of this recipe was taken care of by the Robillard family. They are the artisans responsible for Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey. They have a romantic story that is worth telling.

Rob Robillard traveled worldwide while working in the electronics industry. Along the way, he collected obscure spirits from around the world. The New Englander often gave maple syrup as gifts, promoting maple and its rich history. Rob felt that maple was under appreciated.

The first batches of Cabin Fever were created in a backyard garage. Rob took distilling classes and experimented, gifting his maple whiskey to friends and family. When they decided to make Cabin Fever a commercial venture and launch their business, everyone in the family got involved and as they report on their website, it took “dedication, persistence and plain old hard work” to make it happen.

Cabin Fever whiskey is a 3 year old, 80 proof whiskey that is infused with real grade B dark maple (not overly sweet). The aroma is intoxicating and the flavor is warm and harmonious.

I infused my bottle of Cabin Fever with a large sprig of fresh sage (6-8 leaves) and a half of a pear cut into slices. Be sure to let the bottle rest with the sage and pear for at least 3 days before enjoying. Serve the infused maple whiskey neat, over ice or Hot Toddy style.

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October 23rd, 2012

Paella header Paella

A few months ago, I took a trip to the Andalusia region of southern Spain. It is just thirty miles from northern Africa. The region is heavily influenced by the many different cultures who have left their mark over the millennia including the Moors, Jews, Christians, Romans, Phoenicians and many more.

In addition to Spanish and African influences, there is a huge gypsy culture in the region. Interestingly, the gypsies seem more respected and revered in southern Spain than in other place I’ve been. The flamenco music and dancing are central to the gypsies and the culture of this southern most peninsula of Spain.

Just writing about my trip, I can hear the sounds, feel the 100 degree heat, see the men and women dancing dripping in sweat and sultry. The memories are full of color. Bright ceramic tile speaks of the Moorish influence, red peppers and spices line the markets, orange saffron and spongy bitter oranges, blue water, and green fertile hills filled with feasting goats.

During my trip, I explored the secrets of paella. It is a national dish and different regions offer different takes on the specialty. The ingredients are key, most importantly the saffron and the rice.
ingredients paella Paella

The rice must be able to absorb all of the flavors of the paella without becoming soft. Long grain rice such as basmati does not absorb flavors, most short grain turns into mush. The best I have tried is from the mountains of Calasparra called la bomba rice. The saffron I love to use is Princesa de Minaya Saffron, D.O. La Mancha, many say it is the best in Spain as it produces a deeper color and intense flavor. Though when I was in Spain many people use an artificial yellow coloring to get the glowing yellow color, very disappointing. A few other tricks that I picked up include adding wedges of lemon to garnish the finished dish. Lemon with paella seems to really bring out the flavor of the dish.

paella process Paella

Also, you MUST resist the urge to stir the paella while cooking. The caramelized crust along the pan is the most desired part! Finally, don’t skimp on making your own stock. It will make all the difference.

In Spain they say there are as many paella recipes as there are cooks in Spain. Though the original paella region originated in a rice growing region in the town of Valencia sometime in the mid 19th century. This most traditional “harvest paella” was the signature dish of Valencia made with chicken, rabbit and snails.

A large, beautiful dish of paella is enough of a centerpiece in the middle of a table surrounded by friends and family. Try my version with of course a little bit of chocolate!

Step by step directions.
serves 6

Stock Preparation:
½ onion, large cut in slices
3 tbsp olive oil
7 cups water,
1 cup white wine
1 pound mussels
8 large shrimp peelings shell heads and tails

Rinse mussels in water and scrub off any debris, tap the mussel to see if it is alive, if you tap the mussel it should close, if not throw it away. Debeard mussels if necessary.

Place a large stockpot on medium high heat. When hot add the olive oil followed by the onions. Sweat the onions until soft. Add the mussels and sautee until they are just beginning to open. Add wine and deglaze the pan. Gently remove the mussels and remove the mussel from the shell and set aside but return the shells back to the pot. Add shrimp shells and the water and bring to a boil. Then take off heat and let sit until your stock is needed.

For the Paella
½ cup olive oil
6 pieces spicy sausage, chorizo cut into small chunks(optional )
red pepper, 1 cut into long strips

Heat paella pan on medium high heat. Add olive oil. Heat for 1 minute add sausage and cook until cooked through. Simultaneously cook the strips of bell pepper to a nice caramelized finish on both sides. Set sausage and peppers aside for later.

1 bell peppers, red diced
1 bell peppers, green diced
1 onion, medium diced
2 tomatoes, diced or tomate frito
5 garlic cloves, small diced
2 1/2 tsp dried paprika (pimiento)
Calamari rings, 1 pound (1 1/2cups)
1 ½ cups white wine
13 little neck clams
2 cups rice, Redondo Calasparra
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp saffron powdered
¼ cup olive oil, Spanish
8 Shrimp with shells or langostinos
13 Shrimp shelled and deveined
2 lemons cut in 5ths

Sautée peppers and onion in the sausage fat until softened. Add the tomatoes, garlic, paprika. Cook down a few minutes. Add Calamari rings and white pepper. Sautée for a minute.

Add white wine and cook off the alcohol. Add clams/cockles until opened.

Sprinkle 2 cups of rice around the paella pan. Add 4 cups of stock and cook for 20 minutes while the rice is really boiling. Do not stir.

Salt to taste throughout – I use a lot!!!

Add saffron. Stir around. Add olive oil to taste.

Add the whole langostinos, peeled shrimp tails and cook for 10-15 minutes, cover to steam the shrimp and it will cook better. Add more stock as necessary.

DO not stir the paella as you want to caramelize the bottom. This is the most desired part!

Arrange the mussels in half shells and in pieces out of the shell, place in at the end only to warm for 5 minutes with a decoration of the long strip of red peppers like a flower in the center

Add more salt if needed.

Cut lemons for garnish on the side. They think it tastes much better with lemon.

Other options:
vegetable and chorizo

all meat pollo and cerdo

all beef

all mariscos
mariscos and chicken and pork

Note on Cleaning Clams: First, gently tap any clams with open shells against the counter top. Discard any clams that do not close their shells within a few minutes or that have cracked or chipped shells. Place all the clams in a bowl and fill it with cold water. Someone told me that adding cornmeal or black pepper to the water will encourage the clams to release more sand. Let the clams sit for 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, they will spit out the sand from inside their shells.

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How to Make Easy Parchment Circles

October 2nd, 2012

Parchment Circle How to Make Easy Parchment Circles

An Easy Way to Line Your Cake Pans
Do you ever get the urge to skip lining your cake pans with parchment paper? Don’t do it! A simple layer of paper will ensure that your cakes will pop cleanly right out of your pan. Why go through all the work of creating a cake only to have it stick to the pan?! Even the heaviest greasing doesn’t work as well.

While studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, we were taught how to make quick and easy parchment circles. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can do it in your sleep. Don’t make the mistake of using wax paper – it’s definitely not the same. Wax paper can burn in the oven.

Step 1: Start with a piece of parchment that will easily cover the bottom of the pan.
Cake parchment1 How to Make Easy Parchment Circles
Step 2: Fold the sheet in half and in half again to create a square.
Cake parchment2 How to Make Easy Parchment Circles
Step 3: Your square has one corner that is all folds and one that is completely open. Use the other two corners to fold towards each other creating a triangle. Fold it again in the same direction to make a thinner triangle. (The idea is to keep the folded corner at the point of the triangle.) Notice very pregnant belly…
CakeParchment3 How to Make Easy Parchment Circles
Step 4: Hold the pointed end to the center of your circle and measure how much length is needed to reach the outside of your pan. Using a scissors, cut the triangle to equal the radius of the circular pan.
CakeParchment4 How to Make Easy Parchment Circles
Step 5: Open into a circle and press it in a lightly greased pan. Voila! Pour cake batter in with confidence.
CakeParchmentPour How to Make Easy Parchment Circles

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Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cake with Exotic Chocolate Fudge Frosting

September 21st, 2012

Vegan Cake Chocolate Header Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cake with Exotic Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Chocolate Coconut Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting
I have been absolutely glued to reading The Voluptuous Vegan (great name) Cookbook as of late. I am trying to eat more veggies in more creative ways beyond roasting with olive oil and sea salt. This cookbook has yet to disappoint.

I have included here a delicious and moist chocolate cake recipe with a little tweak here and there. Next adaptation I would like to try is a gluten free version. I swear gluten is a real energy sucker for me, so I am trying to avoid it. Without further ado, here is the recipe, slightly adapted from the recipe in The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfield and George Minot

Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1  teaspoons baking soda
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup coconut milk
6 tablespoons coconut oil (start with 8 solid and melt)
1 ½ cups pure maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
Chocolate Fudge Frosting (recipe follows)
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut (for garnish)
Fresh Berries (for serving)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Oil two 9-inch cake pans (or two 8 inch pans), line the bottoms with parchment circles, and oil again. Into a medium bowl, sift the pastry flour, unbleached white flour, baking powder and baking soda.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the cocoa powder in coconut milk, stirring continuously. When the cocoa begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and pour it into an empty bowl. Add the remaining liquid ingredients and the salt to the cocoa and whisk until they are well combined.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and whisk until the liquid is completely absorbed. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a spatula or knife and invert onto oiled wire racks. Remove the parchment circle. To prevent splitting, invert the cakes so that the tops face up. Cool completely before frosting with the Chocolate Fudge Frosting or wrap and store overnight.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Agar powder is sometimes hard to find, you can sub 4 tablespoons of agar flakes in this recipe.

1 ¼ cups water
1 tablespoon agar powder or 4 tablespoons agar flakes
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ cups pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
¼ cup soy, almond or hemp milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, experiment with any Exotic Chocolate Bar parfum

In a small saucepan combine the water and agar powder or agar flakes. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the water starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes if using agar powder and about 10 minutes if using agar flakes. Stir the flakes frequently to make sure nothing sticks to the pot.

Add the cocoa powder, maple syrup, and salt stirring occasionally to dissolve the cocoa powder.
In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot in the soy milk to make a slurry. When the cocoa liquid starts to boil, add the arrowroot slurry, stirring constantly (stopping every so often only long enough to see if its bubbling), until you see bubbles starting to form. The mixture will thicken and lose its cloudy look when the liquid starts to bubble.

Turn off the heat. If you used agar flakes, pour the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer to catch any bits of undissolved agar. Add the vanilla and chocolate. Let the chocolate sit in the liquid for a couple of minutes to melt. Then, whisk until smooth. Pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or until hardened. Scoop the frosting into a mixer and whip until smooth. Return the frosting to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to let the frosting firm up a bit.

Frost thw cake and sprinkle layers of large coconut flakes in between. This is so moist and delicious!!

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