The Return of Cristina’s Ghirardelli Chocolate Cake and Atomic Tacos

Some of you that lived in Boise during the 1980s and ’90s might remember buying delicious pastries and breads at Cristina’s Bakery and Coffee Bar. It was downtown in that small white building on the corner of 5th and Main. Besides the glass cases of amazing cakes and desserts, tucked in the back of the bakery was another gastronomic delight: the “Atomic Taco.” In my humble opinion they served up the best “Pollo Asado” tacos ever tasted. Imagine delicious juicy marinated chicken tucked inside a warm corn tortilla, topped with jack cheese, cabbage, and limes.

For years, it had became a tradition for any sort of special occasion to order in advance one of Cristina’s delightfully moist Ghirardelli chocolate layer cakes with luscious cream cheese frosting. One day, to my horror, I discovered the bakery was closed for good. I didn’t even see it coming. No more tacos and – more importantly – no more chocolate cake! How could Cristina addict us to her delights and cut us off just like that! For weeks, I went through chocolate cake and taco withdrawal. Eventually, I was saved when I came across the actual recipe for Cristina’s Pollo Asado tacos in a cookbook of donated recipes from Boise’s finest restaurants published in 1996. The first time I made them from the recipe, it was like eating something straight from Cristina’s own kitchen. Yummy! So far, I haven’t been so lucky to get my hands on the original cake recipe so I was forced to come up with my own version of Ghirardelli chocolate layer cake. My recipe is moist and delicious just like the real thing. My family and friends love it!

Ghirardelli Chocolate Layer Cake

For cake layers:

3 ounces of semisweet chocolate (preferably Ghirardelli)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease two 10 inch x 2 inch cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper. (I only have 9 inch cake pans which I filled about 1/2 way to top and used leftover batter to make 8-10 cupcakes.)

To make cake layers:

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.


Cream Cheese Frosting

Two 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
12 Tbsp. butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
dash salt
2 tsp. vanilla

6-8 Tbsp light cream

Finished Cake!

In large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter and beat until light and fluffy. Alternately add powdered sugar and light cream, beating until desired spreading consistency. Beat in salt and vanilla. (This recipe will generously frost a cake plus extra for 8-10 cupcakes.)



Pollo Asado “Atomic” Tacos (restaurant quantity – see note below)

10 lb. chicken tenders, diced.

Fresh Cilantro, Red Onion and Limes

12 oranges, 10 limes juiced
2 red onions, sliced
3 bunches cilantro, chopped
1 cup basil, dried
1/2 cup oregano, dried
3/4 cup rosemary, dried
3/4 cup soy sauce
4 cups olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a glass container and pour over chicken. Marinate chicken for an hour or up to two days (will get more citrusy with age). Bake chicken in marinade at 400 degrees for about 45 mins or until done. Serve in corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, jack cheese, lime and salsa.


Delicious Pollo Asado Tacos

(This original recipe is obviously for restaurant use. When made at home to feed two people with lots of leftovers, I’ve quartered it and also decreased the amount of olive oil to only about 1/2 cup to cut back on the calories. When measuring ingredients, they don’t need to be exact, adjust according to your taste.)




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