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Monday, April 2, 2018

Cake #27: Fresh Apple Cake

I made this for an Easter Cake, even though in All Cakes Considered it says it's a good cake for fall. Ah, well. It's still chilly outside.
It calls for 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil. And it's an APPLE CAKE. I couldn't bring myself to do that. Plus all I had was olive oil. So I negotiated with the cake book and we agreed to 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 cup olive oil. Now that I've made it, next time I would do all applesauce and no oil. Different results, but I don't see why not.
The recipe called for 3 c granny smith apples. I used 4 apples, which was probably closer to 4 cups, but that was fine. It also called for "raisins, cranberries or dried cherries". I used cranberries, and without trying any cakes using the other kinds of dried fruit- I'm just gonna go ahead and claim that cranberries were the best choice. The 1 cup of chopped walnuts added a nice crunch and balance to the apples and cranberries. In the end, I'm not sure why this isn't considered a variation of a "Fruit Cake". But the actual "Fruit Cake" is coming up, so maybe I'll find out soon.
So, the thing with this cake was... it was Easter and we were hosting. While the cake was in the oven, we decided to take the kids (ages 2, 3, 6) for a walk. The 2 and 3 year-olds don't walk all that fast. I knew what time the oven timer would go off, so when we were halfway done with the walk (a loop around the neighborhood), I texted the one family member back home who didn't go on the walk to ignore the timer, knowing the oven would be beeping at him. At that point, I took the dog and we power walked back to the house, arriving about 5 minutes after the timer went off, not a big deal as far as the cake was concerned. But the non-walker of the group had gotten annoyed by the beeping, decided to check on the cake, which looked done, and took it out and turned off the oven. Even though he got my text. So, I did a quick toothpick test and found it was still extremely gooey on the inside, put it back in the oven, turned the oven back on, and set the timer to check on it in 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, the walkers had texted to see if I could pick them up in the car, because the 2 and 3 years olds were wanting to be carried. Actually, the 2 year old, if you put her down, would start going full speed in the opposite direction, just to be a snot. So it wasn't like it was an extremely long walk and their legs were tired. It was just that they were 2 and 3 years old! I got the keys to their van (with 2 booster seats), ran out to start the van, remembered the timer and didn't want to repeat the cake getting pulled out again, so I turned off the timer and rushed out the door, and the car wouldn't start! I ran back in, got the keys to my car (with one booster seat), and got in my car and IT wouldn't start. I was starting to question my sanity, then remembered that my car is 18 years old and is funky sometimes with the remote lock/start. So, I locked and unlocked it with the remote key, and sure enough it started right up! Phew! (side note, this is all on April Fool's Day, yet it was the cars foolin' me!) I managed to pick up the walkers, get them home, and check on the cake again- still gooey in the middle. And I had a few minutes to breathe in and out, but it was a pretty damn frantic 20 minutes! In the end, the cake took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to cook, 20 minutes longer than the recipe called for, but that could have something to do with the snafu when the timer went off. After the 1st time checking it, I put some tin foil over the top since it did look done (the non-walker was correct about that) on the top.
Everyone liked the cake, especially warm with vanilla ice cream. I thought it had a little too much nutmeg. But then again, I used whole nutmeg shredded in it, and therefore I didn't measure it and I have no idea how much I actually put in.
I don't know if I would make this again, except it was fairly easy (if you don't go for a walk while it's baking) and it would be a good thing to make if you have apples to get rid of. I also don't necessarily think you'd have to stick with Granny Smiths. Apple snobs might disagree with me, but I'm not an apple snob, and I'm in fact more inclined to make a recipe when it involves cleaning out the fridge.
UPDATE: This morning, the six year old wanted cake for breakfast. I said "sure!"; his father said "Cake? For breakfast?!" I explained that this isn't really a full-of-sugar-and-frosting type of cake, and I could see it as a breakfast item. I was thinking about that while I was snacking on a slice at work, and it dawned on me- this cake recipe would actually make great muffins! Now I want to make it again, in a muffin pan, and see how that goes. Cake for Breakfast!

Carnival Cakes, year 2

Every year our elementary school asks (begs, pleads!) for everyone to make lots of cakes for their Cake Walk at the carnival fundraiser. Those cheap boxes of cake at the grocery store- you can make 2 cakes from each box if you don't stack them. They all require 3 eggs, water and oil to be added. I use applesauce instead of oil (unsweetened), and they turn out fine (and healthier! and cheaper!) This year, I bought a few extra things to make them a little different.  
This one sparked a bit of debate: are the marshmallow peeps worshiping the marshmallow? I mean, it IS where they came from. 
Blue gummy worms crawling out of a too-moist fudge topping. Mmmmm. 
(Remember, there will be elementary-aged kids choosing which cake to take home!)  

Peeps swimming in fudge- you can see the waves crashing on their sides (an attempt to cover up the non-pink marshmallow that shows when you tear them apart).  

This would work better on white or light frosting- colorful gummy butterflies on the cake. It didn't taste bad, just didn't show up well on that dark fudge frosting. 
The far-right bottom cake had coconut inside. I bought some frozen coconut chunks from Trader Joe's to add to the cake box to see how it would taste. It wasn't great. Now I know. Anyway, I added shredded coconut on top of this one so that whoever chose it would (hopefully) be a coconut fan. 
All of the non-peep cakes needed toothpicks to keep the plastic wrap off the frosting, but the peeps kept it off all on their own. Good job, Peeps!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Cake #26: Peach Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this for a late holiday family gathering with the in-laws, and I skipped ahead to make one that I didn't seem to need a kitchen aid mixer for (I wasn't about to haul that heavy thing!) Except for the frosting, hand-stirring the cake ingredients works fine. And at home, it would be a good idea to do that so you can just use the kitchen aid for the frosting without having to wash it between cake-mixing and frosting-mixing. 
This cake calls for 1 cup of oil, so of course I used 1 cup of apple sauce instead. It calls for 2 cups of sliced peaches, preferably canned. Then, in the story about it, she says "The key is to rinse the syrup off before you add the canned peaches to the mixing bowl". I didn't read that part, so skipped the rinsing part, but I did drain them. The cans said there was about 1 1/2 cups in each can, but I didn't know if that included the liquid in the can or not, so I just used 2 cans of drained peaches, without measuring, which was probably 2 or 3 cups worth. It did seem a bit heavy on the peaches, but no one complained. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional. I opted to not use the nuts since not everyone in the family enjoys nuts in their desserts, but for those of us who do , the nuts would have made a nice addition. 

The frosting was a hit- I'll have to copy this down for future cake recipes that call for cream cheese frosting: 3 oz cream cheese (I use Neufch√Ętel because why wouldn't you?) 4 T unsalted butter, 1 t vanilla extract (not really measured), 2 c powdered sugar and 1/2 t ground ginger. 
For this, I was happy my in-law had a hand-held electric mixer. Although slightly broken, it worked for the frosting, where hand-stirring would have sucked. The frosting was great, and you could only slightly taste the ginger, if I happened to mention it was in there and you thought about it for awhile. 
I baked the cake for 50 minutes and it was done, so I took it out of the oven to cool for 10 minutes just like the recipe said to do. But it didn't plop out like it should (again, this could be the applesauce substitution causing the un-ploppiness quality of the cake) so I used a knife around the edges and got it out, although a few portions were still stick, so I removed those from the pan and did a little re-construction to the top of the cake while it cooled on the plate. It was quite lop-sided and unattractive looking, which is why it's a good thing it called for frosting. 

After it was cooled, I frosted it at the kitchen table and my 2 year old niece found out about the situation right away. She came over to me and tried like hell to get her hands on that cake. She kept saying "Want cake!" And I kept saying "Not ready!"and she didn't quite get the concept of why on Earth I was playing with that cake and not giving her any! I worked on perfecting the art of one-handed cake-frosting while the other had blocked the toddler. She started to have a mini-tantrum about it until she got her finger in the scraped-out bowl of cream cheese frosting and put that in her mouth. 
Then the complaining turned into "YUM!" and I realized this worked out well: she was too young to understand "Not ready"but also too young to realize that the frosting on her finger wasn't actually the cake, so she was satisfied with a few licks of frosting and didn't actually get that slice of cake right before bedtime.  
After it was frosted, I cut it into slices. With this cake you can cut the tiniest of slices or a super-thick slice, depending on how hungry you are. (Go ahead with that big thick slice, it doesn't have a cup of oil!)

Because we hadn't really talked about what desserts we were making, we paired this Peach Cake with homemade Chocolate Fleck Ice Cream, and it actually went really well together!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cake #25: Paula Deen's Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia

I skipped ahead to make this cake for an office party at my house, and I have to say, I did this right*. Before the party, I made the batter, which wasn't too hard. The recipe calls for 3 cups of apples, which ended up being 3 apples. They were either gala or pink lady apples, bought from New Pi in Iowa City, and were starting to get soft, so not great for eating but perfect for cake making!

Once the batter was made, I let it sit for several hours before baking it, which was fine. The reason for that is, you have to be home and paying attention to it for like 3 hours when it's actually baking.

This cake has apple chunks, coconut and pecans in it. And it calls for 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil. I like to follow the recipe exactly the 1st time I make it, or at least I like to think that I like to do that, especially in books like All Cakes Considered where the book is teaching you different methods as you go... but I could NOT bring myself to make a APPLE cake with OIL instead of APPLESAUCE. (Yes, those capital letters are my loud voice). So I just went for it and put in 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened applesauce instead of oil and it turned out awesome.
It bakes for 1 1/2 hours so I set the timer for 1:15, and when it went off, I set it for :15 again and I started the sauce: 1 stick of butter (aren't you glad the cake doesn't also have 1 1/2 cups of oil to go with that butter?), 1/2 cup of buttermilk, 1 cup of sugar and a little baking soda. I melted all of this in a small sauce pan. (In hind sight, I realized the recipe actually says you'll need a MEDIUM sauce pan, and I somehow missed that when I wasn't reading that part of the recipe, so for next time that word MEDIUM is now circled.) So... you bring this melted stuff to a boil for 1 minute then remove from the heat. I didn't get that far because in less than 30 seconds of boiling it was overflowing in my SMALL sauce pan. Lesson learned. The good news is that the stove top got cleaned after the making of this cake sauce.

So then I took the "non-business end" of a wooden spoon and poked 20 holes in the cake the moment it came out of the oven, and poured the melted sauce in it. Slowly. Still, it wasn't really soaking anything up, so I poked some more holes in the cake and poured even slower. You can see in the photo above how unattractive this part was. Someone asked why my cake had rabies.

Then it sits for AN HOUR slowly soaking in the buttery sauce, and after an hour (or a little more), I flipped it onto a plate and nothing happened, so we used a knife along the edge to loosen it and then flip it over.
 It popped right out and looked great! (The unattractive side is now the bottom.)

This is a very moist cake, just like the book says it should be, and the apple chunks, coconut and pecans really add to the flavor. The coconut is not a dominate flavor at all. This is an easy cake to make and it tastes great, and leftovers can be eaten for breakfast with a cup of coffee. The only thing is that you have to be there for a few hours during the baking process. So, it's a good cake to make when you have people over!
Oh, the thing I did right?
*I waited to bake it until we had a crowd of people in the house, because that 1 1/2 hours the cake is in the oven makes the house smell amazing. Like cinnamon and apples.

Cake #24: Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Our elementary school has a carnival fundraiser with a Cake Walk and a cake raffle, so they ask parents to make lots of cakes for it. I thought this would be a good one for the cake raffle, but since it wasn't decorated all fancy, someone got a heck of a tasty Cake Walk prize!

Since I hadn't made this cake before, I decided to double the recipe so that I could give one cake to the carnival and keep the other one to eat at home (we had to know how it tasted, after all!)
The bundt style cake (above) looked a bit fancier, so that one went to the carnival. 
The tube style cake (below) we kept at home.

This ended up being a great cake to double the recipe for, especially when you're trying to get rid of bananas in the freezer. I used 7 bananas for the doubled recipe. The book says it "smells like banana bread, but tastes like cake".

I wanted to follow the recipe, so I actually bought sticks of shortening for this one (instead of substituting it for butter like I normally would do). It also called for other things I had to go grocery shopping for: like cake flour, buttermilk and walnuts.
The book called for a frosting made with baking chocolate, vanilla, butter, confectioner's sugar and sweetened condensed milk, but I was also making boxed cheap cakes for the Cake Walk so I just used the store-bought fudge frosting for this.

I had to put toothpicks on top to keep the frosting in tact to transport it to the school. If I did this again, I'd put a little more effort into decorating and I'd be sure to tell them when I drop it off that it's a fancy cake!

I put a note in the book that next time I should make homemade cream cheese frosting for the banana cake, the chocolate frosting was too much- it over-powered the yummy cake flavor. 

Meanwhile, I had fun making designs on my cheap store-bought cakes for the cake walk, trying to make $1 cakes with fudge frosting look fancy:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cake #23: Coffee Spice Cake (Variation)

 In the book, this cake calls for shortening and a mix of spices including ginger, cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg. Sprinkled with sugar on top when done and cooled. But then there is a variation that involves a chocolate frosting topping, so yeah- I chose the variation instead!
The variation eliminates the ginger, and replaces the shortening with butter.
Like the last cake, I doubled the recipe, but the kitchen aid was actually able to hold it all this time (barely). Then I cooked both cakes in the SAME bundt pan, one at a time (one on Saturday and one on Sunday). This way they had about the right amount of batter (and didn't drip all over the oven) and they cooked more evenly. What a difference!
 The cake wasn't too hard to make. The coffee was the hardest part, and in hind sight, if I would have just left some coffee from the morning and let it cool, it would have been easy. But without coffee, I made a strong batch in the french press with very hot water, then put it outside in the cold to cool. Even though it was pretty cold out, After about a half hour, there was still steam coming off the coffee. So I poured it into a glass measuring cup and put it in the freezer. It still took FOREVER to cool enough to use! Actually, I don't know if it took forever because I cheated and took it out when it was cool enough that it didn't burn my finger when I touched it. Because I added an ice cube to it. Which probably made it weaker. Whatever. I was impatient.
 I found a jar of molasses that had a "best buy" date of May 2010 on it. That's pretty close to 7 years ago. My partner argued that it wasn't a "expiration date", it just won't be as good now as it was 7 years ago, when it was at its "best". Anyway, I couldn't get the damn thing open so I used the brand new jar of molasses I just bought.
 The recipe called for "ground cloves" which I couldn't find, but I did find a spice bag with some large looking cloves in it. So I stuck several of those in the coffee grinder and ground them up to make "ground cloves"! Brilliant! Until I smelled the coffee grinder. Whew! It took a lot of washing to get that smell out, and now our coffee grinder is cleaner than it has been since we bought it.

The 1st cake turned out fine, but the remaining batter was refrigerated overnight so it ended up taking maybe 20-30 minutes longer to bake.
This cake has a unique flavor and would be worth making again, but I think I would change the frosting. It was really messy. It was a combination of melted chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and a little coffee. If using this again, wait until it's cooled for a couple of hours before pouring on (it will be thicker), and even then don't make as much as the recipe calls for, it just runs off and pools up and makes a mess of the table after it runs off the edge of the plate/platter.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cake #22: Paula Deen's Almond Sour Cream Pound Cake

I volunteered to bring a cake to the Parent-Teacher conferences as an excuse to make another cake out of All Cakes Considered. But why would I go to all the trouble to make a cake for the teachers when I can't even try it myself? (At the time I envisioned presenting a beautiful cake to deliver to the teachers' lounge)... so I made 2 cakes. Might as well just double the batch, to make it easier, right?
I now have a note on the top of the recipe page that says: DO NOT DOUBLE THIS RECIPE.

1st, the kitchen aid couldn't handle all the cake batter, so I had to take some out to finish mixing it. Not a big deal, except apparently kitchen aids don't mix quite as well on the bottom when they're filled to the brim. Who knew?!

2nd, I had a bundt pan and a tube pan and thought I'd just use both of those for the cakes. Turns out the bundt pan has a lot more space in it than the tube pan, so both pans ended up being waaaay too full.

3rd, I decided to save time & energy by baking both cakes at the same time! Never a good idea.

The cake says to turn on the oven and add a baking sheet w/ almonds on it to toast for 3 minutes, then toss and toast another 3 minutes (while it's preheating). I did this, and left the almonds in an extra 3 minutes, and they could've gone longer. If they're in there while the oven is preheating, maybe 10-12 minutes. If you put them in after it's already preheated, maybe more like 6-10 minutes.

So, what happened was, the cake is supposed to bake for 80 minutes. 40 minutes in, the smoke started pouring out of the oven. I peeked at it and discovered that both cakes had risen over the top of the pans and were now dripping off the edge. Luckily, it was an unseasonably warm day in February, so we were able to open all the doors and windows to air out the house.

 I threw some tin foil in the bottom of the oven to catch the rest. I moved the cakes so that they were both on the same rack, to try to get them to cook more evenly and also so that one would stop dripping into the other. I took the tube cake out after 80 minutes but the bundt pan cake took an extra 20 minutes.
(After removing the tin foil)

Despite being full of butter and poured into well-greased pans, they both fell apart when I took them out.

We tried carefully cutting the edges of the bundt cake so that it would come out cleaner. Didn't happen.


My husband liked the crispy edges the best, which probably developed from the smoky oven and/or overcooking. Both cakes did turn out and taste fine, but the presentation wasn't exactly award-winning, so I cut the teachers' cake up before taking it to the conferences. Clean-up duty was a bitch.