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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cake #11: Rum-drenched Vanilla Cake!

On January 29th, I made the next cake in the book, to take to a homebrew club meeting. You bake it in 2 bread pans, mine were glass. After following the directions, I went back and changed the order, so that if I make this cake again, it will be done in the proper order.
Like, #1 should be- take the eggs out of the fridge and let them sit 30 min at room temp.
#2- melt butter (almost 2 sticks!)
#3 mix dry ingredients.
#4 Make syrup (which is #11 in the book, but I figured you could do this while waiting for the eggs to warm up). The syrup is sugar and water heated up, and rum added. I used Cruzan aged rum.
#5 preheat the oven (I noticed that a lot of recipes have you do this first thing, even if it's going to take 45 minutes to prepare the food. Then the oven sits there preheated for 30 minutes while you start sweating in a hot kitchen!)
Oh, also #5, butter the pans. The book says to line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray the sides and bottom of the pans. I'm not even sure what parchment paper is, but I know why- so that you can easily flip the cake out of the pan, then flip it back upright to frost (or syrup, in this case).
I decided to cheat and just use a lot of butter in the pans so that the cake wouldn't stick. (I'm also anti-spray) You'll see how that turned out in a moment.
#6-#7 Mix sugar & eggs, then add vanilla, cream & rum. After that, I pretty much followed the order the book said- you fold the dry ingredients in with the wet, which makes it look pretty lumpy. Then you fold in half of the melted butter, then the other half, which makes it pretty smooth, like frosting.
The recipe said to put the pans on a cookie sheet in the oven, which I did, but they didn't spill over at all, so I don't know if that was necessary. After 30 minutes, I covered them with (recycled, reused) tin foil to keep the tops from browning too much. It was supposed to take another 25-30 minutes after covering, but it took about 40 before the toothpick came out clean.
The recipe says when the cakes are done, cool them for 5 minutes, then flip them out of the pan. I think glass stays hotter than other types of pans, so next time I would wait 10 minutes.
As you can see, one of them stuck to the bottom of the pan and broke apart, so maybe that parchment thing would have worked better. The other cake came out in one piece, with some encouraging and careful pan shaking!
I put the cakes on racks with wax paper underneath, then poked holes all over the top using a bamboo skewer, then brushed the rum syrup all over the tops. It seemed like a hell of a lot of syrup, but then the title of the cake is "rum-drenched"! In the end, the rum didn't soak too far into the cake, not even half way. Next time I would poke those holes much deeper! You couldn't really taste the rum too much either, and the cake tasted a bit plain for my taste, like yellow cake. It could have been better.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Coralville, Iowa
January 2011

We went to this restaurant in the space that used to be Slugger's on the Coralville Strip. The ambiance was great (despite the tvs, which gives it a sports bar feel). If you aren't into the random basketball game that might be on, you should choose to sit in the far left section, where the tv's aren't as in-your-face. I, however, chose a booth and was only distracted by the tv's about half a dozen times. The lighting was nice, the wait staff was friendly, and the seats were comfortable.
The food, however, was a disappointment.
Hubby got the chicken pot pie, which came out looking just unattractive. It had an orangish-pink color to it, and when I tasted it, something was really, really off. He said that was the canned chicken. Yup, it definitely had the flavor of canned meat, and the pot pie crust was so white flour-tasting that it wasn't even good. My dish was remarkably better, the chicken spinach ravioli, with a hint of Alfredo, marinara sauce and pesto. It looked attractive, except for the large puddle of straight up oil on one side. It tasted okay, but it definitely could have been better, like by adding a few more spices or something. When hubby tried it, he said it tasted like pizza, and I'm pretty sure now that I think about it, their marinara sauce is most likely the same for the pizza and the pasta. As someone who makes homemade spaghetti sauce and homemade pizza sauce, I can tell you that they should definitely not taste the same.
The meal came with bread (4 tiny pieces) but they brought more (4 tiny pieces) when we ran out. We also got salads, mine cost $3 extra and his cost $4.25 extra. With his beer (oh, their beer selection is on par with Okoboji Grill's, which isn't saying much) the meal came to $34 with tax. We had a discussion about whether or not to tip before or after tax. The waitress stopped at our table 2-3 times without refilling my water, which was sitting empty on the edge of the table, so I went with the pre-tax tip.
I would have liked to try the cupcakes for dessert, but I was full. If I go back, it will be for wine and cupcakes. Only.
Environmentally: linen napkins.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cake #10: Miss Saigon Cinnamon Almond Coffee Cake

I made the right choice for the New Year's cake- there are only a few crumbs left, which is why I'm making the cake I skipped two days later!
This is the cake that is described as being similar to the hot fireball candy you probably ate as a kid. The Saigon cinnamon does have that exact same smell!
First, you make a streusel similar to those made in cakes #6 & 8. It basically contains brown sugar, cinnamon and almonds. I tried stirring it with a fork when I added a little melted butter, but that didn't seem to work. I washed my hands (I'll be sharing the cake, after all) and stirred it up with my fingers, which worked much better. I'm convinced that there is no substitute for your own fingers when mixing certain things, like streusel.
Based on my comments from cake #9, I cut the almond extract in half. The recipe calls for ONE TEASPOON which is crazy since that stuff is po-TENT.
I used the kitchen aid to mix all the ingredients for the batter, which turned out to be the consistency of cream cheese frosting, and therefore, hard to pour. Also, the recipe called for an 8" square baking pan. I do not own anything that small, so I used my round cake pan. But I could see after adding the ingredients that it is important to not use a very large pan. Because you pour half the batter into the pan first, then smooth it out, then add some streusel, then the rest of the batter, and the rest of the streusel. So, if you had a pan that was too large, those would be some pretty thin layers!
After baking for 40 minutes, it came out looking good, especially when I flipped it upside down onto a plate (that's a good-lookin' bottom!) then flipped it again onto the serving plate.

The result: This cake is awesome. I will definintely bake it again, it has just the right amount of cinnamon and sweetness. And speaking of the cinnamon, although it smells like those red hot candies, it does not taste like them after being baked. But I can see how this cinnamon works better than normal cinnamon for this cake. If I ever feel like baking a coffee cake, this will be the one.