Cake from a Box!

 

I found a box mix at one of those big warehouse type stores that sell odd items, discontinued stuff, and leftovers. The ingredients are your basic recipe ingredients: sugar, flour, cocoa, corn starch, canola oil, baking powder, and salt. I had to buy this; actually I bought two boxes. I’m thinking that I could make my own cake mixes by mixing up the dry ingredients and listing what wet ones to add. For this box mix one adds 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 stick butter, and three eggs. I’m not sure how they got the canola oil in the mix.

I love German Chocolate Cake. Either myself or a family member makes or buys one for my birthday. It is not my birthday, no where close. I have previously made a German Chocolate Cake just for fun, also not for my birthday. That post is Cake Envy

This was super easy to make. I baked it in my 8-inch round cake pans. I then made the frosting from the side of the box for the classic Coconut Pecan Frosting.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Cook all this except the coconut and pecans in a sauce pan. Bring to boiling and then cook over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool completely before frosting the cake.

What could be simpler? Well, it usually helps to read the recipe several times. I put in an entire can of evaporated milk so that was 1 1/2 cups. I cooked this longer than the 5 minutes because it was not getting thick. I admit I also had to pick out a few small pieces of scrambled egg! After cooking and stirring in the coconut and pecans it seemed more pudding like than frosting. I contemplated making it into a German chocolate trifle. But I persevered and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. And voila! It worked!

Advertisements

Cake Week: part two; Julia Child’s Biscuit au Beurre

Butter Spongecake from  Mastering the Art of French Cooking: this was chosen when I consulted this cook book about the size of pan to use. Julia uses a 10 inch pan for 4 eggs. In “Cake Week”: or my attempt at the sponge, part one I used 6 eggs in an 8-inch pan.  Julia tells the baker what equipment to use, balloon whisk and 10 inch pan. This recipe adds some butter. The other recipe choice I could have made was the Orange Sponge which uses 4 eggs in a 9 inch pan. Hopefully I will redeem myself with this Sponge.

  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and left to cool
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tb sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour turned into a sifter
  • IMG_2020
    not quite as elegant a mise en place as in part one

Butter and flour a 10 inch round cake pan at least two inches deep. I use my 10-inch springform pan. I spray all around with baking spray. Perhaps I should have just sprayed the bottom and not the sides? This is a sponge recipe so the eggs are separated with the egg whites folded into the batter.

Gradually beat the 2/3 cup sugar into the egg yolks, add the vanilla and beat for several minutes until thick and pale and “forms the ribbon”.

Beat the egg whites and salt together in separate bowl until soft peaks form. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

The combining of these gets fussy. And I believe this affected the outcome.

Scoop 1/4th of the egg whites over the egg yolk mixture. Sift on 1/4th of the flour. “Delicately fold in until partially blended”. Repeat with 1/3 of the egg whites and flour. Repeat with 1/2 of each.  Then the last of each. When partially blended fold in the rest of the tepid butter but not the milky residue at the bottom. “Do not overmix; the egg whites must retain as much volume as possible.” Turn into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F (a proper temperature) for 30-35 minutes. Let rest in pan for 6-8 minutes and then turn out.

It was difficult not to add the milky residue. And I may have more fully blended than partially. The volume of the batter diminished slightly while adding the butter.

This cake did not rise. It did remain spongy though. I glazed it with a Lemon Marmalade as I had substituted one of the teaspoons of vanilla with one teaspoon lemon extract.

So did I redeem my place in “the tent”? I am not sure. I do not know what constitutes “a proper sponge”. But I do not think I will get a handshake from Paul!

Both cakes were spongy. The butter sponge was slightly more dense than the other but not quite as dense as an ordinary butter cake. The crumb looked good with even air bubbles. The first sponge was quite spongy. And its flavor was more enjoyable. The verdict is to remake the first cake using the 10 inch pan. Or maybe I’ll just stick to butter cakes.

 

“Cake Week”: or my attempt at the sponge, part one

I have finished binge watching the 5th season of GBBO and Hubby is concerned that I have not mastered the sponge. I think most American cakes are butter cakes. Sponges for me usually turn into hockey pucks. I did have one success here. But my favorite cakes to bake are still butter cakes. “Paul and Pru” would probably throw me out of the tent for this latest endeavor. They seem to always be saying “make a sponge” and do this, that, and the other thing to it. I looked up in my French and British cookery books what an “opera cake” and “Victoria sponge” are about. We mid-American home cooks just bake cakes and ice them with frosting or powdered sugar without naming them. Except for German Chocolate Cake and that isn’t even German. Okay, also Angel Food Cake…and others…it’s the thought that counts.

Fall is here with cooler temperatures. My new kitchen counters have been installed and I have reorganized my baking supplies and I have a kitchen sink again. We won’t mention the three holes in the ceiling waiting for the plumber to come fix a leak. And I have been drooling over cook books in these two weeks without a functioning kitchen, so it is finally time to bake something. And that something will be the gateau de Savoie from my French Feasts cookbook: Savoy Cake (blow-away sponge).

Warning: the results are not pretty! Not Star Baker material today.

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (make this by whisking regular sugar in the food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch (Hunh?)

    IMG_2013
    Mise en place

Unfortunately this cookbook fails to state what size pan to use. Most of the gateau are made in loaf pans. Most of the British cakes are made in 7-8 inch pans. I choose my 8 inch spring form pan, thinking this will work out well.

Directions: Beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and tick. Add the vanilla, flour, and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold them gently into the rest of the mixture using a spatula. Pour into non-stick pan and bake at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes. It is at this point I am wondering if my pan is too small. I’m also thinking that the oven should be at 350 which is the temperature at which most cakes get baked. Hmmm?

Yep! Wrong size pan! And 40 minutes in the slow oven was not enough time. Silly me, I put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

A complete disaster and waste of 6 eggs! The crust is a tasty meringue; the top part of the cake is not done. I scrape that part off and the bottom half is spongy. What to do?

The cake is soft and spongy. And foldable. I get out the blackberry preserves and…

IMG_2021

Did I save my place in the tent? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Chocolate Mousse Cake a la King Arthur

King Arthur Flour (no I do not get paid for talking about them) has a monthly bake-along. February is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. Looked and sounded delicious and something fun to make on one of my two February holidays. Well, if you know me, I changed it up just a bit. I was not going to spend a fortune on fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. I like chocolate covered cherries and I had a can of cherries in my pantry. I could use those.

So the original bake-along recipe is right here: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. I made the cake exactly. I happened to find four 8-inch cake pans, two of which were three inches deep so I baked the cake in two pans and cut these into the four layers. Hint for you: this is a thin batter just like they say. It may not be that wise to use pans that have removable bottoms. Just saying. I had a bit of leakage, very little but I had to bake the cakes on a cookie sheet. I also baked the cakes at 350 degrees F. They came out nicely. They did not have domes, so I am not sure if they fell a bit. The finished product is so rich it was impossible to tell.

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredient together. Mix wet ingredients together but not eggs. Put wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combine thoroughly. Beat in eggs one at a time. Put into the greased pans and bake. The two 8-inch x 3-inch pans took 55 minutes. Cool completely and slice each layer in two.

The mousse filling was more difficult. It did not come out smoothly and was difficult to spread between the layers of the cake.

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Melt the chocolate and stir that in. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. This ended up swirled and not a uniform color. Perhaps that was okay.

I used a can of cherries, drained, and a jar of cherry fruit spread instead of raspberries. I mixed this and spread it on top of the mousse layer. I forgot to put cherries on the middle layer. I don’t think anyone noticed this omission.

Once this is done chill or freeze the cake for 30 minutes so it will be easier to frost.

At this point I am thinking about the frosting. This cake already looks extraordinarily rich. The KAF frosting calls for another cup of butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. That just is too much. I then remember I had made a chocolate sauce to serve with the disastrous orange cake for Christmas. Since that cake was inedible I had frozen the sauce for use at another time. This seemed to be that “another time.”

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract or liqueur (it was actually the poaching syrup from the disastrous orange cake A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake)

Whisk sugar and cocoa in a small sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and simmer whisking constantly for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and orange extract. (the orange taste does not come through at all.)

So I thawed the chocolate sauce and poured it out on the cake. This gave it a nice glazed cover. Now this glaze looks like a ganache but does not firm up like one.

This is not nearly as good looking as the picture on the King Arthur website. But served with a bit of whipped cream it is chocolate decadence! A little dab will do ya!

Lessons learned: If you want a rich chocolate cake that makes thick layers use this cake recipe. I would make a different filling or just use the fruit and preserves in between layers with some whipped cream. Cover with your own ganache or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. That way you could have a fancy cake with less fuss. But we are enjoying our indulgence a little at a time. Store cake in refrigerator.

A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake

This looked so fabulous and fancy in the magazine. And it uses candied oranges which is reminiscent of the candied orange peels my mother used to make. I made those a while back and you can read about that adventure here. The ingredients are simple enough. The time consuming part is poaching the orange slices in simple syrup to take away some of the bitterness. I have a lot of hopes while making this. And doubts.

I spent one evening preparing the orange slices. Scrub 4 navel oranges and then slice thin, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Place these in a wide skillet or pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer one minute. If left too long the slices will start to break a little. Drain and set aside momentarily. Bring 3 cups water and 3 cups sugar to a boil in that pan and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Then return orange slices to the pan. Slices must be put gently in the sugar water or they will break apart. Let this gently simmer for 2 1/2 hours, occasionally spooning the syrup over the oranges. Let cool in pan. At this point I stored these in the refrigerator covering the pan with its lid.

Two days later I am ready to make the cake. This is a sponge cake. I have only ever been successful at making a sponge cake once in my life! But I go for it anyway. Only afterward did it occur to me that I could have just made a butter cake which I have very much more success with.

IMG_0738

First, arrange the orange slices in a greased 9-inch round pan. I also added parchment paper to be sure it turned out of the pan okay. Additionally, the recipe said to drain the slices on paper towels and pat dry. Well…I forgot to do this. But I proceed.

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, warmed in hot tap water for five minutes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (about one orange’ worth)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on low until blended and then on high 8-10 minutes until pale and thick and leaves a ribbon trail when the beater is lifted. I used the whisk attachment for this; not sure if that was the right thing to do. Where is Mom when you need her? I know she is up in heaven looking down and laughing at me! Merry Celestial Christmas Mom and Dad!

Then whisk in the orange zest and vanilla. Sift half the flour/salt mixture onto the batter and carefully fold this in. Repeat with the remaining flour. Then fold in the melted butter. So far, so good. Scrape this into the prepared pan and spread to edges to cover all the orange slices. Now bake this for 25-30 minutes until springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out of the center clean. My cake took 33 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake and let cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto cake plate.

IMG_0739
Very pretty!

First thing to notice is that they syrup from the orange slices has been absorbed into the cake. The second thing is after a few minutes on the cake plate the middle sank. Just a little bit, but still. Hmm? What is this about?

So now I am contemplating what to do. I could make a new cake and remove all these lovely orange slices and bake them upside down with a butter cake. I could spend 2 1/2 hours poaching more orange slices and make this again with a butter cake recipe. Or I could hope that there will be more than one dessert for Christmas Eve. And that this actually will be just fine, even though I cannot test it first. It is to be served with a chocolate orange sauce which might cover all ills. What to do?

Not content to leave well enough alone I decide to make a back-up cake! This one will have fresh orange slices in the manner of pineapple upside down cake. And will be a plain butter cake from my standard Betty Crocker Cookbook. I peel these oranges before slicing them. Melt 1/4 cup butter in the cake pan and sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar on the butter and then arrange orange slices. Make a batter for a single layer cake, 9-inches. Bake 45 minutes.

IMG_0742 1
I sprinkled it with red sugar to be festive!

I take both for the Christmas Eve feast. The pretty cake is pretty and smells quite orange-y. It is impossible to slice effectively. And there is virtually no cake under the center for at least a 3-inch diameter. The candied orange slices are sickly sweet, almost inedibly so. The cake that is there at the edges is okay, but this did not serve as a slice of cake. And was not worthy of the chocolate orange sauce I made to go with. An epic fail!

The back up cake was ugly. Especially ugly when displayed next to the first cake. The cake was nice, a moist ordinary butter cake. Orange slices because of their fibers do not make a good cake fruit. One should stick to apples, pineapple, pears, and the like.

Luckily a family member had made a nice apple pie and there were plenty of Christmas cookies for dessert…and bourbon…and wine. Did I mention there was bourbon? And everyone was full from the wonderful prime rib dinner.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! Happy Winter holidays to others! Hanukkah is past. Kwanzaa has just begun. And may we all have a blessed New Year in 2018!

 

 

 

Banana Cake with Buttercream Frosting

IMG_0554

I made a cake and layered it and frosted it! This is a slightly adapted recipe from the larger KitchenAid Cookbook, not the one that comes with the mixer. I bought this one for $12.99 quite some time ago. The copyright date is 1992. Sister had just baked the pumpkin bread from this book which made me get my copy out to peruse.

I have a large bag of slowly browning frozen bananas. I have never cooked with frozen bananas. I am never sure as to why they turn brown if I have supposedly frozen them in airtight bags. So I used some of them and now have half a bag of slowly browning frozen bananas.

Cake:

  • 2 1/3 cups flour; I used 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour in this amount.
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 frozen bananas to be about 1 1/4 cups mashed
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk; I only had 1/2 cup so added water to top it off
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped walnuts

I used the directions with the speed and timing for the KitchenAid stand mixer. So basically, sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl. Make a well and add the butter, banana, and 1/3 cup buttermilk. Beat to mix (Stir Speed for 30 seconds). Stop, scrape bowl. Turn to Speed 4 (high but not too high) and beat one minute. Add remaining buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs. Speed 2 for 30 seconds; stop and scrape; Speed 4 for one minute. Add 1/2 cup of the nuts at Stir Speed just until blended.

Pour batter into two 9-inch cake pans. I prepared the pans with parchment paper and sprayed that with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on wire racks.

Thoughts while making this…I often think that I should use my 8-inch cake pans in order to get taller layers. But the recipe said 9-inch. Sister told me she always doubles the nuts in her recipes so I did too. But I decided to put the extra nuts on top. While this was baking I hunted for my stash of cookie cutters thinking I had a maple leaf. I don’t. I was thinking of flavoring the frosting with maple syrup. I did not. I have always just used Speed 2 for mixing cake batters. But now I can go higher. Interesting.

For the frosting I also used the Speed and timing. This is very important for making fluffy frosting. Who knew?

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat the butter at Speed 6 for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Sift powdered sugar into bowl. I got out my sifter and actually did sift the sugar into the bowl. I do not use the sifter very often at all. Add vanilla. Speed 2 for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape. Then Speed 6 for two minutes. Voila, fluffy, spreadable frosting. Frost cake after it cools. I found some prepared icing gel tubes and thought I would be fancy. I dream of decorating fancy cakes. Not the most intricate of designs, nor was it as easy as I thought it would be.

But the test is in the taste. And this was very tasty and moist. I took a large portion of it to work so as not to eat a whole cake this week. Everyone raved about it. This recipe will be marked as a keeper.

IMG_0557

 

 

 

Is it too early for Gingerbread?

I had seen a steamed chocolate cake recipe on my Facebook feed and thought it would be interesting to try. New technique and all that. I got out all the ingredients and when testing the pans I found I did not have a large enough Dutch Oven. Shucks! I still wanted to bake something. So then I found another recipe I had saved from my Facebook feed and went to the good old faithful King Arthur Flour website. Thus I found myself making Gingerbread Pudding Cake. My mom used to make a chocolate pudding cake and I have made a lemon pudding cake and they are scrumptious. Here is the link: Gingerbread Pudding Cake.

  • 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Instead of the separate spices I used the equivalent of KAF’s Gingerbread Spice mixture. I used 1/4 half & half diluted with 1/4 cup water for the milk. Everything else was as it should be. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or butter an 8-inch square pan.

Whisk the flour with the spices with the baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Mix the molasses, milk and egg in another small bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together and add the flour mixture and molasses mixture alternately. Pour batter in prepared pan.

For the pudding mixture:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

Mix the brown sugar and cornstarch. Heat butter and water just until butter melts. This was about 1 minute in the microwave. Add liquid to sugar mixture. Pour carefully over the batter in the pan. Bake for 28-30 minutes. The cake part should test done.

IMG_0508

Serve warm. I served this with whipped cream. For leftovers, put scoop of cake and pudding (on bottom) into microwave safe dish/bowl and heat for 20-30 seconds, depending on the power of your microwave.

Enjoy!