Happy Accident

Ok so usually baking is a rewarding venture for me.  I find a recipe, I follow it, make some tweaks here and there, get a yummy result, and get compliments from whoever I share it with.  Lately, though, I’ve had mixed results and mixed feelings.

This story starts out happy.  There was a birthday cake to be made.  In an effort to use up some extra buttermilk, I strayed from the standard family chocolate birthday cake recipe, to a version that trades regular milk for buttermilk.  It’s an Ina Garten recipe, and it turned out great.  So great, in fact, that it’s making my family rethink the traditional family birthday cake recipe.  With these chocolate cake recipes in my arsenal, buying a chocolate cake mix from the store is out of the question these days.

Fabulous cake: check.  Now onto the frosting.  My plan was to make “White Mountain Frosting” or “Seven Minute Frosting.”  Typically a combination of egg whites, sugar and water that yields a light fluffy frosting.  I have tried two different recipes three separate times (following the recipe to letter).  I can not get the frosting to fluff.  It falls flat no matter what I try.

To mitigate my repeated frosting disaster I used the flat frosting (which still tasted quite good) as the frosting between the cake layers, and a “glaze” for the top of the cake.  Then to disguise this monstrosity, I made a quick, easy chocolate frosting to cover the outside of the cake.aftermath

Crisis averted.  The funny thing was that the combination of the two frostings made for a very moist cake.  The flat White Mountain Frosting was almost like having a layer of marshmallow fluff under the chocolate frosting.

I guess some days the frosting fluffs, and some days it doesn’t…

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Yields 2, 9 inch rounds, recipe from Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder, more for pans
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed coffee

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pans by spraying with non-stick spray and coating with cocoa powder.  If you want to be extra cautious, cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of your cake pans.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet to dry gradually and beat with an electric mixer.  Finally add coffee gradually.
  5. Bake at 350 for 35- 40 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before you remove the cake from the pans.almost done

Flat White Mountain Frosting

From a very old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar (my mom’s hypothesis is that this recipe is lacking the right about of sugar)
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Method

  1. in a small sauce pan combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup.  Cover and bring to a strong boil.  Take the lid off and bring to 242 degrees (use a candy thermometer).
  2. While the mixture is boiling, whip up the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  3. When the mixture has reached the right temperature, very slowly add it to the egg whites while you continue to beat them.  Add the vanilla and beat for about 7 minutes.  At this point the frosting is supposed to fluff up, but in my case it didn’t.  You win some, you lose some.

Chocolate Frosting

From an old Hershey’s Baking Chocolate wrapper

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash salt

Method

  1. Using a small saucepan over low heat or a microwave melt the butter.  Add the chocolate in small pieces and melt it with the butter.
  2. Put melted butter and chocolate in a bowl and add sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt.  Beat with an electric mixer until it reaches the desire consistency.  To thicken up the frosting place the bowl in an ice bath while you mix it, or refrigerate for a few minutes before frosting.Ready for FrostingSo. Much. Frosting.
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Birthday Weekend

Well I must admit that turning 28 was a blast. Last night I went out with a girlfriend to Fuze for dinner. If you are ever in Avalon, it’s a great place to go for some contemporary American cuisine with Asian flare. Then we joined our friends at Fred’s Tavern, our local watering hole. A great night was had by all but the morning was a little rough. Needless to say, I had to take a break today to go home and take a two hour nap. Here’s a shout out to Sadie for the birthday flowers…thanks blog buddy!

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The Right Decision

Growing up people always tell you that everyone is good at something.  When you are grown, the task is to figure out what you’re good at and leverage those skills into a career.  Easier said than done.

What do you mean I can’t make a career out of crocheting doilies and telling my brothers what to do?

But that’s what I’m good at…

Grad school has come in handy in this respect, it helps me turn bossiness into “leadership skills” and crocheting into “creative thinking,” but it’s not so helpful with my baking habit.  When I decided to make a cream cheese pound cake last weekend, however, I knew I should turn to a specialist.  Considering the traditional ingredients in pound cake, along with the addition of cream cheese, one name came to mind: Paula Deen.

It was the right decision.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

yields 2 8×4 loaves or 1 tubular bunt cake

From Paula

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks room temp butter (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla if you’re not an almond fan)
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and prepare pans.
  2. Cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and extract, beat to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder.
  4. Add one third of the dry ingredients to the wet along with two eggs.  Mix to combine.  Repeat process twice more.  Try not to over-mix (Also try not to eat all the batter before you bake it, it tastes very much like cream cheese frosting and is hard to resist).
  5. Pour batter into pans and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until tester comes out clean (mine took longer).

My advice: If you need to meditate on your own “special skills,” do it over a slice (or five) of this cake.  It will make for a much more positive experience.

This is what happens when you put you oven racks too close. But it didn’t detract from the taste!