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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The poetry of cakes

Preparing to bake a cake.

     --Winter Spice Cakes, Fluffy Rum Frosting, Warm Cornmeal Shortcake with Berries, Spicy Autumn Apple Cake, Baba au Rhum, Amaretto Apple Crisp, Black Forest Brownie Torte--
     These poetic cake recipes are only a few in a vast file of recipes  I've collected since high school.  The collection started as a home economics project and kept growing.  My home ec teacher will never know what she started.  
     There are many of us women and probably men too who collect recipes and cookbooks, but we don't use them much for cooking.  I meet women at  library book sales and church bazaars as we comb through the many recipe books.  These women and I talk and always laugh about how we "really need another cookbook."  We also admit that we buy them but don't much cook from them.
    For those of us with active imaginations, the books and their illustrations are a trip into a fantasy of delightful tastes, smells and entertainment possibilities.  It's all about possibilities.
After all, we might cook that pecan divinity cake one day for a special occasion. 
    All these thoughts came to me this week as I looked through my cake files for the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving cake.  I'm meeting with my family and I want to take something really yummy.  
    I'm considering Walnut Cake with Praline Frosting, a sheet cake which will travel well or Ginger Carrot Cake, a layer cake which includes make-ahead directions and can be frozen.  You might like them too.  The recipes follow:

Walnut Cake with Praline Frosting
What you need for the batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (can substitute:  1 teaspoon vinegar stirrred into 1 cup milk)
6 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
What you need for the frosting:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons low-fat milk, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup such as Karo syrup
dash of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
Now, put it all together:
1.  Preheat oven to 350;   spray with cooking spray and flour a 13x9 baking pan
2.  Combine flour, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir well with a whisk or fork.
3.  Place in a large mixing bowl, 7 tablespoons butter, 1 cup sugar, 1/4
cup brown sugar;  beat a medium-high speed with a mixer until light and fluffy (about
3 minutes).  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg. Beat in egg white and
4.  Add flour mixture alternating flour and buttermilk.  Begin and end with the flour mixture.
5.  Fold in 6 tablespoons walnuts. 
6.  Place the batter in the sprayed and floured pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Prepare the frosting:
1.  Place 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup milk, 2 tablespoons butter, corn syrup in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
2.  Place the frosting mixture in a bowl;  add remaining 2 tablespoons milk and powdered sugar.
3.  Beat with a mixer at high speed 2 minutes until slightly cooled and thick.  Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
4.  Spread frosting over cooled cake; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts.
5.  Let the cake stand until the frosting sets.  Cut into squares and enjoy.
Makes about 16 squares.

The next cake is a truly delicious layer cake.  They'll invite you back if you take this one to an event.
Ginger Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
What you need for the batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 4 eggs
3 cups finely shredded carrots
3/4 cup cooking oil
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit pieces
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger or 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
What you need for the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
Two 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon apricot brandy or orange juice
2 to 2 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
Now, put it all together:
1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour two 9x11/2 inch round cake pans.
2.  Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
3.  In a second medium bowl, beat together eggs, shredded carrots, cooking oil, dried fruit pieces, and ginger.  Stir  into the flour mixture.  Pour into the greased and floured cake pans.
4.  Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Cool, remove from pans and then completely cool on a wire rack.  

Prepare the frosting:
1.  Combine the softened cream cheese, the softened butter, and the apricot brandy or orange juice in a large mixing bowl.
2.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and light.
3.  Add the 2 cups powdered sugar gradually and mix well.  Continue to beat in more 
powdered sugar until the mixture is of spreading consistency.  
4.  Stir in the shredded orange peel.
5.  Put the two layers together with frosting.  Frost the sides and top.  Press the toasted pecans into the frosting.  
Makes 16 servings.
Make-ahead directions:
After the cake is complete, put it in a cake container with a tight lid.  Freeze about 1 hour or until the frosting is firm.  Cover the cake with the container lid.  The cake can be frozen up to 1 week.  Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Instead of freezing in a container, place the cake on a plate and cover with moisture proof wrap.

A few of the many recipes in my collection. 



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