Entries tagged with “Cake”.
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Sun 13 Dec 2009
About a year ago, I blew out a candle on a piece of white cake with pink frosting, my standard birthday fare. I made a wish. I wished that I would have the inspiration, time, and wherewithal over the coming year to figure out a way to bring my writing and cooking together into a big, lovely project. I wished for a way to begin building an audience of readers with whom I could share my love of food, cooking, and a few stories along the way. In effect, I wished for all of you.
We have just finished off another white cake with pink frosting. Why so simple, you ask? Though I like to think of myself as a reasonably seasoned baker, I never go with anything fancy or new or complicated for my own birthday. The white and pink combination is something I fell in love with when I was very small - somewhere in that post-toddler epoch that finds so many little girls swaddling themselves in billows of pink everything. I think it also has something to do with having a December birthday. Once Thanksgiving comes and goes, the default thinking behind every decorated cake seems to begin and end with wintry/Christmas things until February comes along with its shower of red and pink clashiness. Somewhere along the way, I came to prefer a cake that didn’t have anything to do with the season. To me, a stripe of pink frosting between layers of fluffy white cake just screams BIRTHDAY and nothing else. Though I have been known to take my birthday cake in a chocolate direction (the recipe for which I must share with you soon, because it’s a real charmer), more often than not I find myself coming back to my favorite pink and white number.
The cake itself is just plain perfect. Not only does it turn out beautifully every time I make it, you cannot find an easier recipe to execute. Dump, mix, dump in the eggs, mix again. I can barely justify a rundown for this one because it’s so incredibly simple. Several years ago I looked and looked for a recipe that would give me a simple white cake with a tiny, moist crumb. A few mediocre misfires lead me back to the Betty Crocker Cookbook, one of my kitchen’s secret weapons. Straightforward, comprehensive, and full of helpful tables and asides, it is an invaluable resource for understanding cooking basics. Plus, it’s ring-bound, which allows it to lie flat on your counter. If you are ever looking for a cookbook that can act as a starting place for someone new to cooking, this is it. My mom gave me a copy when I moved into my first apartment, and I refer to it at least once a week. My copy is visibly well-loved and some of the pages have acquired dribs and drabs of their recipes, not the least of which is the page facing the recipe for this cake.
Back to that wish. Tonight, my lovelies, I want to take a moment to thank you for being a part of this little blog of mine. Over the past several months I have had the wonderful privilege of sharing my recipes, photos, and ramblings with you. It has been a pleasure to read your comments, your emails, and share this wonderful journey through our kitchens together - over 7,000 kitchens to-date. I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am to be part of your virtual food milieu. Your willingness to return week after week is one of the best, most exhilarating gifts I have ever received. Thank you.
(Keep reading White Birthday Cake…)
Sun 20 Sep 2009
The bakery cupcake phenomenon kind of escapes me. It highlights my fleeting disconnect from people who don’t see cooking as Something You Do. Living in Los Angeles, I’m within each reach of at least a dozen bakeries with beautiful and famous cupcakes…but I’ve never been to any of them.
My reasons are two-fold. First, the few I’ve had have been fine, but not great. It’s not that they’re bad, exactly, they’re just not something I’d go out of my way to track down. Second, I can’t fathom paying someone several dollars for a single cupcake when I can make piles and piles of them at home with the staples in my pantry and fridge.
However, I wholeheartedly support the cupcake movement, such as it is. Tiny cakes that can be dressed and frocked to suit the wildest and mildest palates alike are whimsical genius, in my best opinion. Cupcakes are simply fun. It has been delightful to see something so fun and so manageable at home become so broadly popular recently. I only wish I could convince more people to make their own.
Do you want to know the secret to true cupcake perfection? Take an unfrosted cupcake and slice it in half on its horizontal axis so that you have top and bottom pieces that are of roughly equal thickness. Next, spread a generous layer of frosting on the bottom layer and set the top layer on top. Frost the top as you normally would. Carefully spread a final layer of frosting around the sides and voila, a tiny layer cake for one. Enjoy with a fork.
Of course, cupcakes in wrappers are also lovely. I made these Red Velvet Cupcakes for a friend’s birthday a few weeks ago when she told me her list of cake likes include lemon, chocolate, and cream cheese, in no particular order. Red velvet has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the past two years or so. No longer a regional staple of Southern birthday parties, it has gained a place in this new canon of cupcake frippery. I think it brilliantly exemplifies the genius of cupcakes. Here is a hyper-pigmented, sugar coma-sweet confection, packaged for one. It’s Dolly Parton as a dessert. A perfect platform for its flavor foil, frosting energized by the tangy snap of cream cheese; a perfect symbol for our national sweet tooth.
If you don’t have a pastry bag for piping the frosting, don’t worry about it. You can do a swell job with a dinner spoon. Load up the spoon with frosting. Holding the spoon in one hand and the cupcake in the other, set the spoon down on the center of the cake and rotate the cupcake in one, clean circle so that the frosting sweeps the whole top. Touch up as needed – you’ll end up with a lovely look.
(Keep reading Red Velvet Cupcakes…)
Wed 17 Jun 2009
We saw it as a sin to waste excess frosting. Never bound to follow a strict recipe, my mom and I would mix and taste, mix and taste until we had a bowl of smooth, hearty buttercream frosting for whatever cake or brownie begged to be dressed. There’s nothing wrong with following a recipe – and I regularly do with tinted frosting to be sure I avoid having to make more that would risk being a different color – but the ad hoc way is much more fun. It almost always means leftovers, the best kind.
I remember one afternoon during my senior year of high school. I came across a bowl of leftover frosting on the kitchen counter as I made my daily post-school forage through the kitchen. It was chocolate buttercream. Whatever baked good had been its original target was gone – all that remained was this bowl of excess joy. I hastily grabbed a teaspoon and dove in for one, good bite. Then another. And another. My indulgent solitude splintered when my mom came upstairs to find her piggy daughter shoveling frosting into her mouth. “Bria!” she hissed, and there was a pregnant pause while she marched into the kitchen, during which time I was sure she was about to scold me for wolfing down frosting straight from the bowl. “Use a big spoon.” She pulled two dinner spoons out of the silverware drawer and joined me as we savored the excesses of our prior handiwork.
So it would be accurate to say I have a sweet tooth. And that I come by it honestly.
I do not understand people who say they “don’t like sweets.” When I hear that, I feel as bewildered as I would if someone were telling me “I don’t really like having arms.” Still, as my advancing years teeter on the brink of 30, I find myself acquiring new-found patience for accommodating such bizarre tendencies (though I will draw the line at cutting anyone else’s meat so they don’t have to be bothered with the imposition of their northern appendages). My arsenal of demi-sweet desserts is growing, and I can begrudgingly admit I enjoy them, too.
This olive oil cake mediates handsomely between the sweet-loving and the sweet-tolerating factions. Mildly sweet, it allows the nutty pizzazz of the olive oil to lilt upon the palette in a sly, flirty dance. The original recipe calls for Grand Marnier, which I have replaced with drambuie and almond extract. Despite many attempts to otherwise align my palate, I do not care much for citrus liqueurs. If you feel differently, substitute 3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier for the other liqueurs. Use the best, brightest-tasting olive oil you can justify. I serve this with a simple dusting of powdered sugar, but it would also be lovely with a berry coulis or a sugary glaze. If you go that route and end up with extra glaze for snacking, be sure to use a big spoon.
(Keep reading Olive Oil Cake…)