Archive for March 18th, 2014

Cake is happiness!  If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness!  If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!  ―  C. JoyBell C.

Since it’s been far too long since I published a recipe, I decided to make up for it with seven new ones: all different types of cake, arranged one per demi-season.  Yesterday we covered winter and spring, and today cakes for the summer and autumn.  I would only consider one of these (Moss Rose Cake) difficult, and even it isn’t all that tough.  But if you aren’t an experienced baker, make sure you read my general tips in yesterday’s column before proceeding.

Summertide (late May – early July)

Texas BrowniesI first discovered this recipe in the early ‘90s, and I don’t know why they’re so named; maybe because they’re big, or maybe it’s the buttermilk, but they’re delicious in any case.  If you don’t have buttermilk handy, put 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of lemon juice or vinegar into a glass measuring cup, pour milk in until it’s just below the ¾ cup (180 ml) line, stir, and let it sit for 5 minutes before using (the usage is divided between cake & frosting, so be sure to measure).  Note that the coffee need not be freshly brewed; I always use whatever’s left from breakfast.

Texas Brownies

2 cups (480 ml) flour
2 cups (480 ml) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/3 cup (80 ml) cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) coffee (the stronger the better)
2 eggs
½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
1½ teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract
1 recipe frosting (see below)

Preheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit, grease a 13” x 9” baking pan and sift together flour, sugar, soda and salt.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine butter, cocoa and coffee, stirring constantly until it boils.  Add the chocolate mixture to the dry mixture and beat with an electric mixer at medium to high speed until well-combined.  Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute more, then pour into the pan (batter will be thin).  Bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean, then remove from oven and immediately prepare frosting.

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cocoa powder
3 tablespoons (45 ml) buttermilk
2¼ cups (540 ml) sifted powdered sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine butter, cocoa and buttermilk, stirring constantly until mixture boils.  Pour over powdered sugar in mixing bowl, add vanilla and beat until smooth, then pour over hot cake.  Allow cake to cool thoroughly in pan, then cut into squares.

Lammastide  (July and the Dog Days)

refrigerator cakeIt’s true that sheet cakes aren’t as fancy as layer cakes, but unless you’re trying to impress company they taste the same.  Here’s another cake Maman used to make; it’s wonderfully refreshing in an oppressively-hot Louisiana summer.  Just bake a white cake in a 13” x 9” pan, and when it’s cool use a wooden skewer to poke holes at about 1-cm intervals over the whole top of the cake.  Pour the proper amount of boiling water over two regular-size packets of any flavor of dessert gelatin (in the US this would be two cups [480 ml] of water ) and stir until dissolved, about 2 minutes.  But do not then add cold water as one normally would when preparing the gelatin; instead pour it evenly over the top of the cake and set it in the refrigerator for at least four hours before cutting.

Mabontide  (September and late August)

To make up for all those homely cakes, here’s a very fancy one that’s my husband’s all-time favorite.  It isn’t just two layers, but three!  Usually I add green and red food coloring to the frosting to get a sort of mossy color in keeping with the name.  The fresher the eggs, the lighter and fluffier the result with this cake; farm-fresh eggs give the best result.  It’s also much easier if you have a stand mixer.

Moss Rose Cake

2 cups (480 ml) sifted flour
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking powder
4 eggs
2 cups (480 ml) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) almond extract
1 cup (240 ml) hot milk

beaten whole eggsLet eggs sit at room temperature for half an hour while you grease and lightly flour three 8” or 9” round cake pans, then sift flour, salt and baking powder together three times.  Preheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit.  Beat eggs and almond extract on high speed for about five minutes, gradually adding sugar, until very thick; the mixture will cascade from the beater in a thick ribbon and mound up on the batter’s surface, then slowly vanish into it.  Gently fold flour mixture into egg mixture, then gradually add hot milk and stir quickly until the batter is smooth.  Divide evenly between the three pans and bake for 30 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched.  Cool layers in pans for 20 minutes while preparing frosting.

7-minute Frosting 

1½ cups (360 ml) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) cold water
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) cream of tartar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract
Food coloring

In the top of a double boiler combine sugar, water, egg whites and cream of tartar and mix with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Place over boiling water and cook for seven minutes, mixing on high speed the whole time, until frosting forms stiff peaks.  Remove from heat, add extract and color, and beat for 2 or 3 minutes more until frosting reaches spreading consistency.  Carefully remove layer from pan, frost and stack layers, frost the whole cake and then sprinkle the top with ground pistachios (about ¼ or ½ cup of nuts ground up in a food processor should do it).

Autumntide  (October and November)

This is a simple but delicious seasonal cake; I used to make it often at UNO when friends came over to play Dungeons & Dragons.  As with Texas Brownies, you can use sour milk in place of buttermilk; put one tablespoon (15 ml) vinegar or lemon juice in a glass measuring cup, then add milk to the one-cup (240 ml) line and stir.  Allow to sit five minutes before using.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

2 cups (480 ml) flour
1½ teaspoons (8 ml) baking powder
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) each nutmeg, cloves and ginger
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable shortening
1½ cups (360 ml) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
½ cup (120 ml) cooked pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit, then grease and lightly flour two 9” round cake pans and stir together all dry ingredients except sugar.  Beat butter and shortening together with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds, then add vanilla and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.  Add pumpkin, then dry mixture and buttermilk alternately in thirds, beating at low speed after each just until combined.  Pour into pans and bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 20 minutes while preparing frosting.  Variations: Replace pumpkin with 1 cup (240 ml) applesauce and reduce buttermilk to ¼ cup (60 ml); or, omit fruit altogether and increase buttermilk to 1¼ cups (300 ml).

Browned Butter Frosting

In a small saucepan melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter over low heat, then continue heating until it turns a delicate brown.  Pour it into a mixing bowl with 4 cups (960 ml) powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla, beat on low speed until combined and then on medium to high speed until it reaches spreading consistency.

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