Sunday, September 13, 2009

Using a cake mix as a base

Basic Buttermilk Spice Cake - February 5, 2009

I like to try a lot of different recipes, mostly to justify the dozens of dessert cookbooks I've acquired over the years, some of them barely used. What determines what I bake is partly decided from the recipes available to me and partly by the ingredients I have on hand and need to use up. This week it's milk and buttermilk to be used before their expiration dates. I made a buttermilk spice cake to use up not only some buttermilk but also a spice cake mix I bought on sale awhile back. This recipe is from The Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn. While I, as a baking snob, prefer to bake all things from scratch, a good recipe starting from a cake mix can, on occasion, be forgivable. The recipes I've tried from the Cake Mix Doctor have generally been good. While the taste is usually not very remarkable (it ends up inevitably tasting like the cake mix it came from), the crumb and texture is pretty good. I like my cakes to be, well, cakey. They either need to have a tender crumb with a moist texture (can't abide dry cakes) or they need to be packed full of flavor and have dense texture like a pound cake. I don't care much for chiffons or angel food cakes. It's a texture thing then a flavor thing. Anyway, this one turned out well.

Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pans

Flour for dusting the pans

1 package (18.25 ozs) plain spice cake mix

1 cup buttermilk

⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce

⅓ cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean or sunflower

3 large eggs

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour then set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, buttermilk, applesauce, oil, eggs and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

3. Bake the cake until it is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 26 to 28 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert them each onto a rack, then invert them again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow the cakes to cool completely, 30 minutes more. Frost as desired.

4. Store this cake, unfrosted, covered in aluminum foil, at room temperature, for up to 4 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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