Thursday, April 22, 2010

Orange Buttermilk Cake

Orange Buttermilk Cake - made April 17, 2010, original recipe

I invented this recipe – sort of. If you look closely, it’s a variation of the Kahlua Cake recipe but I just changed some components to get a different flavor. But the texture and moistness are approximately the same. I changed it up because I wanted to use up some buttermilk and oranges I had. Past experience has taught me the basic elements of this cake (cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, eggs, oil and liquid flavoring) are pretty forgiving and bake up into a nice cake even if you do get creative with the add-ins.

1 18.25-oz package of yellow cake mix
1 4-oz package vanilla pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Zest of 1 orange
Juice from 1 orange squeezed into a 1 cup measure, then top off the measuring cup with oil for a total of 1 cup orange juice & oil

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease Bundt pan.
2. Sift the cake mix to get rid of any lumps. Combine remaining ingredients in the mixing bowl of a freestanding electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth, 2-3 minutes.
3. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan and slide into preheated oven.
4. Bake until top is firm and toothpick inserted in center of Bundt ring comes out almost clean or with a few moist crumbs. Make sure you do the toothpick test in the most moist-looking part of the cake.
5. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes then invert onto serving plate and let cool almost completely before glazing.

I made up this glaze recipe – the thing with glaze is it’s really a matter of personal preference. Some people like runny glazes and others want their glaze to have the firmer consistency of frosting. For this one, I combined 5 tablespoons of softened butter, some powdered sugar, the zest from 1 orange and the freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange. How much orange juice and how much powdered sugar is up to you. Add more juice if you want a runny glaze and more powdered sugar for a thicker glaze. Use an electric mixer to combine the ingredients as that’ll show you the consistency you have fairly easily and you can add juice or powdered sugar to your taste.

For this particular glaze, I waited until the cake was still a bit lukewarm or just barely cool and I spread half the glaze over the cake. It melted slightly into the cake. Let the cake cool completely then cover with the rest of the glaze. That first layer of glaze will harden slightly as the cake cools and the sugar crystallizes and the second layer will remain softer like a frosting. I like to have both textures against the soft crumb of the cake.

Easy Mix Yellow Cupcakes

Easy Mix Yellow Cupcakes - made April 13, 2010 from Cupcakes by Elinor Klivans

Another coping attempt as I baked these cupcakes after my uncle died and a couple of days before his funeral. Anything to keep busy. This was an easy recipe which I needed since I had a tendency to become too distracted and not bake well because I kept forgetting key ingredients. These are nearly foolproof and are a nice standard vanilla cupcake. Watch the baking time. I hovered by the oven and pulled these out at that sweet spot where a toothpick inserted one minute comes out with almost raw batter but another toothpick the next minute comes out nearly clean but with a few moist crumbs. That’s when you know it’s done. I didn’t bother to frost these because I just didn’t feel like it and it was late at night and I was tired. Fortunately, they tasted pretty good on their own and didn’t need to be accessorized with frosting. That’s when you know you have a good recipe.

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola or corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg and yolk and sugar until thickened and lightened to a cream color, about 2 minutes.
3. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla until blended. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. Mix in the flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth. The batter is ready to bake, or for additions such as nuts, fruit or other flavorings.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Heirloom Devil's Food Cake

Heirloom Devil's Food Cake - made April 8, 2010 from Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson

I turned to baking as a crutch to get me through what would turn out to be a weekend vigil at the hospital for my uncle’s final days. I made this devil’s food cake to keep myself busy before it was time to go see him at the hospital. I had made this recipe before and my notes said it had turned out pretty well. I made it again and it did turn out well – the texture was moist and a bit dense but not too heavy. The chocolate butter frosting was rich but not as overwhelming as the one for the Godiva chocolate cake. But I will admit the Godiva chocolate cake itself was the better cake. It had more flavor and a slightly softer texture which wasn’t as dense. If I’m in the mood for an all-chocolate cake again, I would pair the Godiva Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake with the Chocolate Butter Frosting and call it a day. I didn’t time how long the layers took (I hardly ever do) but you do need to keep an eye on baking time, especially with chocolate cakes since you can’t rely on them turning golden brown or other visual cues to tell you they’re done. By the time a chocolate cake looks done, it’s probably overbaked, especially if the top feels really firm and/or there are cracks on top.

Devil’s Food Batter
2 ¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 ¾ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
1 ¼ cups buttermilk, whisked well

Chocolate Butter Frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease the inside of two 9-inch layer cake pans (1 ½ inches deep) with shortening, line the bottom of each pan with a circle of waxed paper cut to fit, grease the paper, and dust with flour.
2. Mix the batter: Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3. Cream the butter in the large bowl of a freestanding electric mixer on moderate speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar in 3 additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion is added. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 45 seconds after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in 3 additions with the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently to keep the batter even-textured.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly between them. Spread the batter evenly.
5. Bake and cool the layers: Bake the cake layers in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until risen, set and a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer withdraws clean (or with a few crumbs attached). Cool the layers in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the layers onto other cooling racks, peel away the waxed paper, and cool completely.
6. Set up the serving plate: Tear off four 3-inch-wide strips of waxed paper. Place the strips in the shape of a square on the outer 3 inches of a cake plate.
7. Assemble and frost the cake: Center one cake layer on the plate (partially covering the waxed paper square; the strips should extend by at least 1 inch). Spread over a layer of frosting. Carefully position the second layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake, swirling the frosting as you go. Once set, gently remove and discard the strips of paper. Let the cake stand for 1 hour before slicing and serving.
Bake and serve within 1 day

Chocolate Butter Frosting

4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 tablespoons milk, heated to tepid
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

1. Place the confectioners’ sugar, salt, melted chocolate, vanilla extract and milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty freestanding electric mixer fitted with the flat paddle. Scatter over the chunks of butter and beat on moderately low speed for 2 minutes to being the mixing process.
2. When the frosting begins to come together, raise the speed to moderate and beat for 3 minutes, or until very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to keep the frosting even-textured.
3. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes, or until very creamy. Adjust the texture of the frosting to spreading consistency, as needed, for adding additional teaspoons of milk or tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar.

Dealing with Life...and Death

I haven’t blogged as regularly for the past few weeks or baked as much, partly because I haven’t felt like it and partly because I haven’t had time. We lost my uncle a week and a half ago and it’s been difficult to get “back to normal”. Whatever normal really is.

Whenever death hits our family, I’m both angry and resentful that the rest of the world still goes on. People still go to work, TV shows still run, the radio DJs are still cheerful as they yak away, stores are still open, traffic is still bad during commute hours, and on and on. I feel like I need to come to a standstill if no one else will and just mourn. I mourn not only for myself in losing my uncle but I mourn for my mom who lost a brother, my cousin who lost a father, my aunt who lost a husband and everyone else who lost a great presence in their lives. It seems wrong and even almost frivolous to just go forward as if nothing ever happened. He meant something to all of us and that should be acknowledged. And it is. We had a very touching and dignified military funeral for him complete with Navy officers in dress whites and his casket draped in the US flag. We say prayers daily, each in our own way and through our own beliefs.

But I’ve also come to realize that doing those things isn’t the only way to honor and remember my uncle. It’s also in how we remember him, what positive influences we take from him and how we reflect that influence in our own lives. It isn’t about coming to a standstill, however much we want to. That’s not what he stood for nor is it what he would wish for us. Yes, life relentlessly moves on, even when death seems to make you want to come to a halt. Our part in it is to take that gift of life that we still have and to do the best we can with it. Each person we meet touches our lives in some way. If we’re fortunate, they touch it for the better. It’s our job and our tribute to deceased loved ones not to waste their influence on us or fritter away our own remaining time. That’s how they remain infinite and forever with us. Because we celebrate their lives in the way that we live our own.

This is a picture of my uncle at his college graduation, 45 years ago.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Godiva Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake

Godiva Ultimate Chocolate Layer Cake - made April 6, 2010 from Epicurious?

I've had this recipe for so long that I forgot where I got it from but I think I downloaded it from some years ago. I've never made it until now and I'm sorry I waited so long. I love this cake. It has a nice chocolate flavor and a wonderful texture that's nice and moist. I took it out at just the right time - one minute the toothpick inserted in the center still had raw batter clinging to it and a couple of minutes later, it only had moist crumbs clinging to it. That's when you know it's baked just right. Unfortunately, true to form, I didn't really time it though.

For the frosting, I used the Pernigotti cocoa from Williams Sonoma which has a really deep chocolate flavor. It turned out a dark chocolate frosting that was a bit too rich for me but if you're a dark chocolate or a frosting fan, you might like it. Regardless, the cake itself is delicious. The recipe calls for making it as a 3-layer cake but I needed some batter for cupcakes to give away so I baked it as 2 layers and 8 cupcakes. I ended up not using the entire 1/2 cup of Godiva chocolate liqueur to brush over the baked cakes. It didn't seem like I needed that much to make it flavorful and moist and turns out I didn't. But I did use the exact amount called for in the cake itself and the frosting.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup sifted cocoa powder
1/3 cup Godiva Liqueur

2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup Godiva liqueur, divided
Shaved chocolate

1. For the buttercream, cream the butter until smooth. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder over the butter, add 1/3 cup Godiva liqueur and slowly mix until smooth.
2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. On low speed, stir in the chocolate and gradually add the reserved sifted ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk and ½ cup of Godiva liqueur; beat until smooth. Divide the batter among three greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake in preheated 375˚F oven for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack to completely cool. Chill the layers in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until firm.
3. To assemble the cake, remove the cake layers from the freezer and brush with the remaining Godiva liqueur before spreading ¾ cup of buttercream between each layer. Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake, which has been placed on a serving plate. Serve immediately or refrigerate if necessary. If refrigerating, remove 1 hour prior to serving. Garnish with shaved chocolate. Serves 12.

Kahlua Cake

Kahlua Cake - made April 1, 2010, adapted from recipe from Patricia Ng

I haven't kept up with this blog much lately, partly because I haven't had as much time to bake as often and partly when I have baked, I've made things I've already blogged about. My nieces were here last week for spring break and I did make one of our favorite cakes. I first had this cake when I worked at eBay and my coworker friend Patricia made this cake. I thought it was scrumptious. Patricia shared the recipe but over the years I've somehow lost track of it. So for this version, I've tried to recreate what I remember of it. It turned out pretty well so this time I'm documenting it.

This is really easy to make. The directions are somewhat sparse and I play around with the proportions of the Kahlua and water in the cake and the amount of Kahlua and confectioners' sugar in the glaze. I make the glaze and heat it until it has a syrupy viscosity but I admit I didn't really measure. I just made it until it "looks right". You can't really go wrong. This is more of a soaking syrup than a glaze anyway. You don't want it too thin but don't make it so thick that it's a noticeable glaze on the cake. This is another good picnic-type cake as it's very versatile and travels well.

1 package yellow cake mix
1 4-ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 cup oil
1 cup mixture of Kahlua and water (mix to taste – you can use all Kahlua if you want a stronger taste of Kahlua or ½ and ½ or ¾ and ¼ or anywhere in between

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ to 1/3 cup Kahlua

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and spray a 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. Sift yellow cake mix until lump-free. Combine all ingredients in the mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat with a paddle attachment until smooth – 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Pour into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it (toothpick inserted in the outer edges should come out clean).
4. For the glaze: combine confectioners’ sugar and Kahlua in small saucepan over medium heat and whisk to a boil. Brush glaze over warm cake.