Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Cupcakes

Halloween demanded a baked good of some sort, and cupcakes seemed like the ideal thing to make. I tried a couple of recipes from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, one recipe of Dark Chocolate Cupcakes and one recipe of White Chocolate Cupcakes. As it turned out, the actual chocolate part of each cupcake was in the ganache frosting, and I opted out of that. Otherwise, the cake portion of each recipe is a pretty straightforward chocolate and vanilla cupcake.

On the plus side, the vanilla cupcakes are nice, almost a miniature pound cake in texture and consistency. On the other hand, the chocolate cupcakes are a disappointment, if only because the extremely loose batter is awkward to work with. It's made by hand, and I kept thinking that I should have prepared it in a large measuring cup. It would have been easier to get the batter into the cupcake tin that way.

As mentioned previously, I opted to forgo the ganache frostings in lieu of a regular old butter cream, which I tinted orange for the holiday.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Another Coke Cake

Since there's still some Coke left, I've become fixated on unearthing the mystery of Coke Cake. I tried this recipe yesterday. I didn't like it as much as Lora Brody's. The marshmallows here are simply stirred into the batter. I guess that maybe, best-case scenario, they dissolve into the cake while it's baking. That didn't quite happen with this cake, however, leaving it with a gummy texture. I also liked Lora Brody's Coke Cake frosting better, too

I've dredged up a couple more Coke Cake recipes. I'll keep going til that 2-liter bottle is empty.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Baking (With) Soda

For reasons that defy easy explanation, we have various 2-liter bottles of soda in our house that no one will ever drink, including regular Coke and Sierra Mist. Because I'm too cheap just to dump them down the drain, I figured that now would be a good time to try a couple of recipes I'd seen while browsing cookbooks.

First off, there's Coke Cake. I gather that this is a Southern thing, although if it is, I'm puzzled by how it didn't end up in Nancie McDermott's Southern Cakes. I decided to try a recipe from Lora Brody's Chocolate American Style. The cake batter contains not only a cup of Coke but also marshmallows. I'm still slightly befuddled about this formula. I mean, honestly, who starts off with Coke as the liquid in a cake, then says, "Hey, I know! Let's add three-quarters of a cup of marshmallows to this batter, too!"

To deal with the Sierra Mist, I am going to try 7UP Cake from the new America's Best Lost Recipes, from the folks at Cook's Country.

Updated 29 October 2007: The 7UP Cake is terrific. It's a dense pound cake, extremely moist, not terribly sweet, with a nice lemon glaze.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Weekend of Baking

This all started innocently enough -- as these baking things are wont to do -- with a sale at Stew Leonard's. This week, Stew's has raspberries on sale, two half-pint containers for $4. I've been eating lots of raspberries since last Wednesday when they went on sale.

Then I figured I could bake something with raspberries, and I remembered a footnote to Kathleen King's Cream Cheese Brownies (from the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook), in which she suggests scattering raspberries on the cream cheese layer. I've done that before, and the results are exceptional.

Then I had to deal with some leftovers (pumpkin) and overripes (bananas). For the pumpkin, I made Gina DePalma's Pumpkin Loaf Cake with Chocolate Chips from Baking From the Heart. For the bananas, I tried the Old-Fashioned Fragrant Banana Bread recipe from Marcy Goldman's new book, A Passion for Baking. Both of these loaves are still too warm to slice, but they both turned out looking great. I think I might slice and wrap them for future consumption and/or distribution.

Finally, to bring it all back to raspberries, I embarked on the latest version of The Cake. This time, The Cake is made with apples and raspberries. If The Cake Version 1.0 is the original, I guess this edition might be The Cake Version 1.2. The variations:

1.0: original
1.1: apples, glaze
1.2: apples, raspberries, glaze
2.0: pears
2.1: pears, crystallized ginger
3.0: cherries

The Cake is so insanely adaptable. No wonder I love it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Continuing on with the bakefest from Southern Cakes, today I made Sweet Potato Pound Cake. I started early in the day by baking four sweet potatoes for the cake. While they were baking and cooling, I cleaned out the fridge. (I really know how to live it up on a day off.) The intro to the recipe says that it's a cake "aromatic with spices," yet the ingredient list includes only nutmeg. Although it was difficult, I resisted the urge to tweak the recipe first time out, including not adding some of the warm autumn spices (cinnamon, ginger, allspice) I thought might be nice in this cake.

The cake has a beautiful golden color and a remarkably tender crumb. Even Claire likes it. Go figure. This cake is worthy of revisiting often. Next time out, I think I'll spice it up just a bit. A bit of minced crystallized ginger might be another nice touch (although I don't know how Southern that would be).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pumpkin-Raisin Cake

Since I couldn't get a pumpkin cupcake a couple of weeks ago, I dealt with my pumpkin craving by making a cake. I'd seen the recipe for Pumpkin-Raisin Cake while leafing through Nancie McDermott's Southern Cakes in search of a recipe for Claire's birthday cake. Pumpkin, raisins, walnuts. It sounded good, and it turned out really well. I made it as a 9x13 sheet cake rather than as two 9-in. layers. It's an option outlined in the recipe; however, I wish the recipe had indicated that in that size pan, the cake would require an extra 20 min. of baking time. The cake recipe is accompanied by a recipe for Lemon-Cream Cheese Frosting, which I used for the cake. Not sure I loved this frosting. It's essentially powdered sugar, cream cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice. It ended up having a pasty, glazy texture.

I'm really taken with Southern Cakes. It's a terrific little book. I think that tomorrow, I might try a sweet-potato pound cake.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Last weekend, I was in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the Twin Cities Marathon, soaking up the joy of a couple of unseasonably warm and humid October days. On the plus side, the race course is beautiful. On the even more plus side (the plusser side?), my pals accommodated a sudden U-turn on the way back to our hotel post-race for a stop at Cupcake, a bakery we drove past (3338 University Ave SE, Minneapolis). The cupcakes were a bit pricey, but in this post-race case, they were worth it. I got a sampler of flavors: Triple Vanilla, Cookies & Cream, Orange Dream, Peanut Butter & Banana, Turtle, and Chocolate Cream Pie. I think I liked the Turtle best: a chocolate cupcake with a bit of caramel filling, topped with a rich layer of chocolate icing and garnished with a drizzle of caramel and some chopped pecans. The Triple Vanilla was a pleasant surprise. The vanilla-frosted vanilla cupcake had a surprise vanilla-pudding filling. (OK, the filling shouldn't have been a surprise. It was Triple Vanilla, after all.) The only thing lacking with the Peanut Butter & Banana (PB frosting; banana cake) was a splash of something chocolate. Additionally, I was incredibly sad that I got there too late for a Pumpkin Cupcake. Pumpkin and its associated spices are definitely tempting my palate these days.

Sorry, no pictures of the cupcake bounty. They definitely were enjoyed, and Cupcake is worth a visit if you're in Twin Cities. In addition to cupcakes, they also have cookies, breads, some pastries, and savory selections (soups, quiche, etc.).

Claire's Birthday

Claire turned 12 yesterday, but her "party" -- taking five friends to see The Game Plan, a film that made me comatose; I might still not be conscious -- was today. For her birthday, she requested the Hershey's chocolate cake I'd made a few weeks ago, but because I listen as well as she does, I decided to pursue a different recipe. I ended up making Helen Hudson Whiting's Celestial Chocolate Cake from Nancie McDermott's Southern Cakes.

The technique is very similar to the Hershey cake, oddly enough, with cocoa powder bloomed in boiling water combined with the rest of the ingredients. (The technique similarity absolves me from guilt for using a different recipe, right?) The prep is slightly different in that the butter-sugar-egg mixture gets all the flour and leavenings before the cocoa slurry is added in. The recipe recommends a filling of whipped cream, but I made a plain white butter cream rather than mess around with that. I did use the chocolate frosting recipe recommended for the cake and liked it a lot; it's smooth, creamy, and easy to spread.

All in all, this cake was a huge success. As I was reminded yet again, it's always Karen's cakes that go awry. Claire's turn out just fine. And I myself am long overdue for a birthday cake from Costco.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Brownies and Blondies

This week, I've been doing some baking in anticipation of a weekend event. I've made some brownies and blondies, one new recipe (the brownies) and an old favorite (the blondies). I also made a batch of my favorite brownie-top/blondie-bottom bar cookies. In every case, there were issues.

I was utterly perplexed, especially after the batch of brownie/blondies baked 10 minutes longer than usual, then was still terribly underbaked in the center, a situation that had been the case to greater and lesser degrees all week. When I thought it over, the only common thread I could come up with was that I'd used the same pan for each batch of bar cookies. It's a shiny, silvery, reflective aluminum 9x13 pan. Is there something about the shiny pan vs. a matte gray nonstick-coated pan? It makes me wonder if the use of that pan contributed to the creamy success of the Oreo Cheesecake I made earlier in the week.

Anyway, recipes made:
Omigod Brownies from Rick Rodgers
Peanut Butter Brownies from The Ultimate Brownie Book by Bruce Weinstein
The Great Blondie from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook

I also did a batch of Kara's Blonde Brownies from Kathleen King's Tate Bakeshop Cookbook, but they did not survive the pan debacle. First time I've ever botched that recipe.

Oreo Cheesecake

October is full of work birthdays. The first one fell at the start of the month. For a while, I'd been tempted to try an Oreo Cheesecake, so I decided to give this one a go. For something with a recipe from the back of a package, I'd say it turned out pretty well. It's not baked in a water bath and contains no starch to stabilize it, either, yet mine turned out beautifully creamy. The only cosmetic glitch was a few cracks in the top.

P.S. I used a few Oreos with peanut-butter filling (hence the orangey-brown color of some of the cookies on top of the cheesecake).