Hanging out at the Dairy

Hanging out at the Dairy
Darci(far left) & the Wrights at the Creamery

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You CAN have your cake & eat it too!

Aunt Diane's Birthday cake in my kitchen
I'm not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cook!
Yesterday was one of my Aunt's birthday and I was baking her birthday cake for her. Did you ever read Like Water For Chocolate or see the movie? One of the main points of the story is that food that is being prepared, takes on the emotion of the cook(s).  Food prepared with love always tastes better to me, most people know this. If your having trouble with this idea, think of some of your favorite foods, who prepared them for you and how you feel about this person(s). Now, you understand.

little rays of sunshine
I love my Aunt (I'm a sap about my whole family really) and the chance to join them for her birthday and bake her birthday cake arose. This foodie was filled with love when she baked this cake. This Aunt is and has always been a person of enormous positive energy, love of her family, a tremendously hard worker and a tom-boy. She loves to kayak, to weave baskets, work in her garden, to can everything from jam to tuna, and homemade things. She's sentimental like me. We cry when we're happy. We understand each other.

So love of my Aunt was in me when I baked for her. The recipe I chose is an adaptation of the one on the back of the Trader Joe's unsweetened "Cocoa Powder" tin.

The Trader Joe's "The greatest & Easiest Chocolate Cake" recipe is as follows:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (2) 9 inch cake pans.

3 1/3 c. flour           12 oz. butter or margarine
1 1/3 c. cocoa         3 c. buttermilk
3 c. sugar                1 T. baking soda  
1 t. vanilla               1 t. salt
5 eggs

Place all ingredients in electric mixer bowl and beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once during mixing. Pour into prepared pans of cupcake cups. Bake cakes for about 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, or bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes.

As might have guessed, I "elevated" the recipe to adapt to my tastes:
* use unbleached, unbromated flour like Red Mill or King Arthur
* used 4 c. flour vs. 3 1/3 c.
* use unsalted butter, it's a fresher product without the salt as preservative, you control your salt & water
* used 2 sticks or 16 oz. unsalted butter vs. 12 oz.
* Added 1/3 c. freshly brewed but cool French Roast Coffee (a dark roast or 3 shots espresso), cooled
* used 1 T. Trader Joe's Vanilla vs. 1 t.
* use ground sea salt. It's much less metallic tasting than Iodized. I use Trader Joe's, it's tasty and cheap.
* Added 2 t. ground cinnamon
* used 3 1/2 c. sugar, superfine baking sugar. I like the way it mixes & isn't grainy.
* use organic or natural whenever possible and affordable, the taste is most often purer and intense!

*I also went more traditional when combining the ingredients.
First, cream the butter and sugar on medium-then high speed. Then add the vanilla, coffee and the eggs, one by one on medium speed. Scrape down bowl. Then, the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk on low speed. Scrape down bowl. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl. Mix on high for 30 seconds.  Fill cake pans or cupcake cups.

one of my 2 cake rounds
The cakes need to cool completely before frosting. I set mine on a cooling rack and started the frosting.

My Cream Cheese Chocolate Butter cream Frosting recipe:

Combine in mixer bowl: 2 c. room temp cream cheese, 1 c. packed brown sugar, 1 c. superfine sugar, 1T. vanilla, 1t. cinnamon, 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa, 2 sticks semi-softened unsalted butter. Mix on low, then high to get any lumps out.

Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake rounds in half by placing your palm on top of round to secure and a gentle sawing action to slowly work your way around the cake and through the middle.

not quite perfect, but it will work

Using two spatulas, place the first layer on your plate, platter or cake stand. *TRICK* Place 3 or 4 teaspoon sized blobs of frosting on where the cake will be on the serving vessel first. These bits of frosting help prevent the cake from sliding!

Using offset spatula, smooth frosting on top of first layer, excess frosting can be coaxed out to the edges for use on the sides later. Repeat process with gently placing each layer on top of the next. *TRICK* It's easier not to get crumbs in frosting if you place the cut side down and frost the uncut surface.

3 layers down, 1 to go!
Use the offset spatula to add any extra frosting needed to have a thin coat of frosting on sides. This finishes the cake and allows enough frosting depth to hold the toasted and chopped walnuts to the sides. Using your scooped hand, gently pour & press the chopped walnuts onto the sides of cake. It's a slow and somewhat messy process but worth it! I used about 3 c. toasted walnuts (measured prior to chopping & toasting).

The top was simply decorated by gliding the offset spatula back and forth across to the edges.
The cake was chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to transporting to party.

We ate a lovely dinner at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Lodge, telling jokes, laughing and catching on each other's lives. Then it was time for dessert or as my young cousin Anthony says, "the chocolate party"!

BD cake with candles and "tastes" of frosting smoothed out
Anthony helped my Aunt and Uncle blow out her candles
a rather ginormous bite of cake
My cousin Laura catching Anthony's excess cake, my son & hubby eating their slices
We all enjoyed our dinner and dessert. Our bellies were now stuffed and my Aunt felt celebrated! What a gift time with family and celebrating milestones can be. Cooking with love in your heart is good for you, good for your diners and tastes better! Try it today.

a cross section of the cake
Here's to celebrating our loved ones, having your cake and eating it too!

Chow for now my friends.

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