Category: Baked Goods


Nights in Red Velvet

This year, my wife specifically requested a red velvet cake for her birthday party.

That was when I realised that I had never baked a cake from scratch before.

I’ve completed the first semester baking class, which was pretty much everything EXCEPT cake. But I looked up the recipe in my textbook, and found an insane amount of red food colouring. I’ll eat a lot of processed foodstuffs, but after what I’ll describe as an awkward consequence of Lucky Charms, artificial food colouring and I are on the outs. I read up on the olden-timey recipes, natural processed chocolate vs. Dutch processed, the chemistry of buttermilk and anthocyanins. Then I tried an experimental round of cupcakes using beet juice instead of food colouring. It didn’t make a significant difference in the colour, but we sure did eat all of them before I could take a picture.

And that, I think is the most important lesson to take away from this experience:
ALWAYS TAKE PROCESS PHOTOS.

Otherwise, your birthdaydrunk wife will brutally stab and hack the handcrafted symbol of your love, and you will cry a little bit, and be stuck posting what looks like a crime scene photo.

From “mortared brick” to “Bates Motel guest” in 4 seconds.

Aaaaaanyway, the cake you see above was based on sophistimom’s Red Velvet Cupcake recipe, which calls for pureeing roasted beet, so that it also includes all the fibrous, pulpy, nutritive goodness. It came out VERY red, and a bit more dense than traditional red velvet, but moist and delicious! I made an 8″x12″ sheet, which I then cut into thirds, stacked, and frosted. Unfortunately, I got a little outside my comfort zone with the cream cheese variant of LeelaBean’s cooked-flour frosting. It’s sweet and creamy, not grainy at all, but definitely better suited to individual cupcakes than a cake that needs to be sliced and served.

TL;DR – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WIFE!!!  I love you, even though you murdered your cake!  29 is going to be awesome!

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For enduring my ramblings, I will bestow unto you two baking projects bound by a shared frosting.  So you get two and a half recipes for the price of one!  You can’t afford NOT to read this!

I love Christmas.  It is essential to note, however, that I use “Christmas” as a lump term meaning “celebration on or near the winter solstice involving lights, singing, feasts, and acts of generosity and kindness.”  It is a socially expedient shorthand, though I understand if other non-Christians choose to call their particular celebrations by other, more precise names.

What is hard for me to understand is people who hate the holidays in their entirety: the Grinches, Scrooges, and Burgermeister Meisterburgers of the world.  A lot of people are disappointed as they grow up and find that a cold, aphotic December can come and go without Christmas magically sweeping them up in merriment and joy.  In this regard, I come from a place of privilege.  My parents also love Christmas immensely, and by way of teaching my brother and I to love Christmas, they also showed us how to MAKE Christmas, because the making is the most important part.  It’s the point.

The universe is much like a northern winter.  It is overwhelmingly vast, dark, hard, and uncaring.  Life is an act of audacity.  Abstractions like hope, joy, and love are even more so.  They do not exist on their own.  They exist because we make them.  The most perfect encapsulation I’ve found of this idea is in Terry Pratchett’s “The Hogfather”, in a conversation between Death and his grand-daughter, Susan.

Saturnalia/Yule/Christmas/etc. are about magic: the amazing act of making light in the longest night.  The joy of Christmas is not a thing that happens to us.  It is a thing we bring into being, an attempt to be the best of all of our ideals, in spite of everything.

Be the spark in the darkness.

Anyway, for less abstract values of “making”, this post I bring you a cake, some cookies, and a wonderful frosting for both that also stands on its own as an insanely buttery fudge.

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The Cake of Despair

Necessary parts of any survival gear kit.

Necessary parts of any survival gear kit.

Some days, you have to pick up your cat and drop a few hundred bucks at the vet, because your cat has a bladder infection and will now need to be on prescription food for the rest of her life.

The vet appointment runs long, so you miss your last class of the night, which only meets once a week.

You get home, and get a call from your mother saying that your grandfather has stopped breathing, is in the hospital, and probably won’t make it through the night, but you shouldn’t bother to drive up, because the hospital staff wouldn’t let you in anyway.

And you’re due for a full blown Communist invasion at any minute.  (“Red Menace”, get it?  Ha.)

original source unknown

“It’s like there’s a crime scene in my pants.”

At times like this, you make Despair Cake.

INGREDIENTS:
1 box Devil’s Food or Dark Chocolate cake mix
whatever the recipe on the back of the box says
Optional
– substitute 1 snack-size chocolate pudding for one of the eggs
– your choice of liquor (ex. Kahlua, schnapps or cordials)

  • do what the back of the box says.  Seriously, just follow the freaking directions, in the order given.
  • after cake is out of the pan but still hot, brush it with liquor and let sit.
  • don’t you DARE frost it.
  • go to the living room and put whatever you damn well feel like watching on the TV
Or say "f* it" and just pour on the juice.

Or say “f* it” and just pour on the juice.

One it’s cooled enough to hold in your bare hand, get a paper towel, or a plate, if you’re feeling fancy.  Haul the cake out to the living room in as large a piece as you can carry.  I usually do two 8″ rounds, and carry out one of those.  Eat it straight to your face like a piece of pizza.

If you absolutely MUST have frosting, you can carry one of those little tubs of it out as well and eat it directly with a spoon in between bites of chocolatey consolation.  Emotions and cramps are for all those poor sad bastards who don’t have cake.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

You’re not sick of bacon yet, right? Good.

More bacon than meets the eye.

More bacon than meets the eye.

I got a little crazy two years ago around the holidays and decided to take porcine liberties with Nana’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. Then I made the mistake of sharing them with people, and now Wife’s co-worker is holding her annual jar of cranberry-infused vodka hostage until Wife brings in a bag of goodies.

My Nana makes her chocolate chip cookies crispy. Ergo, I like my chocolate chip cookies crispy. It is the law of grandmothers: however yours cooked x dish is the “right” way to do it, and anything else is heresy. If you like fluffy, chewy cookies, there are plenty of other recipes out there that you can make substitutions into. But if you’re like me, and want a cookie that won’t fall apart when you dunk it into a glass of cold milk, you’ve come to the right place.

And I'm not sorry.

And I’m not sorry.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c. softened butter
1/3 c. CBG (candied bacon grease)
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 lb candied bacon

  • preheat oven to 350°
  • trim and discard excess fat from candied bacon, then mince remainder
  • mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl
  • cream butter, CBG, white and brown sugar, and vanilla extract, then mix in eggs
  • gradually mix in dry ingredients, then stir in bacon and chocolate chips
  • drop by rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet
  • bake 10-13 minutes until golden brown
  • remove from oven, let cool

If you’re feeling REALLY ambitious, you may be able to re-bake the excess candied bacon fat trimmings for even more grease drippings.  I did.  And then I ate the crispy, caramelised remnants, probably shaving about a month off my life expectancy.  It was glorious.  The end.

Cranana Bread: an experiment

I have always regarded banana bread as a Hail Mary pass against food waste: about as likely to be successful, and about as appetizing.

Gee, tell your wife I said "thanks." Or y'know... don't.

Gee, tell your wife I said “thanks.” Or y’know… don’t.

But sometimes, you’re looking through the pantry for maple syrup, and you find a bag of old bananas that are just too mooshy to eat straight.  And then you say, “Self, you’re going to do this, you’re going to have fun with it, and it’s okay if it comes out gross, because you’re going to learn from it, and you can always just throw it out, since that’s what would have happened to the bananas anyway.”

I added ginger and nutmeg for a little bit of a “spice cake” quality, and dried cranberries to give it some pizazz, and to counter that blah-mooshy-banana flavour.

And I was pleasantly surprised.  The only thing I might do differently is to substitute the dried cranberries with fresh ones, which would give a little more zing, and a more consistent texture.

Deliciousness, with a side of cream cheese.

Deliciousness, with a side of cream cheese.

INGREDIENTS:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
3 overripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. cranberries (dried or fresh)

  • preheat oven to 350°, and grease and flour a 4″x8″ loaf pan
  • cream together butter and sugar, then mix in peeled bananas, eggs, and vanilla extract
  • in a separate container, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg
  • mix dry ingredients into banana goo
  • stir in cranberries to incorporate
  • bake 50-60 min. until toothpick test comes out clean
  • remove from oven, and allow to cool

Lemon Tea Cookies

This is a recipe my Mom started making for the holidays when my brother and I were little, and I’m keeping it going.  After a gut-busting, gravy-and-cheese-laden feast, there may not be space for cake or pie right away, but these little guys have a biscuit fluffiness and fresh lemon zing that makes them nice and light.

I promise to get better at food photography.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp fine lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
(Glaze)
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice

  • preheat oven to 350°F
  • stir 2 tsp lemon juice into milk, set aside to let curdle
  • stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • moosh butter in a large mixing bowl until softened.  Add 3/4 c. sugar and beat until fluffy, then add egg and lemon zest and mix well.
  • add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, beating until well mixed
  • drop rounded teaspoon-sized globs onto an ungreased cookie sheet, bake 12-14 minutes until pick test comes out clean
  • stir together glaze ingredients, and brush over cookies while still warm

The glaze makes it tricky to transport these in small packages, so they’re better suited to being put out at a party than given as gifts.  Make sure you snag a couple for yourself before they disappear!