Tag Archives: csb

csb june, or: let’s have a party with chocolate and sour cream

23 Jul

At the end of June, there was a conversation between me and my pal Beh Beh. It went something like this:

Beh Beh: Come over and sit on my porch with me and drink alcoholic beverages.

Me: Okay. I will bring popsicles made of booze.

Beh Beh: We are brilliant.

Except that in a frenzy of something-I-now-can’t-remember-so-clearly-it-was-major, my brilliance failed me, and I didn’t leave enough time to narrow down exactly which boozy popsicle I wanted to make, buy the ingredients, and freeze it all together.

Hence, our next conversation went something like this:

Me: You’re getting cupcakes instead. And prosecco.

Beh Beh: Yum.

I figured that for the cupcakes there was no time like the present—seeing as how I’d flagrantly failed to meet the June 20th deadline—to make the June CSB cake. And, it should be noted that since I’d last baked with the group, the rules had been altered slightly to allow bakers to choose from one of four cakes to bake, rather than everyone baking the same cake.

June 2014 Cake
I chose the sour cream chocolate cake, because I have an undying love for adding sour cream to baked goods; let’s just disregard the fact that it took me until almost July for the follow-through.

(Better late than never? Maybe?)

Anyway, as I will continue to champion until my dying days, sour cream in baked goods is marvy. It adds an almost whipped-like texture to the batter and more often than not results in a non-dry cake. If you don’t know about sour cream in baked goods, now you know. You’re welcome.

Cupcakes unfrosted 

Needless to say, these were an excellent accompaniment to our porch sitting and prosecco, particularly since I stuffed them with a strawberry whipped cream frosting (not in the book, a recipe I found online) that I would only change next time by adding more strawberry puree. And perhaps Frangelico. Or maybe bourbon. Or Bailey’s. Really, any one of those would work well because booze and whipped cream are MFEO just like Romeo and Julie, minus the depressing undertones of teenage suicide.

(WTF, Shakespeare?)

Unlike several of the recipes I’ve made from this book, I (obviously) really took to this recipe. I per usual disregarded the whole one tablespoon of sugar at a time because standing and mixing in sugar until your knees give out is no way to spend a Saturday and did you not read the part about the prosecco calling my name?

And if by chance you were wondering if I had to ask Swede if freeze-dried coffee is the same thing as instant coffee, showing both the age of this cake book and my ignorance of coffee-related nomenclature, well the answer is yes.

So come on over next time you’re around. We’ll go sit on Beh Beh’s porch and eat cupcakes and drink prosecco. And you can have some Sanka if you like, because don’t worry, I’ve got a whole jar, minus 2 teaspoons, in my freezer.

Cupcakes frosted

csb january 2014: a pound in

26 Jan

Truth: I have, in my possession, a pound cake recipe that will knock your socks off.

Truth #2: This month’s Cake Slice recipe is not that recipe.

It’s not that the Old Fashioned Pound Cake that was the January 2013 recipe was bad, per se. It just wasn’t…spectacular.

And the recipe I have, given to me long ago by one of my best college girlfriends, is spectacular. It uses mounds of butter and has a sugary, chewy, crackly top that makes you want to snarfle it down as fast as you can, and land a left uppercut on anyone who tries to get in your way.

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This recipe? It’s nice. I wouldn’t punch someone in the face for it, but I might give him a strong hug.

I will note, however, that this pound cake is better warm than it is at room temperature. So either serve it fresh out of the oven, or throw it in the microwave for about 45 seconds before eating. If you happen to slather it with homemade apple pie jam that your sister made for you, all the better. If it’s not -45 degrees outside and you have access to a grill, I might also recommend grilling the pound cake, along with some pineapple slices. Not that I’ve tried the latter with this specific pound cake, but I’ve done that with other pound cakes to delicious results.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning. As Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp sang, it’s a very good place to start.

And it starts with lining a loaf pan with parchment paper.

And Lo! In surveying my cabinets, I found I actually! had! parchment paper! No idea when I purchased it. But there it was, happy as a clam, hanging out in my cabinet. Glorious. I quickly tore off a piece I approximated would fit in the pan, and set about trying to then, you know, get it in the pan.

Voila!

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It’s not perfect, but that’s cool. Neither am I. I wasn’t about to judge the parchment paper for its lack of rigidity.

I turned to the mixer, silently rolling my eyes as I read over the directions about mixing times (ridiculous, as per usual, and dropping in the sugar one grain at a time (double eye roll). To be quite honest, at this point I’ve given up following Walton’s directions about the mixing and the this and the that. I turned back to grab a spoon off the counter next to the loaf pan, only to find this:

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I tried again to shove it down and make the paper stay in place, but it wanted to stay put about as much as my control-top opaque tights want to stay in place and not bunch and twist awkwardly around my hips. Which is to say, not much. So instead of struggling with the paper and the pan (and my tights for that matter), I said fuck it, chucked the paper in the garbage and sprayed the hell out of the pan with non-stick spray.

(As for my tights, I had a serious talk with myself about why the shit I was wearing tights anyway. Everyone knows that when you walk in the front door of your home you should immediately strip off whatever clothes you are wearing and put on your pajammies.)

Except for the clouds of flour dust that poofed up when I dumped in the cake flour and made my eyes water slightly, this cake came together pretty easily. I went for the straight version, though the book gives variations for “spirited” and “nutty” and “chocolate chip” pound cakes. I know, you’re probably very surprised that I didn’t fall for the “spirited” pound cake, and frankly, so am I. I suspect it may have made this cake that much better, and given it the oomph it needed to compete with the spectacular recipe that my gal pal gave me many moons ago.

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Alright, Ms. Walton, it’s time to step up to the plate and impress me. Of the three recipes I’ve baked from this book, I’ve only really liked one of them. Not good odds in your favor, but I have high hopes that next month fall on the right side of the tasty line.

Bake on, friends.

Poundcake 2

csb cake december 2013: streusel squares, or, i kept confusing this with strudel, which was a huge disappointment

27 Dec

The day after Christmas I was left alone to my own devices while Swede took his nephews to see The Hobbit 2, Hobbitier Than Before. I was sitting on the couch, binge-watching White Collar Season 4 (More art forgery! More sneaky times!), when I realized I hadn’t made the December cake.

So I did something so very, very bold.

Instead of skipping this month’s confection, I hit pause on the Netflix and got my ass off the couch and made the cake.

December 2013 Cake 1

At which point I realized some things about this cake. In no particular order:

One: It’s streusel, not strudel. And in case you were wondering, there is a difference the size of the Grand Canyon. And I was on the wrong side of it. To say I was disappointed when I finally got it straightened out in my head is an understatement. I blame the confusion on the holiday madness we just weathered. Trust me, I won’t make the same mistake again.

Two: I shouldn’t have bothered making this cake. It would have been time better spent, IMHO, if I had stayed planted on the couch watching Neal Caffrey and Agent Burke fight white collar crime. I don’t mean to sound so cynical, but at best this cake was meh. The streusel topping was rather flavorless and seemed to contain an obscene amount of flour, and the cake itself was kind of bland. It was nice and dense, though, I’ll give the cake that.

Three: The way the directions are written makes me think that the author has WAY too much time on her hands. Six to eight minutes to beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time? Are you fucking kidding me? Listen, lady, I have things to do and television to watch. And there is just absolutely no need to beat in sugar for six to eight minutes, one tablespoon at a time. If you have time for that, bully for you. But this case of sculpture forgery isn’t going to solve itself, sister.

Four: Superfine sugar. This recipe calls for superfine sugar. Normally I get superfinely annoyed when I have to buy special ingredients in such large quantity (the sugar came in a package the size of a quart of milk), but for this one, I happily chucked the container in my cart. You know why? Bartending. It says right there on the container: Great for baked goods and cocktails. I’m happy I can bake, Swede is happy he can make liquory drinks, and I’m happy even more because I get to sample said liquory drinks. Mayhaps while I bake. Fun for everyone!

Five: Next. I’m ready for the next cake. And the next season of White Collar, for that matter.

December 2013 Cake 2

csb november: applesauce spice cake, or, yay!

20 Nov

Welcome to the kickoff cake to the 2013-2014 Cake Slice Bakers baking season, Interwebers. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for not only getting this cake baked, but getting it baked and posted On. Time.

WOOT.

I believe this newfound sense of timely baking is definitely a foreshadowing of how the coming baking year will be. And in a word, that means it will be totallyphenomenalHFSdeliciousness.

Tell your friends.

We’re baking this year from Great Cakes by Carole Walter, which is quite possibly one of the most bizarre cookbooks I’ve ever encountered in that there are approximately five pictures total in the book. No page after page of luscious pictures of lovely cakes piled high with frothy whipped cream or some such enticing you to make baked good after baked good until your pants don’t fit.

cake book

Weird.

Anyshoes, this month the winning vote went to the Applesauce Spice Cake with optional brown sugar glaze. I don’t know why one wouldn’t opt for said glaze as A) It’s not frosting, and thus very, very easy, and 2) It involves the trifecta of baking goodness: Brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream.

It should also be noted that this recipe uses shortening which I didn’t know still existed and which I don’t like to think about too hard because let’s face it: Shortening is more than a little odd. It’s shelf-stable and….slippery. I mean, Velveeta is shelf-stable, too, but at least that has a vague cheese flavor. And it’s not nearly as slippery.

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It should also ALSO be noted that spice cake may just be my favorite kind of cake. And also also ALSO I went apple picking this fall and had all intention of using said apples in this recipe. Which I kind of did in the form of applesauce. (Though technically it was pear-applesauce.) But I totally had to buy a fresh apple for the grating/chopping (both directions were given, neither were clarified) (I went with grating) (which, have you ever grated an apple? Very juicy.) (also, also, also, ALSO because I was wary that chopped apples vs. grated apples wouldn’t meld nicely into the batter as it baked). Which is my way of saying I meant to make this cake earlier and then it got to be the night before our cake-posting day and well, here we are.

Instead of making a big huge bundt cake (does anyone else immediately think of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding when they hear the word bundt? “Oh! It’s a caaaaake!”) I broke this one out into mini bundt pans. And instead of drizzling the glaze artistically over each bundt, I simply filled the center well of the minis with glaze. (Because on a scale of 1 to 10, how artistically do you really think I can drizzle glaze? I’ve got 2:1 on -12.) Warm and soft (but not mushy), the cakes had a lovely spice flavor, though I couldn’t really detect all that much apple flavor.

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No matter. They were still delicious, and relatively easy to put together, minus the conundrum of whether to chop or grate the apple, and also—sorry to note this so late—directing bakers to beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time over the course of three to four minutes.

Odd.

But it works.

Spatulas up, Interwebers. The baking has begun.

csb october: yes, I do actually still bake, or, surprisingly there were no surprises, except when there were

21 Oct

October is the last month for we Cake Slice Bakers are baking from Vintage Cakes, a book, frankly, I will be glad to be done with.

Okay, that’s a little harsh. The cakes I have actually made (admittedly few) (What? We bought a condo, I moved, I have to live with cats now, and I’m lucky I can find my underwear some days. Life has been a little hectic. Don’t hassle the Hoff.), have been terrific, particularly the red velvet with mascarpone cream cheese frosting. And the banana cake was damn tasty, too.  As was the cake I made this month, which was a Blogger’s Choice, if you will, meaning that we could pick whatever cake we wanted to, and bake the crap out of it.

And in all honesty, my issue with this book stems from the fact that I’m still angry about the frosting debacle from the last cake I made which was just ridiculous. A candy thermometer? To make buttercream? WTF? Can we all just agree that making frosting does not have to be that hard?

FROSTING ACTUAL CAKES, however.

Well, that’s a different story.

IMHO, anyway.

(But for you, dear Interwebers, I pledge that in this next year of baking I will become the Master!—the MASTER!*—of Frosting Cakes!)

Where was I?

October’s cake!

Right!

So, this month, I chose to make the cake I was supposed to make for January. Which, obviously, if you read this blog at all, I did not do in January. But now I have! So there you go! Cross it off the list and call it a day! Put your feet up and fire up a cigar! We’re going to celebrate that I Actually Got Something Crossed Off My To Do List.

It was a banner day.

It was a “classic” cake—vanilla, not quite yellow, not full-on white—and it was delicious. Right before you dump it into the pan (or in my case, cupcake foils, see above mentioned and well-documented issues with me frosting cakes), you fold in whipped cream, which gives it a really great light texture.

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So light and fluffy, however, that you should not, should definitely not, overfill the muffin foils, otherwise the cupcakes puff up and over and stick to your pan, and then when you try to take them out of the pan they start to tear and then the next thing you know you’ve torn three cupcakes which obviously can’t be frosted because they’re broken and since one of your pet peeves is wasting food it’s probably just best if you just eat the broken cupcakes and save everyone the anguish of knowing that you got a little heavy handed with the cupcake foil filling and thus broke three cupcakes and then maybe start typing this sentence on a sugar high from which you may never come down.

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No, it’s much better to fill them a sane amount, and avoid all of that above-mentioned rigmarole.

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There were no surprises in making this cake, and the outcome—like a couple cakes I’ve experienced with this book—was quite delectable, with the sticky, chewy, baked rims around the cupcakes where they may have cooked slightly faster than the rest of the cake.

The only surprise that happened into the kitchen was in the making of the frosting—a blessedly simple recipe by comparison to the others in this book—when I discovered, SURPRISE! I only had 12 ounces of chocolate chips in my pantry, instead of a pound. But SURPRISE! I did have cinnamon chips, and after a brief debate in my head, threw them in the bowl with the heavy cream and brown sugar. And then, SURPRISE! I threw in some melting chocolate discs I found (I am constantly surprised by what I find in my cabinets sometimes. Did you know I have a whole bag of flaxseed? You did? Because I sure as shit did not.) And NOT SURPRISE!, the cinnamon-chocolate frosting concoction was amazing. Predominantly chocolate, with just a hint of cinnamon. Simply terrific. Unless, of course, you don’t like cinnamon, in which case this entire paragraph has probably made you vomit a little in your mouth.

But trust me. It was delicious.

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And there you have it, Interwebers. The last cake with the CSB for this year’s book, Vintage Cakes. Next month I’ll be back with the first recipe out of the new book. I can’t tell you what those are (it’s a secret!), and I haven’t made next month’s cake yet, but I can tell you this: From the looks of it, it’s entirely possible it is Fall in a cake pan. And better yet, no frosting is involved.

 

*Mistress, anyway. I shall have a torrid affair with frosting cakes. Under the cover of darkness and etc, etc, while wearing velvet dresses. Because I feel like if you’re going to have an affair with something, it should involve a velvet dress. It just makes sense in my head. 

photo friday: csb cake may: the pink cake, or, a list in no particular order

31 May

1) Let’s talk about how much butter is used in this recipe. It is this much:

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And the majority of this much butter went into the frosting.

2) No one will be surprised to learn that I did not make a three-layer cake as suggested—I made cupcakes instead. I’m sorry, but my frosting skills need Too. Much. Work. to justify practicing them on such a cake as this. Note: If you, like me, favor cupcakes over layers, be very gentle when taking the cakes out of their little pots. They’re a bit fragile.

3) Raspberry and chocolate is a favorite combination of mine, and I feel like it’s one that you just don’t find to often. Why is this? Why does everyone always go chocolate and strawberries? Viva la raspberry!

4) Though dear Christ, pushing the raspberries through a strainer is a bitch, and I do not recommend it. At any one time in the straining process, I used the back of a wooden spoon, the top of an old-school meat tenderizer, and my bare hands to push the damn berries through. After awhile I just gave up and figured whatever I’d managed to push through would have to be enough. It’s tedious work and honestly it looked as if I’d slaughtered a berry patch. Which, contrary to popular belief, is not a good look.

5) I’ve noticed that the recipes in this cake book often call for fine sea salt. I do not have fine sea salt, nor am I going to purchase it any time soon. So, sorry baking gods, but Kosher’s just going to have to suffice.

6) This recipe specifies using full-fat sour cream in the cake, and I respect that like you wouldn’t believe. None of that namby-pamby light sour cream slop. And why aren’t more goods baked with sour cream? I’m going to start a campaign. Viva la sour cream!

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7) Going back to the frosting, despite all the butter (or possibly because of it) I do not care for this book’s buttercream recipe at all, and will use a different recipe if I encounter a cake recipe that calls for it again. The raspberry addition was truly its only saving grace; without it, the frosting tasted about as good as the buttercream from Cake Love, which is to say, it didn’t taste good at all and has about as much flavor as buttered paper. Also, does anyone else remember when Cake Love was actually a thing? And Warren Brown was the lobbyist-turned-baker, and it was a novelty of sorts? Is it still a thing? Ah, memories. Still doesn’t change the fact that I found his product to be dry and tasteless, but good on him for kickstarting a baking bonanza.

8) A big part of my consternation with the frosting is that for whatever reason it involves cooking the egg whites. The who in the what? And on top of that, you’re supposed to use a candy thermometer to check for the right (“really hot”) temperature.

9) Note to Self: If ever renege on my earlier statement and make this buttercream again, buy a candy thermometer.

10) Note to Self, Part II: A meat thermometer is not a good substitution.

11) Typically when I make cupcakes, I taste one once cooled, pre-frosting. QA purposes, of course. But for whatever reason, I didn’t with this recipe. People seemed to love them just fine, though, so it all worked out in the end, my faulty memory aside. However, I did taste the batter, which was reminiscent of a creamy, melted fudgesicle. So keep in mind: If your batter doesn’t taste good, your cake won’t taste good. (In a similar vein of “don’t cook with crappy wine,” you know.) But if it tastes like melted fudgesicles, then it will be delicious.

12) Unless you’re making a vanilla or other non-chocolate flavored cupcake, in which case something has gone terribly awry.

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csb april: whisk-y behavior

8 May

The Violent Femmes showed up in my kitchen right as I was getting ready to bake the April cake for the Cake Slice Bakers, an almond streamliner cake with lemon custard. I didn’t have the heart to tell them to kiss off, so I let them stay, so long as they promised to sit quietly at the kitchen table and not screw with my baking process.

Which they did not.

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Turns out, the Femmes were more help than I thought they would be. First of all, because in putting together the ingredients for the cake, I almost added too much butter (if that’s even possible). I’d left two sticks on the counter to soften, and dumped both of them in, belatedly realizing that the recipe only called for 10 tablespoons of butter.

“Wait, how many tablespoons are in two sticks of butter?” I asked myself.

“Add it up!” the Femmes shouted back.

I counted on my fingers, did the math, and scooped out the excess six tablespoons and was all, “Hey, Violent Femmes, thanks for the encouragement. But please. No yelling in the kitchen.”

And they were all, “Let me go on!”

And I was all, “NO! This is MY kitchen!”

Even after that scuffle, though, the Femmes were still good kitchen mates, and decent conversationalists. Because do you know how tedious it is to temper eggs and milk into custard, whisking consistently until it’s entirely possible that your wrist will up and secede from the rest of your body? No? Well, it’s true. I did not find this out, however, until I was making the vibrant lemon custard that tops this cake, midway into the tedium. So it was nice to have someone to talk to during All The Whisking, even if the Femmes seemed a little, well, obsessed about the topic at hand.

Violent Femmes: “Do you like American music?”

Me: “I like all kinds of music.”

Femmes: “I like American music too.”

Me: “That’s nice.”

Femmes: “Baaaaa-by.”

Me: (Pausing only slightly in the whisking) “I think you’ve done too many drugs.”

Eventually I had to cut off all conversation and concentrate on the custard, lest it become lemon-flavored scrambled eggs. And none too soon, I tell you, because the Femmes were teetering on the edge of going way too far emo for my liking, moaning and lamenting the fact that no one would go to the prom with them.

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Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity of whisking, the custard looked thick enough to toss in a bowl, cover, and shove in the fridge for awhile while I made and cooled the cake portion. It was a rather easy to-do, as far as cakes go, though I was quite suspicious of the almond paste, being that it seemed dense and thick and how-the-shit-am-I-going-to-get-this-to-mix-in like when it lumped out of the jar. But considering there was virtually no whisking involved as compared to the custard-making, you could have told me to sift the flour ten times and twice on Sunday before adding it to the mix and I would STILL say that this was an easy-peasy cake to make.

Not that I would have sifted flour that many times. I don’t think I’ve sifted flour any times ever. Mostly because I don’t own a sifter. But if I did, you could bet that I would sift away. You know why? BECAUSE IT’S NOT WHISKING.

(No, I didn’t know, either, how averse I was to whisking until I made this damn cake. You learn something new every day, eh? Eh.)

Somewhere during all of this measuring and stirring and panning the Violent Femmes somehow managed to slip out the door, gone, daddy, gone, replaced by Miss Saigon, who was quickly replaced by Fantine and Eponine, but they didn’t stick around for long either because a certain Swede who shall remain nameless has declared them, “whiney.”

And that’s okay; I wasn’t up for sharing the cake with them anyway. I wanted to keep its dense, almondy goodness for myself, the bright, fresh lemon custard a perfect counterpart of tang—even if the result was a more soupy, yogurt-like that ran all over the cake instead of a thick and creamy texture that set nicely on top of the cake. I guess I didn’t do nearly enough whisking.

Go figure.

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