Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"I'll Build Her a Cake or Something"

Happy November! I hope everyone had a productive Halloween (and by that I mean you have small children from whom to steal candy) and a cool costume. I was Pastry Chef Barbie, but everyone kept thinking I was Paula Deen, leading me to believe that my self-image may very well have no basis in reality.

What I thought I looked like:

What I apparently looked like:

Next year I'm just gonna be a ghost.

Anyway. Back to task.

In the movie "Napoleon Dynamite", Napoleon's friend Pedro decides he wants to ask the prettiest, most popular girl in school to the upcoming dance. When Napoleon asks him just how he plans to do that, Pedro replies in his heavy Hispanic accent, "I'll build her a cake or something".

Such is the power of cake.

We celebrate our birth with cake every year. We smash cake into the face of the person lucky enough to have married us. And when we die, every old lady within a 50-mile radius will show up with a pound cake.

There's even a song about it:

"If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake
baked a cake, baked a cake
If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake
Howd-ya do, howd-ya do, howd-ya do"

If you know the actual tune of this're old.

Previously we discussed the evils of cake mix with a brief tutorial on how to doctor them up. Now I'm going to tell you something wonderful!

You can make your own cake mix. In fact, I do it all the time. All you need are some ingredients and large ziploc bags. If you put all your ingredients on the counter, you can assembly line the thing and make enough mixes to last you a year. Or more if you freeze them.

The cake we'll be working with today is one of my faves because it doesn't require the creaming method. You know - put some butter in the mixer, whip it, whip it good (I'm in song mode apparently), add some sugar, beat it, just beat it (somebody slap me), add some eggs and then add your dry ingredients which you have mixed in a separate bowl. It's that separate bowl part that gets me because I'm basically lazy and don't want to wash anything I don't have to.


The dry part:

2 C. sugar
1 3/4 C. flour
3/4 C. cocoa
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt

Throw it all in the bowl of your mixer and mix on low speed for a few seconds.

Put this dry mix into a Ziploc bag.

Put the bag in the cabinet or freezer and forget about it. And then.......

Suddenly you remember it's your kid's birthday! Suddenly the old guy next door has been visited by a band of angels who have carried him home to Jesus! Suddenly you just want a damned chocolate cake! No worries! You have a homemade cake just inches from completion!

Take out your mix and return it to the womb of the mixer bowl. (At this point Martha Stewart would say, "preferably fitted with the paddle attachment", but I'm not Martha and I assume you have sense enough to know that you're making a cake, not whipping cream or kneading dough.)

Put 1 cup of water in the microwave for however long it takes your microwave to boil water. In the meantime, turn the mixer on and add:

2 eggs
1 C. milk
1/2 C. vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla

Your batter will be kind of thick at this point. But not for long! Add the boiling water in a steady stream and be careful not to burn yourself. Mix until very well blended. This takes a few minutes.

The batter will be very thin.

Evenly divide batter into two 9-inch cake pans and bake in a pre-heated 325-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Check the cake the minute you begin to smell chocolate.

There are a couple of ways you can tell if your cake is done. It will pull away from the sides of the pan. When you touch it in the middle it springs back and feels spongy.

I don't like the "stick a toothpick in it" method because, well, I just don't trust toothpicks.

If you bake enough cakes, you will know by the smell when it's done. Honest.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. If you are the forgetful type, set the timer, because a cake left to cool forever in a pan never wants to leave that pan. At least not in one piece.

Invert and cool complete on a cooling rack. Get ready to frost!

An Interesting Baking Tidbit:

The flavor of the cocoa is intensified by the boiling water. Every time you use cocoa for baking, combine it with a very hot liquid.

Next up: We'll make an incredibly easy and delicious chocolate frosting and put this sucker together.

And since it's Election Day: Vote for Pedro!


Laura said...

You are hilarious, and I can't wait to have a day off to try this myself!! - I guess I need to hold on to it until you tell me about the icing anyway!

R. Ford said...

You are too funny Linda. I'm SURE you looked like Pastry Chef Barbie and NOT Paula Dean! I shouldn't have read this right I want chocolate cake, and there's none to be found within a 100 ft radius. :(

Music Mom said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for admitting that you are too lazy to use a "separate bowl". I am, too! I always hated that part of the cake recipes, and I always cheated. Probably why I am NOT the pastry chef, for Halloween or otherwise. I am wanting to try all these recipes. I am also wanting to look like Pastry Chef Barbie. Thus the dilemma! Well, maybe for the holidays I can indulge a bit. That would mean from Thanksgiving to at least Easter - lots of time for cake in there. Keep the recipes coming! Especially the ones that don't involve every piece of bakeware in the kitchen!

Joshua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joshua said...

Looks interesting. Cooking for a woman that you're interested in seems like a fine way to show your intentions so I'll look for one worthy of a cake! I know from personal experience that you're an excellent and inventive cook so I trust your judgement and look forward to inspiring ideas. I don't have a mixer though so am I out of the cake making game?

Susan said...

I need a good recipe for Butterscotch pie. My grandmother made the BEST butterscotch pie ever. Even though she was 94 and had started greeting me with "who are you?", I thought there would be plenty of time to get her recipe. She's gone and so is the recipe. Can you help me?

Linda said...

Josh - how do you think people made cakes before the invention of electricity and mixers? It's called a whisk and is operated with your no doubt powerful biceps. Susan - yes. I have a recipe for butterscotch pie which I will unearth and provide! Thanks for your comments!

Anonymous said...

You are my hero for quoting Pedro in your post title!