Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The weekend baking report:
Layer cake, cupcakes, and a chip in my head

I said there would be cake, didn't I? There was. It wasn't a big weekend for cooking and dinners, but it was a big one for baking, one of my favorite things to do.

First up was a birthday cake for the party we went to Saturday night. Many of our friends have birthdays around this time of year, so we often have a Pisces Party, celebrating all of them at once. I made a chocolate sour cream cake with cream cheese icing. The cake is an old family recipe. Over the years I've seen similar versions, even ones that use mayonnaise instead of sour cream. But here's our version, one of the easiest cakes in the world.


1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

You could probably combine the ingredients in any order, with the same results, but here's how I do it:

Whisk together the sugar, cocoa, salt, and soda. Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer (it doesn't have to be softened). Pour in the boiling water and mix until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the sour cream and mix some more. Add the sugar mixture, then the flour, then the eggs, and the vanilla last.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes. The cake is done when it pulls away from the side of the pan—a clean toothpick out of the center mean it is overdone.

I'm not much of a frosting person. For me, it's all about the cake. For color and decoration, I usually head out to the yard with a pair of scissors. The leaves around the bottom are from one of my camellias, and the little blue flowers surrounding the daffodil are rosemary.

Next up was an order of cupcakes for my girlfriend's birthday celebration on Sunday. I asked her what kind she wanted, and she said "chocolate and vanilla," meaning two kinds of cupcakes. She's so high maintenance. But I love her and would probably make six kinds if that's what she wanted.

I used a Cook's Illustrated recipe for yellow cupcakes for the vanilla ones and a recipe I received in a cupcake class for the chocolate ones.

Here's the latter, a truly great cupcake recipe, even though it doesn't use real butter (don't tell Jenyu, 'k?):

Makes 24

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil (the next time I make these, I'm trying melted butter)
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a standing mixer whisk together all dry ingredients.

Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla all at one time. Mix on low to combine and then turn mixer to medium for two minutes.

With mixer on lowest speed, slowly add boiling water. Scrape down the bowl and mix for a few more seconds. Batter will be very runny.

For best results use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/4 measuring cup to portion the batter into the cups.

Bake 15–20 minutes until cake springs back when touched in the center.

I used cream cheese icing I had left over from Saturday's cake (I intentionally made more than I needed for the cake) and used a gel dye called "soft pink." Several people remarked that they really liked the icing for not being overly sweet but didn't recognize it as cream cheese. It's also a very easy icing to spread.

A little green sanding sugar gave them a little sparkle. Flowers are courtesy of my neighbor, who has a lovely flowering jasmine on her fence. Leaves are from a box hedge in my yard.
And while I'm on the subject of cakes, a funny thing happened at Sophie's violin performance. It was held at the Mormon temple complex in Oakland. They have a large performance hall, which is at the opposite end of the complex as the temple. I stood looking at that temple for the longest time. I had never been there before, but something was familiar. Had I been a Mormon in a previous life? Had they implanted a chip in my head? 
Perhaps. This is what it was. Seems three years ago when I thought I was making Sophie a fairy castle cake I was really making her a Mormon temple cake. And I didn't even know it. 



Anonymous said...

OMG - those are all beautiful! I'm so jealous - I can't bake anything or decorate a cake to save my life. They are all stunning. Loved the cute cupcakes with flowers - so perfect for spring.

KatieGirlBlue said...

AH! Hahahaha! Hilarious. Being surrounded by Mormon temples, I can't stop laughing at how they've crept into your thoughts, too....

The cake is BEAUTIFUL. So special. I just made Banana Sour Cream bread and it was fab. Can't wait to try your recipes.

tulipmom said...

That's hilarious about the Mormon Temple cake which, by the way, is amazing!!

And I love the way you decorate with fresh flowers.

Anonymous said...

Simply wow.

Muffy Willowbrook said...

Wow - very impressive. My personal favorite is the sour cream frosting. so yummy.

so gorgeous - well done.

PS - how did you like Water for Elephants? Considering buying for read on plane...

Monica said...

Bwahahahaha! I made that same cake for dd's 2nd birthday. I do come from Mormom relatives, and we'll be headed to the mecca, SLC, in July. Maybe I'll make that cake for the family reunion. ;-)

Monica said...

Mormom? Jeez...it still feels like Monday.

KK said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I love cake and cupcakes. Those look yummy... especially on my second week of saying no to sugar!

I love the mormon cake. That's too funny!

Jordan said...

Oh, I am wowed.

And hungry.

Very hungry.

For cake.

Kate said...

Gorgeous cakes! Too funny about the Mormon temple cake though;) My b'day is soon - but I live to far away to get in on the Pisces Party cake goodness:(

Jenn said...

Wow - the cake and cupcakes look deee-vine! You are so talented.

ATC said...

The cake and cupcakes look soo pretty!

Too funny about the castle cake!

Jen Yu said...

Nice cakes! I'm totally jealous of the flowers. Please, just keep rubbing that in my face ;) That castle cake is out of this world. I'm surprised Disney didn't come and slap with you a copyright violation because it really looks like the Disney castle. Maybe they were busy going after the Mormons, eh? ha ha ha

Belle in Bloom said...

Cracked me up!!!! Those Mormons...
Everything is beautiful. Both cakes and the cupcake. Great job!

LaLa Brat said...

How about the icing recipe!

Cindy said...

lala brat: I'll post the icing recipe when I get home this evening. There are many versions out there, but I think the one I have is perfect—very spreadable and just the right taste.

Anonymous said...

OK, I can't read your blog on an empty stomach.

Between the cake and the quesadillas, I'm ready to eat!

Jackie said...

Yum! Plain and simple.

Tres Poshe Preppy said...


Tuihalalalala said...

Hey.... what about mormons and temples? I know this is an old blog and you might not find my so called" smart remarks" but I was actually looking for a cake to make for my daughter who absolutely loves LDS temples since after her first visit to see one. She calls Cinderellas' castle or any other princess's castle a temple: reffering to a mormon temple. "cute temple she said when we visited the visitors center in Mesa Az. I needed to find an idea for a cake that someone had already done and I googled Mormon temple cake, and found you blog notes. Since I am a fellow blogger I thought oooh... maybe this will work and then I read your blog and I was dissappointed not in the cake, cause as a fellow cake decorater, I find your cake skills marvelously beautiful...some I would love to learn from you but how sad when you sounded somewhat sarcastic about your fellow (lds) mormons and their temples. Perhaps if you knew a little more about the temples and their purpose, you wouldn't be so blaze about these places we refer to as House of the Lord or your silly little castles, that you find so endearing, in all different shades of pinks. Hey if you have questions about being a mormon in a former life, feel free to ask =... YOur friend Mele Tuihala
(Hawaiian mormon)