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.
CHOCOLATE SOUR CREAM CAKE
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
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?):SUPER-DUPER MOIST CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
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?