Sunday, July 26, 2009

What I can and cannot do,
and an easy cake recipe

I am not a whiz with frosting, which I do not often consider much of a problem because I really do not like the classic frosting rose look. And besides, we all know what gives the frosting the consistency to hold those forms—Crisco, a substance I refuse to use in anything that is intended for consumption (it's fine to adhere parchment paper to a pan, I guess).

I am also fairly hopeless when it comes to flower arranging. I cannot even pick out a decent arrangement at the florist. Almost anything at Trader Joe's beats my efforts hands down.

But I can stick flowers on a cake.


Who needs frosting flowers? If you invite me to your birthday party, I will bring a cake if you ask me to. How I decorate it will depend on what is growing in my garden. Or my neighbors' (don't tell).

And unless you request otherwise, your cake will be a sour cream chocolate cake that is a family recipe. My grandmother always made it for my dad's birthday, and it's come to be know in our family as Dad's Cake. It's the easiest cake ever. All ingredients except sour cream are likely to be found in anyone's cupboard. And this is the classic one-bowl cake. It doesn't even really matter how you combine the ingredients; everyone in our family probably does it differently. Here's how I do it:

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

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

Combine sugar, cocoa, salt, and soda in a bowl and whisk until combined. Add butter to the bowl (it doesn't have to be softened). Pour in boiling water and mix until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the sour cream and mix further. Add flour and mix until flour is absorbed. Add eggs and mix on high speed for two minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cake is done when it pulls away from the side of the pan—a clean toothpick out of the center means the cake is overdone.

My favorite frosting for this is a cream cheese frosting. It is easy to spread (don't try any roses), avoids chocolate overload you would have with a chocolate icing, and is so much tastier than buttercream . Mixing in 2 teaspoons of espresso powder dissolved in 1 teaspoon of hot water makes a wonderful mocha icing.

This was one of the first cakes I made by myself as a child. I was so proud to be trusted with this important responsibility. You can imagine my horror then when people reacted to their first bite with absolute horror. I had used baking powder instead of soda, and the results were disastrous. It tasted like chewed up aspirin. My dad's reaction, however, was priceless: "It's just fine!" as he choked down a few more bites. I'm sure after I ran from the room in tears, the rest of the cake went down the sink. To this day when I make this cake I repeat as I cross the kitchen to the cupboard "Soda! Soda! Soda!!!"


Purple Flowers said...

The cake looks great, and I am going to try the recipe soon for my sister's B-day.

KatieGirlBlue said...

I've done that, too! If they're so damn different, why are they so similarly named?

Beautiful gateau, though! I might try to make it if it ever cools off here.

Your Tuolumne tick list:
1. Swim in Tenaya Lake
2. Ogle cute climbers at the cafe
3. Go to the Mobil Station at the bottom of the hill, and enjoy fresh mango margs

Um.....that's all I really do there, aside from climbing, so that's all I've got for you. Hope you have a great trip!

Laura [What I Like] said...

This brings back great memories of my birthday cakes as a child. My mom used to cover them in fresh flowers and use those tall skinny birthday candles. I love them to this day!

Trevor said...

I am with you on not liking fancy frosting technique. Still, I would like to know a few tricks with the pastry bag for when I do cupcakes. I have to find someone to teach me. . . This cake looks great! I will put it in my 'to do' file!

Jennifer H said...

I might have to make this one...sounds delicious. And I love cream cheese frosting. The flowers look so pretty.


The Food Librarian said...

Total yum. I can't frost a cake either. Love the flower trick!

Andrew's Mom said...

I refuse to use Crisco as well - it's just...ewwwww. Your cake looks lovely - I don't even like the look of fondant or red velvet cake because of all the dye....okay - I'm not making any sense now...I will stop.

I Love Your Whole Face said...

That is gorgeous. I am imaging eating it right now. Now I am sad! :-)