No, this isn’t the Twilight Cake.
But, as anyone who has a daughter of a certain age probably knows, the Twilight DVD was released this weekend. That was cause for much celebration in my house, so I baked a little Devil’s Food Cake and put a “t” on it.
I turned to my mom’s old Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, where I found not one, but three Devil’s Food recipes. I went for the darkest, which seemed appropriate. (And before any Twilight fanatics jump all over me, I know the Cullens are not Devils. But I’ve never heard of a Vampire Food Cake, so chillax.)
A few Devil’s Food Cake notes: I frosted it with Buttercream, colored black. Much tastier than the fondant for the real Twilight Cake, even though the fondant was good. Also, at Betty Crocker’s suggestion, instead of flouring the pan, I “cocoaed” the pan after buttering it so the cake would remain dark. Worked like a charm.
Speaking of the Twilight DVD, my own little Twilight fan watched the movie three times Saturday. I watched it once. It wasn’t half bad. It was better than Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The actors spent most of the movie speaking in near monotones, which I assume had some dramatic purpose but nearly put me to sleep. (OK, I think it did put me to sleep, but I was really tired from baking the cake.)
Today we still had leftover Cake, and I introduced the girl to the delicious practice of mixing Devil’s Food Cake and vanilla ice cream on your fork. She approved. Speaking of cultural icons that will outlast all the Twilight vampires – you can see Betty and Archie in the background. Betty and Veronica are still best friends battling it out for Archie’s affections (why? I did not understand Archie’s appeal 30 years ago and I still don’t), but now they have cell phones. Harriet and I have a fish named Betty and a dog named Veronica, not that we’re fans. Naturally, she has an aquarium in her room with fish named after every major character in Twilight.
Lest anyone think we had a couch potato weekend of cake, comic books and repeated viewings of Twilight, my girl used the first decent weekend in months to repeatedly hit the road on her new bicycle. So only one of us was a couch potato.
Whoopie Pies Took the Cake
I had never heard of Whoopie Pies before I moved to Maine in the early 1990s. But now I’m used to seeing them at the supermarket, not to mention next to the cash register at nearly every convenience store or gas station I’ve ever entered here.
I forgot that this ubiquitous snack is pretty much a Maine thing (and a Pennsylvania thing, it turns out). Not any more, according to the New York Times, Whoopie Pies are having their day. Whoopie Pies are joining fancy cupcakes in the cases at high-end bakeries, they’re even in the Williams-Sonoma catalog (those are heart-shaped, baked in Maine and called Sweetie Pies).
The Times includes a recipe for Whoopie Pies, adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Michigan, for those of you not lucky enough to trip over Whoopie Pies every day. If you live in Ann Arbor, Zingerman’s has a teaching bakery with all kinds of classes, including one that covers Whoopie Pies.
My daughter loves Whoopie Pies. Me? Not so much – too much filling. And too often that filling is reminiscent of grocery store cake frosting or Oreo “white stuff.” But some Whoopie Pies have a buttercreamier filling. A few years ago – before I started learning to bake – I used a pile of Whoopie Pies as a birthday cake that was happily devoured by all the guests. (And was so easy to serve!) You can see the reaction in the photo. This year’s Twilight Cake was probably a bigger hit (not to mention about 199 times more work), but back when there were 9 candles instead of 12 on my girl’s cake, Twilight-mania had not yet taken hold.
The photo that tops the Times article shows Whoopie Pies with beautifully piped filling – the filling looks like a decorative cord peeping out the sides. But, as the photo above proves, real Maine Whoopie Pies are assembled with much less attention to aesthetics.
I’m putting Whoopie Pies on my “might try baking those some day” list. But when they’re so easy to grab when I buy gas, gum or lottery tickets (Note to self: you must start buying Megabucks tickets. No point in fantasizing about spending the jackpot when you don’t have a ticket.) I’m not really motivated. I doubt my kid would like mine any better than the $1.50 corner store version. And, as I’ve mentioned, life is too short to bake things you don’t like to eat.
But if you are not lucky enough to live here in Maine (amazing what above-zero temps will do to my attitude) bake some yourself. Especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth or a kid to share them with.
I don’t like – and I mean really do not like chocolate and cherry together, but I will probably bake Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes from cookstr.com.
Why? They look relatively do-able and Nigella reports they were a hit at a school bake sale. So I don’t have to like them to give them to a bake sale. Besides, I trust Nigella. And the cupcakes are awfully cute with the cherry on top.
This was my first visit to cookstr.com, which looks like it has a bunch of good recipes and chef profiles. Today I learned that Nigella Lawson and I have something in common. I also have more than 100 cookie cutters. I’m guessing Nigella has actually used hers.
Amended to add: also, Nigella and I are both freelance journalists and domestic godesses. Hee.
I’ve fallen into a nice weekend bread-baking routine – and the more I do it, the less intimidating it gets.
(It’s also becoming less shocking when I end up with bread – in other words, I no longer fall on my kitchen floor after opening the oven and seeing bread)
Sometimes I make a pre-ferment on Saturday, so I’m set to bake a chewy, kind of artisanal loaf on Sunday. Last weekend I made a huge round loaf of country bread, with unbleached white, wheat and rye flours. You can see a slice off one of the ends toasted and buttered.
Yesterday, I picked a bread project that can be done over the course of one day (one afternoon, really, with most of the effort being performed by yeast while I do something else) — the sandwich bread from The Breadbaker’s Apprentice. I went with the buttermilk variation and ended up with two nice loaves. They’re not as dark as the photo would lead you to believe; I took them out of the oven at 10 at night and photographed them cooling. By the time I figured out I should get a better picture … well, let’s just say one of the loaves has been seriously compromised and I am full!
This morning I got up (I thought I was getting up on time until the “Spring Ahead” realization hit me and I was an hour late…) and had fresh bread waiting to greet me. Home Baked Bread is such a nice present to yourself, not to mention anyone else in the house. My weekend bread-baking routine is definitely a habit worth keeping!
I have not calculated the actual cost of some of my baked goods. I’ll do that soon and see if I’m saving myself some, um, dough.
Meanwhile, Epicurious has posted a good list of 10 Money-Saving Ingredients — information most of us can use in these stretched-budget days.
Most of them were already staples in my pantry – although I have not bought canned tuna in ages and we don’t eat beef, so Flank Steak is out for us. We live on beans, rice, and sweet potatoes. The best part of the list is the recipes accompanying the ingredients. Just in case, like me, you’ve fallen into a rut with your pantry staples. The Wild Rice and Brown Rice Cakes With Roasted Vegetable Ragu will be coming out of my kitchen very soon. It’s right up our alley.
What does this have to do with baking? I learned something new about #8 on the Epicurious list, eggs. According to Epicurious, I can freeze beaten eggs and then use three tablespoons of the liquid for each egg called for in a recipe. Something to keep in mind if I see them on sale. (And yes, in order for this to really work I must remember to actually add the eggs – lest I end up with another collapsing chocolate cake.)
FYI, Epicurious also has a post on 35 ways to stretch your food dollars with grocery-shopping tips and other advice.
As they say, penny saved, penny earned — actually, these days that would depend on where you saved it!
We love Gingerbread, so a new recipe — this one featuring sauteed fresh ginger, bittersweet chocolate and ground pepper — was enough to send me running to the oven.
This delish Chocolate Gingerbread recipe was in Better Homes and Gardens and also features simmered oranges, which sounds great. I left that part out this time (no oranges). Like the recipe-writer, I baked mine in a 12-inch cast iron skillet after I used the skillet to saute the slivered ginger. One key difference: My skillet has two spouts. The skillet pictured with the recipe has none. This created a minor problem. I smelled burning when the Gingerbread should not have been anywhere near done, much less burnt. That’s when I discovered Gingerbread batter dripping out of both spouts onto my oven floor. I scraped up the mess that I could and put an old cookie pan on the lower rack. I’ll definitely be doing a little more oven cleaning.
However, this particular Gingerbread was worth cleaning the oven for. (And if you knew me, you’d know that must mean it is very, very good.) It’s not just the freshly ground black pepper; it’s not just the ginger sauteed in butter; it’s not just the bittersweet chocolate. It’s all of them mixing together to make this Gingerbread something to, well, blog about.
(Incidentally, my guess is the recipe writer’s Gingerbread looked better than mine – in the magazine it’s covered with oranges. But taste over beauty when we are going to dig into it very soon. Have I mentioned that Gingerbread is one of my favorite breakfasts?)
From now on, I think I’ll add a few twists of black pepper to all my Gingerbread. Oh, my.