Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tale of Two Cakes

It all started so innocently.  It always does.  
My Mother-in-laws  birthday was last week and the only thing she wanted from us was a caramel cake.
Done!  Like anyone needs to twist my arm to make a dessert.
I had been eyeing the recipe for Commitment Caramel Cake in Screen Doors and Sweet Tea for quite some time.  The picture in the book is so lovely and I love how cheeky Miss. Martha is in the sidebar: Caramel icing can sense fear.  Do not psych yourself out and it will be perfect.
Maybe that should've been my first clue that perhaps I was getting in over my head.
But, as I so oft tend to do, I just plowed right ahead.
I gathered my ingredients.  Butter (lots of butter), many many eggs,  vanilla extract, almond extract--ah, the batter smelled so divine!!  I carefully poured it into my cake pans and gently set them into the oven.  20 minutes passed.

Wow, this batter seems awfully, well, batter-y.  Lemme give it another 5 minutes...10 minutes...30 minutes.  By this time I was getting a little irked.  WHY IS MY CAKE NOT BAKING???
I turned to the Internet, and looked up other peoples blogs who had made this cake.  HUZZAH!  I was not the only who had cakes that wouldn't bake!  Maybe Miss. Martha used a convection oven and forgot to add that into the directions?  Who knows.  I was a little irritated.  And Jake was done watching Tinkerbell and wanted to play.  I threw the cakes on the counter and said to heck with it.  After the cakes and I cooled down, I took stock of my ingredients and realized I was not going to be able to make another Commitment Caramel Cake.  So I bid adieu to Miss Martha and turned to my other obsession, The Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook. In it, is a recipe for Revelatory Caramel Cake, and lo and behold I had just enough eggs left to make the recipe.  I did not, however, have any cake flour left.  So I did a little all-purpose flour + cornstarch magic.  I also recruited my sous chef who makes anything an adventure. I took some liberty and added a little almond extract to the batter since it smelled so good.  Popped the cakes in the oven.  30 minutes later, perfectly done cake.  A perfectly white moist cake (no yolks in this recipe).


Now, since I abandoned Miss. Martha once she did me wrong with the cake, I decided to go ahead and make the caramel icing that went along with the SFA recipe.   Easy enough, it's caramel right?  I'd made Cracker Crack a million times--how much more difficult could it be?  Well...
pouring caramel on a cracker is a lot, A LOT different than trying to frost a cake with it.  It hardened almost instantly as I poured it on.  Then I dropped the bowl I was using ONTO THE CAKE.

Many expletives.

By this time I had been making cake (or cursing making cake) for about 4 hours.  We were to meet the family for a birthday dinner in approximately 15 minutes.  PLENTY of time to make another batch of caramel, right?  Despite the fact that you are supposed to let the caramel rest for 15 minutes before you whip it into icing.  I hurried through the steps and just poured the whole thing over the cake.  Resulting in the cake plate running over with caramel.
I said a little prayer that it would harden into a beautiful shell, and we ran out the door.
After dinner we headed back to the house for cake and presents.  The cake was...

Not photogenic.

I cut into the cake, or rather sawed through a relatively thick layer of caramel into a fluffy white cake.  Despite the homely appearance of the cake, it tasted pretty good.  
My ever-gracious father-in-law (who honestly declares everything I cook as the best thing he's ever put in his mouth) declared it the best caramel cake he ever put in his mouth.  
For me, the icing was a little thick and maybe diabetes-inducing sweet.  But the cake was moist and perfumed with vanilla and almond.
I'm of the opinion that it's going to take me a few more tries to perfect my caramel cake technique.  And I'm sure I'll adjust and tinker, that's just what I like to do.  I'm definitely going to try Miss. Martha's icing recipe, as she incorporates marshmallows and I imagine that helps keep the icing fluffy and smooth.
Ultimately, the cake ended up in the trash the next day.  
But PattyCake (my son's nickname for my Mother-in-law) arrives home from Charleston today, and there just might be a Caramel Cake waiting on the kitchen counter for her.
Here's a link to the recipe for Revelatory Caramel Cake.

Friday, June 1, 2012

First day of June

First day of June.
The magnolia tree and the crape myrtle are commingling.
It's a grey, cool day.
Today we are making sour cream chicken enchiladas and peppermint ice cream to take to a dear friend who is very ill.
And I am reminded of what is most dear:
A blonde headed boy snuggling in my lap,
A man who manages to love me even when I don't,
Friends near, friends far,
My family.
Tomatoes growing in the garden,
Lightning bugs at dusk.