If I haven’t mentioned it before, my mom has had a cake business for most of my life. So I was surrounded by beautifully decorated, great tasting birthday and wedding cakes for as long as I can remember.
Somehow the skill didn’t rub off on me. I’m not sure if it is lack of patience or creativity, but my cakes never turn out the way I want them to. However, it doesn’t keep me from trying, nor does it keep me from loving cakes and cake recipes.
It is full of recipes, some of which you may know such as Boston Cream Pie and Carrot Cake from Kansas, and some which may be new such as Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake from Michigan and the Tomato Soup Cake from New Jersey. Personally, I can’t wait to try the Kentucky Jam Cake and the Avocado Cupcakes which feature a California ingredient.
I read a less than stellar review a couple months ago which I can’t locate at the moment, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The major complaint of this post was the freedom the author took with selecting recipes and putting on his own twists.
I really had no problem with Key Lime Pie, Whoopie Pies and Pumpkin Pancakes being in a cake cookbook. I say the more recipes the better. Overall, I’m glad to have this book in my collection. I think I will be referring to every time I need to make a special dessert or get creative with a birthday cake.
A few things I enjoy about this book:
- The author highlights muscovado sugar and raw sugar for baking in the introductory chapters, two of my favorite baking ingredients.
- The variety of recipes means I’ll be using it for a lot more than just cakes.
- I found the steps for each recipe straightforward and easy to follow.
- I really like all the tips throughout the book, from frosting tips with photos to variations for buttercream.
- The little history lessons spread throughout the text are especially interesting if you are into culinary history as I am.
Things I’m not so crazy about:
- With the recipe I made below, I had some major differences in yield. The recipe states that I should have gotten 24 cupcakes, but I got 12 and they barely rose to the top of the cup. I did have to leave out one ingredient, but it doesn’t seem like that would equal 12 cupcakes!
- The recipe text has a bit of creativity. Each ingredient listed is shaded with a different color, incorporating a red, white and blue theme. I found this a bit difficult to read when I was glancing across the counter top at the book.
The recipe I got to try was the Connecticut Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes with Old-Fashioned Milk Buttercream. The one ingredient I had to leave out was the potato starch. The author says that it lightens the texture of cake and adds a slight flavor, but I was unable to find it at supermarkets here. I didn’t look everywhere, but I did check two with no luck.
The cake itself has a wonderful flavor. The nutmeg and rum (I used a spiced rum) blended so well together. I’ll likely make it again, maybe around the holidays.
As for the frosting, I was so excited to try a new variety. This one whipped up light and frothy and has a thin consistency. It actually reminds me of the fillings my mom used to make when recreating Hostess cakes. It doesn’t store very well, but if you are looking for a light buttercream, this may be a good choice. Next time I will likely use it for a filling rather than a frosting.
My next challenge will be substituting my favorite minimally refined sugars and whole grain flours to see how it turns out!
Connecticut Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes
Reprinted with permission
Yield: One 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes (I got 12)
8 ounces (1 cup) superfine granulated sugar
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon potato starch
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
¼ cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place the rack in the middle position. Lightly coat a cupcake tray with nonstick oil-and-starch spray and line 10 of the cups with paper liners.
Measure and combine all the dry ingredients in a deep bowl. Whisk lightly for about 15 seconds to blend.
Combine all the wet ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake well for 15 seconds.
Lightly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. This should take about 15 seconds.
Scoop or pour 2 ounces of the batter into the paper-lined cups. (Using a food scooper or ladle works best.)
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes are golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of one comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.
Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes before removing them from the tray. When they are room temperature, frost or decorate with Old-Fashioned Milk Buttercream.
Old-Fashioned Milk Buttercream
Yield: Enough for one 9-inch layer cake or 24-cupcakes
1 cup milk
2 ounces (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 ounces (1 cup) superfine granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Quickly whisk together 4 tablespoons of the milk with the flour. This slurry will be somewhat thick, so whisk thoroughly to make it smooth. Press out any lumps with a flexible spatula, if necessary.
Whisk in the rest of the milk and transfer the mixture to a 2-quart heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer for about 30 seconds over medium heat, whisking the whole time.
Remove the pan from the stove and place plastic wrap directly against the milk’s surface. (This is the best method to prevent a skin from forming.) Cool to room temperature.
Combine the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix at medium to high speed for 5 minutes.
Pour the cooled milk-and-flour mixture into the bowl and beat for another 5 minutes, or longer, as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency.