Missy G’s Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Mmmm, sweet potato. Such a great tuber. I remember the first time I baked with sweet potatoes- years ago my dad asked for a new kind of pie for Thanksgiving: Sweet potato pecan. It’s become a Thanksgiving staple. But the first time I made it, I was at the market with my mom, looking for them in the produce section, and I couldn’t find them!

I asked my mom for help, and she said “Oh, those things labelled as yams are sweet potatoes.” So for a while I thought that sweet potatoes were actually yams. But no, sweet potatoes were not actually yams. They’re a completely different plant (Seriously. They have different scientific names and everything). I find this unnecessarily confusing- why would they call them yams when there are other- completely different- plants named yams?

Sweet potato on the left, yam on the right.

So I did some research: Back in the day, when orange sweet potatoes were introduced to the southern United States, the tradesmen wanted to call them something different than “sweet potato.” They didn’t want people to be confused about orange sweet potatoes and white sweet potatoes. So they decided to use the name “yams” instead. You can read more about it in detail here– they have more information about the difference between sweet potatoes and real yams. I still think this is silly and refuse to refer to sweet potatoes as yams on principle.

Meanwhile, this cake reminds me of Thanksgiving, because it’s basically the sweet potato pecan pie in cake form. It’s basically got the same spices, and obviously has the same main ingredient. So of course I thought it would be appropriate for a Memorial Day barbeque!

I assume Missy G refers to Melissa Gray. I’m not sure why she titles it such, but that’s cool. Apparently MG is the daughter of the sweet potato king of Gloucester County, Virginia, and always has tons of sweet potatoes from her dad. So she made this cake and had tons of problems with it dropping, until she figured out that she should bake the sweet potato instead of boil it (her mom gave her the suggestion- isn’t that how it always happens? Mom knows best). Boiling (in the microwave…) is my method of cooking sweet potatoes, but I baked them for this. According to MG’s mom, baking is how they tell you to do it for pies, but I have never seen that suggestion. I wonder how my sweet potato pecan pie would turn out if I bake the sweet potato! That’s certainly something new to try.

I had originally planned my day around MG’s suggestion of starting to bake the sweet potato 2 hours before you mix the cake. But I woke up early, and decided to start then. Which was a good idea, because the sweet potato took forever to bake! If I’d only given myself the time allotted, I would have been very late to the barbeque.

Baked sweet potato- all those lines are from me poking them with a knife to see if they were done (mostly they werent)

I baked more sweet potatoes than necessary, but not all of them cooked. I was in a hurry as time went by and just went with what I had ready at the time, so I somehow ended up with 1/4 of a cup less than I needed. I expressly remember measuring out more than I needed, but oh well.

Also, MG says you should mash the potato with a potato masher, but I go the easy route and use a food processor. I like my mashed potatoes really mashed- almost creamy. I don’t want chunks of just mashed potato in my baked goods- I want it to blend. Food processors mash and smooth it out very easily, whereas mashing wont give you as smooth results (and will also hurt your arm).

Food processors are fantastic.

The rest of the cake was standard pound cake. The ratio, again, was not quite 1:1:1:1, but it still produced a delicious cake. I actually had to change a bit of the recipe around because I didn’t have everything in my kitchen (I was not well prepared for this one):

1. The recipe calls for a Granny Smith apple, but I had to skip that because I discovered that the one I had was pretty old and not good. I would never think to add a granny smith apple to this cake, but MG puts it in to “punch it up.”

2. I used skim milk- the recipe just says “milk,” but I’m pretty sure MG was asking for a milk with a little more fat content. But it turned out fine, so no worries.

3. I used maple syrup instead of maple flavoring. To be honest, I read “maple” and automatically went for the syrup. I’ve never used maple flavoring before and it just didn’t come to mind. I realized later, when rereading the recipe, that I’d made that mistake. I decided to look it up to see if the substitution would be ok, and I’m pretty sure MG is talking about maple extract. Everywhere I looked said that maple syrup is NOT an ok substitute for extract. Oops. But that’s ok, because, again, the cake turned out well anyway.

My wonderful mixer doing all the work.

So those were a few mishaps that possibly changed the integrity of the recipe, but somehow everything worked out.

Before the oven...

I have to say, this is probably the prettiest cake I’ve ever made. It’s beautiful! The crumbled pecan-brown sugar-butter topping was fantastic, and I dont think the cake was lacking due to the missing apples or maple extract. My friends seemed to like it, too- Emma (who may be doing a guest-post here sometime soon) even told me that it was her favorite of my cakes!

oooooooo

So pretty!

The cake wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet potato-y, which was nice. Honestly, I’m not the biggest sweet potato fan, so it was nice that the flavor wasn’t overpowering. It was a heavy cake, but it wasn’t so dense that I didn’t want to eat it. I would like to try it with the granny smith apples and the maple syrup, to see how different it would be. I honestly can’t imagine what the tang of granny smiths would do to the flavor.

A little crumbly but lots of awesome

Our Memorial Day barbeque was a blast- we grilled food, drank beer and sat outside enjoying the wonderful sunshine. When it got dark, we brought out the portable fire pit and sat around the fire roasting marshmallows (though I just threw them in the fire to watch them expand like pillow basalts). It was a great time.

The fire pit. Marco looks like he's having a blast!

There was only a bit of cake left, but I saved it for my parents (who insisted on trying some). My mom liked it. I was hoping my dad would like it too, because it’s basically his favorite pie in cake form, but he he didn’t like it- he said it was too dry! This seems to be my dad’s adjective of choice when it comes to my cakes (he said that about the key lime cake, too). Maybe they sit out too much before he gets to try them, but I made this cake and he ate it less than 24 hours later! Sorry, Dad. I’ll just have to make you a cake sometime soon (and make sure it’s not dry).

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Dorie Greenspan’s Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes

Considering the success of the first Dorie Greenspan cake, I decided that my next bring-to-work culinary creation would be the other DG recipe in the book. Rum-drenched vanilla cake sounds pretty nice. I like rum- my mixed drink of choice is a Cuba Libre (that is, rum and coke with a lime)- but obviously this is a bit different.

Yet another cake that doesn’t require my mixer. I’m kind sad about that- I like using my mixer! But it’s nice not to have to lug it out from the storage space (there isn’t enough counter space for it to always be out, so it lives under my desk) every once in a while. The Swedish Visiting Cake didn’t require a mixer either- it was pretty simple, and this was no different. Dorie’s cakes seem to be simple and scrumptious; very easy to make and have a nice twist of flavor.

Sugar + one egg

There are a lot of eggs in this cake (six). You beat them in one by one, and the egg-sugar mixture gets bigger and thinner and more yellow. I’ve also decided I’m never using the bowls I used here again for a Cake Project cake. Not because they’re bad or anything, but they’re horrible for taking pictures! I wish I had plain white bowls (and plates), but unfortunately I don’t.

Vanilla swirl in the sugar-and-lots-of-egg mixture.

There’s also 1.5 tablespoons vanilla extract in this cake. Which makes sense, considering it’s vanilla cake. I somehow thought there would be more, but that’s really enough. Apparently in Dorie’s original recipe she has you rub the pulp of two vanilla beans into the sugar, but MG left this out and used vanilla extract instead because it’s easier. I don’t have any vanilla beans, but I kind of wish that’d been in the recipe. How cool does that sound? Rubbing the pulp of vanilla beans into the sugar! SO COOL.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right kind of rum. That’s right, I didn’t have the right kind of rum for the rum cake. You’re supposed to use dark rum- it’s got a much stronger, spicier flavor than the gold rum I had on hand. However, I refused to buy a whole bottle of dark rum (which I probably wouldn’t use) just for this cake. Especially when I would have to make an extra trip to the market just to get it (I had all the other ingredients). So the recipe was modified for gold rum- I added a bit more than the recipe suggests (though not very much).

Adding the flour at the end

This produced two loaves of vanilla cake. I don’t have two identical loaf pans, so I ended up with two different sized cakes. Which is totally fine by me. While they were in the oven I made the rum syrup (you know, for the drenching). You start by making simple syrup (water + sugar in a saucepan, boil), then add rum after removing from heat.

Now, the term “syrup” makes me think of a thick liquid, but this stuff was not thick. I tried to boil it down a bit, but the cookbook doesn’t say anything about that. I thought maybe using gold rum (instead of dark) might have caused a problem, but I doubt that it would effect the viscosity of the syrup. But in the end it worked out- the syrup can’t be thick and sticky- you brush it onto the cakes and it drips through the poked holes to spread through the cake.

two loaves, all golden and hole-y, ready for drenching

I tried to get the rum all over- I didnt want it concentrated in the middle, or just soaking through to the bottom and sitting there. Have I mentioned that I’m so glad I got around to buying these cooling racks? They’re great. I didn’t have to worry about stuff just pooling in the bottom of the cake (possibly making it soggy or just too rum-y), it just dripped out onto the parchment paper I had underneath.

I brought both loaves to work. If they liked it, I could put out the second one. If they didn’t, I could take it home, or get rid of it some other way.

My slice, with my coffee, and the other loaf wrapped up for safe-keeping.

I split a slice with my coworker Candie. We got an edge piece, so I don’t know if it was as rum drenched as the middle (like I said, I tried to pour the rum all over, but I’m not sure if that worked, I didn’t try a middle piece). It was a light cake, almost delicate. The vanilla wasn’t too strong, and the rum flavor hinted rather than overwhelmed. People seemed to like it, so I was pleased. One co-worker even [jokingly] tried to steal the entire cake. Luckily I had a second loaf…

I ended up giving the second loaf to friends that I met up with after work. They seemed to enjoy it, too. So I’d say this is a good cake. Not as good as the Swedish Visiting Cake, but definitely good, and another of Dorie’s great creations. I wonder how it would have tasted with the dark rum! I would definitely consider making this again, so I might give it a try.

[[note: I am WAY behind on this thing. As of right now (as I’m posting this) I am four cakes behind (including the one that was made tonight)! Be prepared for some short and sweet posts, because I really have some catching up to do!]]

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Tea Party Cheesecake

Last weekend, my friends and I gathered to have a tea party. Yes, I’m serious. We had a tea party. I brought hats. And, of course, cake. MG leaves one very important kind of cake out of ACC. My favorite kind of cake, in fact. But it doesn’t quite fit in with the other cakes. It’s different. It’s better.

It’s cheesecake.

Rich, creamy, smooth, wonderful cheesecake. How can you go wrong with cheesecake?

A little more than two years ago, I was living in a house with 6 guys. My friend Kristen, who is also my housemate David’s girlfriend, brought the guys a strawberry cheesecake. It was fantastic, and looked gorgeous, so of course I got the recipe. It’s a very simple, and I’ve made it a number of times- mostly without the strawberry, but sometimes with. It looks pretty fantastic with the strawberry.

Swirled strawberry

You can find the recipe here. I love allrecipes.com- you can save your favorite recipes in your Recipe Box, rate recipes, leave reviews and modifications. I’ve found some great recipes on there and have found great improvements and tips in user reviews.

Middle layer of strawberry

This might look a little familiar- the picture on the right of my hastily-put-together banner up at the top is this cheesecake, before I did the swirling.

Concerning this recipe, it’s great with or without the strawberry stuff, but it sure is pretty with it! I like to use water baths when making cheesecake, but I have made this one without one of those too, and it turned out great that way too. [[Random factoid here: the french term for “water bath” is “bain marie.”]] They say that water baths prevent cracking, but I have made cheesecake without them that were crack-free. If you decide to use one in your cheesecake baking, be careful to wrap the bottom of your springform pan with foil so prevent water from getting in!

Little crack... ignoreable

Also, when swirling around the strawberry stuff, don’t go too deep into the cheesecake. Stick to the top layer. I think going too deep caused this cheesecake to crack (it cracked right along one of the swirls). Cracks don’t cause any problems with the taste- it’s purely an aesthetics issue. Luckily for me, my friends didn’t mind and were pleased with the outcome. One of my friends, Jeff, really likes cheesecake and after taking a bite, said, “That’s better than sex.” (This was the only audience-friendly quote he provided. There were a number of other comments, but they are not really blog-appropriate, if you know what I mean)

I also made tea sandwiches for the party, since we were having a tea party. I made three kinds: cucumber and chive cream cheese, wine country chicken salad, and rosemary apricot chicken salad. The two chicken salads are from Trader Joes.

That's a lot of bread crust

These were a bitch to make. Cut off the crust, then make the sandwiches, then cut them down to size. The chicken salad went everywhere. Also, I tried really hard to cut thin slices of cucumber, and- I’m pretty sure- made them too thin. I also have a ton of bread crusts leftover now- someone suggested I make some bread pudding, so I might give that a go.

The tea party was fantastic. We started out with BG’s chai tea- he’s it made it for me before and it’s fantastic. Then we moved on to Katie’s selection. She works at a tea company called Art of Tea and she put together a nice “flight” of teas for us to try. I may suck down coffee at work, but I really enjoy tea, and I thought it was great to try the teas and taste the differences. I couldn’t pick a favorite, there were so many great ones. I learned a lot too- the differences between white, green and black teas, what puerh is (fermented tea), what Oolong means (black dragon- and it does kind of look like a dragon). The blooming tea was gorgeous and fun to watch. I will definitely be ordering some tea from them… if I can decide which to buy!

The blooming tea was so pretty! And fun to watch.

We tried: White Coconut Creme (you can really smell the coconut in it), Green Pomegranate, Jasmine Pearls (the pearls are hand-rolled!), Orchid Oolong, Halo (this was the blooming tea), Chocolate Monkey (it really has chocolate in it!), Darjeeling, Earl Grey Creme, Lapsang Souchong (a smoked tea that smells like campfire and reminds me of beef jerky- a very strong, smokey flavor), Puerh Tuo Cha (which smelled like fish and didn’t taste like that, but the smell totally did me in. This was the only tea I poured out, but some people really liked it), and finished with Moroccan Mint (we put a touch of honey on a spoon and stirred it in, mmm).

The journey of a thousand cups begins with a single sip

I wasn’t the only one to make food for the tea party: Josh made tea sandwiches as well, Katie made amazing scones (that I was completely jealous of because the last time I made scones they were horrible- I’m requesting the recipe and will try again) , and Emma made chocolate biscotti (which were really great and I want to try them with coffee- Emma, send me the recipe!).

More food arrived later. Everything is so pretty!

After sitting around and trying all the teas things devolved into kicking around a soccer ball in the courtyard until well after sundown. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty fantastic Sunday.

Being goofy. I'm wearing three hats right there, if you didn't notice. While Marco and Emma laugh.

All of us except Katie, who was taking the picture. Thanks again, Katie!

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Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Visiting Cake

Dorie Greenspan is awesome. I’d never heard of her before, but I’m certainly going to be checking out more of her recipes after having tried this one. I looked her up (she has a website)- apparently she once burned down her parents’ kitchen (she was 13) and was working towards her doctorate in gerontology before switching gears and becoming a food writer. Her book Baking From My Home to Yours is now on my wishlist. She says, “Bakingwas about my long-running love affair with pastry.” Sounds like my kind of cookbook.

Dorie Greenspan

This recipe teaches you two new techniques (since ACC is supposed to be a cookbook for beginners): Roasting nuts and folding (not laundry). I’m familiar with both of these (my mom taught me years ago) so it wasn’t a big deal for me. But it did come in handy when I had to teach my sister how to fold. How did my sister miss the folding lesson from our mom? I think I just bothered Mom enough so she’d teach me. My sister isn’t into baking like I am, so she never ran into that in a recipe that required folding and never needed to learn.

Roasted almond slices

This is called “Visiting Cake” because, as Dorie Greenspan says in ACC, “you could start making the cake when you saw the guests coming up the road and it would be ready by the time they settled down for coffee.” They must be able to see really far in Sweden. Further than me, anyway (though I am quite blind without my glasses or contacts on).

This was a very simple recipe. So maybe it’s possible to make it and have it ready in time for coffee with friends- if you chat a bit first. I read the recipe, got all my ingredients together, got out my mixer… and promptly put it away. Despite reading the recipe, I forgot that a mixer isn’t necessary! I’m so used to using it, I was on autopilot. I think my mom, who bought me the mixer, is happy that I’m using it so much.

Ew, zest! Except this cake was really good, so maybe I should change my mind about zests.

So I made the cake without a mixer (I was kind of sad about it, I’m not going to lie- I’ve gotten attached!). I wish I had a picture of the lemon-zest-and-sugar mixture, I really liked that despite my dislike for zest.

Going into the oven

If you’d like the recipe, you can find it on Dorie’s website, here. MG doubles the amount of almonds and toasts them in the oven. She also suggests only 1 teaspoon sugar for sprinkling while Dorie just says “a little extra” (which I like better, because I used more than a teaspoon).

I really didn’t know what to expect with this cake. I haven’t been particularly wowed by any of the cakes I’ve made from ACC. Sure they’ve been good, but I wanted something fantastic. This flat little cake with it’s lemon zest and almond extract didn’t look like the winner I was hoping for.

It's so little!

This was a cake I took to work. When I got there, I put the cake out for coworkers to see and sent out a company email about it. No one was really in the office yet, though, and I was dying to know if it would taste ok. I was really afraid this would be a flop. It was so thin and unlike anything I’d ever made. I didn’t want to give my coworkers a sub-par cake, so I took a small slice and ate it with my coffee.

Looks are deceiving. This is by far the best cake I’ve made out of All Cakes Considered. Dorie Greenspan is my new hero. I love this cake. I tend to think cake should be taller and have chocolate, but I admit that I am wrong- this cake is awesome. It was almondy with a touch of lemon. A little crispy on the outside, but moist inside. I think there were too many almonds on top, so I’d stick with Dorie’s suggestion of 1/4 cup instead of MG’s 1/2.

Mid-morning.

The cake was half gone by 9:30am, and most of my coworkers arrive at 9. People really liked it! I got a number of compliments- more than any of the other cakes got. By 11am there was only 1 slice left. Someone asked about the almond flavor- was there marzipan in it? (No). No one wanted the last slice- they kept doing the “take half” thing. At 11:20, the cake was gone (I took the last little sliver to give to my mom, who asked for a slice).

One person said he liked the coffee cake better, but in general the reaction to this cake was better than the others. I felt like this was how people shouldbe reacting to the cakes! I was very pleased with the outcome and I hope that other cakes are similarly good. I’m definitely making this cake again!

I ate it so quickly, forgot to take a picture of my slice.

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The Cake is a Lie

Have you ever played Portal? Or perhaps Portal 2, which just came out? Then you might be familiar with this cake and the statement “the cake is a lie.”

I took a break from All Cakes Considered at my sister’s request. Last Friday, the 13th, was her Andy’s (of An Endless Sporatic) birthday. And for his birthday, Andy wanted the Portal cake. Amanda asked for my help on this one and the geek in me couldn’t say no.

The cake is a lie.

I’ve never played Portal. I imagine most of you are somewhat familiar with it, but just in case you’re not, here’s what I got from wikipedia: it’s a single-player video game in which you solve puzzles. Teleportation is involved. In return for solving puzzles, GLaDOS (an AI) promises to give you cake. Eventually, I guess, things go wrong- GLaDOS turns on you and you wander around trying to survive. And you find “the cake is a lie” scrawled on the wall. I think this is basically saying that your goal or what you’ve been promised isn’t real.

The cake is a lie.

I guess someone was wandering around and found a TV screen in some level that contained a recipe for a cake. The full text of the recipe can be found here, and contains some fantastic ingredients such as: fish shaped dirt, sediment shaped sediment, 12 medium geosynthetic membranes, an entry called ‘how to kill someone with your bare hands’, all-purpose rhubarb, grated orange rhubarb, and rhubarb (on fire).

Someone got the recipe from this, apparently.

I wish I could list the entire thing, but that’d just make this entry super long. The recipe that I actually used (which is a shortened, more realistic version) can be found here.

Um, is it just me, or does this look like Black Forest Cake? It isn’t black forest cake- the recipe is different. But as wikipedia says of them, “the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings.” Which sounds a lot like the cake in that picture. Google “black forest cake” and look at the images- look familiar? Maybe someone read the recipe wrong. Or maybe the programmer didn’t know what kind of cake it was. Or maybe this is just another cake dressing up as Black Forest Cake. I am not a big fan of cherries in my chocolate cake, so I stuck to the recipe.

It was a simple enough recipe to follow. But man, I am not going to lie, it is not healthy. Don’t believe me? Just look at the nutritional information on that recipe (right side of the page, 1/3 of the way down). I’m not one to shy away from unhealthy recipes, and I hate substituting for lower-calorie options because it messes with the chemistry. Have you ever had something baked with the splenda sugar? That stuff just isn’t good 99% of the time (it does work well with my cherry pie recipe, though). So I skipped it and made this the with no low-fat substitutions.

Dry and wet ingredients. The wet is: butter, oil, vanilla and water.

Back to the cake: I don’t think I’ve encountered a recipe that has you use oil and butter. I mixed those two with water and vanilla extract before adding the dry ingredients, and it was a new method for me. It was definitely an ‘ewww’ moment, though.

I’m always nervous about making layer cakes. They always come out with funky domed tops, which makes layering difficult, and I dont like cutting off the top to make it even. I once read about these magic strips that you use to keep cakes level, so I did some research. I found Wilton’s Bake Even Strips– dampen, wrap around the pan, and voilà! Flat cakes. I guess the dampness keeps the edges cool, which prevents the doming.

Rags are really useful.

There’s no way I was going to go out and buy those, though, when I saw that you can make them yourself at home. All I did was take a big rag t-shirt and cut strips of fabric. I got them wet, wrung them out, and wrapped one strip around each pan. No need to spend the $$. And besides, I read in some reviews that the Wilton strips smell weird in the oven.

Flat cakes!

The cakes came out perfectly- no domed tops! I was pretty excited about that one. I put them out on my new cooling racks (I finally got some!) and hung out with my sister and her friend Matt as they made a “dirt cake.”

For some reason this is the only picture I took while I was icing/decorating

Decorating this cake was the time consuming part. It’s actually not that difficult, but there are a few things I would do differently:

1. For the coconut-pecan frosting (who knew that existed? I certainly didn’t): I’d refrigerate this before using it. It was too loose and fluid; it kept spilling out of the middle, making it hard to frost the sides.

2. The chocolate frosting (vanilla + cocoa powder) was very stiff. I wish I had gotten it out of the fridge earlier and let it warm up more. But even when it got to room temperature it was stiff- maybe if I’d added water to it.

3. If I had more patience, I would have tried to make the chocolate chips that you press into the frosting a bit more organized. Or make it prettier somehow. I just kind of pressed them into the cake and hoped they looked ok.

4. Actually, I think if I gave this another go I might use chocolate shavings instead of chocolate chips- like in the Black Forest cake.

5. The perfectionist in me wishes I’d done those blobs of white frosting on top better. As in, I wish they’d been more evenly spaced. They were fine but not quite right.

Done.

I heard from my sister that everyone enjoyed the cake. I made her take pictures to show me how it looked when sliced. Andy sent some pictures over and it seemed like he liked it!

Happy birthday Andy!

This whole thing reminded me of my old roommates. Senior year of college I lived in a house with 6 guys. They were wonderful roommates and I miss them and that house! They were very good at video games- I used to hang out in our living room, reading or relaxing, while someone played their way through games. Bio Shock is so creepy! I joined in for a few games like Soul Calibur IV and Rock Band, but I have never been good at first-person games. No one ever played Portal while we were living there (that I saw), but I definitely missed the guys while I prepared the cake. Ben, David, Derek, Doug, Kurt and Matt: I miss and love you all!

Meanwhile, happy birthday Andy! I hope you enjoyed your cake and had a wonderful birthday.

With the candle, in a darkened room (I couldn't resist)

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Brown Sugar Pound Cake

[Note: You’re not normally going to see two posts in as many days from me. I’ve just had a bit of a pile up in the cake department and needed to get these posts out! I wrote this one while the next cake was baking.]

This cake was a gift for my friend BG. He recently passed quals (that is to say, he passed a very important test in grad school) and I saw this as the perfect excuse to make a cake.

I’m a big fan of brown sugar. I like the way it sticks together a little bit, the way it crumbles, the way it seems so soft. I like the way it holds the shape of the measuring cup after you’ve put it in the mixing bowl. Brown sugar is great! And MG told me how to improvise it if you happen to run out: 1 cup white sugar + 2 tablespoons of dark molasses, stir.

Brown sugar. I'd like to note: the first picture on google images is for the movie.

Here’s another tidbit I heard a few months back (not from MG): if your brown sugar is hard, seal it in a bag with a slice of apple. That should solve your problems. I’m not sure if it works- I haven’t tried it. I tend to use up my brown sugar before that can happen. But I’ve read that it will.

Enough about brown sugar.  Remember the ratio for pound cake? 1:1:1:1- butter, sugar, eggs, flour. Here’s what went into the cake: 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, 1/2 cup shortening (I used crisco). 2 and 1/4 cup brown sugar (MG actually says to use one 16 oz box- 1 lb). 1/2 cup sugar. 5 large eggs, 3 cups flour. So that’s 1/2 pound butter plus about .21 lb shortening (~.75 pounds fats), a little more than 1 pound sugar, a little more than half a pound of eggs and almost a pound of flour.

OK, so that’s definitely not 1:1:1:1. But neither was the Man Catcher.

A stand mixer makes life a lot easier (and sweeter)

Mixed it all up as directed. It’s pretty simple, especially with my mixer. Poured the batter into a pan. I was supposed to put parchment paper on the bottom and still didn’t have any so I skipped that, but it came out perfectly fine. You can see the bottom because I took a picture of it before I flipped it back over.

Bottom of the cake, before I flipped it back over

There is an optional cream cheese frosting that you can make for this cake. I didn’t buy any cream cheese because I saw some in the fridge. I went to open the cream cheese and discovered that it was very, very bad. I looked at the date: best by October 2010! EWWWWWWWW. Talk about forgetting about something in the fridge! So I skipped the cream cheese frosting (which is very simple: cream cheese and powdered sugar).

And then I forgot to take more pictures. I took it to BG’s house and left it on the dining room table with a note that said “CONGRATS BG!” and left in a hurry for the wonderful, amazing Magic Castle!!

I did get to try some of this cake: I put a little bit in a small bowl and baked it for half of the time of the normal cake.

Such a cute little personal cake

Pretty little personal pound cake (that I shared)

I thought it was pretty damn good. I thought the nuts were a very nice touch. I heard from BG, and and one his roommates who helped him eat the cake, and they seemed very pleased. BG said it was “simple and delish” and wrote a haiku for the occasion:

Dearest Morgan’s cake

makes me think candidacy

is worth a re-take!

Congrats again, BG!

mmmm

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Key Lime Cake (aka, Morgan’s first cake fail)

I have never heard of key lime cake. Key lime pie, yes. But cake? I’d never even thought about that one. I’m not the biggest fan of key lime pie- it’s a little too tangy-sweet for me. However, I know there are plenty of people out there that like key lime and key lime pie, and I was sure I’d find someone to eat it.

I made this cake the same night that I made the Sour Cream Coffee Cake. That was kind of an involved night. This cake, however, was way more involved than the coffee cake. It’s not a particularly difficult cake to make, it’s the lime juice.

Zesting the key lime

So I went through the motions. I followed all of MG’s directions. I made the batter. I even put the zest in (maybe they’re not so bad…). I poured it in a cake pan, and let it bake. One weird thing that you’re supposed to do with this cake is bake it for 20 minutes, then cover it with aluminum foil and bake it for 20 minutes more. This was irksome- I don’t know about you, but it’s not that easy for me to wrap a cake pan in aluminum foil when it has been in a 350 degree F oven. And it was annoying to unwrap the cake to test to see if it was done (it wasn’t- required re-wrapping). But my least favorite part? The foil stuck to the top of the cake!

Trying to re-wrap a cake in foil is not easy when the pan has been in a 350 degree F oven and you're wearing oven mits

As the cake baked, I got to work on the limes. I have two words for you: Oy vey.

If you’re smart, you’ll buy key lime juice at the market. I have juiced key limes in the past and know what a pain it is. But I read the recipe, and it says “1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 4 limes).” So I thought, I can do that! That won’t be bad at all. Just four limes. and bought key limes.

Common lime vs Key lime (I got this from the internet so you can see the comparison)

I don’t know what kind of crazy, beefed up Key limes they have in DC, but there is absolutely no way that four Key limes could produce 1/2 cup juice. I don’t know why I thought four would be enough. Key limes are tiny. They don’t make that much juice. Can you guess how many key limes it actually took to make 1/2 cup juice? I’ll give you a hint: 4 wasn’t even half.

Hellish. Ugh. I dont want to see any Key limes anytime soon.

In the end, it took 16 limes. 16! I have no idea where the book’s suggestion of 4 came from, because it wasn’t even close. I can understand being a few limes off, especially with the small size of the limes. But this was only 1/4 of the total juice needed! MG and ACC were way off.

The recipe also calls for 1 tablespoon Key lime juice, which MG and ACC say will come from 1 lime. Actually, she says “Grate the rind of 1 Key lime. Squeeze out about 1 tablespoon of the juice.” This suggests to me that there will be more than 1 tablespoon of juice in the lime. But it wasn’t enough- almost, but not enough.

Next time...

Next time I’m just going to buy the Key lime juice in a bottle, like a smart person.

I mixed all this hard-earned Key lime juice with powdered sugar to make [yet another!] glaze (which was more like a sweet juice than a glaze) and then poured it over the cake. The recipe says to do this while the cake is on a rack, but I don’t have one (yet another thing to put on the to-buy list), so I just poured it all on the cake while it was on a plate and hoped for the best. The juice is supposed to drip through the cake (and the rack), where it is caught and poured over the cake again. Since I didn’t allow the glaze to drip through and then be reapplied to the top, I think all of the glaze just settled to the bottom.

As my co-worker Candie said to me, "It looks like a big piece of toast!"

I covered the cake up, ready to be taken to dinner the next night. Which I had to cancel on, because a cousin came into town. So the cake wasn’t eaten. The next day, I found one corner was gone. And then, suddenly, the cake was gone. I didn’t even try it. I never even finished it! It needed a dusting of powdered sugar on top.

The corner was eaten by my parents, who wanted to give the cake a try. And then, when no one touched it for a few days, my mom threw it away. I made them give me details on what she thought of the cake, because I didn’t get a chance to try it. My dad thought it was dry- probably because it sat around for a few days, but it’s also likely he only had the edge of the cake. My mom said that it was moist. She said that it was “simple but rich, with an overlay of tartness.” There was an occasional tartness that came in- probably because of the glaze soaking through. She also said it would be good with a cup of coffee or tea. (Thanks, Mom)

OK, so maybe it wasn’t a cake fail. But the fact that it wasn’t eaten is really my fault- I should have found some people to eat it instead of it going to waste. I hate wasting food, so that was frustrating. I should have found a way to share it with people. I also should have tried it myself.

I think this cake was doomed to fail with me. First of all, I don’t like key lime pie very much, so I don’t think my heart was really in the cake. But… just look at it. Like Candie said, it really does look like a piece of toast. I just couldn’t get excited about it or think it would be that yummy. I couldn’t be that proud of it if I shared it with people. It’s not very appetizing to me.

First thing I’d change: the cake pan. I made it in a square pan but it could also be made in a round pan- definitely going for the round pan if I ever make this again. Also, I need to invest in a cooling rack, so the glazing could be done properly. And maybe I’d decorate it a bit.  But most importantly: if I do make this again, I’ll remember to buy the key lime juice separately.

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