Friday, March 9, 2012

Master Recipe Cake and Chocolate Butter Frosting


Oh, how I wanted to love this cake.
The idea of having a go-to recipe for a versatile white cake -- one that could be whipped up in minutes for a frosted layer cake or used as a base for, say, an upside down cake -- is the holy grail for some of us.  Yes, this had the potential to be the cake of my dreams.  But, like a lot of relationships that seem to have promise, this one suffered from bad timing.  I overbaked it not once, but twice.  So, it was a tad dry and a tad disappointing, but still the flavor was lovely. The question is: Do I give this another go in hopes that things will improve or throw in the towel and yell "next"?


I was thrilled to find this recipe, handwritten on a page of a 1920 children's cookbook, The Junior Cook Book, I bought last weekend at The Bookseller, a lovely antiquarian and used bookstore in a strip mall in Akron.  (Just when I was bemoaning the fact that these kinds of recipes cannot be found anymore, I discovered this treasure -- and the book was only $4 and is filled with the handwritten recipes of one Marie Bevenetto.)



This is a very easy "instant gratification" recipe because one melts the butter instead of waiting for it to soften to room temperature, an exercise much like watching paint dry.  The cake is sturdy; hence the suggestion by the recipe author that it can be used as the base for many desserts.


Because I was making this cake for my mother, lover of all things chocolate, I paired this with a chocolate butter frosting that I found in one of her old cookbooks, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, as in "new" in 1968.  The frosting saved the cake, at least according to my cousin Debbie, who stopped over for a slice and "styled" the photo above.

The frosting mixture is below and, yes, there's a raw egg in it.  It made for an extra creamy frosting and we all survived.




I tried this cake with all purpose flour and cake flour, but didn't see much difference. In Akron, I used vanilla only for the flavoring, but back in my well-stocked Brooklyn kitchen, I also added lemon extract and it lent a wonderful flavor.  You could also try grating some lemon zest into the batter.  Do not use pans larger than 8" round, as the layers will be too thin otherwise.

So will I work on the relationship, i.e., make this cake again?  I think I'll be moving on. Just as there are a lot of fish in the sea, there are a lot of cakes to be baked, a lot of recipes calling my name.  (However, if you're looking for a softer cake with a finer crumb, do try this one. I promise it will not disappoint.)




12 comments:

  1. You had me at the "chocolate frosting" headline, but lost me at the "raw egg" addition, as I'm way too chicken to try it. My mom had the same cookbook, though possibly an earlier version. Don't know where it went. Out of curiosity, I'll check my 1990s-2000+ version to see if the frosting recipe still calls for raw egg.

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    1. Barb: I often eat raw eggs -- not straight, mind you, but in certain custard desserts, raw batter, etc., and haven't suffered any ill effects. However, I only buy eggs at farmer's markets, and I wouldn't try this with supermarket eggs. One can always use cream for the frosting (my mother didn't have any)instead of the eggs. Please do let me know if the more modern version even mentions raw eggs -- I'd love to know. And thanks for writing.

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  2. While my obsessive nature says give it another go, there are just too many recipes and too little time. C'est la vie.

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  3. I really liked your blog! Lovely posts! Keep up the good work! How to file bankruptcy in NY.

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  4. @Paula and Tugs Girl: Done. Amazing how much easier it is to leave a cake recipe than a relationship! Thanks for the great advice.
    @Ghulam: Thank you for writing.

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  5. What if you subbed some buttermilk for the water in the cake?

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    1. jzgplj: I have no idea what would happen! Usually, buttermilk is used in cake recipes that have baking soda -- it creates some kind of chemical reaction that assists the rise. I used skim milk in place of the water in this recipe because I thought it would add some flavor. But it didn't add enough! Thanks for writing.

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  6. What if you subbed some buttermilk for the water in the cake?

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    1. jzgplj: Not sure that would work unless you add some baking soda. There's some chemical reaction between the two that I don't understand (as I don't understand most of baking chemistry!). If you want to enhance the flavor of the cake, you can certainly use milk in place of water.

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  7. My mom insists that you cannot perfect a recipe until you've made it three times, then you'll have mastered it. I find this to almost always be true, so I say give it one more go!

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    1. Sara -- Maybe I'll try it, but at the moment I feel there are too many cakes and too little time! Thanks for writing.

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