Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chocolate Cake

A few weeks ago, I gave nonstop tours of Henry Street Settlement (my place of employ) to nearly 200 visitors during Open House New York and, in a moment of insanity, invited my children and their others to dinner that night. When I arrived home at 6:30, the DH was in the midst of a pasta cooking frenzy, but something was missing -- dessert.  And so, fortified by a cocktail, I decided to whip up a simple chocolate cake I knew would please all.

I chose an oil-based (instead of butter) cake because I didn't have time to let the butter come to room temperature. (There's a way to do this in the microwave, but I've never quite mastered that skill.)  One sacrifices a bit of flavor when making an oil cake, but the mouth feel, moistness and ease of preparation of these cakes can't be beat.

The layers are not gorgeous straight from the oven.  That's what frosting is for.  Luckily, I had some vanilla buttercream left over from a previous cake foray, but if you don't, it's not hard to make.

Sprinkles add a festive touch.

 Below are the DD and her fiance Josh, enjoying the cake.  (Note the Henry Street coffee cup.)

The method on the card (probably from the 1950s) is a bit unclear, but here's what I did. 
Place the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and flour in a bowl. Set aside.
I melted three ounces of unsweetened chocolate and set it aside. (If you use cocoa powder, a better and easier choice should you have it on hand, add it to the bowl with the dry ingredients.)
In a mixing bowl, place the oil, eggs, vanilla and milk.  Blend.  Add the dry ingredients and blend.  Add the boiling water and melted chocolate and blend again.  
Pour into two 9-inch greased and floured baking tins. Bake and frost.

A reader just pointed out that this recipe is identical to that on the Hershey's cocoa can.  Here's the method they use (a bit less complicated than mine):


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Black Cat Cookies

Just in time for Halloween, allow me to introduce old-fashioned (c.1940) Black Cat Cookies.These very chocolate-y drop cookies are the canvas upon which one simply draws a cat face with orange icing (or so instructs the vintage recipe card). Today, there are all manner of Halloween treat recipes -- clever finger cookies, cupcakes decorated as ghoulish eyeballs and more.  But, if you want to go old-school, then do try these.  They are excellent cookies, soft and almost cake-like, beloved by all my tasters (including a server at a LES restaurant who, upon trying one of the cookies, asked where she could buy them!).

Halloween is almost here, so it's time to start the batter.  The recipe calls for shortening, but I used butter.

The batter is quite thick and luxurious.

Instead of chopped nuts, I used ground ones, because I feared the texture of chopped nuts might disturb the smooth canvas of the cookie.

Drop the cookies from a spoon onto a prepared baking sheet (either greased or lined with parchment).

If you want to vary the sizes, that's fine.  Just bake like sizes on a single baking sheet as smaller ones will bake more quickly.

If you're like me (a bit challenged in the visual arts department), it always helps to have an artist neighbor to help with the decoration.  Painter Marcy Wasserman kindly exchanged her paint brush for a for a pastry bag to create the imaginative the cat faces for the cookies. Thank you, Marcy! (And I can't believe how messy my kitchen is.)

I followed the recipe exactly, subbing out butter for shortening, and using buttermilk (sour milk) instead of the sweet milk.  I also used high-quality unsweetened Scharfen berger chocolate, since chocolate is the star.
For the frosting, just mix up some confectioners sugar and milk to the desired consistency, and add food coloring.  Place in a pastry bag (even a plastic bag) and use a small round tip to pipe the designs. Alternately, you can simply frost the cookies and add sprinkles.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hester Dodd's Rolls

Straight from a Texas estate sale comes this wonderful c. 1935 recipe for dinner rolls.  It's one of dozens of promising recipes in a seven-inch thick binder I recently purchased on eBay.

These rolls are so easy to prepare that it makes one wonder why homemade yeast rolls are a rarity these days.  At one time in this country, hot-from-the-oven rolls appeared almost every night on the dinner table. The actual work time is minimal -- maybe ten minutes. It's the two risings that are the time suck here.

Prepare the dough and if you (like me) realize that the event you're bringing them to is happening a day later than you thought, simply put the risen dough in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, set it on the counter and after it reaches room temperature, form the rolls and let them rise.

Put the pans in the oven and bake for about ten minutes. Et voila, homemade hot rolls.

Original recipe below, and below that is the method I used.

I used one packet of dry yeast (instead of a yeast cake) and melted butter (instead of shortening).
After the dough rises, punch down and refrigerate. In the morning, let the dough warm to room temperature (or thereabouts), punch it down and form the rolls.  Be sure to grease the pan.  Let them rise about an hour or so and bake.  (Alternately, if you want to make the rolls that day, form them and give them a second rise and bake.)  Yeast doughs are very forgiving.  There is even a genre of refrigerator rolls, where the dough is prepared and kept in the refrigerator until rolls are called for -- one just pinches off the amount needed and prepared. Here's a link to refrigerator rolls that I made a few years ago.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fruit Cocktail Cake

Growing up in Akron, the fruit most commonly found in our house was in a can, so I have a special fondness for fruit cocktail. And apparently, so do many others -- I found several vintage fruit cocktail cake recipes in my collection.

I made this to bring to the Sugar Sweets Festival at the City Reliquary in Williamburg last Sunday.  I wasn't exactly sure of my role at the event, but the website said I'd be bringing "historic culinary curiosities" so I made this cake from the 1950s, plus desserts from the 1930s and 1940s for sampling, allowing visitors to "eat their history."  The fruit cocktail cake proved quite popular.

If you can open a can, you can make this cake. And the recipe is very uncomplicated -- just put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.

Then, just pour into a greased and floured pan. (I used a 12 x 9 inch pan. See what happened here when I used a 9 inch pan the first time I made this.)  And as if the cake weren't sweet enough, the instructions call for topping it with a mixture of nuts and one cup of brown sugar!

Note that the recipe has no butter. (But plenty of sugar.)

One of the event highlights at the Sugar Sweets Festival was meeting the charming Lillie Auld, author of the wonderful blog, Butter Me Up Brooklyn, who was judging a cupcake contest at the event.

Below are two of the desserts I brought to the event.  Here's the recipe for the Depression Cake (which is actually a recipe from WW I, but was reprised in the 1930s) and the recipe for the wonderful chocolate cake.

The City Reliquary has some great baking exhibits at the moment, including a display of some of my vintage recipe cards.

Sugar Sweets Festival scene. Special thanks to the DH for these photos.

Monday, October 7, 2013

11 Random Baking Tips

To avoid the above disaster, see tip # 6.

Lessons learned from real-life experience and mistakes
(This is from a hand-out I prepared for an event yesterday; thought I'd share it here.)

1) Read the recipe twice before beginning.  This will eliminate surprises like “place dough in refrigerator for 24 hours before proceeding.”

2) Measure out all ingredients before beginning.  This will ensure that you actually have all the ingredients, thereby avoiding last minute trips to the corner store, and will help prevent you from forgetting to add an ingredient (or two).

3) Use high quality “real” ingredients for best results.  Fake butter will not improve your cake, and may actually sabotage it.

4) Feel free to substitute unsalted butter in place of margarine or Crisco in recipes.  Mid-20th century recipes used these ingredients for economy and perceived “health” benefits.

5) Preheat the oven at least 30 minutes in advance.  And no peeking during baking – it will lower the oven temperature for longer than you think.

6) When in doubt about pan size, opt for the larger one.  Better a thinner brownie than burnt batter cemented to your oven floor.

7) Store nuts in the freezer – they will stay fresh much longer.

8) When making candy, be sure to use cane sugar.  Beet sugar will not work!

9) Except for angel food cakes, there’s usually no need to sift flour.  This instruction is left over from the days when flour was filled with insects and other impurities.

10) Use the correct the measuring utensils for dry and liquid ingredients.

11) Most recipes that call for eggs mean “large” eggs.  When possible, avoid supermarket eggs and spring for the pricier farmer’s market variety.   

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sugar Sweets Festival on Sunday!!

New Yorkers who like sugar are invited to Sunday's fourth annual Sugar Sweets Festival at the Brooklyn Reliquary in Williamsburg.  I'll be there and, according to the event's website, will be presenting "Historic Dessert Curiosities." Not exactly sure what I'll be doing, but I'll be baking up a storm Friday night and sharing the treats on Saturday at about 1 p.m..  The event promises to be fun for the whole family, so come on down.