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Happy Fifth of July!

5 Jul

I hope you all had a lovely fourth of July! My family and I were invited to a picnic, but we couldn’t find the place. So we ended up stopping for pizza and calling it a day. It was actually very nice. The weather was beautiful, we were all getting along, and the whole atmosphere was laid back. The picnic may have been fun, I don’t know, but I never argue with just hanging out. I don’t need to do a whole lot to enjoy myself.

Speaking of enjoying myself, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I bet you didn’t know that. It’s because of all the history surrounding the 4th of July. I’m a history major and stuff like this makes my heart go pitter-patter. I took a class in college called the American Revolution and it was really interesting to get a feel for the times and the mood of the people. I always knew it was a huge deal that we challenged Britain for our independence, but it’s one thing to know that years after the fact and it’s another to read the writings of people from that time and to understand just how large and terrifying their actions were. A whole nation was flat-out committing treason, and even those committed to the cause were still uneasy over the fact. I won’t go into details and bore you, especially because, though I love history, there’s no denying that sometimes this class was just boring. But there is a lot of intriguing information out there if you take the chance to look beyond what you’re spoonfed in 8th grade American history.

And speaking of spoonfed (how about my segue ways today, huh?!), this is what I fed my family for dessert.

A boring , tipsy, slightly melted cake. Hooray.

NOT!!

It’s a FREEDOM CAKE! Or at least that’s what I’m calling it. My favorite layer is the blue on the bottom. Isn’t it such a pretty color? It was something of a nightmare to make, so I’m really happy with how it turned out. But it was very delicious, especially with a glass of milk. I liked the icing, which is the first time I’ve made buttercream. It gives me hope that later cakes will be better and better, if this attempt turned out so well.

Here’s the recipe, in case you want to give it a go. It’s not really bad. The reason it was a nightmare for me was because I was making this at 10 PM, and I had to crack a coconut. Then I heard a kitten crying, so I had to go kitten hunting, which put me way behind schedule. I’m guessing your night won’t go like that.  So do not be intimidated by this dessert. (WordPress wants me to change this to desert. Not the same thing at all.)

Coconut Cake

Recipe from Baked Bree, who got it from Cooking Light.

Ingredients:

12 ounces cake flour sifted (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cups softened butter
1 cup warm coconut milk (from 1 small coconut or Goya brand coconut water)
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large egg whites

Directions:

1.  Lightly coat (3) 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray or grease them, then line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Combine 12 ounces cake flour, baking powder, and salt, whisk well.

3. Place 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter in a large bowl beat with a mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and creamy.

4. Add flour mixture and coconut water alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Add in vanilla.

6. At this point, you can start preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

7. Beat egg whites on high speed until foamy.  Add 2 Tablespoons sugar, one Tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.  Be careful to not overbeat.

8. Carefully, fold your egg whites into the cake batter.

9. If you are going to dye your batter, split the batter into separate bowls. You will need one bowl for each color. I got about 2 cups of batter in each of the three bowls I was using. Carefully and gently fold in your food dyes until desired color is reached.

10. Pour the batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on a rack.  If you do not have three pans, fill the pans you do have, cook and cool them according to directions, and then wash and reuse a pan for the remaining batter.

Buttercream Icing

Also from Baked Bree

Ingredients:

3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Using the whisk attachment mix together the sugar and butter.  When it is combined, beat on medium and beat for 3 minutes.  Add in the vanilla and enough cream to get a nice spreadable consistency.  Beat for another minute.

Chocolate Cake and Secrets

11 Jun

Secret #1: The other day I spent $15 (with shipping) on vanilla extract. You read that right. FIFTEEN. DOLLARS. Am I going insane? How can a person spend that much on 4 ounces of vanilla extract? Well, you see, it was Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract.

“Finest Quality” is right! Not only did I get a fancy glass bottle and pretty label, I got the Rolls-Royce of the vanilla extract world. You want to know another secret? I was insane not to buy it sooner. You won’t believe the difference this vanilla makes! I’ve got an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that I love. It makes the greatest cookie ever. And this vanilla catapulted it from great to astoundingly delicious. It was like heaven in a hand-held, two bite raisin-y package. I’m not kidding. This is my new secret weapon. I can’t wait to see how it tastes in sugar cookies!

However, instead of sugar cookies, the very first thing I made with this vanilla was chocolate cake. Ghirardelli chocolate cake. From scratch.

It involved a LOT of brown sugar and butter. So naturally, it was delicious.

Pretty unassuming for such a rich, yet light cake. Light as a pillow!

Wait a minute… Maybe not that light.

That, by the way, is one of my brothers. He’s about 8 feet tall and 100 pounds. You know the type. And he’s the only one out of us 5 kids that is a blonde. Yet he has darker eyebrows than I do. Psh, genetics! I’ll never figure it out.

Super Fancy Ultra Delicious Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

– 1 stick unsalted butter
– 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (I used Swan’s Down. This is actually the recipe from the back of that box)
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch layer pans.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth.

3. Add brown sugar and eggs. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in vanilla and chocolate, then baking soda and salt.

5. Add flour alternately with sour cream, beating until smooth.

6. Pour in boiling water, stirring with spoon until blended.

7. Pour batter into layer pans and bake about 30 minutes or until done. Cool completely.

*Note: if you’re in a hurry, you can put the cakes into the freezer to cool them down quickly. I did that for about 10 minutes and they were cool enough to frost.

Super Fancy Ultra Delicious Ghirardelli Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

– 6 Tbsp butter, softened
– 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
– 1/2 Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa
– 1/3 cup milk
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. In bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, mix powdered sugar and cocoa.

3. Blend sugar mixture with butter alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth.

4. Blend in vanilla.

You want to know my most shameful secret? I am not the biggest fan of cakes. I don’t actually really like them. Give me a cookie any day! Or a brownie, or chocolate, or hard candy, or… You get the picture. I have to really be in the mood for cake to eat more than a couple forkfuls. Or it has to be especially good cake. And this cake? I would eat a second piece. In my book, there’s no higher praise. Enjoy!