Friday, February 20, 2009

Cibus Corner: All About Baking

As promised, this week's Cibus Corner is focused on my favorite meal: dessert. Jane, the keyboard is yours!
Chef Babs, aged 2

Like many cooks, my favorite thing to make is desserts. I am not sure why, as I refuse to keep them around my own apartment, but I love to see people’s faces light up as they dig into a fresh pie or a warm piece of chocolate cake. I just love how homemade desserts can perk up a slow evening or a long, hard day at work. I also find baking very relaxing, which may be why I had the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe memorized at 16...seriously. For me, baking is therapeutic, and I enjoy how it makes an evening at home a bit more special. I also love how over time a family recipe becomes comforting and a tradition in itself. The following are my favorite desserts that are always welcome, no matter what the occasion.

Italian Cream Cake

This first recipe has been in my family for many years now and again, comes courtesy of Aunt Joe Ann. My aunt thinks that she cut it out of the Houston Chronicle sometime in the 1970s. This is bar-none the best Italian Cream Cake recipe ever. My aunt and I even made it as the groom’s cake for my friend’s wedding. The only thing tricky about it is the fluffing of the egg whites (it helps to have a cold metal bowl). Other than that, the recipe is fairly fool-proof.

1 tsp. baking soda 5 eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk 2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup butter 1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup shortening 1 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups sugar 1 can flaked coconut (3.5oz)

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine baking soda and buttermilk. Let stand for a few minutes. Cream butter and shortening with sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add buttermilk alternately with flour to creamed mixture. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold in egg whites. Gently fold in pecans and coconut. Divide cake mixture between 3 (9-inch) greased, floured cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until cake tests done.

For the frosting:

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 box powdered sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped

Mix cream cheese and butter (both at room temperature) until creamed; add vanilla. Beat in sugar a little at a time until frosting is at the desired consistency (spreadable but not stiff). Frost completely cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Here are some tips that Joe Ann doesn't clue you in on to make the cake go from great to extraordinary: double the icing, toast your pecans in the oven, and substitute cake flour for regular flour. If you do those things and otherwise follow the recipe to the letter, your guests will definitely be blown away. Since it's a three-layer cake, I suggest reserving this dessert for larger gatherings.

Nigella's Triple Chocolate Brownies

The next recipe comes from our favorite British cook and glamazon, Nigella Lawson. Her brownies are so good that they're worth the gazillion calories that they contain. If you are a chocolate lover, then these brownies will definitely satisfy your cravings! My sister -- yes, the mistress of this blog -- once doubled the butter (they already start with over three sticks!) and we all still gobbled them down; however, I don’t recommend trying this yourself...the side effects were not desirable. These brownies are great for children. They are also perfect for wedding and baby showers, as well as a night in. I would suggest pairing them with a light meal because these will truly be the bulk of your dinner! To enjoy, just click here for the recipe.

Next Week: Wedding and Baby Shower finger-foods


Rev Kim said...

I found my way here via QG's blog. Great recipes! I've never had Italian Cream Cake, and I'm excited to try this one.

I also find baking therapeutic. Last week I made a red velvet cake for Valentine's and chocolate chip cookies for a community church event. I too had the Tollhouse recipe memorized early, and I made alot of batches during my sister-in-law's pregnancy because they were the only thing she craved. I was happy to oblige! Now I usually use Guittard or Ghirardelli chocolate chips. The Texas Sheet Cake that QG has posted has been the traditional cake for our family celebrations also for as long as I can remember.

I'm looking forward to the next installment!

Rev Kim said...

Adorable picture, too!

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