Monday, May 16, 2005

Don't mind that alter personality in the pearls

I think it would surprise the folks that know me casually to find out that I channel Donna Reed when I get home. I really and honestly do. I come home from work and the first thing I do is pull something out of the freezer for dinner and sit down with MBH to find out about his day. This normally includes bringing him his adult libation and if he had them, I'd bring him his slippers and pipe too. I would bring him his adult libation and ask about his day in pearls and one of those great 50's crinoline skirts with the cats or geometric shapes if I had one. I find it relaxing and comforting to know that at home there are two creatures who only need me to fix dinner and then be there to listen to them, chat with them about various subjects and generally do the things I like most like reading, baking, etc. At home, I can be the plain simple haus-frau and no one minds. I would fill out housewife as a hobby if they would let me.

Take tonight for example, I left work, went to the gym and then came home to decorate a three layer round cake for a surprise wedding shower that the girls at work and I are throwing for a co-worker. Yesterday I baked the layers (two chocolate and one gold yellow), trimmed the domes off two layers so there is a nice even cake, assembled the layers and put the first layer of white frosting on the entire cake. I always let my cakes sit over night with a thin layer of frosting. This lets the cake completely cool and the thin layer of frosting keeps the cake moist. Today, I mixed another batch of frosting, prepared my decorating bags, frosted the base layer on and then decorated the cake. My cake philosophy is keep it clean. I don't do those swirly, heavy on the roses things. Don't get me wrong. Those cakes are fun to make but most people get frosting overload from them. I like to have some cake with my frosting and most people I know do too. Today, I made my sweetheart cake.

Basically a pink base icing with slightly darker pink hearts and a bottom border. I use three decorator's tips, a #2 pipe to do the outlines of the hearts, a #3 pipe to fill in the top heart, and a #33 shell to do the bottom crinkle edge. Total time to decorate 1 hour but don't tell anyone it is that simple. I want them to think I slaved... Now where did I put my apron.

Basic One-Two-Three-Four Cake

This is the classic recipe for cakes that has been used since cake recipes where written. It is simply 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of sifted cake flour and 4 eggs with some milk (1cup), salt(1/4 teaspoon), baking powder(3 teaspoons) and vanilla (1 teaspoon) thrown in for good measure. I like to use almond extract instead of vanilla for a richer taste. There are two keys to making cake from scratch; measure your ingredients very carefully and make sure you assemble the ingredients the proper way. First, sift the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (almost whipping them). Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture thoroughly with each egg. Add the vanilla (or other flavor) to the milk and mix in 1/2 the liquid. Fold in half the flour mixture. Stir in remaining liquid and fold in remaining flour mixture. Mix vigorously until completely combined and there are no little lumps of dry ingredients. Pour into 3 prepared 9" cake pans. (note: I use nonstick pans, sprayed lightly with cooking spray, with the bottom of the pan lined with wax paper and then floured lightly). Bake for approx. 25 - 30 minutes on the center rack of preheated 350 degree oven. Let stand in pan for about 10 minutes and then remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Decorator's Frosting: This is my mother's recipe and it tastes better than almost any bakery frosting I've ever had and it holds well in decorator tubes. Not too soft and not to firm.

1 lb Confectioner's Sugar
1 cup Crisco (use only Crisco, the generic brands don't taste right or work well)
1/4 - 1/3 cup milk (depending on humidity)
1 teaspoon almond extract (any flavoring works well but almond is best)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream sugar, Crisco, almond extract and salt together (very low speed in stand mixer or better by hand with wooden spoon). Slowly add milk until right consistency. (firm for roses, flowers, etc. Slightly softer for frosting and piping). Let each layer set before adding another to a cake. You can use food coloring to make any color you want.