Running the fine line between too hard and too easy

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cake: Round Two

So after baking a cake from scratch, I started to wonder. Is homemade cake better than store bought cake? It took me about 4-5 hours to bake a cake and make the frosting, then assemble and frost the cake. If I purchased a box cake and ready-made frosting, it would probably take 1-2 hours at the very most. But does saving time come at the cost of taste? In terms of frosting, I think there is no comparison. Homemade frosting cannot be beat. And this is the opinion from a woman who loves the cake more than the frosting.
So, I had an idea. Bake a store bought cake, but put the emphasis and time on the frosting. I purchased a box of Duncan Hines cake that was yellow cake, with chocolate swirled in (basically a marble loaf cake).

Cake pans buttered, floured and then mix is ready to bake

While the cakes cooled, I made the dark chocolate frosting that I posted earlier. I modified the recipe slightly. Rather than 1 pound of semi-sweet chocolate, I mixed 1/2 pound of semi-sweet with 1/2 pound of milk chocolate. And this time, I let it cool completely before incorporating into the mixer.

Bottom layer has been leveled and is ready to frost (note the parchment paper around the cake for easy clean-up after frosting)

The dark chocolate frosting version 2.0 (looks much thicker, right?)

The two layers together on the cake stand with the middle frosting layer applied

The finished cake!
The cake was very moist and light. The frosting was spot on the 2nd time. I preferred the taste of semi-sweet and milk chocolate blended together. It made the frosting a little lighter in color and richer in taste. The verdict is: you can pull off store bought cake mix as your own as long as you top it with a special homemade frosting :)

Icing on the cake

I posted about the cake I made, but never posted about the chocolate frosting that accompanied the cake. I was in a little bit of a rush to make the frosting, so it did not come out well. It tasted great and eventually thickened. But, I rushed the chocolate process and did not allow the melted chocolate to completely cool. Fatal mistake that will never be made again!

Dark Chocolate Frosting (from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)

--1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
--6 tbsp. dutch process cocoa powder
--6 tbsp. boiling water
--3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
--1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
--pinch of salt
Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted completely. Set bowl on countertop and let chocolate cool to room temperature, about 25 - 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine cocoa powder and boiling water, stirring until cocoa is dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add melted chocolate, beating on low speed until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Dark Chocolate Frosting ready to frost the cake

To frost a cake, I used Martha's "Good Thing" to assist. Take 4 pieces of parchment paper and make a "square" around the cake on the cake stand. When frosting the cake, any residual frosting will come off on the parchment paper. After you are finished frosting the cake, you pull away the parchment paper and your cake stand is clean and your left with a perfectly frosted cake.

The first layer of the cake waiting for the middle frosting layer

After the cake was finished, I took a picture of the two-layered cake. It's not my best work. But, for the first time baking a cake, I think I did pretty well. It still tasted very good. But as you can tell in the picture, the frosting is a bit more liquid than intended. The cooling of the chocolate is vital for this recipe. Lesson learned!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Weeknight Picnic: Chicken and Potato Salad

Weeknights are always tough. With a husband who is only home M, W, F for dinner, it's sometimes difficult to coordinate a meal. I am always looking for quick meals for the weeknights. I saw these two recipes and decided to give it a go.

Everyday Food Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken

I didn't feel like measuring the ingredients, so I just combined the two until it was a good consistency. And by two, I mean Honey and Soy Sauce. I left out the water by mistake, but it still tasted wonderful. I pulled out some chicken from the freezer the day before and used it (a couple of breasts and thighs). While the chicken baked in the oven, I made the recipe below.

Everyday Food Warm Potato-Veggie Salad

Again, I didn't really measure anything :) Just combined the ingredients at the end to taste. I used Idaho potatoes and a can of green beans (drained). When combining everything at the end, I just used a spoon to slightly mash the potatoes and blend all the ingredients. No need to break out the masher, the potatoes are very soft and still warm.

This salad was delicious. The whole meal was! The kitchen smelled so good from dinner, that I put everything on plates and served immediately and forgot to take pictures. There was some salad leftover for me to eat for lunch the next day. I reheated it in the microwave and it was still as delicious as the night before!