Friday, November 24, 2006

ECL Experiments With Gluten-Free Pie

(11/23, 4:10am) Boy, I've been baking like a fool lately. I've really enjoyed it!

My roommate and I are hosting a mellow, eating-centered, pj-wearing, movie-watching Thanksgiving later today.

Our friend Annmarie decided to join us for T-day, and she and my roomie are gluten-freers. Their bodily reactions to gluten are NOT pretty.

Annmarie said we had to have pies, so the two of us decided to try to bake up two GF pies: pumpkin and apple. I really wanted to try RLB's pumpkin and apple recipes, and I also wanted to see how well I could substitute GF flour in the RLB flaky pie crust recipe. Oooh! Experiments!

I think the best thing about using RLB's pie techniques for a GF crust will be her dedication to a non-soggy pie crust. I think that is a common ailment with GF crusts, along with being generally not flaky, tender, or tasty. I have high hopes for our crusts. I think they will be flaky, tender, buttery, and not soggy at all.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Annmarie and I agree that good GF baked goods is a huge untapped market. There is presently in Portland maybe one bakery that bakes gluten free stuff- and a very small menu of GF goods at that. One more will be opening up next month, but aside from that? One could go to a very high-end natural foods grocery store and buy their very expensive GF goods.

Or one could figure out how to do it herself. And sell them, my friends. Sell. Them.

So this pumpkin pie:
For the flour, I substituted 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose GF Flour Mix, 1/3 heaping cup of Tapioca Flour, and 1/4 cup of my rommmate's GF flour mix (Tapioca, Potato, and Rice Flours). Also, a teaspoon of Xanthan Gum, which I guess holds stuff together much like gluten would. I kept all the rest of RLB's ingredients for a Basic Flaky Pie Crust the same.



Kneading the dough until it becomes a stretchy product is not really necessary, as it will never become a stretchy product. So I just mashed up the dough after cutting in all the butter and liquid, patted it into a circle, and let it rest in the refrigerator. Usually resting the dough is to relax the gluten so the pastry doesn't shrink or get tough, but in this case it was to keep the butter cold. And to let each other sort themselves out. Mostly about the butter.

Rolling out the dough wasn't that hard to do, although the edges cracked and split a bit at first. The dough was also very sticky and so I am glad I was rolling it between two lightly (GF) floured pieces of plastic wrap. Transferring the dough into the pan was no problem and turning under the edge went well enough. The dough was still prone to cracking and being sticky, but that also made it easier to patch up any holes or thin spots.

Instead of letting the pastry relax one more time in the refrigerator, I shoved it in the freezer. Again, this was mainly to cool down the butter. The refrigerator was full, otherwise I would have put it there. But actually, the freezer was great because since the pastry has no gluten to relax, I figured it didn't really need to rest up so seriously. Right?

Off the pie went into the oven, and after 30 minutes I fussed with getting foil around the edges. I fussed with that for about ten minutes, it seems. Should have just done what RLB suggested--put the foil on before baking the pie. I really don't know why I didn't.

The pumpkin pie came out after a 55 minute bake, and I tell you, it looks good. The crust is nice and golden, the filling looks all creamy and delicious. I wonder if we could break into the pie tomorrow morning for breakfast? It wouldn't look too bad if we served the pie to our guests with 3 slices already eaten? After all, we are having a mellow, pj wearing Thanksgiving....

(11/24) Pie report:



The pumpkin pie was excellent. The pumpin was creamy and light, spiced but not too heavily (we added 1/4 tsp ground cloves), and just sweet enough. YUM. The crust was crunchy--the gingersnap and toasted pecan crunchy layer is a fabulous idea! The crust was flaky(ish), tender, buttery, and held itself together well. There is a texture difference, but it was fairly minor--just a little bit more grainy, but really not too bad at all. The GF girls really enjoyed the pie and especially the crust. They said it was the best GF pie crust they've tasted! That is so nice to hear!



The apple pie, oh the apple pie. First off, Annmarie was excited she was going to be able to eat a two-crust apple pie. I guess that is a treat! The apples were nicely spiced, tender but not mushy, the juices thick and not runny, and again, perfectly sweet--just enough to take the tart edge off. Yeah!



The crust was a little brittle, but golden brown and crisp. Tender, buttery, again a little grainy. Overall, pretty darn excellent. You know, there wasn't that buttery richness that a gluten pie crust can be, but again the GF girls were pleased as punch.

This crust was harder to deal with for several reasons:
1. The kitchen was super warm from the roasting turkey so the butter softened much more quickly when rolling out the dough.
2. This dough seemed stickier than the pumpkin pie dough the night before.
3. I had to tuck the top crust underneath the bottom crust and pinch everything shut, which was really hard to do because a GF crust really isn't very elastic at all. So nobody wanted to get pulled and tucked and etc. Plus, the dough was seriously sticky, and the butter seriously softening.

I know I should have put the pie in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool down the butter, but I was getting impatient with the pie prep and just wanted to get it in the oven.

Interestingly enough, neither pie become very aromatic when baking. The whole apartment should have smelled like apple or pumpkin pie while they baked, and especially when cooling, but not really with these pies. Was that due to the GF crust? Or other wierd circumstances?



No matter the lack of aroma, these pies are excellent. And, gluten-free!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thirteen Months

As a celebration of Eat My Cake turning, uh, one year and one month old, I decided to throw my blog a birthday party. And of course, its another good excuse TO BAKE A CAKE.

happy birthday Eat My Cake

November 18, 2006
Name of Cake: Eat My Birthday Cake, Fools
Occasion: One Year and One Month of The Cakeblog!
Constituents: three-layer Devil's Food Cake with Coffee Buttercream and some toffee chunks

I mean, Evil Cake Lady should bake a Devil's Food Cake for the blog, ya know?

I had all these wonderful plans for how this baking process would go. I would make the toffee early on in the week, maybe Monday or Tuesday. Thursday I would make the coffee buttercream. And Friday night, I'd bake the cakes. Saturday, sometime between oozing out of bed around noon and the party at seven, I would put the thing together, and lo, the masterpiece to behold.

Then my last birth client of 2006 told me she was getting induced Wednesday night. Which meant the end of my week would disappear into the hazy fog of laborland, and instead of making frosting or baking cakes I would be escorting a new couple through the dark and twisty maze that leads to the gates of parenthood--a journey fraught with unknowns and who knows whats that I knew would leave me exhausted and unable to operate heavy machinery.

So I decided to at least get the cake ready for baking by measuring out the dry ingredients and setting them aside in a tub until the baking day. That way, when I was ready, most of my prep would be done and I'd just have to deal with the wet ingredients and bringing the butter up to room temp. I think it would be cool to have pre-measured dry ingredients for several of the butter cakes measured up and set aside--a home made version of cake from a box. With like, way better results and stuff.

And I am SO glad I did do that, as I discovered that I was out of baking soda. One crisis averted. (check!)

DSC00398
i get a little messy when i bake...


Then on Monday I made the toffee, which didn't really come out right, but The Guy Who Doesn't Like The New Nickname (name changed to make fun of him) gave me the Key To Making Toffee In A Humid Environment for which I am eternally grateful. (Grateful enough to call him The Guy Who Doesn't Like The New Nickname instead of something else, that is.)

Wednesday I got antsy and decided to bake the cakes. I figured I could do a double wrap of plastic then foil and store them in the refrigerator until Saturday. The frosting wouldn't take that long, so I felt okay about leaving that task until Saturday.

I like that the cakes are leavened with baking soda and the cocoa powder is the non-alkaline kind. It gives the cake that cool reddish hue (not the be mistaken with the chemical red velvet cake which requires enough red food dye to mutate your unborn children's children's children.)

As cool as I thought I was to have the dry ingredients pre-measured, I didn't bother to take out the eggs and the FROZEN butter until only a few minutes before I was ready to get my bake on, and I still had to boil water to make the cocoa paste which would have to cool down to room temperature before I could mix it into the batter. So the oven patiently pumped out 350 degrees of heat for a good hour before I put anything in it, and I wandered around and around waiting for butter to warm up and cocoa paste to cool down. I cubed the butter and stuck it on a plate on top of the stove with hopes that the warm stove would encourage a little softening, but never ever a melting. The cocoa paste was in a ceramic bowl and cooling down slower than hot magma. Let me remind you that ceramic is a great material because it holds its temperature for a long time. Yeah I know, duh. I should have used a stainless steel bowl. In a fit I put the hot steamy bowl in the freezer. And paced around the kitchen some more.

Luckily for me, some dude named Aaron made a breakthrough with RLB's chocolate cake enigma. Many people, myself included, would follow her recipe for chocolate butter cake to the letter and would end up with a dry product. I thought I had fixed the problem when I started measuring yolks and whites separately. It did help, but Aaron, that smart mofo, put steam and evaporating water together and realised valuable moisture was being lost as millions of cake bakers waited for the cocoa paste to cool down to room temperature.

May the cake gods always smile on our friend Aaron.

Finally, the cakes were baked, cooled, and double-double-wrapped. I left them out overnight by accident and shoved them into the refrigerator Thursday morning.

That evening, I stepped into the labyrinth.

Very early Saturday morning I stumbled out of the labyrinth and fell asleep on my couch.

Around 5:30 this evening I started in on the coffee buttercream and discovered I didn't have enough corn syrup to use the Neoclassic Buttercream recipe. I like the Neoclassic Buttercream because you use corn syrup for a part of the sugar-water solution, and once it all comes up to a boil you're done. No temperature taking, no overcooking, just bring to a boil and off you go. Damn, I thought, almost made it through this bake without any cake trauma....

So I began the Classic Buttercream recipe. As I was making coffee buttercream, I dissolved a couple of tablespoons of Megdalia D'Oro instant espresso powder (where's my check for product placement?) in a teaspoon of boiling water. A teaspoon? I think RLB must have meant a tablespoon because the paste got really stiff...and...I probably should have covered it in plastic wrap too.

Ah well.

Anyway, here it comes, the REAL cake trauma:

I set up my little digital thermometer to alert me when the syrup's temperature reached 237 degrees, for at that point I was to immediately transfer the syrup to a greased pryrex measuring cup which was placed right next to my boiling pot in order to stop the cook and keep the syrup from reaching the hard ball stage. I added in my sugar and water, turned the burner on high, and began beating up the 5,000 egg yolks. I glanced at the sugar syrup, I glanced at the thermometer readout, and began to clean up some of my mess. Another glance at the readout a few minutes later said the syrup had cooled down a bit...enh?? A little bit later the thermometer was beeping and the temperature was already at 242--yikes! I quickly poured the syrup into the glass, scraped out the pot and began to alternate between adding incremental bits of syrup and mixing furiously to keep the eggs from cooking. After a few rounds I noticed something peculiar was forming at the bottom of the bowl. "Kathunk," said my KitchenAid, "kathunk." There was this growing chunk of syrup at the bottom of the bowl. "Crap," said I. "Kathunk kathunk kathunk," said my KitchenAid. "Shit crap damn no!" "Kathunk kachunk karunch."

My roommate, who has been the unfortunate spectator of countless ECL cake tantrums, coolly glanced over and said, "huh." She mumbled something about "do-over" to which I replied: "I don't have time for this shit damn crap fuck! Shit shit shit." "Kathunk karunch kerackle kachunk," my KitchenAid replied sympathetically. It sent out a little splatter of egg yolky-syrupy stuff which hit my face and stuck in my hair.

Luckily for everyone, especially my roommate, I was really too exhausted to work myself into a good tantrum. In desperation I just dumped the rest of the syrup into the bowl and ramped up the mixer.

And lo, that seemed to do the trick. The karunching and kerackling started to mellow out, the hard chunk of syrup began to chunk up, or soften up, or dissolve, or something, and with a good long beating that yolky stuff seemed to sort itself out.

I added in the butter and soon the mixing bowl held an almost silky smooth buttery frosting. It was a little more buttery and a little less sweet than usual, as well as a little bit chunkier. Little sugar crunchies sparkled in my frosting like diamonds. Hey, who needs toffee crunchies when you can have sugar crunchies?

DSC00450

The cake assembly went pretty smoothly, hahaha nice pun. (You do realise I'm a little delirious, don't you??)

Everyone, please take a moment for the Jellos for giving me a rotating cake stand for Christmas last year. You kids are my favorites. Don't tell everyone else.

I did end up using Heath Bar Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch in the filling for one of the layers (why not both? not sure) and to decorate the top. Apparently they were tasteless as many people asked me, "hey what were the crunchy things?" And I would answer, "heath bar crunch," and not mention the sugar syrup mishap at all. They were on a need-to-know basis, and they didn't need to know.

Many fun people showed up to celebrate thirteen months of Eat My Cake and the introduction of ECL to the internet. We had coffee drinks, red wine, cake and ice cream, and the highlight of my evening, baby-holding! My roommate, who is a celiac and can't Eat My Cake even if she wanted to, baked up a couple of experimental gluten-free, agave sweetened cakes which people were curious to try. I have not tried them yet as I have fuzzy teeth and a high glucose count as it is. I am saving her cakes for breakfast. Heck yeah.


Photo Sharing - Upload Video - Video Sharing - Share Photos

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ECL Makes Toffee

(11/13) (Thinking to self) I better make the toffee NOW if my client is going to be induced on Wednesday night. I'll probably be at the birth from Thursday until Friday, and there goes all the days I set aside for baking. Okay, I'll make the toffee now.

(Adds 1 tbsp corn syrup and 1 cup sugar to saucepan with 3/4 cup heavy cream) I think I have time to make toffee. What if the toffee comes out wrong and I have to do it over? What will I do with the old toffee? What if I burn it? How dark do I want it? How long will this take?

(Standing over stove watching mixture start to boil in saucepan) Okay now I'm not supposed to touch it until it boils down to a nutty brown color. I think I turned the heat down too early, do you think I turned the heat down too early? Maybe I turned the heat down too early. Will that be a problem? I bet it will just take longer to caramelize that's all.

(Leaning on the stove, watching the mixture continue to boil down in the saucepan) Is it starting the caramelize? I think I see a little bit of a tawny color. I am waiting for a nutty brown color. I can't let it get too dark 'cause then it will burn. I wonder if the difference between toffee and soft caramel is the fact that you boil down the cream with the sugar in toffee and you add the cream to the caramelized sugar when making soft caramel or caramel sauce. I wonder who came up with that idea. Was it just a mistake that someone made and it turned out to be tasty? How that that all happen? Which came first, toffee or caramel?

(Leaning on stove, watching mixture start to caramelize) I think we are getting close now, the toffee is looking like it is getting done. Is that a nutty brown color? I think it could be darker. What if it doesn't harden right? Am I going to have to use a Skor bar instead if this doesn't come out right? Maybe I don't really need the toffee for this cake. I keep thinking that coffee and toffee are great complimentary flavors, but what if they are not? Maybe if the toffee comes out sticky then I won't use toffee at all. But I like the idea of something a little crunchy in there....could use toasted nuts. Hmm, I could do that. Is that a nutty brown color? I think it is a nutty brown color. At least it looks like a caramelly color. Maybe I should pull it off now and if it isn't dark enough I can just make another batch. No problem. I'm going to pull it off now.

(Pouring the toffee out onto a silicone liner) Maybe the toffee is too light; is that a nutty brown color? Oh well, I can just make more if I need to. Now I'm supposed to leave it alone to harden. How long will it take to harden? Is that a nutty brown color?

(Next day, breaking up the toffee) Is this really a nutty brown color? *Snap* wow this toffee seems like it hardened all right! *snap* oohh this is fun! *snap* let's try a piece and see how it is... *chew* oh. it is sticky. it's stuck to my teeth. but the flavor is good! *bend* hey this part isn't snapping off at all. it just bends like a big sheet of soft caramel. *chew* how'd that happen? *snap* it snaps off over here...is this part thicker? it isn't--but then why will some of the toffee snap and the rest just bend? *chew* did I need to caramelize it more? Maybe this isn't a nutty brown color. Oh well, it still tastes good, but I'm not sure its going on the cake. *picking teeth*

Friday, November 10, 2006

Oh!

This is post 102--wow!!

Since Zetta is the one who came up with the idea of pear-spice cake, I decided to bake one up for her.

November 10, 2006
Name of cake: Spicy Pear Zetta
Occasion: Another excuse to bake!
Constituents: Pear-Spice Cake with Golden Cream Cheese Frosting and chopped toasted walnuts

Spicy Pear Zetta

The recipe was aptly titled "Pear Spice Cake." It came from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, and it was the recipe just before the spice cake recipe I used in last week's Spicy Blessings cupcakes.

However, it was much, much tastier.

The cool baking thing about this cake was that it didn't call for any liquid--no milk, no water, no oil, nothing. It also called for all-purpose flour, which tends to produce a coarser cake.

A couple of years ago I decided to make up my own apple-spice cake recipe for a September birthday party. I took RLB's yellow cake recipe, added a bunch of spices to it, chopped up a honeycrisp apple or two, tossed them in flour, mixed them into the cake batter and baked up a couple of 9-inch cake layers. Which tasted good, but were pretty mushy/soggy on the bottoms. I had wondered about all the excess moisture of the fresh apples, and didn't really know what to do about it. (Well, I was too lazy to figure out what to do about it.)

This recipe figured out what to do about it. Granted we are talking pears, not apples, but the same principal applies: very juicy fruit. So this recipe turned out a thick, stiff batter made with a coarser flour to absorb and hold the juiciness from the fruit. Which it did. Once I began to stir in the pears, the whole batter became softer and, well, wetter.

I baked this cake at the clinic so I cleverly pre-measured all the ingredients, packed up the flour-oil spray, the fine mesh colander, the baking pan, the balloon whisk and my new special baking only silicone spatula, the recipe, and the ingredients, including the rest of the golden cream cheese that I had frozen for later use. I did forget to pack my beloved Nielsen-Massey pure bourbon madagascar vanilla extract, but Zetta made me go to her house and get her extract. So all was okay.

Beating up a cake without a mixer is really labor intensive. Creaming butter and sugar by hand is a special kind of torture. A word to the wise: Don't use the balloon whisk to cream butter, my friends. The butter collects inside the whisk as if it is afraid of being creamed, and it only comes out when you poke at it between the tines. Use your favorite, for baking only green silicone spatula. Also, bring an apron or something so that you don't get butter and sugar and flour all over your work shirt.

By the way, I used the golden cane sugar again, and MAN o man, the sugar and butter smelled so good--it had a spicy, molassesy, almost floral scent to it. Aaah. It made the arm fatigue and messy shirt worthwhile.

The awesome part about baking at the clinic is that our fully functional kitchen doubles as our medicinary and office, so having the oven on and pumping out heat keeps the kitchen/medicinary/office nice and toasty. That, and knowing that our clients are smelling CAKE while they get acupuncture treatments.

This cake is my favorite of the spice cake extravaganza that I have been going through. The cake was moist, and full of big chunks of pear (I interpreted "finely chopped fresh pears" as "cubed chunks"). The cake was spicy, but not out of control, and the cream cheese frosting with the toasted walnuts was an excellent finish. As an alternate, a caramel drizzle would have been good, too. Or maybe a cinnamon whipped cream. Or nothing at all--this cake was that tasty.

I think this will be last of the spice cakes for this season...I mean four rounds in three weeks has got to be enough, so next week I'm making a devil's food cake with coffee buttercream and toffee chunks. Stay tuned, cake eaters!

Spicy Pear Zetta

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Spice Cake

Well, I decided to make spice cupcakes, since cupcakes are the "it" food of the decade...and they are oh so cute.

November 04, 2006
Name of cake: Spicy Blessings
Occasion: Jesse's Blessingway
Constituents: Spice cupcakes with golden cream cheese frosting...some with toasted walnuts

spice cupcakes with golden cream cheese frosting

Last night when I came home from performing The Experiment at Brain's house, I converted this spice cake recipe from medieval measurements to grams (thanks Rose Levy Beranbaum for providing the guidelines!! I just love that woman). I changed the dead battery in my roommate's scale, which now works perfectly, hooray, and I weighed out the dry ingredients and mixed them together. Then I pulled out the 2 eggs and the butter and fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.

This morning when my eyes snapped open at 8 am (which NEVER happens) I got up and got ready to bake the cupcakes. That's when I read the instructions carefully and noticed that I was to add the brown sugar to the egg-sour cream mix, not mix it in with all the dry ingredients like I did. Oh well.

This is a fascinating cake mix because there's no butter...no butter!!!! The fat comes from the sour cream...so does this technically mean it isn't a butter cake? I guess that's an obvious yes but what category would this cake fit under? In every other respect it is a butter-type cake.

It is really nice to have half of the cake pre-measured and mixed; these suckers came together quickly and off they went into the oven. I added 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of ground cardamom, because why not?? For the nutcakes, I added the chopped nuts by hand as I scraped the batter into the blue cupcake cups. Blue cups=nuts, yellow cups=no nuts. In case there were nut-sensitives.

i color coded the cupcake papers

These little cupcakes raised quite high above their papers during the bake, and I assumed they would deflate a bit during the cool down, but they didn't! Very cute little guys.

before frosting

Not to brag, but my cream cheese frosting rocks. It is tangy, silky, perfectly sweet, and ass kickingly good. I found the initial recipe online, but I changed it up a bit because the amount of sugar it called for was ridiculous, and I also find the idea of using powdered sugar and then adding milk stupid. I use fine or superfine granulated sugar--if all the ingredients are at room temperature the sugar will dissolve no problem. This time, I used the golden baker's superfine sugar--which is basically less refined sugar so it still has some of the original molasses and minerals. This makes for a sweet taste that has a little depth and earthiness to it, unlike white sugar which is sharp, one dimensional, and completely devoid of anything resembling the original product it came from. It also gave the frosting an off-white hue--almost like a pale tawny color which people mistook for a maple frosting. Which wouldn't be a bad idea.

The spice cake recipe made 16 cupcakes in total, and I have about half of the batch of frosting freezing in my freezer.

In a fit of decorating, I sprinkled finely chopped toasted walnuts on the nut cakes, and a little bit of ground cinnamon on the plain cakes. So fancy! Although if I were truly a fancypants I would have tried to remove all the walnut skins before sprinkling them on the cupcakes.

Despite there already being a ton of baked goods at the Blessingway, the cupcakes seemed to be well received and Jesse took home a bunch for her boys. Hooray!

And now, drumroll please, the recipes!!
Spice Cake adapted from Fannie Farmer's Baking Book, pg 344

2 eggs
1 cup/242 g sour cream
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 cup/217 g brown sugar (light)
2 cups/260 g cake flour
1 tsp/5 g baking soda
1/4 tsp fine grained sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves (freshly ground if possible)
1 tsp ground cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
optional: 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. grease and flour two 8-in round cake pans, or prep your cupcake tins.

beat the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly blended, then beat in the sugar. in a medium bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients (except the optional nuts) and thoroughly combine and aerate with a whisk. add in three to four batches to the sour cream mixture and beat until the batter is smooth. it will look a little runny. stir in (by hand) the optional walnuts. pour batter into prepared pans; divide evenly in the cake pans or fill cupcake molds 1/2 to 2/3 full.

bake cake rounds for 30-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick or wire cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. the top should spring back lightly when touched. cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes and unmold; let cool completely before frosting or storing airtight.

bake cupcakes for 15-25 minutes until a wooden toothpick or wire cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. the tops should spring back lightly when touched. cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes and unmold; let cool thoroughly before frosting or storing airtight.

Kick-Ass Cream Cheese Frosting

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound (2 8-oz boxes = 1 pound) cream cheese (not fat free) softened but not warm
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup fine or superfine milled cane sugar or honey or whatever

in a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft and fluffy. add the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt and beat at low speed just until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. using a rubber spatula, clean the beaters and scrape the sides of the bowl whenever necessary during beating. start by adding half a cup of sugar or sweetener and beat well. add enough sugar to taste; not more than one cup. beat well to ensure the sugar dissolves.

use soon after or refrigerate. let the frosting come up to room temperature if cold, and beat a bit to fluff it back up.

enough to fill and frost a 2 layer 9 inch cake.

The Experiment

(11/03) I am going to a potluck tomorrow and guess what I'm bringing? If you guessed something other than cake, you obviously haven't been reading my blog for very long.

However, as I mentioned to Zetta what my baking plans were--spice cake with cream cheese frosting--she asked if I could squirrel away some of the batter and make two spice cupcakes with pear. Pear?? And where would I put this pear, I asked. Top, middle, or bottom? And Zetta said, "bottom."

And that got me thinking. What if I sliced the pear really thin and used it to line the cupcake molds?

So this is what I decided to do, because I am a freak:
  • try this pear-lined cupcake idea out
  • but use a cake mix and a tub o' frosting
  • so that if it turns out sucky, I won't feel like I wasted my time or my precious ingredients
  • and if it works out, make a *real* batch of pear-lined cupcakes for the potluck
  • real meaning, from scratch
Nov 11, 2006
Name of cake: Late Night With Pear and Brains
Occasion: Potluck tomorrow
Constituents: Spice cupcakes (from a box) baked in giant muffin tins with D'Anjou pears lining the molds and frosted with "cream cheese" frosting (from a tub)

At 6 pm, I thought I had plenty of time to make a couple of batches of cupcakes or whatever.

Then I called The Brains to see if he wanted to grab a slice of pizza and go grocery shopping and then help out in The Experiment.

evil indeed

Somehow we spent forever at the Fred Meyer and by the time we got back to his place, it was like, 10 pm. Then Brains cleaned up his kitchen (which used to be my kitchen, before I moved out and he moved in) and so I didn't get to baking until 11ish. Oi!

It was kinda cool to be baking away in my old kitchen. Many memories of crazy middle of the night baking escapades came flooding back. Oh, the times I spent, sitting by the stove on my stepstool, half asleep and waiting for the cakes to finish baking...

Man, you gotta love cake from a box. Well, not love in a delicious kind of way, but love in a spontaneous, in twenty minutes we'll have cake kind of way. When I bust out a cake, its more like in an hour or so we'll have cake! And lots of dirty dishes! Hurrah!

mega-mold!

Brains only had one of those mega-muffin tins, where you pour in about two cups of batter per mold and you make 6 at a time. At first I protested about the huge size these cupcakes would be, but as he pointed out, these were only prototypes so who cares?

Brains donated his nicely ripened pears, and I sliced them fairly thin. The first pear I tried to peel and core but I mainly just mangled it, so the rest of the pears kept their skin which really didn't make a big flavor difference. It took about a quarter of a pear per giant muffin cup; each of which I heavily buttered.

pear lined mega-mold

The mega-cupcakes took about 30 minutes to bake; and the pear-spice aroma was heavenly. After a ten-minute cool down, I ran a thin spatula between the molds and the pear-lined cupcakes, and turned them out of the pan. Wow! It worked!! They all unmolded easily and without fuss, and they all kept their little pear straitjackets on.

up close and personal

We realised that having the pears on the outside and bottom makes them hard to eat, as the pears are soft and slippery. We thought about pear-upside down cupcakes, but then I thought we could just level the tops of all the cupcakes and leave them pear side up. Which looked pretty cool, I must say.

But, the frosting! Where was it to go if we kept the pears on top? Brains said we could just frost over the pears, which we tried. It worked, but I think the tub frosting totally overpowered the pears. We decided a caramel drizzle would be a better embellishment.

By the way, that tub of cream cheese frosting? I looked at the ingredients, and there ISN'T ANY CREAM CHEESE in the cream cheese frosting! If that isn't a reason to learn how to do it better from scratch, I don't know what is.

there's no crean cheese in the cream cheese frosting

So what am I baking up tomorrow morning for the potluck? Spice cake with cream cheese frosting. 100% real.