Friday, May 27, 2011

Let's eat cake!

5/11/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Let’s eat cake!

There’s something about the month of May that brings out the cake-eater in me. Other months of the year I may crave cobblers, pies, cookies or puddings but this month I’m longing for cake.

I’m not going to bore you with the entire history of cake but suffice it to say that people have been eating cake for a very long time. According to multiple sources, cakes dating back to the 13th century and beyond were very different from what we eat today. They were sweetened with honey, leavened with yeast and bread-like in texture. Later, nuts and dried fruits were added.

By the middle of the 19th century a new era of baking began. Cake began to be more like we know it today (made with refined white four and baking powder instead of yeast). The texture lightened up. Ovens that dispensed heat evenly enabled more elaborate concoctions to be baked and longer-lasting butter cream frostings replaced the traditional but short-lived boiled frosting.

Today, of course, the sky’s the limit in the cake world. Once only available to the wealthy, cakes baked in single or multiple layers, with a choice of flavor and texture can be picked up at the supermarket. Frostings can be made of whipped cream or cream cheese and elaborately decorated for birthdays and weddings without you even turning on the oven.

But nothing beats the taste and texture of a homemade cake. Even if baking isn’t your forte and you don’t have time, you can bake a good cake. A recent edition of Kraft Foods “Food and Family” magazine reminded me that it’s easy to doctor up boxed cake mixes and turn out delectable desserts for family or guests.

Unless it’s warm out of the oven, I’m not particularly fond of pineapple upside-down cake but the Kraft people have a new twist on it that’s very tasty and easy to serve— upside down cupcakes!

Technically cheesecake is not ‘cake.’ But I found Kraft’s coconut cream cheesecake bars irresistible. I’m including it along with an old Texas Sheath/Sheet Cake, a longtime favorite of chocolate lovers.

Kraft suggests, of course, that you use their products in their recipes. But in my opinion, many brands are interchangeable so don’t worry about it. Some Kraft products are superior to others and so I have used the brand name in the recipes. And I do suggest that when using boxed cake mixes you always use Duncan Hines.

Two of today’s recipes are updated versions of old favorites and all are suitable for those occasions when it’s your turn to bring dessert to a potluck. Try one and enjoy the compliments!

Pineapple upside-down cupcakes
Kraft Foods, serves 24

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cans (8 oz. each) pineapple tidbits in juice, drained
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
12 maraschino cherries, halved
1 cup boiling water
1 package (3 oz.) lemon flavor Jell-O
1 package yellow cake mix (2 layer size)
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Mix sugar and butter in medium bowl; stir in pineapple and nuts. Place cherry half, cut-side up in center of each of 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Cover with pineapple mixture.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Cool 10 min.

Beat remaining ingredients in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add gelatin; mix well. Spoon over pineapple mixture in muffin cups. (Cups will be almost completely filled.

Bake 15-18 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Remove paper liners just before serving; invert onto plates.

Variation: Prepare using orange flavored gelatin and orange zest.

Layered Coconut Cream Cheesecake Bars
Kraft Foods, serves 16

84 Nilla Wafers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package (8 oz.) Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed, divided
2 packages (3.4 oz. each) Jell-O vanilla instant pudding
2-1/2 cups cold milk
1-1/2 cups Baker’s Angel Flake coconut, toasted, divided

Reserve 24 wafers. Crush remaining wafers; mix with butter. Press onto bottom of 13X9-inch pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

Beat cream cheese and sugar with mixer until well blended. Whisk in 1 cup Cool Whip. Carefully spread over crust. Stand reserved wafers around edges.

Beat pudding mixes and milk with whisk in medium bowl 2 min. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip and 3/4 cup coconut; spread over cream cheese layer. Top with remaining Cool Whip and coconut. Refrigerate 5 hours.

How to toast coconut (easy!): Spread coconut evenly in shallow pan. Bake at 350° F. 7-10 min. or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Or spread in microwaveable pie plate. Microwave on High 3 min. or until lightly browned, stirring every minute. Watch carefully as coconut can easily burn.

‘Mrs. Elkins' Texas Sheath Cake
Huntsville Heritage Cookbook
Junior League of Huntsville AL, 1967 (p. 260)

2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted flour
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup shortening
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Grease 11X16 inch pan (jelly roll size)

Sift sugar and flour into large bowl. In saucepan, bring next 4 ingredients to rapid boil; stir into sugar and flour. Mix in other ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake 20 minutes.

Five minutes before done, make icing.

1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 box confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Bring cocoa, margarine and milk to boil. Remove from heat, adding sugar and vanilla. Beat well. Add pecans and spread over hot cake while still in pan.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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