A Piece of Cake February 2012
A Word from Anne:
Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and thank goodness this food writer made it through January — the most unfriendly month to cake baking in the year! Love for baking is in the air — I feel it — so I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of the things I love best. Now, granted, this is not the definitive list, so don’t hold me to it. You know, this newsletter started about 12 years ago, right after my first Cake Mix Doctor cookbook was published. It was my way of keeping connected with you in between books being published. Now, some 60,000 of you receive this newsletter. And day to day, I email with many of you. Thanks for your great ideas, encouragement and constructive criticism. I didn’t mention this on the list of things I love, so I will now — I love hearing from you.
Happy Baking and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Ten Things I Love:
- I love the Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt pan. It is hands-down my favorite Bundt pan because the look is so sculpted, so dramatic, and the cake releases beautifully after cooling. I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma, but I you can find them elsewhere. Really love, love this pan. See number 5, coffee cake below.
- My husband John’s hot chocolate sauce. He says he begins with cocoa, sugar, butter, brandy, vanilla, and cream, stirring the cocoa, sugar, and butter over low heat, adding cream, then brandy and vanilla. It is pure alchemy and genius. We pour it over vanilla ice cream. We eat it straight from the pan!
- Earl Grey tea. I’m really obsessed with it. Must be the bergamot. I love it in the morning or afternoon in my favorite Anthropologie mug with the initial “a” on it, given to me by my friend Dayna.
- My grandmother’s yellow Pyrex bowl, in which she layered orange slices and sugar before making marmalade. It is well over 50 years old, possibly 60. I make chocolate frosting in it because I can soften the butter in the microwave in this bowl, then add the cocoa, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar and blend until creamy.
- A good coffee cake. Perfect with that Earl Grey tea or coffee. Here is a great basic recipe using my cake mix, Anne’s Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake. Or turn to page 191 of the Cake Mix Doctor Returns for Kathy’s Cinnamon Breakfast Cake. Regardless of the recipe, a fun trick is to grease and flour a Bundt pan, then sprinkle finely chopped pecans — about ¼ cup — in the bottom of the pan, then pour in the batter. The pecans bake into a crunchy crown once the cake is inverted onto a serving platter.
- Brownie mixes in the pantry. I bake brownies from scratch but I also rely on mixes – either Ghirardelli or Trader Joe’s are my current favorites. To slim them down I use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. To turn them into cookies, I add 3 tablespoons flour and reduce the eggs to just 1 egg. The cookies bake at 350° for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Friends who send me emails that make me smile. Thanks to Julie of Charlotte, NC, who says she made The Best Pound Cake (from The Dinner Doctor) for her daughter’s 17th birthday. “It truly is the best,” said Julie. And because her family knew the movie “Elf” inside and out, her kids imitated the scene where Will Ferrell screams in the coffee shop advertising “World’s Best Coffee.” But in this case, it was world’s best pound cake, and Julie’s kids screamed, “Congratulations!!! You did it!!!”
- Baking in a jar. My friend Marty of St. Louis reminded me of this recipe when she was trying to send the cake in a jar to her daughter in college. You will find it on my Community Board. Grease and flour wide-mouth glass canning jars. Pour in the cake batter of your choice, filling the jars just a little over half full. Place the jars on a cookie sheet and bake at 325° until the cakes spring back when pressed with your finger. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, and when the jars are cool enough to handle, place the flat tops on the jars and screw the bands around to tighten them. Place the jars on a towel to cool, and after they cool the cakes will shrink back and be easy to unmold. Now they can be wrapped and shipped to someone you love.
- An organized pantry. It is like a clean closet, and it is an essential part of cooking and baking well. Sort and sift through food twice a year, pitching or donating what you have not used. Wipe down the shelves and set up shop for the next six months. I have a pasta shelf with quick-cook, thin spaghetti or orzo, as well as Israeli couscous and basmati rice. I buy tomatoes when they are on sale, and will try new flavor combinations to keep fast sauces interesting. And, I always have canned chicken broth, canned white beans, tuna, artichokes, corn, and pasta sauce. When it comes to baking ingredients, I keep cocoa — Hershey’s and Ghirardelli — as well as instant pudding mixes, confectioners’ sugar, brown sugar, creamed honeys from Vintage Bee — www.vintagebee.com — and cake mixes, of course.
- My Frosting Booklet called, “The Icing on the Cake.” Here are my absolute best frostings ever, and all in one place. You can receive a free copy with each online order of my cake mixes through the end of February. Go to Anne’s Cake Mix and click on Buy to be directed to the shopping cart.
Anne’s Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
This recipe begins with your favorite box of yellow cake mix. The 21.6-ounce cake mix is the Cake Mix Doctor’s Old-Fashioned Yellow cake mix, which you can find in stores near you or order online.
Makes 12 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 50 to 55 minutes
1 package (21.6 ounces) Cake Mix Doctor’s Old-Fashioned Yellow Cake Mix
For the Filling:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped pecans
For the Batter:
1 cup sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup water
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
- Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a Bundt pan, and set the pan aside.
- For the filling, measure out 2 tablespoons of the cake mix and place in a small bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Set the filling aside.
- Place the remaining cake mix, sour cream, oil, water, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, and blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and blend until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the filling over the top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the filling. Place the pan in the oven.
- Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, and it is golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it cool in the pan 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and invert it onto a rack to cool completely, 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by stirring the milk into the confectioners’ sugar. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake and let rest 15 minutes to let the glaze set. Or omit the glaze and just dust with confectioners’ sugar. Place the cake on a platter, slice and serve.
Next issue: April. Spring cakes. Spice Cake and Caramel Frosting.