July 2010: Second Slice

Baking in the long, hot summer

I’m on the plane from Nashville to New York, writing in that quiet bit of solitude mothers seldom find. By all reports I am going to sizzle once I step off the plane at LaGuardia. But summer heat and I go way back.

A Southern girl with an August birthday, my most vivid childhood memories were without air conditioning – churning peach ice cream in the backyard with my sisters, catching lightning bugs after dinner in a quart jar, or driving home from the long family trip in Oregon with the car windows rolled down because our ac had died somewhere around Salt Lake City. The three sticky sisters who fussed their way through raging hot Kansas have long forgotten the uncomfortable details of that trip and are best friends today.

Hot summers are not only a time for memory making but also for do-ahead dessert baking – peach and blueberry crisps and cobblers, and those lazy refrigerator cakes of yesteryear we like to call icebox cakes. Envision a woman in a crisply ironed linen dress, sipping iced tea, knowing confidently that her icebox cake is ready for company in the fridge. You could be that woman or man by just baking ahead of time this summer, using the fruits of the season, and trying the strawberry cake I share.

My friend and fellow baker Martha Bowden was crafting a cake for her daughter Madeline’s 16th birthday. Madie's-Summer-Berry-Birthd.jpgShe wanted to make my strawberry cake but felt the cream cheese icing too heavy for summertime.

So she adapted another frosting, adding a smidgen of pureed strawberries to it, and what resulted was the most stunning and refreshing cake topped with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries you can imagine.

What Martha did is what I hope you do all summer – doctor my recipes! It’s hot outside, so bake a cake, stash it in the fridge, and while your cake cools, so do you.

Happy Summer Baking!


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A Word from Workman

The Cake Mix Doctor is now on Facebook! Click here to become a fan.

The Cake Mix Doctor is baking gluten-free!

9780761160984.jpgYou begged, you pleaded, you tugged at my heart, so I have spent the past five months developing recipes that make the gluten-free cake mixes taste better than if you followed the package directions.

This new book, The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free will be out in late November and will contain more than 75 cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and bars that easily begin with a gluten-free mix but are far more interesting.

The gluten-free mixes are based on rice flour, so it was a challenge to give them more structure and flavor. Each recipe has a photo, a dairy-free option, and advice on storing and sharing.

Stay tuned to cakemixdoctor.com for more specific details about its release. I’ll be sharing behind-the-scenes snippets of the book tour on my Facebook fan page. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Email anne@cakemixdoctor.com if you or someone you know is baking gluten-free. I’ll be touring in early 2011 and hope to visit and bake in cities near you!

A recipe to share: Madeline’s Strawberry Birthday Cake

Pairing frostings with cake is a lot like getting dressed and accessorizing. You know you want to bake a strawberry cake but need a fresh and light frosting. This cake comes from the Cake Mix Doctor Returns. Add 2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin to the batter, if you like, for a fun pink color and more strawberry flavor. The frosting was adapted from my Orange Dreamsicle Cake from the Dinner Doctor. You will need about 2 pints fresh strawberries, 1 pint fresh blueberries, and 1 cup fresh blackberries for the entire cake, frosting, and garnish. What I love about this recipe is the cake can be baked ahead and stashed in the fridge and then garnished with a pile of fresh berries just before slicing.

Serves: 12 to 16
Prep: 40 minutes
Bake: 20 to 25 minutes
Cool: 25 minutes
Chill: Overnight

Fruit for the cake:
2 pints fresh strawberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries

For the frosting:
1 package (8 ounces) sour cream
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
¼ cup mashed strawberries (about 4 to 5 medium berries)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1¼ to 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the cake:
Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pans
Flour, for dusting the pans
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
1½ cups mashed strawberries
2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin, if desired
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

For the garnish:
Reserved strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries

1. For the fruit, wash the berries and pat them dry on paper towels. Remove the green caps from one carton of strawberries and mash them to use in the cake and frosting. From the remaining box of strawberries, remove the green caps from six berries and slice them lengthwise to place between the layers. Reserve the remaining strawberries, with green caps, to garnish the cake. Half of the blueberries will go between the layers and the other half on top of the cake for garnish. The blackberries will go on top and around the sides of the cake.

2. For the frosting, combine the sour cream, thawed whipping topping, mashed berries, orange juice, and confectioners’ sugar with a whisk until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes.

3. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist three 9-inch round layer pans with vegetable oil spray and dust the pans with flour. Place the cake mix, mashed berries, gelatin (if desired), oil, milk, vanilla, and eggs, in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the mixer to medium and beat 1 ½ minutes longer, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Divide the cake batter between the pans and place the pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on a rack, place 2 pans on the center rack and one pan above.

4. Bake the cake layers until they spring back when lightly pressed in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and invert the layers onto racks to cool right side up for 20 minutes.

5. When the layers are completely cool, you are ready to assemble the cake. Place one layer on a cake plate and cover with a generous ½ cup frosting. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the frosting. Cover with the second cake layer and frost with a generous ½ cup frosting. Scatter the blueberries over the top of the frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake generously with frosting. (At this point, you can stash the cake in a cake saver in the fridge overnight.)

6. Just before serving, and to garnish the cake, arrange the strawberries with green caps in the center of the cake. You can slice them and fan them out if desired. Garnish with the remaining blueberries and the blackberries. Slice and serve.

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