Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm Baaack - and I brought Cake!

I never intended to be away this long.  A myriad of things have happened in the last eight months.  The bar exam really kicked my butt as far as studying and awaiting results.  [BTW for those who have not heard I passed!!!]   Hubby and I lost a dear friend to cancer.  I lost my unemployment.  And I finally had some friends and family visit from the Northeast!

Since I found out I passed the bar exam in May all of my time and effort has been going into job hunting.  We did have a big party to celebrate my passing, and I'll post about that soon.  There has not been much going out to eat or elaborate cooking, but (hopefully) things are back on track now.

So about that cake.  It''s not really about a cake as much as it is about icing.  A few days ago I stumbled across this amazing sounding recipe for Fluffy Brown Sugar Icing over at I Wash ... You Dry. Aside from sounding really interesting, the photo made my mouth leak.

And I just knew I had to make it, which means I needed a cake.  The author said that she found it was especially delectable on peaches.  There you have it, now I know I need to make a peach cake.  Since this was all experimental anyway I decided to do something I almost never do - use a boxed cake mix.  Don't get me wrong, I don't shun people who use them, I just prefer scratch recipes for cake since they aren't really much more work and I think they taste better.  But I digress ....

So I found this dusty box of cake mix on the shelf.  And let me tell you, it was OLD you guys y'all.  I knew the dry ingredients wouldn't go "bad", but I also wasn't sure the leavening in it would still work.  I plunged ahead, and immediately knew I was going to doctor this cake mix up.

It was "yellow" cake (what the hell flavor is "yellow"?!).  So instead of the cup of water it called for I added a cup of peach brandy; because ya know PEACH flavor and because liquor makes everything better!  (If you're a teetotaler I'm sure peach juice or pureed peaches and water would work just fine, but since I usually only use alcohol in my cooking and rarely drink it straight, I like to use it as often as possible.)  I also threw in two more eggs than the recipe called for because I like a more dense cake and my main complaint with mixes is that they come out all springy and spongy.  Between the alcohol and the extra eggs it was a little soupy, so I added a dollop of flour to tighten it up.

As an aside, I need to tell you about this flour.  I had a container of all purpose flour.  I recently bought a bag of self rising flour for a specific recipe.  Someone who shall remain nameless (and it was not Hubby) thought they were being helpful and mixed them TOGETHER.  This was very frustrating, but this particular cake could have used a smidge of extra leavening, so I used this flour "concoction" for my boxed cake experiment.

Anyway, the cake smelled wonderful while it was baking, and it DID rise and came out dense just as I had hoped.  The batter did rise unevenly though, and the top of the cake layers had little humps.

I have NEVER seen a cake rise like that, but given the circumstances  I am not surprised.  They turned out of the pans beautifully and the bottoms were firm and perfectly golden.

Next I went to make the icing.  I dumped the ingredients into a sauce pan and since it says to bring it to a hard boil I threw the burner on medium-high and set the timer for 10 minutes (like the recipe says) and walked away to beat my egg whites.  I don't know what I was thinking.  That saucepan had brown sugar, corn syrup and a touch of water in it.  You DO NOT leave a concoction like that by itself to boil.  I should know better.  But I did it, and THEN I was brain dead enough to pour that hot mess (literally!) into my gorgeous fluffy egg whites and beat it.

I did NOT get the glossy icing I was promised.  It DID blend, but there was hard burnt sugar on the edges of the bowl and the counter and the finished product tasted like death with a wicked hangover.  After Hubby agreed that I was not imagining the disgusting taste, I threw my hands up in the air and tried not to scream and stomp my feet.

Hubby lovingly sent me out of the kitchen and he dumped the icing and melted cleaned up my sugar toxic spills.  At one point some dried sugar was on a kitchen towel and he got scraped with it.  "Your icing CUT me!!"  Is icing supposed to fight back?

SO, lesson leaned!  I came back this morning afternoon with renewed purpose.  I put the sugars n medium and stirred and watched and watched and stirred.  I beat my egg whites until they were fluffy clouds and then I beat in the hot sugar mix.

(Total aside, between the egg whites and the strict instructions to pour in the sugar and NOT STOP beating the entire time, it is a wonder anyone could make this recipe without a Kitchenaid.  My arms would be DEAD!)

The icing came together perfectly! It was glossy and gorgeous and was a bit like soft marshmallow fluff with a molasses flavor.  It was delicious without being cloyingly sweet.  (I am already brain storming ways to modify the recipe to do other flavors with the egg white base!)

I immediately set to work on icing my peach brandy cake!

I tasted the scraps that I shaved off the cake (remember those humps?) and it was delicious!  It had a very strong peach brandy flavor.  I think I would do half liquor and half water next time, but Hubby said he preferred the strong flavor, so we shall see.  The cake came out a tad lopsided, but given how I just threw stuff in a bowl and came up with it, I think I am going to call it a win.

OK, so now who wants to come over and help me eat all this cake??

What's the craziest combination that you ever baked/cooked that turned out well??

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