Sunday, May 27, 2007

Four Layer Funfetti, or, Happy Birthday Alden!

Some of the details on this one may be lost at this point, but I’ll see what I can dredge up. It was Karen who suggested the homemade funfetti cake. So, this brings us to funfetti, and just exactly what it is. Okay, I still don’t know what it is. I guess for starters there is the word play: funfetti – confetti… throw some colorful sprinkle-y type things in a cake and you are going to have some sort of a fun celebratory confetti type experience, funfetti, there you go.

The thing is, it is the colorful sprinkle-y type things that are still the mystery. My gut feeling is that the sprinkles that exist in the Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines box are different from the sprinkles I used. I just used regular colorful jimmies, as it were. And, while I think it looked pretty similar, I think it was not exactly the same. So, what exactly is in the little packet you get (and throw in the batter at some designated time) in those boxes of funfetti cake mix? I am somewhat pulled to go buy and make one, but, so far, it hasn’t happened. Too many other cakes to make.

For one thing, I am pretty sure that the box mix funfetti does not include brown/chocolate sprinkles, whereas my Kroger brand did. Seems minor, but, I think that the color array might look really different depending on the presence or absence of chocolate/brown sprinkles. Another thing is size and shape – are the funfetti sprinkles the same shape as the jimmies? And what about chemical reaction during baking? Do they both melt, or dissolve, or break down in similar fashions? These and other burning questions remain unanswered.

Now for the four layer part. Alden has long been really excited about my development as a cake baker and just exactly when I would be able to make the leap to four layer cakes. Classic “more is better” thinking on the part of the younger set. Here is the thing: a four layer cake is just two cake layers, each cut horizontally, making four. So, in truth, it is all a trick, and in fact less than a three layer cake. Lucky for me, when he saw me do the cutting the cake layers part, he thought it was cool, rather than a total cheap trick.

The cake was pretty, very white, as it was an egg whites only cake, and relatively tasty. But, not a knock your socks off cake. Alden wanted chocolate frosting, and, as always, I struggled with this part. In the end, I chose a chocolate ganache type frosting – I think it came from the lots-of-ways banana cake that I also have yet to write about – and it just was not all that special. This brings us back to the difficulty of finding great chocolate frosting recipes….

Not only did Alden get the funfetti cake, but, there were, of course, the obligatory school cupcakes. Being the ambitious soul that I am, I went for homemade cupcakes rather than a mix. I found the recipe for these on my friend Melissa’s blog, where she is writing about her experiences cooking out of the new Gourmet cookbook. She made these buttermilk cupcakes for a school function for her son, and I decided to follow. I read a lot about them, in the reviews and on her blog, so I was well forewarned, but, I just have to emphasize, in case anyone tries them: they really are exploding, and the quantities, as Gourmet talks about them, are really off. Recipe says 24 cupcakes, and I think I made slightly over 36. Notice, in this picture - of the cupcakes upside down - all the (now cooked) batter that overflowed on to the toaster oven tray (which I had to use for baking, as I had already filled all of my cupcake/muffin tins, and still, there was more batter to be dealt with)

In all honesty, I think these were a bit yummier than the cake. And, perhaps more importantly, look how cute they are.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Baked, Not Blogged

You might think there’s been no baking, based on the amount of writing about baking I am producing. But, no, baking continues, even when writing stalls. So, for those of you who check in from time to time, I thought I’d give you an update. Some of these cakes warrant proper entries, but, maybe, in the interests of time, and moving forward, I’ll let go of some of them.

In the meantime, here’s the rundown on what we, and our fine friends, neighbors and colleagues, have been getting to eat lately.

Alden’s birthday cake – the much anticipated homemade funfetti in four layers

Nicky’s Vanilla Cake

Nicky is Ruth Reichl’s son, and this cake is from her book, Garlic and Sapphires

All the rest of these are from the Dorie Greenspan:

Coconut Orange Tea Cake – two times, once a non dairy version.

Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake

Nutty Chocolaty Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake – three times

Apple Coconut Family Cake

note: this batter does not go with the apple-coconut family cake just mentioned. I just wanted to end with an action shot, so to speak.