Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back of the Box Blog 1-2-3-4 Cake

I have been fascinated with the recipes on back of the boxes and bottles that I buy. I will buy butter and inside the box are a few recipes that, on sight, look good. I started trying a few here and there and found that more often than not, the recipes were accurate and delicious.

This week I made a vanilla  cake recipe from the back of the Swans Down Cake Flour box. There was a recipe for a vanilla cake, chocolate cake and pound cake. I was impressed that they would cover the three main bases and got a good feeling about the recipe right away. Also, the ingredients and method were very appealing. I had thought that I might like to give such a plain cake a little oomph with a little almond extract only to find that ingredient already listed in the recipe.  I was really set on making it.
Making the cake is a breeze. It is as straight forward as its name. Here are a couple of things I do for cakes though to give them their best shot at yumminess. I sift the dry ingredients together as the recipe requires but then I use a wire whip and stir the flour mixture for about a minute more, ensuring that the leaven is well distributed and the mixture is aerated for a light cake. I read this trick from BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. While I like her explanations of the hows and whys of baking, I find her recipes too sweet and too  cumbersome.

The recipe for this cake called for three  9- inch pans. I do not know too many people who have this pan set up in their home kitchen. I don't and I have a lot of pans. I teach cake decorating and all of our practice cakes are 8-inch pans. I was making this cake for a class so I used  two 8-inch pans. The cakes rose beautifully. They took 30 minutes instead of the recipe's 20  minutes but that was expected. I just kept hovering after 20 minutes. The cakes did cling to the sides of the pan but that happens with almost every vanilla cake I have ever made. I let the cakes cool 10 minutes and then use a thin, flexible spatula to loosen the sides.
This cake smelled wonderful coming out of the oven. It was a beautiful color. It tasted really great if you like the almond flavor. I made a second batch using 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. It was much better with just that hint of almond.

My big test for a vanilla cake is the next day. Cakes such as these seem to deteriorate on flavor  perhaps due to their simplicity, they don't have much there to keep them fresh. I found this cake to be almost better the next day. The almond flavor  of the first batch was not as noticeable. The second batch had no real discernible almond flavor, just a richer taste.   Both batches had a bright aftertaste as opposed to that heavy tongue coating flavor that usually happens when cake goes bad.
The cake is soft in texture, I should add. Many of the vanilla cakes I make are a bit dense. I try not to refrigerate vanilla cakes if possible. I find it changes the texture a lot. But if I need to chill them, I try to choose a really creamy, flavorful filling to compensate.

I am going to keep this recipe for sure. I  plan to play with flavorings, maybe add a little orange zest here or espresso powder there. I think this recipe will adapt well. Here is the recipe with the adjustment for the almond extract.

1-2-3-4 Cake      
 adapted from the Swans Down Cake Flour box

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour, sifted
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pans by spraying with food release and lining bottoms with parchment paper.
 Cream the butter in a large bowl. Gradually add the sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Sift the cake flour with baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the creamed mixture beating well after each addition. Add the flour alternately with the milk and flavorings blending after each addition until smooth. Do not over beat. Pour into prepared pans.
 Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with loose crumbs attached.
 Cool cakes in pans on a rack for about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool to room temperature before decorating.

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