Friday, August 3, 2007

Fifty Ways to Tweak a Cake

I'm looking forward to August as a month when I can actually rest. I have an entire stack of Victorian murder mysteries in sequential order piled up next to my bed, calling to me. I'm still tying up loose ends from last school year and beginning to fray the first threads of next. Yes, Kim, I promise to have my homeschooling co-op return packet to you by the end of the week. Cross my heart and hope to die. Hold that spot for me! As the fruits of the garden begin to flood in, I'm daily crawling through the bolt holes between the plants, groping for heavy fruit. And our buying club order has been put to bed for the month, so begins a whole new cycle of meditating and purchasing.

An interesting article flashed across Yahoo, stating that the weight of one's friends has a large influence on one's own personal weight and perception of what is an acceptable weight. Makes a lot of sense, though. As a buying club coordinator, I see how much influence the members have over each other in the purchases we make and the products that become popular. Like iron sharpens iron, we rub off on each other and encourage each other to think critically about what we buy and what we eat.

On the other hand, chocolate is chocolate and so requires no meditation. Just open that wrapper and enjoy, right? Endangered Species: It isn't junk food. It's a handful of anti-oxidents. Heh.

Interestingly, there are more and more people cropping up in my life who are re-evaluating what they eat, the value of it, and whether what we take for granted as being nutritious is actually such. It really challenges my own way of doing things, how we eat and how that is perceived. Some of my closest friends are starting to do the same and it is very rewarding to walk with them, exploring these topics. Everyone has their own baby steps and it's encouraging as more and more people around me start to take them.

My party planner just wrapped up another wonderful celebration of Dog and Bug's birthday. It was a Buzz Lightyear theme, which was a wonderful platform for every home educator's dream of weaving fun with learning. She set up game stations for each planet of the solar system...and we universally agreed that Pluto is a planet, thankyouverymuch. Each station had a task to accomplish, a fact to collect toward earning a prize for each planet. The yard was scattered with string, scraps of planetary factoids, games, scrambling, screaming kids and a boisterous good time.

How can you thank a friend for such meticulous planning, set up, and coordination? Well, when she's taking her own baby steps toward changing things, you do some baking for her. One of her own hobbits is coming up on a birthday and needs an almost everything-free cake. Well, have I got a recipe! One friend of mine said it reminded her of the German "schlopp" cake recipe provided to new brides as a vehicle to learn to bake on, a guaranteed success. This is one of those impervious recipes that can be stretched in fifty different directions and it will come out edible each time. It has a substitution option for almost every ingredient. Depending on the substitution, the texture, loft, and consistency may change some. Instead of a light, fluffy cake, you may get a dense, moist fudgy cake. Any way you jumble the combinations, it has lots of wiggle room.

Red Devil Cake

2 cups flour (I used 1.5 cups rice, 1/4 tapioca, 1/4 potato starch)
1 c sugar (I used 1/2 c date sugar, 1/4 c vegetable glycerin)
1/2 c cocoa powder or carob powder
2 t double acting baking powder (I used cream of tartar)
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1 t guar gum or xanthan gum
1 c diced cooked beets (I used pear puree)
1 c water or water to appropriate consistency (My uses average 1/4 cup)
1/3 c olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350* F. Lightly oil or spray two 8" square baking pan (I used a 9" round). Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl, combining well.

If using flax instead of eggs (see substitutions below), grind to meal in coffee grinder. Place 1/3 cup water in blender, start blending while adding flax meal. Blend 30 seconds. To flax mixture or to eggs in blender, add beets, 1 cup water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. While mixing, add guar or xanthan gum. Process until frothy and well blended.

Pour this quite thick liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix quickly just until everything is moistened and incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans and immediately bake for 35-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Watch carefully as it may take less time.

Frost when completely cool.


Add more cocoa/carob and chips to get a richer flavor
Sub 2 eggs with 2 T flax and 1 cup water
Sub 1/3 c mashed banana instead of eggs or flax
Sub carob instead of chocolate
Sub sweet potatoes, yams, squash, pears, or pumpkins for beets
Make cupcakes instead of cake (approx 15)

I've started hunting around for and collecting antique cookbooks. So much of what is published today bids the "assembler"--as opposed to "cook"--to open a box of this or a can of that. Old-fashioned cookbooks were textbooks in chemistry and explained how to make even the ingredients to put in the recipes. One such treasure came to me by way of my mother who, as a young wife, had been gifted this cookbook by a friend who had used it in her early years as well. The American Woman's Cookbook by Ruth Berolzheimer published in 1938, pg 481, provided me with the perfect almost everything-free frosting, which I tweaked slightly for us:

Maple Sugar Frosting

3/4 cup maple-sirup [sic]
1/4 cup sugar (I used maple sugar)
2 egg-white beaten
1/4 cup carob powder

Cook the sirup and sugar together until it spins a thread (220*F.), remove from the fire and cool while the egg-whites are beaten stiff and whipped with carob powder, then pour the sirup in a thin stream, over the stiff whites, beating the mixture until it is thick enough to spread. A rough surface may be obtained by spreading the top of the cake with the back of a spoon before the frosting is set.

Oh, yeah. Be careful. Hot maple syrup burns. Ask me how I know.

The frosting, too, is tweakable since the carob powder to color and flavor the icing was my addition. When Princess turned three, she decreed a pink birthday. Scrambling around a bit, I was able to juice a beet sufficiently to color the icing pink without adulterating the flavor. The smaller male Hobbits were put off by the knowledge that the pink had come from beets, but I was unabashed by their reluctance since that left more for the larger Hobbits to polish off with relish and aplomb.

I'd love to give credit where credit is due with regard to this marvelous cake. Alas, however, it is much like the urban legendary Neiman Marcus cookie recipe: it has made the rounds of the internet so many times that it seems impossible to trace where it came from. Someone out there definitely deserves kudos.


K Allrich said...

Yum, that cake looks spectacular. I've yet to conquer a gluten-free casein-free egg-free cake, but this cake give me hope!


Sheltie Girl said...

This is a wonderful cake. I haven't baked egg free in we successfully added egg whites back in for my youngest when she turned 5. I'll have to give this recipe a try.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten A Go Go

Loztnausten said...

Karina, if anyone can do it, you can! ;)

Sheltie girl, LMK how you liked it.

Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you've discovered the secret of cookbooks. Here's 2 you must get ~ The Joy of Cooking. 1953 edition (blue cover) and 1997 edition. They are my cooking bibles. No 'RR' packaged food assembling. Just from scratch, well explained, highly detailed recipes. The Grandson (Ethan) wrote the latest version, and he's a chef. Mom & Grandma were Germans in Cincinnati. Excellent stuff ~ mom received hers for her wedding, and I found a copy of it 20 y later at a used bookstore. Mid editions were for assemblers, and Ethan went back to the old paths of his maternal roots for the 1991 edition. Both copies are kept handy in my kitchen!

1991 ed even covers food allergens and GF cooking!


Loztnausten said...

Someone else just recommended this edition recently as well. I'm gonna hafta hunt this one down. Thanks for the recommendation!

Anonymous said...

I found a good old Fannie Farmer (Boston Cooking School) cookbook at a yard sale.

This sounds good, is the cake anything like Red Velvet Cake?

Loztnausten said...

Very much like. :) Just use beets instead of pear puree.