… from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? Did you know one of the biggest advancements in culinary achievement coming out of World War II was powdered egg? Most GIs hated them.
After the war an enterprising company developed a just-add-water cake mix that included powdered eggs. It was a horrible flop. After doing a little consumer research Duncan Hines discovered that meal-makers thought that if you cracked an egg into the mix, it was more well received and tasted more like homemade.
Now I never thought it was that hard to bake a cake. Afterall, all you have to do measure the ingredients, mix and bake. But for many it's hard to argue with the convenience of a box mix, especially when you're short on time and cake-baking expertise. While a box mix is okay in a pinch, it just doesn’t taste really homemade. But if you want it to taste like you really made it from scratch, try one or more of my special fixes and just remember to hide the box when you're done.
Just as Duncan Hines discovered, eggs make a difference. To get an extra rich and moist cake, stir in two extra egg yolks along with the eggs called for in the recipe. This is especially great for yellow cakes. Repurpose the egg whites for another use.
If you want a lighter and airy cake, use two egg whites and save the egg yolks for creamy custard or flan. Remember, taking out the yolks decreases the amount fat in the cake, so make sure to replace it with 1 tablespoon melted butter for every yolk removed. This works well for white cakes, too.
Milk vs. Water
Substitute the called-for water with whole milk or another liquid, preferably something with flavor and fat. You can also use a non-dairy milk (soy, almond and coconut milk work especially well). The milk adds fat, which results in better flavor
and crumb structure in the cake. To make a richer cake extra rich, swap out the milk for buttermilk. Buttermilk is extra thick, so use a few more tablespoons than the recipe calls for.
Think "outside of the box" literally. Experiment with soda (Coca Cola Chocolate is fantastic), fruit juice (orange is great with Orange-Vanilla-Yellow Cake), or even a stout beer (Extra Rich Irish Chocolate Cake). Add some brewed coffee or a shot of espresso to any Chocolate Cake. A combination of coffee and chocolate is a match made in heaven.
You Can Never Have Too Much Chocolate
Boost the flavor of a boxed chocolate cake mix by adding hot water and unsweetened cocoa powder. The hot water helps the cocoa to fully blossom (rehydrate). You can fully enrich the cake by using chocolate chunks or chips—Dark chocolate for chocolate cakes and white chocolate for white or yellow cakes. I use a ganache in all my cakes as suggested in my book, Choclatique—150 Simply Elegant Desserts. I know, what a shameless plug.
Fat is Where the Flavor’s At
Most box cake recipes call for vegetable oil. It does what fats are supposed to do but doesn’t really add any flavor. Try replacing the vegetable oil with an equal amount of melted salted butter to boost richness. For an extra decadent cake, add two tablespoons of mayonnaise or for a tangy twist, add up to 1/4 cup sour cream or full fat yogurt.
Flavor Every Bite
Bump up the flavor by adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla or almond extract. Add a little rum, almond, or orange extract to a Spice Cake or add a teaspoon or two teaspoons of fresh lemon or lime zest or a bit of juice. And don't forget all those ingredients in your cupboard that you would use in cookies, brownies or other cakes—cinnamon, chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit—will make your cake extra special.
ChefSecret: If you’re using an older box cake mix, add an extra teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a White or Yellow Cake mix to get that perfect rise. If you are making a Chocolate Cake, add 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar along with the baking powder.
Quip of the Day: Q: Why couldn't the teddy bear finish his birthday cake? A: He was already stuffed.
Coca-Cola® Chocolate Cake
It’s not that hard to make a cake from scratch… try this one if you are just starting out.
You may have heard of Coke being used in recipes like pot roast or Mexican carnitas, but did you know Coca-Cola® is actually delicious and functional in a cake as well? This sweet soda is the perfect addition to a homemade chocolate cake, plus it makes it lighter and fluffier.
Personally, I feel waiting for the cake to cool a bit before frosting is best. However, if you would like to make a Coca-Cola® cake in the traditional manner, pouring the frosting over it while the cake is still warm is the way to go for you.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 Cake—serves 8 people
For the cake
4 cups all-purpose flour
16 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, plus 2 for the dusting the pan
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups granulated sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
1 can (16-ounces) Coca-Cola®
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the icing
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup Coca-Cola®
8 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 boxes (1-lb.) powdered sugar
Make the Cake
Make the Icing
ChefSecret: Of all the recipes, the most widespread, according to the Coca-Cola® Company, is one for a gooey chocolate cake with miniature marshmallows, pecans and probably more calories per square inch than anyone can count.
Quip of the Day: Q. Did you hear about Coke's new soda just for blondes? A: It has "open other end" printed on the bottom.
Do you have a question or comment? Send your favorite recipes, pictures or thoughts to email@example.com. Recipes and cooking tips are posted on our website https://www.perspectives-la.com/covid-19-survival-guide.
To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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©PERSPECTIVES/The Consulting Group, LLC, 2023
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