The baking

Month: November, 2012

More cupcake cones

I made these cupcake cones a while ago.

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I baked them for a birthday of a fan of few sports teams whose colours include either blue and/or white.

The actual procedure and instructions for making these cupcake cones was nearly identical to what I wrote about in the recent post on Christmas tree cupcake cones.

But I used bigger, regular-size, ice cream cones to bake the cake batter in. And, before spooning the batter into the cones, I poured about half of it into another bowl and mixed in blue pigment gel dye. That’s right: the actual cake inside these cupcake cones was marbled blue and white. I got the marbled effect by alternately putting spoonfuls of either colour batter – I used a separate spoon for each bowl – into the cones until they were filled to about 1cm, or half an inch-ish, below the inside, straight, edge of the cones.

The batter recipe I used was the basic vanilla cupcakes recipe from the book Vegan cupcakes take over the world. You can find the recipe online by searching here. Or, I’ve typed out a slightly modified – to be, in my opinion, a bit shorter and simpler to follow – version of the cookbook authors’ instructions:

-1 cup unsweetened almond milk – you could also use water or soy milk, or another milk-ish beverage of your choice.

-1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar – you don’t need to use this, but, if you do, whisk it together with the 1 cup of liquid in a separate container and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the batter mixture.

-2 tablespoons cornstarch – arrowroot starch or another starch would probably work too, so you could experiment with this.

-3/5 teaspoon baking powder

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/3 cup canola oil

-3/4 cup sugar

-1 1/2 teaspoons liquid vanilla extract – you can use another liquid extract, such as almond, of your choice, or a combination of liquid extracts. I chose to use vanilla extract, and added about 2 teaspoons, which is slightly more than the recipe called for.

Mix the liquid ingredients together until they look like they’re well-blended. Then, add the non-liquid ingredients. Mix or beat the batter until it’s smooth and any large lumps are broken up.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes or until you judge that the cupcake cones are fully baked.  The cupcakes are done baking when a clean toothpick stuck into the centre of one of the cakes comes out without any batter stuck to it.

For the icing, I actually made two, separate, half batches of the frosting recipe here. I used liquid vanilla extract and soy milk as the liquid ingredients. I dyed one of the batches of icing blue with blue pigment gel dye. Then, I put alternate spoonfuls of the two colours of icing into my icing gun. I used a large, round/circle, icing tip to get the icing effect in the picture.

Cookies in cookies

Yes, this post is about cookies baked into cookies.

Like these cookies, with Oreos on the inside, salted chunky peanut butter and chocolate chip dough on the outside, and waffle-shape pretzels on top:

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Or these cookies:

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These particular cookies had double-stuff Fudgee-Os inside. The cookie dough on the outside was salted chunky peanut butter. The cookies didn’t survive long enough around a hungry Canadian Thankgiving weekend crowd for any cross-section pictures to be taken.

Here they are in a different shot:

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These delicious monstrosities also happened:

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The cookies in the photo above consisted of two Oreos, held together by a layer of salted peanut butter and chocolate chip fondant, and wrapped in a vanilla and chocolate chip dough. Only four of these cookies were ever made. And I baked them in heavy-duty muffin cups so that the dough wouldn’t spread everywhere.

Check out the pirate muffin paper.

I gave three of those cookies away; I ate the one cookie I kept over several sittings.

Anyway.
Baking cookies into cookies is actually really easy.

You can use the cookie dough of your choice with either other cookies that you have made or cookies – such as Oreos or Fudgee-Os – that you’ve bought.

My basic cookie recipe works pretty well, from my experience. If I want to use peanut butter, I use slightly less oil. And one or two giant spoonfuls of peanut butter usually does the job. Though you may prefer more or less.

You can also use whatever variety of chocolate chips, flavour extract, cocoa powder, nuts, and so on, that you’d like. You could even try almond butter, cashew butter, or something of the like instead of peanut butter. I’ve made almond butter cookies before – and they turned out well.

If you want to put two cookies inside a cookie, you can put a bit of cookie dough between the two cookies, or a bit of fondant, or a piece of chocolate, or pretty much anything that is edible and would be OK to go in the oven.

You can also use the pre-made cookie dough that’s sold in tubes at the grocery store. If you choose to do that, follow the baking time directions on the package.

When the dough is ready, break off pieces slightly larger than a golf ball.  You’ll probably need a bit more or a bit less depending on the size of the cookies you’re using on the inside of the cookies.

Flatten the pieces of dough in your hands, Then gently wrap and shape them around the cookies that you’re using on the inside, until the inside cookies are completely and evenly covered in the outside cookie dough.

If you’re adding a decoration – such as pretzels – that can go in the oven, gently press the decoration onto thee surface of each cookie.

Put the cookies on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the cookies look done.

The cookies are, probably, done when the edges look crispy and ever-so-slightly golden brown.

As you make more cookies, more often, you’ll get good at recognizing when they’re ready to come out the oven – if you aren’t already.

Carefully remove the cookies from the cookie sheet – it’s best to use a spatula or lifter – cool on a wire rack, and enjoy.

New kitchen equipment

I like simple kitchen equipment.

But I also like items that – in addition to being simple, high-quality, and easy-to use – have multiple functions.

This is a recent addition to my kitchen:

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It’s called the Griddler.

I bought this nearly two months ago. And I’ve used it several times per week since – including the time I made cinnamon-swirl French toast.

It was a little bit expensive: I held off and did a lot of research before buying. But, so far, I’m glad that I invested in this appliance.

Though I believe it’s possible that I may have annoyed people with enthusiastic raving about the appliance at recent get-togethers and parties.

Anyway.

What I like about this appliance is that it – as described on the website of a local store – has five functions in one device.

The cooking surface plates can be removed for easy cleaning. And you can buy separate plates for waffles – which adds another function AND lets you make waffles. Check out the waffle plates.

This appliance doesn’t take up much counter space either.

All win, in my opinion.

Christmas tree cupcakes

Obligatory one-month-to-Christmas post?

Sunday was November 25. And that means it’s one month to Christmas.

Whatever you’re up to around December-ish time, cupcakes are just fun.

And decorating cupcakes is fun too.

I made these cupcake cones on Sunday evening:

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The look I was going for was Christmas trees: chocolate and brown like a tree trunk on the bottom and green on top.

Yes. This post is about Christmas tree cupcake cones.

The chocolate cake batter recipe I used appears in this post. One small change: I used only about 1/2 cup of the cocoa – to make a light-looking chocolate. Like this:

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And I used a frosting recipe from the same post – but with green pigment gel food colouring.

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When the batter was ready to bake, I used a regular dessert spoon to spoon it into flat-bottom ice cream cones.

I found miniature ice cream cones at a grocery store. Any size of flat-bottom – the cones have to be able to stand up on a flat surface unsupported – will do.

Fill each cone about three quarters-ish of the way full. Like this:

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Then, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is pre-heating, arrange the cones on a cookie sheet or baking dish – I used an oven-safe glass baking pan. Carefully transfer the tray or baking dish to the oven: I do it by moving slow and using both hands to hold the dish steady.

Yes. You can really bake the cupcakes right in the ice cream cones. It just works.

Depending on the size of ice cones you use, the cupcake cones will take between about 20 and 40 minutes to fully bake. Check on the cake frequently. Use the oven window and light if you can – instead of opening the door and letting heat out. The cupcake cones are done when a toothpick stuck into the centre comes out without any cake batter stuck to it.

When the cupcake cones are done, carefully remove the tray or dish from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the cones are baking and cooling, you can start on the frosting.

And when the cones are fully cooled, it’s time to frost. I loaded up my icing gun to get the job done, but a pastry bag – with frosting tip of your choice – or even a zipper bag with a small hole cut in one corner will do the job. You can also spoon icing on with a spoon or spread it on with a knife.

This is my icing gun, filled with green icing and ready to go:

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Yes. Mechanical pastry bag is the proper name for this item. But I like to call it an icing gun.

I used the icing gun to push a small amount of icing onto the top of each cupcake cone. I shaped it like this:

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Then, I decorated – trimmed? – the trees.

I stuck a cinnamon heart on top of each tree.

I wanted star-shaped candy, but the store I bought the decorations at didn’t have anything star-shaped.

Then, I rolled the icing on the top of some of the cones in decorative coarse sugar sprinkles. And rolled others in edible silver ball candy decoration. By “rolled,” I mean that I took each cone individually and turned them over to carefully – with very little pressure – bring the icing in contact with the sprinkles or decoration.

You can pour the sprinkles or decoration out onto a plate or, if the bag or container is big enough, dip the cones directly into the container or bag that the sprinkles or decoration are in.

You can use pretty much any edible decoration you’d like.

This is what the final product looked like:

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The candle – it’s a tealight-size candle – should give some scale to the size of the cones I used to make the cupcakes.

Happy holiday baking.

Cinnamon-swirl French toast

As I was making that cinnamon loaf the other day, I got to thinking about what else I could make with the bread, once it was baked.

Fresh-baked bread doesn’t stay fresh for long.

You could eat it all. Or keep it fresh in the freezer. Or you could make French toast.

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French toast actually works best with bread that is a little bit stale.

To make the French toast, I started by pre-heating the cooking surface. I used my Cuisinart Griddler set at 400 degrees. But a frying pan – on medium to medium-high heat – and a bit of oil would work just as well.

Then, I prepared a mixing bowl – any bowl slightly larger than a regular cereal bowl will do – with:

-about 1 cup of almond milk and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Yes. Two ingredients. It’s that easy.

I used a bread knife to cut two slices of the cinnamon bread.

Then, I took each slice of bread individually and dipped it in the almond milk and cornstarch mixture. I moved each slice around and flipped them over so that the bread was fully covered in and soaked with the liquid.

And onto the cooking surface – or into the frying pan – for the bread. I left the slices to cook for about 5 minutes until they were crisp and golden brown on the outsides. If you’re using a frying pan, carefully flip each slice over after a few minutes of cooking time so that both sides cook and brown evenly.

This is what my two slices of French toast looked like when they were ready to eat:

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Then, onto a plate:

I topped my French toast with raspberries, blueberries, and a bit of maple syrup.

Most excellent.

You can make French toast with pretty much any bread. Bread seems to work better for French toast when it is slightly stale – it’s easier to cut and handle and gets less soggy when dipping in liquid – but fresh bread will work as well.

If you’re not working with spiced and sweetened bread like my cinnamon loaf, a better dipping mix recipe might be:

-1 to 2 cups of almond milk, soy milk, chocolate almond or soy milk, or another milk-ish beverage of your choice

-3-4 tablespoons of cornstarch

-2 teaspoons of sugar

-ground cinnamon and/or ground cloves and/or ground nutmeg to taste

-1 teaspoon of cocoa powder, optional.

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and use for dipping the bread. Adjust quantities if you will be dipping a lot of slices.

Cinnamon buns – in bread form

I’ve been wanting to make cinnamon buns.

I’ve made cinnamon buns before – with rather satisfactory results. Here’s a recent batch, right after I put them into the oven:

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But I wanted to try something different.

Yesterday afternoon, the idea came to me: I’d make cinnamon buns, but in bread form.

This is how the bread turned out:

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And here’s how I made it:

First: the dough:

I used a modified version of a sweet dinner rolls recipe that I found online about six months ago. I also used the dough cycle of a bread maker to actually prepare the dough. But you can also use a bowl. The ingredients from the recipe listed below -but made with the yeast dough instructions outlined on this link – should also work. If you use the linked yeast dough instructions, you can ignore the part about the electric mixer if you don’t have one: a spoon should do the job.

The recipe:

-1/2 cup water

-1/4 cup sugar – I used regular white fine-grain sugar

-2 tablespoons canola oil

-1 teaspoon salt

-2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water

-3 teaspoons yeast – I used regular/traditional yeast, bread machine or quick-rise yeast isn’t necessary

-1 teaspoon baking powder – if using a bread machine, add this at the same time you add the yeast. If using a bowl to mix the dough, add the baking powder along with the flour.

If you’re using a bread maker dough cycle, use the ingredients listed, but follow the dough cycle instructions in the owner’s manual. The dough will look like this when it’s ready:

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Once the dough is ready to go, it’s time to make the cinnamon filling.

The filling had:

-1/2 cup of sugar – I used regular, white, fine-grind sugar.

-1/4 cup of margarine – I used Earth Balance, but any margarine would do.

-1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon – I would have liked to use a bit more, but, well, I hadn’t planned ahead and that was the last of my cinnamon.

-1 teaspoon nutmeg – optional. I like a bit of nutmeg flavour, so I added nutmeg: you don’t have to.

-1 tablespoon cocoa powder – optional. I thought cocoa powder would taste good in the mix – and it did.

If you’d prefer more filling, adjust quantities of the filling ingredients.

I mixed the filling ingredients together in a bowl until they looked like this:

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Then, I took the dough and stretched it out on a clean counter. It helps to grease the dough or the surface – I used margarine – before stretching it out.

Stretch the dough out until it’s about 1/2 to 1 inch thick and about the size of an 8 1/2×14” piece of paper.

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Once the dough is stretched, spoon the cinnamon filling onto the dough and spread it evenly with the spoon.

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Then, roll the piece of dough together. Think jelly roll:

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Carefully lift the rolled-up piece of dough and fit it into a bread loaf pan. You may have to squish or shape the piece a bit to make it fit into the pan, but, it’s all good: bread dough is flexible.

Use a spoon or spatula to spread a thin layer of margarine on top of the dough once it’s in the pan:

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Leave the dough to rise for about 10 minutes.

Then, bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. Check on the bread frequently: it’s best to do this through the oven door window, if you have one, so as not to let too much heat out.

The bread is probably ready once it looks like it’s risen, and firm, and the top has started to turn golden brown.

Carefully remove the loaf tray from the oven, allow the bread to cool, and enjoy.

To make actual cinnamon buns, and not bread, use the same recipe, but:

-Stretch the dough into a bigger and longer piece before adding the topping. Try to picture two 8 1/2×14” pieces of paper lined up together on the narrow ends and aim for a piece of dough stretched to that size.

-Make a bit more filling.

-Roll the stretched, spread with filling, dough into a jelly roll shape along the long side.

-Use a serrated knife – you can use any knife, really, but I think a serrated knife like a bread knife would be easiest – to cut pieces of the roll off. I made the pieces about 2 inches long/tall each and immediately arranged them into an oven-safe dish. See the very first picture of this post for reference.

Another idea: I think that this bread – sliced thickly – would make excellent French toast.

Chocolate truffles

I made these chocolate truffles last month.

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Inside that chocolate coating was a thick cocoa and beer – I used some of my brown ale homebrew – fondant.

Chocolate truffles are really quite easy to make.

You start with making a fondant filling – basically a really thick icing. A recipe idea will be at the bottom of this post. Once the filling is made, shape it into pieces – then, arrange the pieces on a tray.

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The fondant pieces might be easier to handle for the next step – chocolate coating – if you store them in the fridge when not actually working with them.

Next, it’s chocolate melting time.

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This is also time for me to repeat my statement in a previous post that you don’t NEED complicated or fancy equipment to bake awesome stuff. I used regular old semi-sweet chocolate chips and – as I do not have a double boiler – melted them in a small pot carefully suspended over a slightly larger pot with a bit of water in it.

Keys to success with the two pots or double boiler method of melting chocolate would be:

-don’t use too much water, you really only need an inch or two.

-bring the water in the pot to a gradual boil and then reduce heat – but keep the two pots on the stove burner.

-try not to splash water into the pot with the chocolate in it. Too much water added to chocolate will result in a weird, hard, extremely unappealing and hard to work with texture to the chocolate.

-stir frequently and carefully so that the chocolate melts evenly and stays well-blended once it’s melted.

You can also melt chocolate in the microwave, in any microwave safe bowl. Just be careful to check on the chocolate as you melt it so that it doesn’t get burnt.

Next, line a big, flat plate – or another tray, I used a cookie sheet – with tin foil.

Now, it’s chocolate dipping time.

Take fondant pieces individually, dip them into the pot of chocolate, and then transfer the dipped pieces onto the foil-lined plate or tray.

To handle the pieces as you dip them, you can use a chocolate fork – or you can do as I did and use bamboo kebab skewers, which are cheap and readily available at grocery stores. One of my bamboo skewers makes a special appearance in the melting pot picture above: I actually used a skewer to stir the chocolate as well.

I find it easiest to handle the pieces with two skewers – kind of a similar idea to using chopsticks, but with one skewer in each hand.

Now – while the chocolate is still melted – is the time to put on any decorations, sprinkles, topping, etc. that you want to use. I put alphabet-shape pretzels on some of the truffles in this particular batch. I sprinkled others with Celtic sea salt.
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When all of the pieces are coated in chocolate, transfer the foil-lined tray to the fridge to cool. If you want your truffles faster, you can cool the tray in the freezer too.

For the fondant filling, the basic recipe is:

-1/2 cup margarine – I usually use Earth Balance brand, but any margarine that is firm like butter when it’s in the fridge will work. And the margarine is easier to work with if you bring it to room temperature before using it.

-4 tablespoons cocoa powder – if you want plain, non-chocolate, truffles, replace the cocoa powder with an equivalent quantity of icing sugar.

-2 tbsp liquid vanilla extract

-3 cups icing sugar

Start with mixing the margarine, cocoa powder, and vanilla together first. Then gradually add the icing sugar. The mixture will get VERY thick, but I found I could still mix it, with some effort, with a regular spoon. Add more icing sugar if you’d like a thicker fondant.

For the chocolate, regular semi-sweet chocolate chips will work. You could also use coating wafers, white chocolate, or coloured wafers. it’s really up to you. But you’ll need around two cups of whatever coating you use – more if you do a thick coating or if you make a larger number of pieces.

For this specific batch of truffles, I modified my recipe by:

-replacing the liquid vanilla extract with one packet of vanilla sugar.

-only using about 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

-adding about 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt – I  find that chocolate often works well with salt.

-using about 1/4 cup of homebrewed brown ale beer as the liquid ingredient

-using about 3 1/2 to four cups of icing sugar – the extra icing sugar was to compensate for the extra liquid I added by using beer.

I liked the modification I used quite a lot.

I found that the beer flavour wasn’t very strong. But some of the other people who tried the truffles told me that they tasted beer right away – and liked it.

I’m thinking that I’d like to try another modified version where I replace some of the margarine with peanut butter.

No, really, an old-school egg beater

This is my egg beater:

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It is, really, what I use to mix anything – be it a cake batter or frosting – where a spoon or a whisk won’t do the job.

I’ve had it for years.

I works for me.

I live in a small apartment and have limited counter and storage space. I do have my eyes on a few models of stand mixers, but I’m happy with this old egg beater for now.

You don’t NEED complicated or fancy equipment to bake awesome stuff.

Pumpkin pie and pecans

This is a pumpkin pie with pecans baked on top.

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A few years ago, I baked a plain pumpkin pie. One of the people I served said pumpkin pie to suggested that I make another pumpkin pie with pecans on top and call it “pumpcan pie.”

Just over a week ago, I finally made pumpcan pie. I took it to a friend’s Sunday potluck. Everyone who tried it said they liked it: this pleased me.

To start, you’ll need:

1 pastry pie crust – you can make your own crust from scratch, use a mix, or buy a prepared crust. You don’t need to parbake the crust, but you should thaw the crust if you are using a frozen, pre-baked crust. Put the crust into the pie pan of your choice. I usually use an oven-safe glass pie pan, but I also use aluminum pans sometimes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling:

-just over 3/4 of one of the big – they’re usually about 540 mL in Canada and 16-18 oz in the U.S. – cans of plain, pumpkin-only, pumpkin purée.

-ground sugar – I would probably use just under a cup of sugar, but you may want to use more.

-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon – I usually use a bit more, so spice to your taste

-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger – or, try what I did and cut a piece of fresh ginger that is about 1 inch by 1 inch, peel it, chop it finely, and add it in.

-1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg – I usually use a bit more, so spice to your taste

-pinch of ground clove

-1/2 teaspoon salt – I used a slight amount more, probably closer to 3/4 of a teaspoon

-4 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

-1 tablespoon of cocoa powder – this is optional, but I opted to add it  to the pie and to this recipe

Mix all of the ingredients together. Add soy milk, water, or a liquid of your choice – I think coffee would taste pretty good, but I used soy milk – until you have a smooth, but still relatively thick, paste.

Pour the paste into the pie crust and spread out evenly with a butter knife or spatula. Be careful not to overfill the crust: leave about 3/4 of an inch of crust around the edges of the pie.

Sprinkle approximately 1/2 cup of whole or chopped pecans on top of the pie. I used whole pecans that I bought in bulk and chopped at home.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour.

Check on the pie from time to time so that it doesn’t burn.

The pie is done when the filling looks firm – it often begins to crack around the edges – or when a knife carefully inserted into the centre of the pie comes out clean.

Carefully remove the pie from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.

The pie should be edible as soon as it’s cool enough for you to eat, but, for best results, pumpkin pie is best left to set in the fridge for a few hours. You can quickly re-heat it later on if you’d like.

Chocolate cake nod to the 1980s

I got the idea to make a cake like this a while ago.

And I made it a few weeks ago.

The cake managed to stop chasing ghosts for long enough for me take a picture.

The cake was a double-layer, very dense and moist, chocolate cake. The icing was vanilla-flavour buttercream-style.

The cake and icing were both made from scratch.

I made the cake with a – rather heavily – modified version of a Devil’s food cake recipe in an old cookbook I have. I’ve been using various versions of that particular recipe for at least 10-15 years: I remember using the recipe as a kid. The cookbook page that the original recipe is on may or may not have small traces of batter splatter on it.

For the icing, I threw the ingredients in a bowl and mixed until the icing was the consistency I wanted.

The vibrant yellow and dark black colours were thanks to using pigment gel food colouring – not the liquid food colouring that comes in dropper bottles.

The advantage of using pigment colouring is that the colouring is so concentrated that very little gel is needed to achieve dark or bright colours. Also, as it’s a gel and not a liquid, using pigment colour probably won’t mess with the consistency of your icing.

Pigment gel food colouring can be found at many grocery stores, baking supplies stores, and – in Canada – stores such as Bulk Barn. The packaging will look something like this:

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Ok, so here’s the cake recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare the cake pan or pans that you’d like to use by lightly greasing the inside surfaces with margarine or shortening. Then, coat the greased pan insides with a light layer of flour.

In a bowl, mix together:

-3/4 cup canola oil

-1 1/2 cups sugar – I usually use regular fine grind white sugar

-1 1/2 – 2 cups water or another liquid – I usually add around 2 cups liquid total and sometimes use chilled coffee instead of water. More water – as long as you don’t add too much, makes the finished cake more moist and dense

-1 teaspoon salt

-3 teaspoons vanilla extract or another liquid flavour extract. Vanilla sugar also works.

-2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-2/3 cup cocoa powder

-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – I usually use all-purpose unbleached wheat flour

Beat all ingredients together for about two to three minutes or until fully blended and the desired consistency. The consistency you should be aiming for is somewhere between a thick soup and pancake batter. Gradually add small quantities of water or another liquid if the batter is too thick. Remember to stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula a few times so that everything is mixed together.

Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick stuck into the centre of the cake comes out without any batter sticking to it.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

You can make the icing ahead of time. But it’s best to wait until the cake or cake layers are fully cooled before decorating the cake.

To make the icing:

-1/4 cup of margarine – use a margarine that is firm like butter when it’s stored in the fridge. I usually use Earth Balance brand margarine.

-1/4 cup of shortening – You could also use either 1/2 cup of margarine or 1/2 cup of shortening instead of both shortening and margarine. When measuring shortening, it’s helpful to remember that most vegetable shortening is sold in boxes with cut lines/measurements printed on them. You can use the cut lines as a guide to measure shortening when adding it. And you can the size of the cut piece of shortening to estimate how much margarine to use. It also helps to bring the margarine and/or shortening to room temperature before using it to make icing.

-1/2 cup liquid – I usually use coffee or soy milk. I have also used beer or whiskey. Pretty much any consumable liquid could be used.

-2 teaspoons liquid vanilla extract or other flavouring. You could also just use more of whatever other liquid you are using.

-4 to 6 cups icing sugar

Mix the margarine and shortening together until well-blended. Add food colouring at this stage. If you want to add more food colouring, you can add it, gradually, later.

Add about half of the icing sugar and mix.

Add the liquid and the flavour extract.

Mix.

Gradually add more of the icing sugar. Mix and add more icing sugar until the icing is of the consistency and thickness you’d like.

I usually use an old-school hand-powered egg beater to mix icing, but you could also use and electric beater or stand mixer.

To decorate the cake the way I did, I made a batch of plain, non-coloured, icing. I set a small amount of icing aside and coloured it black. I coloured the rest of the icing yellow.

I iced the cake with yellow frosting first.  Then, armed only with  a spatula and a butter knife, I carefully iced the sections with black icing. You could also achieve a similar effect to what I did with black icing by cutting a slice out of the cake before frosting the outside.