November 2006: Fifth Slice
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Hello from the newsletter desk, and my apologies for not writing sooner. It’s been one crazy year, finishing up a new cookbook to be published September 2007. And I’ve been collaborating with Oxmoor House publishing (Southern Living) on a Christmas cookbook to be on newsstands soon, hopefully just in time to meet your holiday recipe needs. So, I’m back. I can’t believe fall has flown by and that the best food holidays of the year are upon us…
Earlier in the fall I was the guest at a ladies club here in Nashville, and I was asked to speak to the membership about my books, about cooking when you are in a hurry, mostly light and entertaining stuff. Yet, this was a place where my mother had been a longtime member, and since her death five years ago from breast cancer I had not seen many of her friends gathered all in one place and sitting in front of me. Fearing my voice might crack and tears might fill my eyes when I thought of her, I told the crowd of more than 200 that I could feel my mother’s love in the room. Then, instead of tears, I felt relief. My mom’s love was in that room, and I have learned it’s amazing where a mother’s love turns up.
A friend recently told me she still bakes bread the way her mother did just so she can smell the bread baking in the oven. “When that bread bakes, my mother is in the kitchen.” I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind so I pulled my mother’s bread recipe from a wooden box and baked it last weekend. I could have been 10 all over again and walking in a trance into her kitchen to follow that heavenly smell. My family feels the same way when we frost a caramel cake with my mom’s caramel frosting, and Christmas would not be Christmas without her toffee—the production of it, the candy thermometer, the chopping of fresh pecans and breaking apart milk chocolate bars. In all these recipes, Bebe, as we called her, is with us.
No doubt there are recipes in your family that remind you of ones you love. Pull them out and bake them this week. Our world is an unsettled place, and the daily news is depressing. But you can boost the love in your home and in your community by sharing recipes and food and love. A mother’s—or father’s, or aunt’s, or sister’s—love can fill a room. Let the aroma or just the story of a familiar recipe surround you.
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New things are cooking at CakeMixDoctor.com. You may have noticed that this newsletter looks a little different than in the past. In fact, there are little updates all over the site, including a new way to search for recipes, but the most exciting addition is Anne’s blog on the homepage! She’ll be updating it with tidbits about her new book, baking news, and all kinds of other things she wants to share between newsletters. ‘Tis the season for holiday baking and the Cake Mix Doctor is on-call. As always, if you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we hope that you all enjoy the new features.
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For years I have loved flipping through Christmas and holiday cookbooks, getting decorating ideas, and thinking ahead for menus to feed family and friends. I hope you will find the Christmas Cookbook from the Cake Mix Doctor a much-needed collection of those ideas and recipes to use all winter. The price is $9.95. If you cannot find it on a newsstand near you, simply order it directly from Oxmoor House.
The photographs were shot at my home in June. Yes, June! We had a turkey in the oven, greenery on the front door, and the air conditioning humming. I will most likely host Christmas Eve for our extended family this year, and so these stress-saving tips from the book are ones I live by:
Christmas Dinner Stress-Savers:
- This time of year, refrigerator storage space is at a premium, so start a new holiday ritual—a weekly refrigerator cleaning.
- Plan ahead. Have the table set, flowers arranged, and anything non-food related done the day before.
- Designate an area for beverages so guests can serve themselves.
- Identify serving pieces and utensils for each dish ahead of time.
- Prepare as many recipes ahead of time as possible.
Many of you were in search of a Cinnabon Cake, and whereas the Honey Bun Cake in my first book might be the closest thing to a soft and delectable cinnamon roll, I searched for something new. What evolved is a wonderful Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe, just right for holiday brunches and gift-giving.
Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Serves: 12 to 16
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 52 to 55 minutes
Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
All-purpose flour for dusting the pan
1 package (18.5 ounces) plain butter recipe yellow cake mix
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, if desired
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 10-inch tube pan with the vegetable oil spray, and dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside.
2. Place the cake mix and flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Measure out 2 tablespoons of this mixture and place it in a small bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and pecans, if desired, to the small bowl and stir to combine. Set this aside.
3. Add the sour cream, eggs, oil, water, and vanilla to the large mixing bowl with the cake mix and flour. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Stop the machine, and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the speed to medium and blend 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more, or until the mixture is well combined and has lightened in texture. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. With your fingers scatter all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar and cinnamon filling on top of the batter. Spoon the remaining batter into the pan, and carefully spread it out so as not to disturb the sugar layer. Sprinkle the remaining filling on top of the batter, and place the pan in the oven.
4. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed and the top has lightly browned, 52 to 55 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and place on a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and invert the cake once, then again so that the cake rests right-side up on the cooling rack. Let it cool for 30 minutes, then slice and serve.
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Shelley Lindstrom writes about how much her husband loves the Perfect Chocolate Cake (Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor). “My husband said it was the best thing he’s ever eaten! My question is that the frosting never reached a consistency that I could spread. It was so fudgy all I could do was drape it off the sides—which was fine by me, but I never got a complete cover on the sides…Can you give me an idea of what might have gone wrong?”
When you work with cooked frostings, such as this frosting for the Perfect Chocolate Cake, you need to begin frosting the cake when the frosting still appears runny. It will go on smoothly, and it will set up on the cake as it cools. If you wait too long, and the frosting hardens, it is nearly impossible to smooth over the cake. When this happens, place the pan in a bowl filled with a little hot water, stir, and the frosting will loosen up and be easier to spread.
And Dolores Hardy wants to know the best way to drizzle glaze onto pound cakes. “When I use the spoon it doesn’t look right to me.”
Depending on the thickness of the glaze, I often pour right from the saucepan. I hold the pan in my right hand above the cake, and with my left hand rotate the cake plate so that the glaze goes full circle. You kind of make a zig-zag motion with the pan, sort of a front-back, back-front, so that the glaze covers the front edges, top, and the inner edges as well. If all else fails, buy clean plastic squirt bottles from a cookware shop or restaurant supply store and pour the glaze into these. Squirt them onto the cake, warming the glaze up with your palms if it gets too cold to pour. We like to glaze gingerbread cookies during the holidays, and I will fill squirt bottles with glaze so my children can easily glaze cookies with designs once the cookies have cooled.
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A wonderful cake for New Year’s Eve. A terrific frosting from a reader. And more of your questions, and my answers.
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