Sunday, August 19, 2007

Four Corners Chocolate Cake (paca)

B declared over and over on Wednesday and Thursday that he wanted to bake a cake. And so, on Thursday night, we did.

I am certainly no cake expert, having created maybe four in my entire life. Moreover, the last one I tried was dry and lame. However, this project wasn't about making good food; it was about having an activity for B and I to do, and so we pulled out one of his two recipe books. This one was Kitchen for Kids by Jennifer Low. I found the first chocolate cake recipe in the book, but I had a dim memory that this may have been the recipe used for our last really bad cake. Therefore, we flipped and found Four Corners Cake, and when we were all done (which took about 10 minutes longer than B was able to keep his attention on the project), it was remarkably good. I mean, it was actually a pretty decent cake, which shocked me.

The only modification we made was that the recipe calls for a tsp of white vinegar. We didn't have it, and so subbed in red wine vinegar. I have no idea if this made any difference. By completely random chance, I heard a little bit about vinegar in cakes on NPR's All Things Considered a couple days earlier, and supposedly the vinegar acts with the baking soda as a leavening agent. The cake was indeed pretty poofy. We also made an icing from scratch, but either I really messed up on the recipe or the recipe was deeply flawed. I was actually attempting to cream butter into a half cup of condensed milk. How can you cream butter into a liquid? Is it possible at all? We ended up with a cocoa soup that we tossed and went to buy a can of icing at the store. Here's the recipe that worked and worked pretty darn well for the cake.

1.25 c. flour
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c. SOFTENED butter (How could anything with a cup of sugar and a half cup of butter turn out bad?)
1 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white (or red wine) vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8 x 8 in. baking pan and line with parchment paper (we used wax paper).

Dump the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift/mix.

In a second bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Use a whisk to stir in the egg, milk, and vanilla (but not vinegar yet). "Don't worry if it is a little lumpy."

Still stirring with a whisk, add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time to the wet stuff. When batter is smooth, stir in the vinegar.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake about 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. (We ended up cooking longer, but, to keep a long story short, our oven cooks at a setting +/- 50 degrees.)

To unmold the cake, run a dinner knife along the edges, and then carefully lift it out using the parchment paper. Let it cool completely, and then ice the cake if desired.

In case you are wondering how a four year old helps with this, he does things like hold the measuring cup over the bowl while I measure out a cup of flower. He also can stir, and we crack the eggs together. Yeah, it's prone for errors, but if he's not sometimes messing up dinner, he's off by himself, where he might, oh, just taking something completely off the top of my head that most certainly did not occur earlier today, like, stick a chopstick into a fan, setting off this hideous cracking and grinding sound, destroying both the fan and the chopstick. Something like that. That's your choice. Inexact baking or chopstick in the fan. I'm just saying.


Ello said...

I feel your pain! How about finding a pancake (covered in maple syrup) in the dvd player? Grapes placed artfully under the sofa cushions? My makeup covering every face of every doll, stuffed animal, picture and figurine in the house, including on Dad's sleeping face? Nail polish used to paint stars and hearts on m brand new furniture?

I think you got a great idea there with the baking! I don't let them help in the kitchen because I can't deal with the mess and so they make it elsewhere. Perhaps containing it in the kitchen is safer!

December/Stacia said...

*Sigh* I miss cooking with unsweetened cocoa powder. Can't find it, or semisweet, anywhere here.

Sammy Jankis said...

I think you have to let butter soften by leaving it out for awhile, and then it really only "creams" well if you're mixing it with some other substance . . . at least from my limited experience making dirt cake.