Cherry Dessert

In which I explore some literature.

I have this view of Iowans as practical people.  People without a lot of nonsense.  Straightforward, honest, and hardworking.  It’s a stereotype to be sure. But then again, some of those stereotypes are reinforced by literature.  So maybe I’m not totally off-base.

In college, I would take weekend visits to my grandparents’ house.  I usually brought along homework of some sort.  One weekend I brought along a book I was reading for one of my classes.  It was called Making Hay.  Grandpa picked up the book, studied it for a minute and turned to my grandma.  “Dorothy, look at this. Verlyn Klinkenborg.” “Who?” I asked.  “Oh, he used to play with your uncle when they were kids.”  I almost asked if they were sure it was the same guy, but then I realized that the chances of two people having that name were slim.

For Christmas this year, my husband got me the book Prairie Fires since I have been a fan of the Little House books since I was young.   In it, the author discusses both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hamlin Garland‘s connection to Burr Oak, Iowa.  My grandparents introduced me to Hamlin Garland’s books when I was young.  We went on a tour of his house.  I can barely remember the trip, but my copy of Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly has moved with me for nearly 30 years.  DSCN3362The practical people that named some of these recipes were not nearly as eloquent as the writers which is why we have recipes named things like “Darned Good Candy” and “Cherry Dessert.”

So what is Cherry Dessert?  It’s a nut and cherry filled cake topped with a jammy cherry sauce and whipped cream.  It is delicious and addicting.

 

The first time I made it, I mixed everything up together (with cherries from my trees) and put it into a prepared 9×13 pan.  Before I even got it all into the pan, I realized that I probably should’ve used a smaller pan.  The cake layer was about equal to the whipped cream layer.  The bad part about this was that it took a large piece (or two) to leave me feeling satisfied and the cherry dessert would call my name as it sat in my fridge.  DSCN3368The second time I made it, I had much better results in a smaller 8×8 pan.  I neglected to let the cake cool completely before adding the whipped cream to the top.  The results were a bit runny and messy, but nonetheless incredible.

 

The sweetness of the cake, the tartness of the cherries, and the creamy layer all combine to make a dessert that satiates every dessert craving except chocolate.  It’s cool and a bit crunchy.  This is going to be a staple at my house during cherry season.   Cherry Dessert

Cherry Dessert

1 c sugar
1 egg
1 TB butter, melted
1 c flour
1 t soda
1/4 t salt
1 c sour cherries (reserve juice)
3/4 c nuts

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes

Cool.  Cover with whipped cream.

Heat juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 TB flour, 1 TB cornstarch.  Cook until thick.  Add 1 T butter. Chill, spread over cream.

 

Fruit Flavored Pound Cake

In which I speak in monotone.

Occasionally there is a recipe that I’ve made that I just have no passion for.  It’s not that it’s not a perfectly fine recipe, it’s more that it is just not my thing.

I let my son pick out the Jell-O and the cake mix for this recipe.  We used lemon cake and lime Jell-O.  Technically there was nothing wrong with this recipe.  It was fine, it made a cake.  I am sure I could’ve done something fabulous with icing or frosting or decoration to make this into more than it was, but I honestly just did not care enough to bother. DSCN2437The cake stuck to the pan and broke.  It didn’t look pretty any more.  I had enough stuff going on that I just didn’t bother to try to make this into something better.  I’m sure that part of this was that I had just gotten laid off from my job and didn’t have any specific prospects lined up.  Had I been my normal self, I would’ve rallied and taken the broken cake and some whipped cream or pudding and turned it into some sort of wonderful trifle like I did with the pistachio cake and fig jam, but I just wasn’t there.

Make this recipe or don’t.  Use whatever combination of Jell-O and cake mix you want.  The number of possible combinations is staggering.  Have better luck with it than I did.

I do think this may have inspired a different idea that I have, but haven’t tried out yet.  Fruit Flavor Pound Cake

 

Apple Butter Cake with Caramel Icing

It’s part of your American Heritage

I have this friend that has become quite the cook since I first started talking to him.  He takes trips to Italy and Morocco to learn about cuisine and comes home and replicates it in his kitchen.  He started baking bread a few years back and makes gorgeous loaves.  When the Great British Baking Show started being aired and he mentioned watching it, I knew it was a matter of time before he started to foray into cakes.  I think he made a game pie before he made his first cake.  I got pictures from him every step of the way.

I had a conversation with my neighbor the other day about baking cakes from scratch.  We usually talk with a fence between us.  It reminds me of the show Home Improvement.  We discussed how people just don’t make a lot of cakes from scratch any more, “But it’s not that hard” one of us said.  “And the cake is so much better.”  “You know everything that goes into it and it really doesn’t take that long.”  When I made this cake, I knew that we had to take her a piece.

This is not one of the sort of cakes you see on the Great British Baking Show, it’s not a delicate Angel Food cake full of air.  With every bite of this cake, you can taste your American heritage.  It’s a cake that just feels like it was developed on the prairies.  Something that, could they have afforded it, Ma Ingalls would’ve made for Pa, Laura, Mary, Carrie, and Grace for a special occasion.  Definitely something Laura would’ve made in her later years in Missouri. DSCN2864For this cake, I used my homemade apple butter.  If you don’t have homemade, just use whatever sort of apple butter you like or have access to.  (Apple butter is super easy in the crockpot, though, so you may want to try).

 

The Apple Butter cake is a butter cake.  There are a few types of cakes, and knowing which type of cake yours is can help determine what method to use while making it, even when just given a list of ingredients.  I used a 9×13 pan.

Ok, so after the cake was made and cooling on the counter, I knew it needed frosting.  But deciding which frosting is always a challenge.  I baked a jam cake in July and tempered the sweetness with some cream cheese frosting, but that didn’t seem right for this.  I dug around in the cookbook I made of my great-grandma’s recipes to find something suitable.  Caramel icing seemed perfect.  Making the caramel icing was not quite as easy as making the cake.  First of all, there is a HUGE typo in the recipe.  I verified on the original card to be sure.  Softball stage is 225, not 325.  I didn’t make the error, but felt necessary to call it out just in case.  Don’t skip the cooling down stage. And remember that frosting should take about 7 minutes to get really creamy and wonderful (it’s why there is a thing called 7 minute frosting).

 

I topped mine with pecans because I like a little crunch.  Leave them off if you don’t like them

DSCN2868No one complained about eating this cake for dessert 3 days in a row and they were a little sad there was none left on the 4th day.

Apple Butter Cake

Caramel Frosting

1 cup white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB butter

Combine sugar (white and brown), salt and milk, cook until syrup forms a soft ball (325° F) in cold water.  Remove from heat, add butter, and let cool.  Beat until cool and good spreading consistency.

Devils Food Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

In which I make a birthday cake.

We are deep in the middle of birthday season at our house.  Entrenched in what feels like constant present buying, cake making, perfect day planning.  We have a great many discussions about who wants what to eat, to play with, to do.  I can meet some of the requests like Shrimp and Olive Pie,even if I have to make it up.  The request for “chocolate cake with pink frosting” was a no-brainer.  I immediately found the cookbook I had made for grandma with her mom’s recipe box and turned to the cake and frosting section.  It was time to get serious.

There were multiple recipes for Devils Food cake.  I chose the one that looked like it made the most cake because I had visions of a layered cake with some sort of fluffy pink frosting.  Because it was a special occasion I got out my cocoa powder from Penzey’s.  It was one that I had gotten free with another purchase.  It was perfect in this cake.

DSCN2467There is a difference between homemade cakes and cakes from a box mix.  Making a cake isn’t a terribly difficult to do.  But you do have to have a basic understanding of the science before you can look at a recipe like the one I had.  First, in order to make a cake, you have to figure out how to create the lift.  There are, of course, the normal leavening ingredients, baking soda and baking powder, especially combined with an acid like buttermilk.  But it needs more fluff.  Creaming the butter and sugar creates volume.  Whipping the egg whites to soft or stiff peaks and folding those into the batter adds more air.  Air=lift.   dscn2462.jpg

This cake is a very nice chocolate cake.  A little dry in texture, but you know that you’ve eaten cake by the time you are done with a piece. It cries out for a thick creamy frosting to balance it out.  This is not a glaze and go sort of cake.  It’s not a cake that you could just sprinkle powdered sugar on and be content.  It would hold up to soaking syrups, jam between layers, or really anything that you wanted to do to it.  In this case, what I wanted to do was marshmallow frosting.

My inheritance from Great-Grandma included 3 recipes for marshmallow frosting.  I chose the one that did not require melting marshmallows because I didn’t feel like figuring out how many small marshmallows equals one big marshmallow.  I’m sure there is a conversion table on the web somewhere…DSCN2488

I am not sure that I’d ever had marshmallow frosting before.  Perhaps I did as a young child, but I don’t remember.  And this isn’t a choice that you get from bakeries.  You probably see it more frequently at cupcakeries, but most bakeries will offer you a choice of whipped cream frosting or buttercream and that’s a shame.  Marshmallow frosting is transformative.  It’s life changing.  It’s sweet and fluffy and a little spongy from the gelatin. It holds its shape.  It can be swirled and streaked.  It can make a cake look magazine perfect (if I’m not the one decorating it because I’m just not that good). Because the recipe said I could “flavor as you wish”, I decided to flavor it using some homemade strawberry jam since it needed to be pink.  I stand by this decision.  Ooey, gooey, subtly strawberry pink fluff.  On top of chocolate cake.  In between layers of chocolate cake.

You know those Sno Balls made by Hostess?  The ones that you may pick up on a road trip when you are craving something overly sweet?  The ones that come in packages of two and are vaguely neon-colored?  Cream filled, coconut covered balls of chocolate cake and marshmallow fluff?  This is the most grown up, best tasting version of that (minus the coconut).  It’s also the version where you can control the quality of the ingredients.

This is important.  Good ingredients well prepared makes good food.

All in all, the princess declared her cake delicious.  Between that and learning to rollerskate, I think she had a perfect birthday.DSCN2491

Devils Food Cake

2 cup sugar                            1/2 cup shortening
2 egg yolks                              1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup water                         1 tsp soda
2/3 cup sour milk                   2 cup flour
2 egg whites stiffly beaten     1 tsp vanilla

 

Icings
Marshmallow Icings

1/2 envelope Knox Gelatin
1 cup granulated sugar, Boil sugar with 5 TB of cold water until it threads well.
Dissolve the gelatin in 5 TB of cold water and let set while syrup is cooking.
Pour boiled mixture while hot into gelatin stir gently and let set until lukewarm.
Flavor to suit taste and beat until stiff.