Bake Your Cake and Eat it Too
Birth is an important event that we mark year after year with one of the most important human inventions ever: cake. Cake is versatile and fantastic and everybody likes at least some form of it. We use it to celebrate all kinds of things from weddings to office events.
This week I made three very different cakes. All would work for a birthday celebration, and all are easy to make. The Southern Comfort cake and the cherry chocolate cheesecake are even better if you make them the day before. How convenient is that? Now you have no excuse not to have delicious homemade yumsters for your next birth celebration.
1-2-3-4 Cake (from the back of the Swan’s Down cake flour box)
I knew I wanted to make a layer cake, and since this recipe was on the back of my cake box, I thought why not try it? I’ve made Martha Stewart’s yellow cake before, with pretty mixed results. It’s possible some bug spray made it into the cake while we were outside, which certainly isn’t Martha’s fault. Regardless, I do not have fond memories of the cake. For any cake like this, make sure you just mix the ingredients enough to blend them – overmixing leads to a tougher, dryer cake.
I also added the maraschino cherries to the top and juice to the batter and icing because my sister Julia always requested a cherry cake from my grandmother. It was probably the only cake that put in a regular appearance at any of our birthdays.
1 c. butter (I used Earth Balance)
2 c. sugar
3 c. Swan’s Down cake flour
3 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk (I used ¾ c. vanilla coconut milk and ¼ c. maraschino cherry juice)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract (I didn’t have this on hand and didn’t use it, but it would taste really good with cherry flavoring)
1/3 c. softened butter
3 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk (I used coconut milk again)
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Cream butter; gradually add sugar (process should take 10 minutes). Sift flour, etc. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour mixture alternately with milk and flavorings. Fill three 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (Make sure you rotate your cake pans – I did not and one of mine got kind of burned. Luckily I’d split the batter between four pans so I still had a respectable three layers.)
To make the icing, blend together all ingredients thoroughly. For this cake, I added about a tbsp of maraschino cherry juice as well a couple drops of red food coloring.
You can ice the cake after it has cooled completely (I know – it’s hard to wait). This icing recipe is fantastic and I use it all the time. It’s a buttercream recipe that my mom always used from Betty Crocker. I probably ended up adding another cup or two of powdered sugar and a couple more tablespoons of milk, but I think for a layer cake I would just double the recipe in the future. Also, I mixed this one by hand, but an electric mixer sure would have come in handy.
Southern Comfort Cake (I’m honestly not sure where this is from anymore. The printout I have is from allrecipes.com, but I know that’s one I looked up because I lost my other copy)
I admit, this is one of my go-to cakes, mostly because people always remark how unusual it is (but now I’m sharing it with you, so perhaps it’s uniqueness will dissipate). This recipe is pretty much the same as a basic rum cake recipe, and honestly, I’m not sure why you couldn’t put in other liquors. Tequila cake sounds gross, but whiskey cake sounds divine. This cake usually gets pretty rave reviews and it’s a really forgiving cake. I know I’ve made it before when I didn’t have full amounts of the ingredients on hand and it still worked out pretty okay. Like I mentioned this is actually better to make the day before because the glaze really works its way in to the rest of the cake.
1 package yellow cake mix (you can do this homemade if you want, but I just bought mine. Most of Duncan Hines cake mixes are dairy free)
1(3.5 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix (I always use chocolate because I think it’s more fun. You could use anything really - pistachio would be pretty interesting. Also, I think most pudding mixes are now 3.9 oz – I’ve never noticed that it made a difference)
½ c. milk (I used vanilla coconut milk again)
½ c. vegetable oil
½ c. Southern Comfort
1 ½ c. chopped walnuts
¼ c. butter (Earth Balance again)
1/8 c. water and ½ c. sugar
¼ c. Southern Comfort
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray one 9-in. bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray (I searched in vain for a bundt pan and ended up using an angel food cake pan lined with foil. It seemed to work just fine).
2. Combine the cake mix, instant vanilla pudding, eggs, milk, oil, Southern Comfort, and chopped walnuts. Beat for 2 minutes. Then pour batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a cake dish. Poke holes in the top with a fork or kebab stick (guess which one I used).
4. As cake is cooling, prepare glaze. Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in water and sugar. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Southern Comfort (if you want it less alcoholic mix in the booze while it’s still on the stove since this will cook off the alcohol. Don’t stand right above it though since the fumes will get in your eyes). Pour half of glaze on cake, focusing on the holes so it gets into the cake itself. Let the cake cool completely, reheat glaze, and pour the rest over the top. Sift 1 tbsp powdered sugar on top and garnish with more walnuts if you want.
Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake (from Party Vegan by Robin Robertson)
A note before we begin – I didn’t want two cherry cakes (even though this one is real cherries), so I used strawberries and strawberry jam instead. Also, this is from a vegan cookbook, but you could easily substitute your dairy-filled ingredients in. I know I’ve made several cheesecake recipes substituting the other way and I’ve never had to adjust much for cooking time or whatever.
Guys, this cake was SO EASY. And really fucking good. I totally recommend this as an easy holiday or birthday cake. I couldn’t believe how fast the prep work was. It seriously took longer to cut the strawberries than it did to make the rest of the cake. And it’s a good traveling cake, since it doesn’t need to stay warm and it’s pretty compact, so you aren’t going to knock off a layer or mess up the icing or anything.
1 c. vegan chocolate cookie crumbs (did you guys know Oreos are vegan?)
3 tbsp vegan margarine, melted
2/3 c. vegan semisweet choc chips
2 8-oz containers vegan cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup plain or vanilla nondairy milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cherry jam (like I said, I used strawberry)
12 fresh ripe cherries, pitted (I used chopped strawberries – really in any season fruit combo would be good. Raspberries are always fantastic with chocolate)
¼ c sliced almonds, toasted (I didn’t have any of these so I didn’t use them)
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 7-in springform pan and set aside. Place the cookie crumbs in the prepared pan and drizzle in as much of the margarine as needed to moisten the crumbs, mixing with a fork to combine. Press the crumb mixture into bottom and sides of the pan and set aside.
2. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave and keep warm. (Note: if you are melting in the microwave, melt in 30 second increments for the first 2-3 times, stirring after each session. Then go to 15 or 20 second increments, still stirring after each time. Chocolate can burn in the microwave really quickly, and then your whole bowl is ruined. Just stir as much as possible and keep a close eye on it.)
3. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, sugar, milk, and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the chocolate and blend until smooth. (Note: I don’t have a food processor, so I used my blender. Worked like a charm.) Scrape the batter into the prepared crust and spread evenly. Bake until firm, about 40 minutes.
4. Turn off the oven and let the cake remain in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate several hours to chill completely (I left it in there overnight). The cheesecake may be made 1-2 days in advance is stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.
5. When ready to serve, place the jam in a small bowl and stir briskly until smooth. Spread the jam thinly over the top of the cheesecake. Arrange the cherries on top around the outer edge and sprinkle the almonds in the center.