Menu plan and a silly little cake

First, the menu plan, because heck, it’s what we do on Sundays here. Paying more attention to vegetarian foods around here again, since most of the Mom MEAT bounty is used up. It makes us feel better to eat less meat, anyway. Well, two of us. The kid practically goes on strike when there’s no meat, but she’s nineteen; she can buy it herself if she wants it so much, right?

Tonight: Cheesy noodle casserole with broccoli
Monday: Beans and rice and greens
Tuesday: Knaedlach soup (chicken soup with matzoh balls)
Wednesday: Bean burritos
Thursday: Risotto and vegetables
Friday: A big salad with lots of stuff in it
Saturday: Going out to dim sum with some friends for lunch; doubt I’ll want to make dinner, so probably sandwiches or hot dogs. Or I might put extra burritos in the freezer or something.

Also gonna make mustard batons at some point. I miss doing French Fridays, so I’m going to get back on the horse.

Now on to the silly cake. It’s been everywhere for the last, what, year or so? It’s here and here and here, but I honestly don’t know where it started. The recipe I used is here, but I used melted butter once because I was out of oil.

The other night, James really wanted some cake, and it was 10pm, so I decided to give the silly cake-in-a-cup thing a try.

It works just fine. It’s not the best cake in the world, but it’s FAST and cute and it hit the cake spot when we wanted it to. Isn’t it cute?

chocolate cake in a cup

(That’s because you can’t see the OTHER side of the cup. If you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll let you take a look:)

chocolate cake in a cup spilled over

Yeah, I used a bigger cup the next time. And my microwave is a little high-powered for this, so I also cut the cook time back to 2:30. James says it’s better now: more cakey, less chewy.

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Devil’s Food Cake

Devil’s food cake. With ganache frosting. Really, need I say more?

You’ll remember I’ve bragged about how I can throw together a meal from nothing. I’m fairly proud of that, but when I’m baking, I require a little more guidance. Since I’m not really a cake lover, and my family’s idea of the perfect snack is cake, I seem to do most of my dessert baking by just grabbing a recipe from the web or a cookbook, and giving it a shot. If I’m not going to eat the cake, at least I can have fun making it.

devil's food cake slice

This one was lovely. I followed a Food Network recipe, and it was worth the effort. The ganache frosting even won me over. I actually ate a little bit of cake. My kid thought I was a pod person for a minute.

devil's food cake slice

I’ve certainly never made a richer, darker chocolate cake. I recommend it.

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Crazy Cake (vegan chocolate cake)

Wacky cake, crazy cake, depression cake. Different names for the same tasty, inexpensive, vegan cake.

[Note from Serene: I’m so glad Carin is sharing this cake with us. I make it now and again because it’s easy and vegan, but I didn’t grow up with it. It does make me want to dig out a few of my mom’s recession-friendly recipes, though. Times are tough all over.]

Dessert wasn’t an everyday occurrence when I was growing up.  We were poor, and while Mom made sure there was enough to eat, there wasn’t always room in the budget for extras.  Special occasions warranted special foods, of course, but every once in a while Mom would put together a treat just because.  If it was something that could be made cheaply it was likely to make more than one appearance in our home.

Crazy Cake (aka Wacky Cake and Depression Cake) was one such treat.  Requiring no eggs, butter, or milk, it relies on a chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar for leavening.  “Vinegar!?!?” I hear you exclaim.  Yes, vinegar, but you won’t taste it at all in the finished cake.  All you will taste is a lovely rich chocolate cake.

cake and milk

Traditionally, Crazy Cake is mixed by hand right in the baking pan, reducing the number of dishes to be washed afterward.  The dry ingredients are sifted together, then the wet ingredients are poured into depressions made in the dry stuff.

sifter, measuring cups, pansifting flouringredientsbatter

Like many folks these days, I’m poor again, and living with Dad.  The silver lining (aside from spending time with Dad) is that I get to use the very measuring cups, sifter, and 9” x 13” baking pan with which Mom made this cake when I was growing up.  They’re old and beaten up, not pretty at all.  In other words, they’re perfect!

mom's pan

There are dozens of recipes online for Crazy, Wacky, or Depression Cake.  Some of them include coffee, stewed raisins, or other fruit, but none of that went into Mom’s Crazy Cake.   If you want to try the recipe I use, you can find it here.  Taste the cake without frosting, first.  You may decide it doesn’t need any.  A dusting of powdered sugar is a nice optional finish.

cake

Another nice thing is that the cake is vegan if you use beet sugar.  Your non-vegan friends won’t know the difference, and your vegan friends will thank you for your thoughtfulness.

cake slice

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French Fridays with Dorie: The Semolina Cake Is A Lie

Semolina cake. Like steamed pudding made with Cream of Wheat.

Just a quickie today, because I’m on vacation from my day job and have decided not to spend the whole vacation online. (Weird, I know.)

I have to go with all the others I’ve seen who made this cake: It’s more of a steamed-pudding-ish thing, but I like it! If I make it again, I’ll have to be sure to be more careful, because it broke up on unmolding, but I’m a huge fan of farina with raisins, so this cake was right up my alley.

semolina cake slice

(James is not a big fan of hot cereal, so his opinion was not sought. The kid liked it, but pronounced it “Weird. Not bad-weird. Just weird. Kinda more pudding-like than cake.” Exactly. Like a steamed pudding. Parents are always right.)

This is another in my series of French Fridays with Dorie posts. You can see more people’s entries for this week at the Leave Your Link post.

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Dorie’s apple cake revisited

Apple cake redux, this time with slightly simplified quantities.

I have some silly quirks. Well, okay, a lot of silly quirks.

One of my silly quirks is this: When I make a recipe for the first time, I don’t care how involved or complicated it is, or how many ingredients it requires; I find it fun to make new recipes, and I just go with the flow. However, if I’m going to make something regularly, it’s usually going to be something fairly simple, and preferably something whose ingredients and directions I can memorize.

Now, my family Really, Really, REALLY wants to have that apple cake from Friday often. Every day would be fine, but they’ll settle for once in a while. And you’ll probably laugh at this part, but the 3/4 cup of this and 3/4 teaspoon of that was a bit of a dealbreaker for me.

So I rewrote the recipe to suit a more streamlined approach, and then I tested it. Here’s how it looked:

apple cake

And here are the new quantities. The directions are as in the book, which you should totally buy (if you buy it from my links, the proceeds go to the Alameda County Community Food Bank), except I baked it for an hour and 10 minutes before it was really done, and it could have gone a smidge longer.

Streamlined Apple Cake

1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
5-6 large apples (I had 5 large and one small, so that’s what I used)
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
no rum (I don’t cook with rum)
1 tablespoon vanilla
11 tablespoons butter

[Update: It really is better Dorie’s way, so I’ll just deal with my laziness. James went out today to buy BUNCHES of apples, because he wants me to make TWO cakes next time!]

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