Thursday, December 28, 2006

Italian Cream Cake

Christmas dinner always starts the day before. This year, I made a deal. Since we would be having dinner at home, I would make Doreen’s birthday cake if she didn’t make me go to church. I was also cajoled into making an Onion Tart (from Cooks Magazine, so you know it will not be simple) for our Christmas late night snack. (It can be eaten warm, cold, or room temperature. Very flexible, that tart)

A deal was struck and I started cooking. My lovely and talented sister-in-law Becky had sent us a recipe for Italian Cream Cake a while back. We had never made it before this week. I have never made a cake, ever. So this was going to be an adventure for me.

Doreen left on some Christmas errand, and I was left in the kitchen with the cake and tart in front of me. And the prospect of cooking a goose, braising Brussels sprouts, making the stuffing, helping with the red cabbage, beets in horseradish sauce, and potatoes in the morning. It was daunting.

I just snapped to it. Baking a cake could not be that hard, I was telling myself. The recipe seemed simple. I checked it, and checked it again. That meant that I would only have to got to the grocery store twice in the process of cooking.

The first thing to do was to separate the eggs and beat the whites stiff. We have a beater. I can separate eggs. But how stiff is stiff? And we only have one mixer bowl. So that meant moving the beaten egg whites to another bowl. I was hoping that they would not lose their loft. (I think they did)

Egg whites beat up quite well. It doesn’t take long at all to get them to various degrees of stiffness. I opted for a “soft peak” and figured that was good enough (I don’t think it was). I slid the egg whites into another bowl and let them sit.

Then for the batter. Butter, Shortening. Creamed. Yowza! That stuff just POPS out of the beater bowl if you don’t keep your eye on it. Egg yolks. Flour. Soda. So far so good. Then the recipe says “Add sugar”


I look at the recipe list. No sugar in the ‘cake’ part. Only in the “icing” part. I look again. No sugar. So how much? Two tablespoons? A half cup? I figure that I had better call Becky.

Thank goodness she was home! 2 CUPS sugar.

And I can’t find our sugar. We have some brownish, organic sugar from Domino (not our first choice, as Imperial is just down the street in Sugar Land)

OK, then I add all the sugar and the buttermilk. Whoops. You are supposed to alternate. Oh well. Beat it. Beat it good.

Finally add coconut (flaked) nuts (pecans, chopped and toasted) and vanilla. Fold in the egg whites. By this time, they are starting to separate. Oh well, I just folded them in anyway.

I then have to prepare the pans. Luckily for me, I asked my lovely and talented sister-in-law how to prep the pans. She said Crisco, flour, and then cut wax paper to fit the bottom.

Do you know how hard it is to draw on wax paper? Try it sometime.

So I incised the paper, and cut it to fit. Smashed it down on the greasy mess inside the pan, and then poured in the (delicious) batter. I popped it in the over, and set back to watch.

The batter rose. Then it rose some more. And some more. I was worried that it would overflow the pans, but all it did was create a nice dome.

The thing is, you don’t really want a nice dome on a layer cake. But I would worry about that later.

The cake was cooling when I decided to go after the icing. The cream cheese icing. The cream cheese (which I forgot to buy) icing.

Back to the store. I walked to the local Kroger and got the cream cheese.

I made the icing. It was delicious. So was the cake.

It was an adventure.

That was the cake. I still have to tell the story of the Onion Tart.

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