Friday, November 13, 2009

(After) Dinner Tonight: P Party cake

We have our challenges, we parents. We parents of shockingly willful preschoolers. (At least, I am shocked. Oddly, no one else seems particularly shocked. Hmm.) Anyway, when he almost-willingly used a public restroom this afternoon, I declared that we would have a party. With cake.

This recipe is a cake I grew up with – it was a staple at class parties and church suppers, usually with no icing. The recipe is in plenty of places; I noticed it’s even in the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Everyday Food, where it mentions it’s in a new cookbook called “Mad Hungry.” It’s called Busy Day Cake there, which is a good name, and calls it vinegar cake - but to me, it was always Crazy Cake. (Until today.)

This recipe has a ton of advantages. You mix, bake and serve it in one dish, so all you have to wash today is a measuring cup and 2 spoons. It’s vegan, it’s natural, it’s very cheap. But the reason I made it today – we were out of eggs. I felt that taking the little darling to the supermarket would be, um, pushing my luck. It’s definitely a ‘pantry staples’ dish.

Crazy Cake can turn out heavy, but the one I made today was quite light and flavorful and had nice textures - chewy outside, tender inside and a little touch of gooey at the center.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a pyrex cassarole or an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together:

1.5 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and half teaspoon salt. You can also throw in a little cayenne pepper, chili powder or nutmeg…I thought I was being all clever and sophisticated, but I couldn’t taste them.

Make a well in center of dry mix and pour in 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 cup cold water. Stir till smooth. This is when I threw in a couple handfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips. These are a great addition, but some sunk – if I had thought of it earlier and put them in with the dry ingredients, it would have been better. Bake until a chopstick inserted in center comes out clean. In a square pan, this will be about 40 minutes. – with the cassarole dish, which was deeper and smaller, it took about an hour. You're supposed to let it cook completely, but it's really good while it's still a tiny bit warm.

Bonus tip: Best Icing Ever, I am completely serious:

I improvised some buttercream the way I always do – cream soft butter (regular, not unsalted), add a drip of vanilla, and confectioners sugar by the spoonful, scrape down the sides of the bowl, keep tasting…but today, I threw in a chunk of cream cheese. Whip until fluffy. This is more definitely the best icing I have ever made, and it may be the best icing I have ever eaten.

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