We had a busy weekend with family, friends and our eldest’s Memorial Day wooden bat baseball tournament (great, low-key fun, btw). But Memorial day weekend also means a few birthdays and anniversaries, so we usually end up entertaining. We always enjoy entertaining, but it’s sometimes a challenge to decide what to make. But, as we often remind ourselves, successful summer entertaining is all about simplicity. With cocktails, we make it easy and serve punch or home-made Margaritas, guests serve themselves at their own pace and we get to visit. For dinner we grill meat, a nice piece of fish and fresh veggies from the garden with a few tortillas, guacamole and fresh salsa. And for dessert Carolyn bakes a big ol’ cake.
And for a party, particularly on a holiday weekend, nothing beats a good cake. Everyone likes cake (or at least frosting), it lasts a few days and you can eat it any time (and yes, there has been breakfast cake enjoyed here at the farm…;-). When baking for us, Carolyn makes small cakes with 6 inch pans. But when a large group is coming, Carolyn pulls out the 9 inch pans and makes 2, 3 (and sometimes 4) layer cakes with loads of frosting. You know it’s a good party when the host pulls out a big, beautiful, homemade cake. Add a scoop of ice cream and suddenly the kids are quiet (but not for long) and the parents are smiling and enjoying a well-earned indulgence. There is no hurry. Feels like summer now.
While we like to keep things simple, it is still good to branch out and learn new techniques and try new recipes. In this case Carolyn adapted a recipe from Susan Purdy’s “A Piece of Cake” that included a new technique she wanted to try. Usually baking a cake is straight-forward, albeit time-consuming. Melt chocolate (if using), cream butter and eggs, add other wet and dry ingredients. Blend batter until smooth and fluffy. Bake.
But for this recipe, we add a cup of boiling water with coffee powder (or very hot coffee) to the batter. The batter sags with the heat, but then reconstituted itself with added mixing. We are unsure of the chemistry involved here, normally we would assume the boiling water helps with activating baking powder, but there is only baking soda in the recipe. Something to figure out, as we like to know why things happen in the kitchen. Regardless, the cake was unusually moist and rich, and Carolyn already makes very moist cakes. The flavor was very good as well, with the coffee really bringing out the chocolate. Continue reading