Healthier muffins experiment # 2

This weekend marked the beginning of my blog’s transformation into a healthier way to enjoy desserts.  Yes!  Let us eat more desserts, and more often!  I tried those elusive muffins again and got much better results.  Am still making some modifications and excited for batch # 3.

I intentionally overstir batter for the colour bleed.  Blue muffins for days!

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My motivation to make this change towards healthier desserts is three-fold.

  1. I refuse to entertain the notion of a sad, soulless existence of healthy eating without dessert.  What good is eating better food if you cannot enjoy the extra deliciousness of a good dessert?
  2. I’ve baked with traditional ingredients solely because that is what I’m used to.  I grew up in a family that stocked granulated sugar, table salt, all-purpose white flour, et cet.  Now that I am a responsible adult and no longer shackled by somebody else’s grocery decisions, it is time to make the switch!  Belatedly.
  3. Theoretically… if one can reduce the nutritional impact of a dessert by 50%, one can then enjoy that dessert twice as much without remorse!

Alright. Fine.

It’s more about recognizing that desserts are okay in moderation, and desserts become even more okay (transcendence!) if you reduce the nutritional impact they have on your health.   If I can make reductions to the Nefarious Hexad™ (calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, and sugar) that I eat on a daily basis, I will.

Yesterday I wrote about substitutions and the benefits of baking with sucralose and half salt instead of sugar and table salt.  Before doing anymore baking, I spent a few hours converting some recipes into grams and fluid ounces.  In the past month I’ve gotten into the habit of weighing food for meals and cooking, so carrying it over to baking was easy.

Then it was time for round 2 of muffins.  Along with using sucralose and half salt again, I used two egg whites instead of a whole egg.  Used the amazing ingredient analyser on Calorie Count, I confirmed that the nutrition content improved significantly, except for one thing:

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Sodium went up.  Cholesterol did not change.  And everything else went down.  The change in salt caught me by surprise, I didn’t realize egg whites have so much salt.  Hmm.  What to do.

I’m thinking one or two small changes before I’m finished.  Then it’s recipe posting time.

Boyfriend Unit tested a muffin from each batch, the 2nd batch is pictured below:

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He said 1st batch is good, but agreed it was overdone.  He said the 2nd batch seemed exactly like normal muffins to him, they taste better than 1st batch, but he detected a faint aftertaste of something.

I found the muffins slightly too sweet but as I chewed, I began to second guess myself.  Is it really too sweet, or do I just think it’s too sweet because I’ve always thought artificial sweeteners were extra sweet tasting?

And then the strangest thing happened.  Within a minute of finishing the muffin, I noticed the aftertaste too.  It was just like what happens when you stir a package of Crystal Light into water, when suddenly you can taste the powder from inhaling as you stir.

Hmm.  I can live with an aftertaste for the sake of a healthier muffin.  The aftertaste wasn’t gross, but it was strange, and I’d like it gone.  Why does sucralose leave an aftertaste?  More research is needed.  For Science.

Hit me up with ingredient substitutions you use in baking.

Certainly NOT Mary’s muffins

So that muffin recipe I was so excited to score the other week from my friend who makes delicious muffins?  These are nothing like her muffins.  Hers are baked to perfection and not overdone like mine.

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I’m working on a project to improve the nutritional content of my baked goods.  I will make this at least one more time to test my results.

In lieu of bananas, I used one cup of fresh blackberries and one cup of frozen blueberries.  This reduced the natural fruit sugar from 60 grams to 20 grams.

I really do love bananas.  (I used to think brown sugar was a food group so this is unsurprising.  There’s a story I could tell you about my brother in-law catching me with a bowl of brown sugar, and only brown sugar, for breakfast.)  I’m not giving up bananas or anything crazy like that.  Just enjoying them in moderation now.

Instead of using white sugar and table salt, I substituted granulated Splenda, an artificial sweetener made from sucralose and maltodextrin, and Half Salt, which is made of iodized salt and potassium chloride.

Splenda does not contain calories, fat, or carbs.  As this was my maiden voyage consuming Splenda, first I read Health Canada’s position on sucralose before trying it.  The Canadian Diabetes Association recognizes Splenda as a sweetener that diabetics can enjoy in moderation.  At least it’s not going to poison me out of the gate.  Onwards!

Half Salt contains 50% less sodium than table salt and I’ve been using it for a year without noticing any difference in flavour.

So how did the muffins taste?  Well hold on.  Let’s see the nutrition benefit first.

Using the Calorie Count recipe analyzer, take a look:

calorie info

 

As for the taste, the only thing about these muffins that went wrong was I cooked them too long.  They had the texture and consistency of a regular muffin.

A feature of baking with both Splenda and Half Salt I really appreciate is that the substitution ratio is 1:1.  If the recipe calls for one cup of sugar, you use one cup of Splenda instead.  No need to figure out how to bulk up the recipe to compensate for lost volume. (EDIT: July 23, 2016, after 5 months of baking with Splenda I can state with confidence despite what the package says, I will never use the 1:1 substitution ratio. The less Splenda used the better, too much leaves a weird after taste.)

The granulated Splenda package has a note that baking time may need to be reduced, which I forgot, and that Splenda can withstand baking temperatures upto 232° C or 450° F.

I am satisfied with this experiment and excited to try it again.

While researching the pros and cons of alternate ingredients, I saw various mention of bad taste or weird side effects.

Have you noticed anything strange about cooking with non-traditional ingredients?

 

Raspberry…danish-like thing

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Huh.  In my head this looked different.  I was bored and curious what would happen if I shoved a fruit and cream cheese filling into phyllo pastry and didn’t even pretend to arrange it nicely?  Would it collapse?  Would it leak everywhere?  For science.

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Made a filling of cream cheese, greek yogurt, sugar, fresh lemon, and egg yolk.  Threw on some frozen berries I’ve been trying to get rid of for ever.  Gave absolutely no fucks as I “folded” the pastry.

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Bake!

As it turns out, phyllo will stay slightly upright!  The centre was wobbly like a jellyfish.  I let it sit for 10 min and drizzled icing over it.  It didn’t taste horrible, but definitely not great. Way too much filling.  Looked like a hot mess haha!

It did turned out more edible than I predicted, but I definitely would not do this again.  For something thrown together in 10 minutes on a whim I’m satisfied.  I suppose one has to bother with all the little knife cuts and the elegant folds.  Eheu.

Banana muffins (from Cat Can Cook)

I tried this banana muffin recipe from Cat Can Cook because I had some seriously ripe bananas and I could not get ahold of my friend to get her muffin recipe.

Good news: the Cat Can Cook recipe also yields delicious muffins.

Even better news: I got the recipe from my friend today for next time. 😀

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Time required: under 1 hour

Yields: 12

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $24

Cost per muffin: $0.31  (you may notice the cost per item has dropped lately, more on that next time)

Ingredients:

  • 4 over ripe bananas
  • ½ C white sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ⅓ C melted butter
  • 1½ C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • splash of pure vanilla (I added this)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 176°C / 350°F.  Grease muffin tin.

2. Mash bananas, add sugar and egg and melted butter, beat until combined.

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3. Combine all dry ingredients in seperate bowl, then add to wet, half the bowl at a time.

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4. Pour into muffin tin and bake 24 minutes (original recipe says 20 but that didn’t work for my oven)

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5. Let them cool at least 10 minutes before enjoying.

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Verdict: These are fantastic, I’ve made them twice now.  Shamefully the first batch didn’t even survive the night in a household of 2 people.  They are that good.  Today I only broke one.  They are really easy to make, and taste great.

Christmas chocolates 2015

This year we made the best box of chocolates so far, and created a new flavour. As usual I worked with Callebaut, opted for a less sweet white, but kept the same cocoa solid percentages for the others:

  • milk chocolate 823NV, 33.6% cocoa solids, 21.8 milk solids
  • dark (semi-sweet) 811NV, 54.5% cocoa solids
  • dark 70-30-38NV, 70.5% cocoa solids
  • white CW2NV, 25.9% cocoa solids, 23.7% milk solids

Ran into  a lot of trouble with fat bloom, starting with the Toblerone.

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I paid it no mind and got to work.

Later I had switched to the Callebaut and got bloom 3 times in a row.

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WTF.

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I know how to temper.  What is going on here?  I think it was the heat in my home, we ended up opening all the windows, and after that the problem went away, so I just remelted all the chocolate without fillings or centres.

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Ah! Ever so much better! I just love those little ornament shapes.

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Tried a new flavour this year, white chocolate vanilla bean with matcha ganache.  It was good. I have embraced using a squeeze bottle to pipe my fillings now and does it ever work better than a piping bag.

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I was quite happy with the peppermints this year. I switched the centre to a milk chocolate peppermint ganache, and it came out very delicious and creamy. Much better than previous years.

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After a few nights of tempering and filling like mad, the boxes were all made up and ready for shipping to my family.

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I always have such fun making these.  Even though sometimes I want to throw all my chocolatiering supplies off the balcony…

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So now that I’m back to making chocolate again, and looking after my blog again, what I have planned for the winter of 2016 is mostly flavour experiments and review of new products I’ve tried and courses I’ve taken.

Where to get supplies:

Christmas chocolates 2014

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Have just finished Year 4 of making chocolates for Christmas. I’ve learned a lot since I started in 2011 and practice really does improve your skill. This is the quality I could create in the beginning, and this is what I make now.

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I was really excited about making chocolates again. Well actually, I’m really excited about working with chocolate at any time, but this year was the first year I could make 9 individual shapes, and mastered the fillings I wanted to create; something creamy and soft and delicious. This may be it, I do not foresee making any future changes to the recipe or the box contents.

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I like November because it’s time to secure the Belgian chocolate. Social invites are turned down with a hushed, “It’s chocolate-making season” and understanding nods. Chocolate paints the ceiling of my home. The fridge has no room for food. It is the month of having dinner delivered and an excuse to be quite lazy in some ways.

See quarter for scale:

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No worries Mom, your box will not contain any dark chocolate.

I used 4 types and for the chocolatiers out there here are the specs:

  • milk chocolate 823NV, 33.6% cocoa solids, 21.8 milk solids
  • dark (semi-sweet) 811NV, 54.5% cocoa solids
  • dark 70-30-38NV, 70.5% cocoa solids
  • white W2NV, 28% cocoa solids, 23% milk solids

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What started as a modest hobby has grown into a massive time-suck. And tears.

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Speaking of new fillings, there they are. They are liquid and delicious, instead of hard and dry. I abandoned icing sugar and evaporated milk, and turned to making ganache; heavy cream, Belgian chocolate, and concentrated oils. The raspberry cream, orange cream, and butter cream are made with white chocolate ganache. The peppermint and peanut butter cream are made from milk chocolate ganache. The caramel is a soft, liquid homemade stuff and I fear it has some mystery addictive quality.

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And it was time to re-draw the map again.

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I feel a great sense of satisfaction when they are all laid out.

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Where to get supplies:

Sanctified

Although they look the same, one of these jars contains burnt caramel, and the other is delicious.

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I found this recipe on Bake Like a Pro. It took 6 tries before I got it to work. It’s about as much fun as making fudge. It seemed like a really simple recipe but I had a lot of trouble getting this right.

Time required: 4 hours  (1 hour of actual work)

Yields: about one cup

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $14

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Ingredients:

  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 TBSP water
  • ⅓ C butter (cold)
  • ½ C heavy cream (room temp)

Instructions:

1. Add sugar, salt, and water to sauce pot, tilt pot to moisten the sugar. A ring of sugar crystals will form but pay it no mind.

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2. Heat on Low, occasionally tilting the pot, until all the sugar has dissolved and it starts to simmer. The mixture will have soapey-looking bubbles.

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This takes forever and is really boring. Don’t leave your stove. I ruined the first batch that way.

Eventually it reaches full boil and the colour will subtly shift to gold. This part took about 25 minutes before I noticed the colour change. When you tilt the pot, a delightful aroma wafts up now.

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3. After about 6 minutes it will darken to orange. This is the part where it is caramelizing and developing a flavour. You don’t want to yank it off the heat too soon but you also don’t want it to darken to deep copper or it’s burnt at that point.

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(I let it cook for 2 more minutes then removed from heat.)

4. Add cold butter and stir until completely melted.

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5. Add warm cream and stir until thoroughly mixed.

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6. Return to stove on Low, it took about 7 minutes to get back to a boil. I let it go for about 2 minutes then removed from heat.

7. Cool on counter 30 minutes. (On batch 3, I only cooled it 20 min and ran into temperature shock where the fat separated.)

8. A skim formed. Strained into mason jar and took it outside to admire because it was so pretty.

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9. Chill at least one hour and it will thicken up.

Verdict: FINALLY! I am too tired and hot to temper chocolate tonight, but I have liquid caramel. Stay tuned for what this goes inside.

Playlist: Nine Inch Nails

Faux Louis

After I wound up with very malleable chocolate buttercream, I wondered if I could make a homemade Jos Louis. For the uninitiated, a Jos Louis is a Canadian pastry sold by Vachon; two layers of red velvet cake, filled with vanilla cream, covered in a milk chocolate coating. I’m not sure why they are so good, but: they are.

(Spoiler alert: yes, I can make them.)

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I didn’t realize until I was writing this up that they’re made with red velvet, so I made another batch of devil’s food cupcakes. Oh well.

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Was careful to avoid overfilling this time. ^^

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After slicing horizontally, a thin layer of chocolate buttercream was applied. A real Jos Louis uses vanilla creme but I had no plans for this icing and the consistency was right so I went for it.

I melted more Callebaut Belgian chocolate and dropped one in. Whee!

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Used dipping prongs to turn it around and set it on parchment paper for an hour.

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I was lazy and didn’t temper the chocolate, so just stuck them in the fridge. And voila!

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Verdict:

Definitely good. Not exactly a Jos Louis but not bad. Until reading up on Vachon’s website, I didn’t actually realize it was red velvet with a milk chocolate coating, I just knew I liked them. Now I’m curious how close I can get to a real Jos Louis.

After I get over this chocolate fatigue I’ll try this again and see what I can do. But not for awhile, I’m so over chocolate for August.

Playlist:

Nelly – Shake Ya Tail Feathers

Devil’s food cupcakes with chocolate buttercream

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So these were delicious, if not quite as expected. I’ve made these before and went for the double chocolate experience this time. I skipped most of the pictures for this one since I’ve done it previously.

The cake and frosting recipe are included in Good Housekeeping Chocolate!: Favorite Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Puddings & Other Sublime Desserts which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca and one day I swear I’m going to test every frosting recipe inside.

As usual, go big or go home. I used Callebaut Belgian chocolate for this.

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Time required: 2 hours

Yields: hopefully 24 cupcakes

Cost per cupcake: $2.16

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $42-$52 depending on the quality of vanilla extract and the chocolate

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer
  • incorrectly sized-muffin tin! (don’t do this)

Cake ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP salt
  • ½ C unsalted butter (one stick), room temp
  • 1 C golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1½ TSP vanilla extract
  • 1½ C buttermilk  (or add 1 TBSP of vinegar to regular milk, stir and let sit)

Frosting ingredients:

  • 2 C icing sugar
  • 1 C butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 TBSP milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet Belgian chocolate, chopped

Cake instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 177°C / 350°F. Place cupcake liners in trays.

2. In a medium bowl combine: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl at low speed, beat: butter, brown sugar, and white sugar, until blended. Increase speed to high: beat 5 min until it’s light and fluffy.

4. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time.

5. Beat in vanilla.

6. Add the dry mixture and buttermilk alternating like so: half of the flour, all the buttermilk, and the rest of the flour. After each addition beat until just combined. Scrape the sides a few times and make sure the batter is smooth.

7. Bake about 18 minutes for full-size cupcakes or 14-15 min for minis. A toothpick inserted should come out clean.

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UGH WHY!! Not again. What the hell is this? This is what happens when you use a small muffin tin instead of the right size pan. Ugh.

8. Let cupcakes cool in pan one minute before removing from pan and placing on rack.  Cool before frosting. Judiciously select which ones to use in final photo.

Frosting instructions:

1. On low heat melt the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool 5 min.

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2. Beat together until smooth: icing sugar, butter, milk, vanilla.

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3. Add chocolate and keep beating until well-combined. Beat on High about 2 min.

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Scrape down the bowl every 30 seconds.

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It lightens up quite a bit.

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Verdict:

I love this devil’s food recipe, it’s delicious. There are lots of ways to frost it and this is my first go at chocolate buttercream. It tasted great. I was surprised how soft this frosting was, it’s not runny, but it’s not suitable for piping. It is delicious however.

I’m not sure what happened to my cupcake pans, must have misplaced them in the move. This muffin tin is too shallow. I was conscious of not over-filling them and they still went kaboom.

I’ve been toying with the idea of reverse-engineering a Joe Louis for awhile and this frosting consistency has convinced me I can do it. Stay tuned.

Playlist:

Type O Negative – Love You to Death

 

Washington Pie

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I made Washington Pie for my mother’s birthday, which is a frosted yellow cake with a jam filling (shares traits with Boston cream pie). My Nanny used to make it and it’s been a long time since we’ve had it. I figured nostalgia would gloss over any technical errors on my part. This was served partially raw and uh, note the ratio of frosting to cake in the centre is not same on the outside edge? More on that later.

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This recipe comes the red and white Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, but I’m not sure which edition, ours doesn’t have it but Mom’s did.

Working in a different kitchen is always weird. I got to use the Onyx Black KitchenAid, which is just as reliable as my precious Nemo (if not quite as beautiful). I’m not used to this oven and that may have contributed to one of the problems with this cake.

Time required: 2 hours

Yields: 12 slices

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $45

Cost per slice: $3.75

Kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer
  • two 9″ round pans

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ C white sugar
  • 2¼ C cake flour
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ⅓ C vegetable oil
  • 1 C milk
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 5 TBSP pure strawberry or raspberry jam

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 176°C / 350°F. Grease and flour two 9″ rounds.

2. Separate the eggs, put the whites into the mixing bowl and put the yolks into a small bowl for later.

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Beat the whites until soft peaks form (when you remove the beater they’ll sink down).

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3. Gradually add ½ C sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form (you remove the beater and see little mountains of foam that stay upright).

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4. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Having a second mixing bowl saves you a lot of time.

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5. Add: vegetable oil, vanilla, and half the milk to the dry ingredients. Beat 1 min on Medium, scrap sides 3 times. (If I had a DeLorean, I’d have used the bowl with higher sides, since this led to a face full of wet cake and that is as vile as it sounds.)

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6. Add remaining milk and yolks. Beat 1 min, scrape sides 3 times.

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I always enjoy watching one of these in action. I realize they all do exactly the same thing but I will just happily observe for awhile.

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7. Unless you made a colossal error you should have two bowls like so:

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Gently fold the egg white mixture into 2nd bowl, turn the bowl and use a down, up, over motion

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You don’t want to stir it like crazy.

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You want it to look like this.

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8. Divide batter into pans, bake 25 min.

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9. Ask Spousal Unit to remove the cake from the oven and test. Believe that toothpick test was successful. Cool in pan 10 min before removing from pan and transferring to wire rack. Well damn. That’s not supposed to happen.

“Did you test the middle?”

“Yup, it came out clean.”

“Why is the middle raw then?”

“I don’t know.”

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Throw back in for another 5 min and pray.

10. Cool one hour.

11. Speed to birthday party. Position one cake so that the rounded side is facing down and you have a flat surface. That was the plan anyway. This cake has no true flat surface.

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12. Place a few tablespoons of jam in a glass bowl and microwave 40 seconds, spread warm jam over the flat cake surface.

13. Place the second cake on top (again round side down) so you have a flat surface to frost. What the hell went wrong here??

14. Cram frost with vanilla buttercream. I didn’t get a picture of the completed cake but the frosting hid the majority of the gaps. This picture is not the most appetizing but it was good. The centre of the cake was… not ideal, but the outer edge was bang on. See how much frosting is in the centre as opposed to the edge? Oh well. Good thing I love buttercream frosting.

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Verdict:

Never trust someone else to take your cake out of the oven. That’s what I learned from this experience. At least Mom was happy and that’s what counts. Next time I’ll try lining the pans with parchment paper.

Playlist:

Buckethead – White Wash