From Angie’s Kitchen – White Cake

“Angie baby, you’re a special lady, living in a world of make believe…” That song is stuck in my head today. Only, it’s not Angie living in a world of make believe, it’s me! I thought that I would be able to breeze into the kitchen and throw this little recipe of hers together, no sweat, but oh no, that’s not what happened at all. The recipe is simple enough, actually so simple that it does not include silly little details such as baking temperature and time, but we are getting used to that now, right? I feel like things started out okay, but as I was mixing the ingredients I started getting lost in my thoughts a bit and if I were to pinpoint where things went astray, I would probably choose that moment in time. I was actually thinking about the fact that there is only 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 egg in this recipe, which in turn hearkened back a memory of a documentary I’d seen in the past about chiffon cake and how the oil in the cake made it light and fluffy. Next, I thought about The Great British Baking Show and the Genoise cake which gets it’s lightness from beating egg whites into a froth….It was at this point that I came back to reality and realized I had probably gone too far and put a little too much gusto into beating this batter. The batter was thick and stiff. Was it meant to be this way? I suspect not, but decided to soldier on. Before I started, I decided that I would choose cupcakes as my means to try out this recipe. So cupcakes it was! As I was spooning the batter into the cupcake wrappers, it dawned on me that the batter was not dissimilar to the first cinnamon roll/ biscuit I made from Grandma’s book. Please don’t be a biscuit….

Following my decision to go cupcake with this recipe was that of bake temperature and time. I went with the safe, pedestrian 350F and decided to set the timer for 15 minutes and then keep an eye on them. Once I was close to the 15 minute mark, I turned on the oven light to take a peek. I was quite surprised by these lovely little domes that had appeared. I could see that they needed more time and ended up removing them after 22 minutes (I should probably have cut this time by a minute or two). The domes were still there, which is neat, but would they fall? Are they some sort of domed biscuit? Whatever they are, they look cool.

They didn’t fall. After giving them sufficient time to cool, I moved on to the frosting. What the heck, I decided to take another recipe out of Grandma Angie’s book. This one for frosting. In for a penny, in for a pound! I know some people use the words frosting and icing interchangeably, but for me personally, they are not the same. I was expecting a frosting, and what I got was icing. I felt like it was much too sweet and adding extra vanilla to it did little to mitigate that sweetness. I doctored it up as much as I could but this was going to be icing and I just needed to move on and work with what I had. So my final decision was to dip my little domes into the icing convinced that I had produced an iced biscuit.

Was it a biscuit? No. Was it a nice fluffy white cake in the way we currently think of? No. What I produced was dense. Not a biscuit, thank goodness, but something that can surely be improved upon after some thought. As for the frosting/icing… Still a bit too sweet for me, but the first words out of my teenage son’s mouth after he launched into one (without permission) was , “The frosting is good!”

So, for the next week or so I will spend much too much time thinking about white cake. I will most certainly continue with the cupcake approach and try to figure out how to improve the texture while maintaining my lovely dome shapes!

Next, let’s see how things went for Ray!

Karen opened this post with some lyrics which set me off on a chain of music – this is not uncommon for me. Just as cooking something gets me thinking about dozens of variations on what I’ve just made, one simple line from a song will get me going on a chain of songs. They could be musically similar, have similar themes in the lyrics or sometimes be more random which is where my head went with Karen’s quote. I latched onto “Angie” which flipped in my head to the somewhat rhyming word “candy” which naturally made me want to hear Candy by Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson. It also made me stop and ponder for a moment if anyone had ever referred to my grandma as “Angie Baby!”

What does this have to do with white cake? Absolutely nothing of course, but sometimes it’s fun to go there anyway! Now, back to the matter at hand…

Angie’s original recipe

As you know, for the first round of our “From Angie’s Kitchen” posts, Karen and I don’t talk about the recipe we’re about to try. It’s fun to see how we each will decide to interpret the recipes with their occasional lack of measurements or procedures.

It also stood out for me that there was only one egg and one tablespoon of butter – I too thought will this be a seriously heavy cake when done? The batter was quite thick and to me it sort of had the look and also smell of something similar to pancake batter. It was just a passing thought, but I did find it amusing that while the cake was in the oven my son walked through the kitchen and stopped and said to me “that cake kind of smells like breakfast cooking” which brought my mind back to the pancake batter thought again!

On the subject of occasional missing procedures – not only did this recipe exclude the baking temperature and time, it also skipped what type of pan to use! Karen took an up front approach by choosing to go with cupcakes – will the batter make 8 cupcakes? 10? 12? It doesn’t really matter, so it was a good way to go. I took more of a wait and see approach – I waited until the batter was done and looked at how much there was and decided I could probably get two 9 inch round cakes out of it, so that’s what I did!

I also went with the safe 350 degrees for baking and started with 20 minutes. At that point the cake was done, but the top didn’t brown that much, so I gave it an additional 3 minutes. Looking back, that really wasn’t necessary and I might have run the risk of going too far and burning it. Luckily it didn’t burn, but just the same I would stop at the 20 minute mark next time. To finish it off, I went with a simple buttercream frosting.

As for the taste test, we too came to the same conclusions in our house. No, it wasn’t like a cake from a box like we are used to today, it was more dense, but it wasn’t the very heavy cake I had imagined it would turn out to be either. If I had to compare it to another cake based on the texture and possibly flavor, I would most likely say pound cake.

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface on the recipes in grandma’s book, but one favorite thing about doing them that has already emerged for me is pondering the history behind each of them. What occasion was such a recipe used for? Why was there only 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of butter used – is that just how cake recipes were at the time or was it because such ingredients were a commodity not to be wasted? Tasting each creation also adds to that feeling of history – with each bite we are experiencing a taste of the past.

On that note, as I ponder the past I will also ponder the future of this cake and what changes I might make for round 2.

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