Category Archives: Baking

chocolate cake

Chocolate Half Sheet Cake

chocolate cake

This is a delicious, moist cake with homemade chocolate icing that hits the spot for BBQs, parties, family dinners. It’s a recipe for a half-sheet cake which is 12 inches by 18 inches. It will serve 40 or more people. This isn’t modern-instant-make-it-fast food, its old fashioned with a twist so take your time, read through and give it a whirl.

If Snack Cakes are more your thing, check out my recipe. Chocolate Snack Cake

First, Prep.
Pre-heat your oven to 325*F
Grease and flour your pan or use a spray like Baker’s Joy

Get your ingredients together.

A 12×18 inch pan and either Baker’s Joy spray or you can grease and flour it.
2 Dark Chocolate Cake Mixes – I used Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge Cake
6 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 – 3 oz package of instant fudge pudding mix
2 1/2 cups brewed coffee – you won’t taste the coffee in the final cake, the coffee brings out the chocolate flavor
2 cups sour cream

I found the idea for this tweak on www.cakecentral.com and its by a member there named macsmom. The icing is my own recipe.

Make The Cake
Mix everything together well and pour in your prepared pan. Bake at 325*F for 45 minutes, check the cake for doneness and bake longer if needed. Some ovens will take 50-55 minutes maybe a little more. Mine takes 45. You test for doneness with a very thin sharp knife or a broom straw. Insert the sharp knife in the cake in the middle and to each side. If the knife comes up clean, no cake batter on it, then the cake is done.

Once its done, allow the cake to cool.

You can turn the cake out onto a prepared piece of cardboard or cake board or just leave it in the pan, that’s what I usually do.

Icing Recipe

In a medium sauce pan combine:
2 sticks butter – don’t use margarine or other substitute, it will be too oily.
1 1/3 cups cocoa powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Stir it as it cooks.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, stir well.

Add: 2 teaspoons vanilla, stir.

Sift 2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, slowly add the confectioner’s sugar to the chocolate mixture until well blended. You can add some milk in tiny amounts if you think the icing is too thick. When its done, it should pour.

Pour the icing over the cooled cake, let it all cool before packaging.

The icing will form a nice, light crust as it cools.

 

amish country bread

Amish Bread

bread

Light Whole Wheat Amish Bread

Many of my Readers know that I once owned and operated a bakery in Amish country.  I baked bread, rolls, pies, cakes, donuts and more for the whole countryside.

After 9/11 the business almost dried up, just like a light switch, it was gone. We struggled on for a while but with 2 mortgages to pay it was hard. We finally sold the business and our country home and went back to our little home in the suburbs.

No one has opened up the business again, the new owners just rent out the house.  The home we are in now is the home where I grew up so the situation is not really so bad as it may sound. I love it here.  I get to watch my children climb in the tree I planted. I get to garden in my Mother’s garden.

Anyway, back to the bakery.
  While I was there I learned a lot of Amish recipes.  Amish recipes aren’t typically healthy because they utilize white sugar and flour.  But they sure are tasty!  Feel free to use alternate ingredients.

Amish Bread is a phenomenon all its own.  Its soft, delicious and easy to make in big batches. When someone starts bread baking, I always recommend they start with this kind of bread.  We sold over 40 loaves per day of this bread in our heyday.

Equally well received was the Amish Wheat Bread. You can use the same recipe and replace all the white flour with light whole wheat or half whole wheat and half light whole wheat.  If you use all Whole wheat, the dark kind, you’ll need to add about 2 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to help the bread rise. The photo above, to the right is 100% Light Whole Wheat, King Arthur flour. The photo below is a side view of the Amish White Bread.

amish country bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amish Country Bread

2 1/2 cups milk, heated to about 115*F – I just heat it on the stove in a pan and I heat it til I can stick my finger in it and its very warm but not uncomfortable. Or you could use a thermometer.

2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 rounded tablespoon fat*
2 Tablespoons salt**
3-4 cups bread flour

* I use lard, shortening will work. Coconut oil tends to make the loaf dry. Olive oil works well.
** It seems like a lot but if you reduce it, only reduce it by a teaspoon or so

lecithin

Lecithin from egg yolks

If  you anticipate your bread hanging around the house a while before its devoured, you can add 2 tablespoons powdered lecithin. Lecithin is a natural product derived from egg yolk that keeps the bread moist and keeps it from crumbling.  Mine never hangs around that long, chances are, yours won’t either!

Before you begin, preheat your oven to 500*F. You won’t use this high temp to bake the bread, but you’ll turn off the heat and use the heated oven to help the bread rise.

1) Heat the milk, add about 1/2 cup of the milk to a cup and then add the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let this mixture sit and foam for about 5 minutes.

2) Add the rest of the sugar, salt, fat, rest of the milk and the lecithin to the mixing bowl.

3) Once the yeast mixture foams, add it to the mixing bowl ingredients.

4)  Now start adding the flour, a cup at a time, to the mixing bowl ingredients,  mixing until you get a soft dough. If you’re using a stand mixer to knead the dough, knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and leaves the bowl clean.

If you are kneading by hand, add flour and knead for 10 minutes. Don’t add more than 4 cups of flour.

5) After kneading, grease a large oven-proof bowl. Gather the dough up into a ball and place it into the greased bowl. Pick up the ball and turn it over in the bowl, this greases the top surface of the dough. Cover the bowl and dough with a clean cloth.

6) Place the bowl into the heated oven, turn off the heat and let the oven door hang open a bit.

If you’re not using the heated oven to raise the dough, just place the dough in a warm area. Allow the dough to rise til double, about 45 minutes to an hour if you’re using the heated oven and about an hour to an hour and a half if you’re not using the oven.

While the dough is rising, prepare two loaf pans by greasing them well. You can use spray oil.

7) Once the dough is risen and doubled in size, divide it into to two equal portions. I shape each portion into a loaf by first pulling the sides of the ball down and tucking them underneath the ball, kind of like a mushroom. Then I hold the ball with the tucked ends near my palm and roll the “mushroom” on the table. This presses out air bubbles.

8) Place the dough into the prepared pans.  Using a fork, pierce the dough all the way to the bottom of the pan 10 or 12 times all over the top of the loaf.

9) Allow the loaves to rise until they are about 1 inch over the sides of the pans. This can take up to two hours.

10) Preheat the oven to 325*F. Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Turn the pans over and remove the bread from the pans.

Brush the tops and sides of the warm loaves with butter, this makes the crust soft once the bread cools.

Allow to cool before storing in plastic bags.

You can really dress this recipe up by adding fresh herbs.

One way to use this recipe is to make an herb loaf.  Divide the dough into two portions. Place the rounds of dough on a greased cookies sheet or on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Paint the tops of the loaves with an egg-wash made from 1 egg white and a little water. Then slit the tops in a decorative pattern using a small sharp knife.  Now sprinkle over the top, kosher salt, rosemary, oregano and thyme. You can also use a bit of grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Bake at 350*F for about 25 minutes. Cool on a rack before storing.

 

vegan cake 1

Vegan White Wedding Cake

Hoo boy. I bit off just about more than I thought I could chew with this one. but it turned out really well. I found the original recipe at Veganbaking.com  but I tweaked it a bit after the test cake turned out kind of, well, cornbread-like.  cake

The final cake was light, tasted good, sweet enough, and had a not-quite-white color. It has a texture that is like a dense sponge cake. My understanding is that if you are used to eating vegan foods, you’ll like this cake.  My son who is not vegan liked it and I liked it too after the tweaking.

Each of these three sets of ingredients must be combined separately first, then you add set 2 to set 1 and mix. Then add set 3 to the combined 1 and 2 and mix.

This recipe only makes 1 (ONE) 6 inch diameter, 2 inch deep cake. If you use an 8 inch pan like the original instructions calls for, it doesn’t really rise enough. So to make one 8 inch cake that is 2 inches deep you need two of these recipes.  For the wedding cake I made I used 12 of these.

*Prepare your pans by spraying with a product like Baker’s Joy (what I use) or grease with vegetable shortening (vegan!) and then flour the pan. Knock out the excess flour.  I cut a circle from parchment paper and lay inside the pan then spray it again.

*Preheat your oven to 325*F – the original instructions called for 359*F but I felt that it was too hot and that the higher heat may have been what was causing the cake to have that cornbread taste. It was. So the lower heat is what you want.

*Baking times will vary but a 6 inch cake took about 30 minutes, an 8 inch cake took about 40 minutes and a 10 inch cake took almost an hour.

*Test for done-ness by sliding a thin, sharp knife through the middle of the cake. If no batter comes out with the knife, its done

In your main mixing bowl, combine:
¾ cup + 1 Tablespoon non-dairy milk ( I used soy, you could use almond or rice)
2 teaspoon golden flax meal – Original recipe called for 1 teaspoon but one teaspoon wouldn’t get thick in the milk. This is what gives the cake the thickening quality like eggs and the yellow-ish color and probably the cornbread flavor)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar -( this helps thicken the milk but also conditions the flour and helps it be fluffier)

In a second bowl, combine:
¼ cup + 3 Tablespoons sugar –  I used white granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil – I used olive oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract – I used clear vanilla, original recipe called for 2 teaspoons
¼ teaspoon salt – sea salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract – also clear, original recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon.

In a third bowl, combine:
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour – I used cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder –  non-aluminum
½ teaspoon baking soda

vegan cake 1

Add the second ingredients to the first in the main mixing bowl. Mix well. 

Add the third ingredients to the main mixing bowl. Mix well on medium. Mix really well. Then mix on high until the little lumps are blended in.

Pour batter into your prepared pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake as instructed above. After the cake is done, let it cool on a wire rack in the pan for about 10 minutes.  At this point you can use a long, serrated knife to cut off any domed part on top of the cake, using the edges of the pan as your guide.

Let the cake cool completely.

I like to wrap wedding cakes in plastic and put them in the freezer for a few hours before icing. I think it helps make it easier. Also, I use seedless jam, that has had the chunks of fruit sieved out, in between layers of cake.

For this cake I used fondant that I colored and molded into little designs.