Curious Cakes Interesting Ingredients Perk Up Desserts
By Deborah Salomon
Children are taught not to play with their food. Nobody says grownups can't.
Weird recipes - or recipes with strange ingredients - are often born of necessity.
"War cake," popular in the early 1940s contained no rationed butter, eggs or milk. Short on apples? Probably not, but a mock "apple" pie can be made from thin zucchini slices. Spice cake based on condensed tomato soup gave homemakers another reason to buy Campbell's in the 1920s. Mayonnaise cake was a staple of church cookbooks. Black bean brownies keep gluten-free dieters happy.
The early American sweet tooth had to be assuaged by whatever sweet was on hand, usually beets, carrots, yams, honey and maple syrup. The settlers' carrot pudding evolved to carrot cake.
A renaissance of old-timey cake recipes represents the pendulum's backswing. After decades of nouvelle everything suddenly, when hard times struck, even gourmet magazines put meat loaf on their covers. Pies consumed entire issues. Roasting a chicken became an art form. A cook's reputation rested on his/her mashed potatoes, and cupcake parlors proliferated.
Believe it or not, mashed sweet potatoes add moisture, therefore shelf life, to pound cake as do beets to chocolate cake, with no tell-tale purple. In another wacky chocolate cake, drained, rinsed sauerkraut imparts a coconutty crunch.
Then, a quick-fix cake with the ice cream right in it.
Children are also taught not to fib. But a secret ingredient isn't exactly fibbing, especially if the baker challenges diners to guess what it is.
Stump your family with these:
Deep Chocolate Beet Cake with Rocky Road Frosting
14-15 ounce can sliced or quartered beets, drained (save liquid)
? cup beet liquid
1 ? cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
4 squares (4 ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ? cups all-purpose flour
1 ? teaspoons baking soda
? teaspoon salt
Puree drained beets and ? cup beet liquid in blender. Pour into bowl of electric mixer. Add sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs; beat 2 minutes, until well-combined. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; beat into beet mixture, a little at a time. Add melted chocolate and beat for 2 minutes. Pour batter into greased 9-by-13 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool in pan.
Rocky Road Frosting
Spread ? cup, each, finely chopped almonds (or other nuts) and sweetened coconut in a baking pan. Toast lightly in 325 degree oven, stirring to prevent over-browning.
Beat ? cup softened butter (half a stick) until creamy. Beat in about 3 cups confectioners' sugar, 2-3 tablespoons milk and ? teaspoon vanilla until spreading consistency. Stir in toasted almonds and coconut. Spread over cooled cake in pan.
Sweet Potato Pound Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, fresh or (drained) canned, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
? teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
? teaspoon nutmeg
? teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
? teaspoon salt
Beat butter until fluffy. Beat in sugar gradually, until well-incorporated. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl often. Beat in sweet potatoes and vanilla (batter may appear curdled). Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. With mixer at low speed, beat in flour in four additions, until just combined, scraping bowl often.
Spread batter (it will be thick) into well-greased non-stick Bundt or tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cool on rack for 10 minutes before turning out. When cake is completely cool sift confectioners' sugar over top.
This cake is especially good served with ripe peach slices or homemade chunky applesauce.
Ice Cream (in the) Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 pint (2 cups) chocolate ice cream
1 cup strong coffee (or water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Soften ice cream until easily scoopable but not melted. Flavors with chunky additives are not suitable.
Sift cake mix into bowl of electric mixer. Add eggs, coffee (or water), vanilla. Combine on low speed, increase to medium and beat for 4 minutes. Pour batter into well-greased and floured Bundt pan or two 8-9 inch layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees - 45-50 minutes for a Bundt pan or 25-30 minutes for layers. Frost layers as desired.
Coffee or vanilla ice cream with chocolate cake mix.
Caramel ripple ice cream with spice cake mix.
Vanilla ice cream, ? cup water and ? cup orange or pineapple juice with lemon cake mix.
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