Sunday, February 7, 2010

Aunt Dene’s Red Velvet Cake


My parents built a cabin in a quaint, little town located in Southern Illinois.  The town consists of narrow country roads with old houses appearing ever so often.  The only vehicles that drive on these road are pickup trucks and four wheelers.  I prefer the latter.  When riding down the roads, I think about the vast history of each homestead, the generations of actual people who lived their lives there for the past two hundred years. A tiny graveyard in the middle of a clearing in the woods even shows stones from the 1700s.  On weekends, we attend a one room church that practically doubles in attendees when my family is present.  The same people have been there every Sunday morning, week after week, year after year, for their entire lives.  Aunt Dene is one of the members of the church and she’s the youngest woman in her 80s I’ve ever known.  Aunt Dene, who is “Aunt” to everyone, has never lived anywhere else but this narrow, country road on which our cabin is built.  Her stories display a lifetime of memories.  I had the privilege of hearing these stories when Aunt Dene gave me the gift of time as she passed down her Red Velvet cake recipe that had been in her family for many years.  To gain the authentic feeling of baking Red Velvet cake in Aunt Dene’s kitchen, make sure the weather is a pleasant 65 degrees, open the window above the sink to let a breeze blow through, occasionally open the creaking screen door to pet the stray cat who has made your porch his home, be sure the only background noises are the hummingbirds feeding on the feeder outside and the clanking of cooking utensils, drink sweet tea, and bake.  Bake slowly.  Take great care in each step of the recipe.  Patience is the secret key.  And you’ll bake the most fantastic Red Velvet cake you’ve ever tasted.


Main Ingredient One: Patience

Sift together 2 cups and 4 TBS Swans Down cake flour, 1 tsp salt, and 2 TBS cocoa.  Sift 3 times.  Patience in sifting makes the cake taste like velvet.


Main Ingredient Two: A Touch of Love

Hand mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup of butter flavored Crisco.


Main Ingredient Three:  Acceptance of Changing Time

Add two eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 oz of water and 1 oz of food coloring (An ounce can be converted to 6 tsp.)  Mix these with an Electric Mixer.  “This was not as easy when my mom was young.” –Aunt Dene


Main Ingredient Four:  Smiles and Stories of days long ago.

Add 1 cup buttermilk and the sifted ingredients.  Alternate starting with sifted and ending with sifted.  Then add a combined 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar.  Mix with electric mixer. 


Fold with a spoon to remove air bubbles.  Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 inch round pans.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Let cool under the window.  Attend evening church and then come back for finishing touches.


Now, picture the window still open, the sounds of crickets and cicadas singing their nightly songs, and the occasional scent of a burning bon fire.



The Icing on the Cake:

Warm 1 cup of whole milk in a sauce pan.

Wisk 1/3 cup of Gold Medal Wonder quick mixing flour and 1/2 cup of milk

Add to the sauce pan.

Cook on medium heat till boiling and boil for 1 minute.

Put pan in ice water to cool, stirring occasionally.

Mix the cooled mixture with electric mixture for 1 minute.

Add 1 cup white Crisco, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of salt.

Mix with electric mixer for 5-7 minutes till creamy and smooth.

Piecing it all together:

Use a knife to cut an incision of about an inch around the circumference of each cake.  Be sure this incision is in the middle.


Then separate the cake into halves with a piece of string, moving it back and forth until you have sliced the cake in two.  Do this to the other round cake and add icing to each of the four pieces.  Layer them one on top of the other until all four pieces are held together by the icing.  Ice the sides and top of cake till all red is covered. 

Final Ingredient: Understanding the memory you’ve just made.

Wish you had brought your camera along to document the process, but know it might not have been the same if you had. Sometimes old fashioned mental pictures are the best you’ll ever take.  Hug Aunt Dene and say that her time spent with you was even more of a blessing than she can know.  Carefully place the covered cake on the back of the four wheeler and ride to the cabin to share with your family. Smile.

(I made my cakes shaped like hearts for Valentine’s Day, but that’s a lovely part about baking – You are always free to make new memories, even while remembering the old!)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl Cookie Puzzle!


Cookies make me happy. I wanted to try making something I’ve never seen before. (Although I’m sure it has been done.)


I rolled out my dough, cut the shape of a football, and then cut various pieces.  It took me a while to get the dough even from left to right.  (This baking cookies business is very new to me!) My football did not fit on the pan so I had to separate some of the pieces…



Separating the pieces was necessary but caused quite a ruckus later!  Notice how one of my cookies must have been too thin and shrank up a bit as it cooked too long.  I had the most difficult time trying to put the puzzle back together:)


But then I remembered I had taken a picture before baking, haha!  That was extremely useful.


After the cookies cooled, I piped brown icing around the edges using a decorating bag and a #3 Wilton tip.


Then I flooded the middle of each cookie.  I later drew in the lines of the football.  Touchdown!


Piping and flooding are so much fun!  To make the icing, mix together 2 egg whites and a teaspoon of lemon juice.  When those are thoroughly blended, mix in 3 cups of powdered sugar. Set aside about 3/4 cup for later. (You’ll use this to make the lines on your football.)  Add brown food coloring and use some of this icing to pipe the outlines of the cookies.  (Make sure you cover the rest of the icing with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out.)  Once your piping dries, you can start flooding.  Just add a bit of water, maybe 1 teaspoon, to your icing.  Stir the icing, adding in just a bit of water at a time until it’s a consistency you can work with.  You want the icing to be thinner than before, but thick enough that you’ll have to use a toothpick to spread it around on the cookie. The piping serves as a dam to keep the icing from flooding over the edges of the cookies. When that dries, draw on your football lines!  I used a decorating bag for the lines and a #5 Wilton tip.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hearts for the Teachers

I made these cookies last night for the teachers at my school…


They were gone before lunch! 



So pretty!!!  Happiness!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Okay…this is definitely a cake wreck…


But if you watch LOST, maybe you can appreciate it.  This is Hurley and Locke waiting to blow up the hatch.


The dynamite is made from tootsie rolls and toothpicks.  Hey, you have some Arst on you…




HEY!  There’s a man down there!


Well hello, Desmond brothah!  See you in another life.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes

I’ve been looking forward to making these cupcakes for weeks!


I received this cupcake tier for my birtHday and was looking for the perfect opportunity to breAk it in.  Never having made cuPcakes before, I was a little nervous.


I’m in love with candy molds. I filled each candy Present with my Grandma Marie’s peanut butter filling recIpe. Scrumptious surprise in each bite…


Yellow cake from a box.  Chocolate iciNg from a containEr.  Still abSolutely deliciouS.


Happy Happy Birthday, Mom!