Tag Archives: recipes

70. Red Velvet Cake (Accept No Substitutes)

16 Feb

Photo by Sharyn Morrow
Flickr Creative Commons

It might surprise y’all that I’ve EVER met a cake I didn’t like, but it’s true. And before you call me a blasphemer and start extolling the virtues of this traditional Southern delicacy, allow me to explain:

I grew up eating a fair amount of red velvet cake, seeing as it turns up everywhere from church socials to meetings of the Local Heathens Society. (Yes, I just made that up, but it sounds like just the sort of group somebody ought to start.)

Barring the occasional groom’s cake, most red velvets I sampled were homemade, probably using somebody’s grandmother’s hand-me-down recipe. Or in a pinch, consulting the recipe book of the (name of town) First Baptist Church. (Yes, these actually exist. I’ll go into more detail in a future post, so stay tuned.) So for the first 24 years of my life I LOVED red velvet cake. Then I moved to Southern California, and later, Seattle.

I’m here to tell you that there is not one good red velvet cake to be found in either of those places, or anywhere in between. I reckon you probably won’t find decent red velvet cake west of Texas or north of Virginia, but I haven’t conducted scientific research. And don’t intend to.

Yummy? Probably.
Red Velvet? No.
Photo by awhiskandaspoon
Flickr Creative Commons

Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If so, someone ought to sic the folks with the white jacket on me, because I cannot resist trying red velvet cake whenever I encounter it here. And I am ALWAYS at best disappointed, at worst disgusted. Even when I purchase said cake from bakeries/cupcakeries I know and trust. This means you, Cupcake Royale (disappointed) and Macrina Bakery (disgusted. Couldn’t even finish Macrina’s version. And I have NEVER disposed of a half-eaten cupcake. To be fair, I had never before disposed of any half-eaten Macrina item. They make AWESOME cookies, cakes, breads, pastries, etc. Which is why I was so shocked at the quality, or lack thereof, of their red velvet cake.)

So I used my friend Linda’s Golden Globes/craft-making party as an excuse to attempt my own red velvet cupcakes. I spent a fair (ok, indecent) amount of time comparing recipes, trying to determine what might be wrong about Yankee velvet cake, so that I didn’t end up disappointing myself (or–as Southerners say–myOWNself).

After the cupcakes were baked and cooled and properly frosted, I tasted one. Hallelujah! I now know at least one place to get honest-to-goodness Southern red velvet cake in Seattle.

My ought-to-be-patented
recipe filing system

I used this recipe for the cake (But used 3 tablespoons of cocoa instead of the chintzy 1 teaspoon the recipe calls for. Actually, I probably used close to 4 T, adding a bit at a time till the batter tasted right.)

I frosted the cupcakes with:

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 stick butter (softened)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ t salt

Directions: Use the mixing appliance of your choice to cream butter and cream cheese with powdered sugar. (On low at first so you don’t sugar coat the entire kitchen). When sugar is incorporated, switch mixer into high gear. If you are mixing by hand, stop. Go to your nearest mart store and pick up a hand mixer, already.

Add vanilla and beat until the frosting reaches your ideal spreading consistency. If too dry, add a splash of milk. If too wet, add more powdered sugar.

Finally, add salt and beat some more. (See why I told you to get yourself a mixer?) I add additional salt a pinch at a time till the frosting loses that hurt-your-teeth-sweet quality.

Frost and enjoy! Save the beaters and near-empty bowl for someone you love who loves to lick the frosting. You love yourself, right?

Sadly, I didn’t photograph my pretty, delicious cupcakes, as I was running late (shocker!). I guess I’ll have to bake them again…

Everyone enjoyed the cupcakes, and I was most impressed when my friend Julie (who’s from Texas and presumably knows red velvet cake) went for seconds.

I was picking up a sandwich the other night and noticed a fetching-looking red velvet cake (complete with Valentine’s themed heart on top). I’m happy to report that I was not lured in. Maybe I’m learning from my mistakes, after all.

Also, if you’d like a more in depth analysis on RVC, check out the taste test conducted by The Bake More blogger.

Do you have a go-to recipe for red velvet cake? Or know of a good place to buy a tasty premade one?

39. Cool Whip–Cream of the Non-dairy Crop

17 Jun

Do the Cool Whip by sweetmusichearts

In case you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to get around to Cool Whip, I must confess that I haven’t used it in so long that I almost forgot about it. UNTIL…I was eating at a restaurant near my hometown called Mama & Mamee’s. (Many thanks to my friend Tammy Tadlock who recommended the place!!)

At a later date, I will extol the wonderful deliciousness of the entrees, but for now I’m skipping straight to dessert. Have y’all ever been tempted to look over a dessert menu and say, “I’ll have one of everything”? I know I have. Many a time. But I never actually DID it. UNTIL…well, there were six desserts on the menu, and they all sounded equally good. There were three of us, and we were all equally smitten. Plus, the desserts were only $1.99 each. Which by the math I remember from high school meant two desserts for less than the price of one at any other restaurant anywhere. So we ordered six desserts and three spoons.

If I recall correctly, our waitress delivered: white chocolate bread pudding, coconut cake, Hershey’s cake, earthquake cake, banana pudding, and the ice cream sandwich cake, which was what got me to remembering Cool Whip.

After much tasting and speculating and finally asking the waitress, we determined that the ice cream sandwich cake consisted of a layer of ice cream sandwiches, a layer of caramel, a layer of Cool Whip, and a generous sprinkling of toffee bits. How could something that simple (and cheap!) be that plate-lickingly delicious? Magic? Love? Who cares! But I know what I’m bringing to the next potluck. Y’all get ready.

Ever since I bought my own Starbucks-style whipped cream dispenser, I’ve developed a strong preference for real whipped cream. Ok, yes, I’m whipped cream snob. But I will always have a place in my heart (and on my plate) for good, old-fashioned Cool Whip. Because without it, you cannot make my absolute favorite dessert in the world: Chocolate Stuff.

Chocolate Stuff

2 sticks melted butter
2 cups flour
Pecans (however many you want)

Mix and bake in a Pyrex dish at 350 for 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

8 oz. Cream cheese
1 cup Cool Whip
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

Cream together and layer half of this mixture onto cooled crust.

2 (4 oz.) instant chocolate pudding mixes
3 cups of milk

Beat together and spread on top of cream cheese mixture. Top with additional Cool Whip and chopped pecans.

Don’t plan on seeing this one at a potluck anytime soon. It’s kind of a bitch to make. Also, I find it difficult to share.

What’s your favorite recipe involving Cool Whip?

30. Biscuits: Our Daily Bread

3 Mar

Let’s settle one thing right up front: if it comes out of a can, it is not a biscuit. Not that there aren’t uses for Hungry Jacks. They’re a key ingredient in monkey bread and will also make a semi-decent Krispy Kreme substitute if you’re desperate, just don’t serve them with butter and jam expecting them to pass.

Some Southern folks have gotten a little lazy about the biscuit making and rely on the frozen Pillsbury variety. One advantage to these is that you can heat up however many you want and never be stuck with cold, leftover biscuits. Although for some reason my dad hasn’t caught on to this idea. He heats up a whole bunch of them at once, butters them, and then leaves them out on the counter. Just in case somebody happens by and wants a biscuit, I reckon.

I really don’t get why folks would want to eat some kind of bland, biscuit-like substitute. How hard is it to make a biscuit? Ok, I will confess that I, myself, had never made a biscuit till last Saturday, but it’s not at all difficult.

As often as I watched my mom making biscuits while I was growing up, you’d think I’d have the recipe embedded in my brain like a Barry Manilow song. Au contraire, mes amis. (Imagine that pronounced with a Southern accent. On second thought: don’t.) My mom didn’t have a recipe. She dumped some flour in a bowl, cut it with Crisco, poured in some buttermilk, mixed it up, dropped the dough on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. And Voila! Light, fluffy drops of heaven on a plate.

She always swore her biscuits were not as good as her sister Juanita’s, but I wouldn’t know because I never actually tasted one of my aunt’s biscuits while it was hot. My uncle J.P. had a habit of reading a bible passage before breakfast, usually directed toward someone at the table. By the time we got to eat, the o.j. was warm and the biscuits were cold.

All this is to say that I can’t give you my Mom’s biscuit recipe, but I did encounter one that’s almost as good. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve attempted a bunch of scone recipes because that’s what you do here. But last weekend, I figured it was about time to learn to make biscuits. Sorry, scones, it was nice knowing you…

Sour Cream Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 450.
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Cut in butter until small crumbs form. (easier to do this in food processor)
Add sour cream and stir until mixture is moistened.
Mush together with your hands (wash first!) until the dough holds together with no stray flour bits.
Drop onto ungreased baking sheet in biscuit-sized lumps.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.

Slather with butter and jam (or gravy if you like. i don’t.) and eat. Then nap, if necessary.

What’s your favorite biscuit recipe? Can you make them as good as your own mama?

19. Frito Pie: Easy, Delicious & Low-Cal (2 out of 3 ain’t Bad)

29 Jan

It’s no secret that Southern folks are fond of casseroles, preferably those involving cream of something soup, but there’s one Southern delicacy y’all yankee types might have missed out on: Frito Pie.

Frito Pie doesn’t have a crust, and you won’t encounter any Cool Whip (one hopes), so I’m not sure how it came to be known as “pie.” (But then my mom’s cranberry “salad” features not one item commonly found in a garden, so I figure Southern recipe names are sort of arbitrary.)

Do not be tricked into accepting a soggy substitute such as “Doritos Casserole” or “Tostitos Stuffing.” Frito Pie can only be made with the crunch-retaining magic of Fritos. I must admit, it was a sad day when I discovered Sonic no longer traffics in Frito Pies. Chili-cheese tater tots will suffice in a pinch, but they lack a certain something. Namely Fritos.

Since you’re unlikely to encounter Frito Pie east of Texas or north of Tennessee, I’ll give you the basic recipe:

Frito Pie

Some chili

A bag of Fritos

Tons of cheese

Put the Fritos in a casserole dish. Top with chili and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees till nice and bubbly.

You could also add ground beef, onions, and jalapenos if you wanted to be extra fancy.

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