Sunday, April 17, 2011

The point is cake

A few weeks back I got the sweetest email from a friend of yore, a girl that I went to summer camp with and then college. She was writing to tell me that she reads my blog and uses my recipes—two bits of information that always catch me off-guard and give me a little thrill. Aside from a handful of readers who leave lovely comments I have no idea if people actually read my blog. Sure, I occasionally glance at the ticking numbers on my site meter, but they don’t mean much—for all I know, the majority of hits are by people searching for enlightenment and when google lands them on my blog they suffer pangs of bitterest disappointment and disillusionment which leads to a falling out with all search engines. I hope that doesn't happen, of course, but I have no way of knowing. (Yes, there are high-techy ways of finding out, but I am not inclined towards any techy-ness, and certainly not any HIGH techy-ness.)

So when Bethany (for that is the name of the aforementioned sweet girl) emailed me and told me that she actually uses some of my recipes in her CSA newsletter, I was first surprised, second tickled, and third addled. Because—hello!—does this means there are people actually reading and cooking from this little blog? I mean, that’s what I want them to do, but whoa, dude! All my shortcomings—the stupid things I've said and done, the outrages claims I've made—it's like getting caught with my pants down, and just because I'm used to walking around in public with my pants down doesn't mean I don't still blush when someone looks at me, know what I mean?

You don't?

Um, okay. Forget I said anything, okay? (Geesh.)

I am slip-sliding all over this post, the point of which (yes! there’s a point!) is cake.


Cake was the point of Bethany’s email, too. See, she was after a recipe. This is what she said, “I still remember a particular mint cake that your mother sent down to school once - a three-layer white cake with flecks of green that was dense and sweet and amazing. I had the recipe and lost it. I'd be grateful for any leads on this - but no hurry.”


I immediately knew exactly what she was talking about. It’s not every day that you eat a mint cake with real mint in it, and I clearly remember the first time I had this cake. It was at a cousin’s outdoor wedding up in Pennsylvania (my husband and I were a couple months shy of getting married ourselves), and at the reception, we had this cake.


Come to think of it, I don’t remember much of anything about the wedding or the cake. It’s more of a fact lodged in my brain than an actual visceral memory. I know we had this mint cake, and I know it was delicious, and I know the wedding was lovely. But that’s all I know. The end.


In order to bake this cake, I had to beg some dried mint from my mom. She brought me the last of her mint which didn’t measure quite up to the full three tablespoons, but it had to do.

And do it did, just fine.


I iced the cake with cream fluff frosting, but any butter frosting would be fine. However, I think this elegant cake would be super classy served plain (perhaps baked in a bundt pan), dressed only with sugared strawberries or red raspberries, whipped cream optional.


Here’s what happens when I serve my husband his first piece of cake. I pull up a stool, sit down, and then stare at him as he eats.


“What do you think?” I ask.

Silently, he chews. I tap my foot and wait. He swallows.

“Well? What do you think?” I ask again.

He ignores me, shovels another piece into his mouth, and continues chewing.

“You’ve had plenty of time to taste it,” I snap. “TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!”

Then the Baby Nickel sidles up to the table, attempts to sneak a taste with his grubby paw, and gets the boot.


And I am appeased, for my question has been answered. My husband likes the cake.

Mint Wedding Cake

This cake made two full 9-inch layers, but you could get three layers if you used 8-inch pans.

A note on my recipe card says: put no mint in icing. The cake is perfectly minty as is—any more would be a plunge headlong overboard.

Oil of peppermint is not to be confused with peppermint extract. Check the baking aisle of your grocery store or a health food store.

For a standard white cake: omit the oil of peppermint and dried mint leaves, and increase the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour (I used Softasilk)
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons crushed dried mint leaves
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 drops oil of peppermint
6 (3/4 cup) egg whites

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Using the soiled beaters, cream together the butter and sugar.

Measure the flour, baking powder, salt, and dried mint into a small bowl. In another small bowl, measure the milk, water, vanilla, and oil of peppermint.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the wet. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Divide the batter between two greased, wax paper-lined (grease the wax paper, too), and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake the cakes at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the cakes and carefully dumping them out onto a cooling rack.

If desired, ice the cooled cakes with buttercream (some suggestions: cream fluff frosting, buttercream frosting, and vanilla buttercream frosting).

I stored this cake, well-covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. The cool temperatures made the cool minty-ness even more refreshing.

This same time, years previous: banana cake with creamy peanut butter frosting

12 comments:

  1. Mmmm. I can't wait to make some of this. I used to LOVE it. Maybe for Easter?

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  2. Your husband has a tough life, with all your recipe testing. It must be TORTURE to be forced to eat delicious desserts all the time.

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  3. hmmm, that might have been my wedding, but I don't really remember the cake.... pretty hazy on the details myself.

    S-

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  4. I have never heard of a mint cake. I think I will make this - I bet a deep chocolate icing would be good. My kids' favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip.

    I read your blog! I cook from your blog! I was just on here printing out the mustard eggs recipe. I have a real glut of eggs to use up. Which leads me to ask, what did you do with the 6 yolks left from making this cake??

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  5. Yes, what do you do with the six egg yolks left over? Do they freeze well? It's always the other way around and I just freeze the whites for later use. I still haven't tried the frosting recipe Ree posted. Soon, soon! Is it that good?

    Also, I pity your poor husband's suffering -- having to taste and eat all your delicious food. Oy vey.

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  6. S, yes, it was your wedding.

    Margo and Marie M, Just you wait till I tell you what I did the with egg yolks, boy oh boy oh boy!

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  7. Hi. I just stumbled across your blog the other day when was looking for peanut butter cookie recipes. I've enjoyed following your blog the last week or so and will continue to do so. The cookies were amazing and I can't wait to try some of your other recipes. Thanks for sharing your little corner of the world with us! :)

    Jan,
    St. Louis, MO

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  8. Hi there! I read your blog regularly but never comment, so I should let you know that even all the way over here in Japan, and even though butter and cream are prohibitively expensive and I therefore can't make a lot of your cakes, it's your principles that I can relate to and help keep me going here on my own farm in this sometimes confusing and bewildering country.... canning and preserving, raising kids, doing your best and being a good person... you are one inspiring Mama! Love it!

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  9. Jan and Anna, Hello to both of you, and thanks for saying hi!

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  10. another first comment from a regular reader. :) i found your blog through my housemates bess moser and jess hostetler, and i read it every day during my lunch break. your sloppy joe recipe is my go-to comfort food favorite on rainy, cold days, much to the delight of those who live with me!

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  11. Oh great another push for growing mint in my garden. I've heard it's a hard herb to contain...but I love CAKE and this cake sounds so great. Now I just need an event to bake it and all will be well! Welcome to foodbuzz by the way!

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