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How to Make a Quick Cake: Experimenting with Food Colouring
I've been extremely bored these last few days and after cleaning my apartment, reorganizing my expansive book collection and wandering the neighbourhood - I ran out of things to fill my time. I have a stack of books I've been saving for my week at the cottage, so reading is pretty much out of the question for the next four days - I'm one day away from becoming the Jack Torrance of my apartment building. On monday after suffering through an episode of Rachel Ray - the woman seems really nice but I was E-V-O-O sticking my head into the oven - I made cupcakes for my roommate.
I have never been very good at sitting around and enjoying the comfortable solitude, so I turned my cupcake making experience into the main event of my day, do not judge, fair hubbers, my life is a sad one. It began when I unearthed a box of neon food colouring from the back of my kitchen cupboard and dyed the vanilla batter soft purple and then, since that was so much fun, I dyed the icing a pastel green. Then I piped on the icing using a homemade piper (?) while decorating with gummy worms and a light dusting of rainbow sprinkles.
I felt accomplished and went to sleep last night feeling good about the thirty-three cupcakes in containers residing in my fridge but this morning, I had a need to conquer cake and well, this is where the road of bored baking leads us today.
buttercream frosting, in a nutshell
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolk, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk (i used soy milk, because i'm a rebel)
Cream butter until soft. Add salt and part of sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Then add egg yolks and vanilla; blend well. Add remaining sugar, alternatively with (soy) milk, until right consistency to spread, beating after each addition until smooth. Makes 2 1/2 cups or enough frosting to cover tops and sides of two 8 or 9 inch layers. ~ borrowed, and used, from allrecipes.com
The grocery store nearest to my apartment hasn't quite grasped the notion of stocking everything one may need to do any baking product, so I was lame and bought a box of pre-made Betty Crocker lemon cake mix. I would usually opt to walk up the hill to the better grocery store and make the batter from scratch but it was hot and sweating makes me unhappy.
So, my baking buddies, do not judge me for the lameness of the following recipe but I'll post a hub later where I make something from scratch - possibly molasses cookies with white chocolate buttons, they are a crowd pleaser.
1 box of pre-made Betty Crocker lemon cake mix
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups of water (though I used vanilla soy milk, it gives a heavier texture)
Obviously, the instructions are on the back of the box, but for the amateurs among us - this is where you take out your frustration on the batter and mix till you cannot mix anymore. Or you can take the easy way out - like I did and yes, it seems to be a running theme - and use an electric mixer, not only does it give you a smoother texture but it helps a lot with the next step.
When your batter is mixed thoroughly and you're confident there are no lumps, you can begin to play with the food colouring. I chose to dye this cake a mint green and had to play a lot with the colouring to get it exactly right. Usually the box the food colouring comes in has instructions on how to make create certain colour matches, usually for dying easter eggs but you can adapt the 'colour recipes' to suit your needs. Just before you start the, super fun, dying process preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
9 drops of yellow / 5 drops of blue
If you're looking for a darker green, possibly a forest or jungle than I would suggest upping the amount of blue you use but remember to balance out your competing colours. Using the electric mixer was a great help because you can see the colour set almost immediately in the batter, just before you pour your mixture into the pans, do a once over with a spatula to mix in any batter the mixer missed or that was stuck to the sides of the bowl.
Pour your mixture into two nine inch cake pans while making sure they are even before sliding them into the oven. You can let this mixture bake for about thirty-five minutes, allowing you to make your own frosting - also dying it a pretty colour.
Once you've removed the pans allowing them to cool before you pop out the layers onto a cooling rack, you can can lay them atop each other. This is when you can get a little knife happy and shave off the sides in hopes of making the cake more symmetrically and appealing to the eye. When you've shaved the cake to your liking, or possibly shaped it to the occasion - though, with nine inch pans your occasion should call for a slightly smaller circle and nothing more.
Then you can begin icing your cake, I've found slapping a bunch of icing on top with a spatula and icing from the inside is easier. Remember to ice in between the two layers but you can also use lemon pie filling or perhaps a lemon jam but never serve a cake sans the 'layer glue' - it's such a let down. When you're finished icing and are happy with the thickness of the icing layer, you can begin decorating to your liking.
I used sprinkles because I ate the chocolate chips on the weekend, it's a genuine wonder I'm not four hundred pounds.