Sunday, April 25, 2010

Frances's Birthday "Cake"

My book club, "Bed Pillers", likes to make fun of air quotes and quotes that don't really belong. But in this case, Frances's birthday cake wasn't really a cake. So there you have it.

She wanted a blondie. Here's my modified recipe. I got a kitchen scale last year, so I've taken to weighing my ingredients where possible, as different flour brands can be really different. I use King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose flour most of the time. (But I just got some of their Bread Flour & I'm really excited to make some bread with it.)

Frances's Blondies
1 1/2 cups flour (7.5 ounces)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks & only Land O'lakes in my house), melted & cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar ( 10.5 ounces)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tsp vanilla (which happens to be 1 Tbs + 1 tsp)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (roughly)

The original recipe calls for 6 ounces white chocolate chips or 3 ounces semisweet & 3 ounces white, but I knew Frances would balk at white chocolate chips. It also called for 1 cup of toasted pecans or walnuts, but know Frances would balk at nuts, I just bumped up the chocolate chips.

1. Melt butter and set aside to cool a bit. (If you do this in a large-ish bowl, you can use it for the rest of the steps and not have to dirty another dish.)
2. Heat oven to 350°.
3. Prepare pan: Line pan with aluminum foil in both directions, then spray with cooking spray.*
4. Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and set aside.
5. Whisk the brown sugar into the melted and cooled butter.
6. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisking to combine.
7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. (Don't overmix.) Then fold in the chocolate chips.
8. Pour in the prepared pan and use a rubber spatula to spread it out evenly.
9. Bake until the top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown. A 13 x 9 pan will take 22 to 25 minutes. I used a half sheet pan, which only took me 15 minutes. I knew I was going to do 2 layers, and I wanted a big surface to decorate.

So, in my case, pull it out of the oven and start all over again for the 2nd layer. I put chocolate icing in between the two layers, but I wasn't thrilled with my chocolate icing (Taste was good, but it was sort of a pain, and it never got as fluffy as I wanted.)

* This is what I do for brownies and blondies and stuff like that. It allows you to take the brownies out in one fell swoop. Then, if you want to cut them like the coffee shop, you can trim off the crust (and eat it) and then wrap your brownies individually and they all look perfect. Or, in this case, I could take the blondies out of the pan in one piece to decorate.

Other commentary . . . Getting the "cake" on the display platter can be a pain. I do a lot of flipping things onto cookie sheets back and forth to make sure I have the right side facing up. And getting the second layer on! Egads! I found a system that worked well. I put the second layer upside down on a cookie sheet, pushed the "cake" layer to the edge. Lined the edge up with the edge of the 1st layer and QUICKLY went FLOP! Amazingly it all landed it the right place and nothing broke.

And as far as display platters go . . . I don't have a platter big enough or flat enough for a half sheet cake, so I take a cookie sheet, cover it with wrapping paper (taped it on there on the bottom), then cover that with plastic wrap (again taped on the bottom). You can add some cool effects by using the colored plastic wrap.

And the monkey . . . I'm not really that great of an artist, but I'm not bad at faking it. I printed out a picture of this monkey enlarged to be as big as I wanted it. I cut out the outline of his head, put it on the cake, then iced the outline. Then I cute out the face/mouth part, then iced around that. Then I filled in the chocolate in between. Pretty tricky, eh?

Oh! It tasted really good! If I had my druthers, I would have had nuts and half white chocolate chips, but sometimes it's not all about me.

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