Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

this time with chocolate

February 6, 2002

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Homemade chocolate cake and a tall glass of cold, white milk may be the ultimate comfort food. But no one is suggesting that a cook spend precious time sifting flour, measuring out baking powder or melting chocolate, unless they really want to.

Ann Byrn  the "Cake Mix Doctor"  is merely suggesting we doctor up cake mixes to make them taste like something not out of a box.

She baked so many cakes with mixes for her first blockbuster book, "The Cake Mix Doctor," which became the best-selling cookbook of 2000, that the doc knows what ingredients to add so that the "box-mix flavor" of cheap vanillin is covered up. Adding things to a chocolate cake mix like pure vanilla extract or cinnamon or sour cream can banish that box flavor.

In some of Byrn's doctored-up recipes, even that lightweight, insubstantial cake-mix texture becomes something more substantial and pleasing in the mouth, if not on the hips.

Now "Chocolate From The Cake Mix Doctor" by Byrn (Workman, $14.95 softcover) has been released to another thundering herd of cookbook-buyers.

They will run right home from the bookstore to bake up such dark beauties as Black Russian Cake, Quick Tunnel of Fudge, Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cake and Milky Way Swirl Cake.

The best thing about Byrn's cake-mix books, besides the recipes, are the lists of tips on so many of the pages, imparting the wisdom of the "Cake Mix Doctor." For example, adding too much additional cocoa powder to a cake mix makes a dry cake; adding a mashed banana makes a moister "mix" cake.

Here are some devilishly dark-chocolate cakes suggested by the doctor.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

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5 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 (18.25-ounce) package plain chocolate fudge or devil's food cake mix

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla

Crushed Peppermint Buttercream (recipe below)

Place oven rack in center of oven and heat to 325 degrees. Set aside an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Place egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium mixing bowl. Beat with electric beaters on high speed until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Place cake mix, water, oil, egg yolks and vanilla in a large mixer bowl, and with same beaters (no need to clean them), blend on low speed for 1 minute. Stop and scrape down bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes, scraping down bowl. Turn the egg whites out on top of the batter and fold in with a rubber spatula until batter is light but well-combined. Pour batter into the ungreased pan, smoothing top.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Remove and turn pan upside down over the neck of a glass bottle. Cool 1 hour.

Remove pan from bottle and run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a rack. Then invert again onto a serving platter so that it's right side up.

Prepare Crushed Peppermint Buttercream: Place 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and 1 cup powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Blend with electric beaters on low speed 30 seconds. Add 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar alternately with 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, blending on low speed. Add another tablespoon of milk if frosting seems too stiff. Increase mixer to medium speed and beat frosting 1 minute or until light and fluffy. Fold in 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy. Spread over the top and sides of the cake with smooth strokes. Let cake rest 10 minutes, then slice and serve. (Cake also looks great without frosting; dust with sifted powdered sugar.)

Makes 16 servings.

Chocolate Midnight Cake

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1 (18.25-ounce) package plain dark chocolate fudge cake mix (Duncan Hines and generics are plain; Betty Crocker and Pillsbury have pudding)

1 cup water

1 cup real mayonnaise

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)

Place a rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess.

Place cake mix, water, mayonnaise, eggs and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl. Divide batter evenly between pans and place side by side in the oven. Bake until cakes spring back when lightly pressed with finger, 28 to 32 minutes. Cool on wire racks 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around edge of each layer and invert onto another rack so cakes are right side up. Cool 30 minutes more.

Place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving plate. Spread top with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Place second layer right side up on top of the first and frost top and sides with smooth strokes.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: Place 8 tablespoons real butter, at room temperature, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Blend with electric beaters at low speed 30 seconds. Add 3 cups powdered sugar alternately with 3 tablespoons milk, a tablespoon at a time, blending at low speed. Increase to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

Makes 16 servings.

Darn Good Chocolate Cake

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1 (18.25-ounce) package plain devil's food or fudge cake mix

1 (3.9-ounce) package chocolate instant pudding mix

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Martha's Chocolate Icing (recipe below)

Place rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 12-cup bundt pan with vegetable oil spray and dust with flour, shaking out excess.

Place cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with electric beaters on low speed 1 minute. Stop and scrape down bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 to 3 minutes more, scraping down bowl. Fold in chips, making sure to distribute them well. Turn batter into the bundt pan and bake for 58 to 62 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed and is just starting to pull away from the pan. Place on wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around edge of cake and invert onto a rack to cool 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare Martha's Chocolate Icing: Place 1 cup granulated sugar, 5 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup whole milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until it comes to a boil, 3 to 4 minutes. Still stirring, let mixture boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Pour over cake. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Makes 16 servings.

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