31 March 2010

Vanilla, vanilla and...vanilla

I have quite a bit of catch up to do since we're approaching May's midpoint, and I left my blog dormant through most of April. I think for now, I'll just plod along and leave the posts up on the day I post them for a bit, and I'll backlog them later. Here's a post I actually wrote back around Easter weekend but never posted because I couldn't get a camera and a cord and a computer all in the same place at the same time. But I have finally triumphed on that count, so without further ado, here is a very old post for your reading enjoyment:

I have so many baked goods in my apartment right now it's ridiculous. I have The Best Fudge Brownies Ever that Jason made for me. Those are enough to satisfy my every culinary desire. But several special occasions this weekend required my baking skills. And here I am to tell you all about them.

The first occasion was Jason's brother Josh and Josh's friend Justin were coming for a visit. There were driving out from Chicago to visit a couple of schools on the east coast, and they were wondering if they could crash with us. All they needed or asked for was a place to sleep. Yeah, like I could have guests coming into my house and not make sure that they were well-fed. And on top of a family visit, it was Josh's birthday. So of course I was going to make him a birthday cake, right? Right. So Jason called his mom and asked what kind of cake Josh likes: vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. Of course. Talk about my nightmare dessert. Not the slightest hint of chocolate to be found. Oh well. It was Josh's birthday, not mine, so I made him what he would like.

I used a recipe from Megan's mother-in-law that is known as "Mrs. Benson's Cake." It is an excellent doctored cake mix recipe with the perfect texture. (Before you yell at me for not posting the recipe here, rest assured that I am working on a full recipes page, and it will be included therein.) It called for two 10" cake pans, but I only have 8" cake pans, so I used those thinking it wouldn't make too much of a difference. But when the cakes were done they were quite high, and layering them on top of each other would have made for a very tall cake indeed. So I decided to make 2 mini-cakes instead, cutting each cake in half horizontally to add a layer of frosting. Vanilla frosting. I only made one of the two and saved the 2nd cake for later frosting.

Josh and Justin and Jason all really liked the vanilla-vanilla cake. I thought the pillsbury vanilla frosting on a vanilla cake was kind of gross. But they were happy, so one chocolate-less dessert success.

Before my victory could settle, I had to think ahead to my Easter lunch. Jason and I were invited to have lunch with our neighbors, Megan and John (who we LOVE), and a few of their friends we didn't know very well. I volunteered to bring my mom's from-scratch mac'n'cheese (again, recipe forthcoming) and a dessert. Megan was making some sort of chocolate pie, so once again, I felt that I had to make a non-chocolate dessert. "Well, fine," I thought. "At least I already have a good cake to start with. But I am NOT frosting this one with store-bought vanilla icing because it will be gross and I've never met some of the other people we're having lunch with, so this is my chance to make a good impression." So I searched madly through my cookbooks for a good vanilla frosting recipe, which I found in trusty old Better Homes and Gardens. I headed to the grocery store to pick up a box of confectioners sugar.

We were also invited over to my pastor's family's house for Easter dinner. It took me a very long time to get back to them because I wasn't sure what time lunch would be. When I finally worked out the timing, all of the primary dinner elements were covered, so I volunteered to bring...you guessed it...a dessert. But there was no way I would be compelled to make yet another chocolate-less dessert. So while I was at the grocery store, I picked up the ingredients to make Robin's Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake of Deliciousness. (That's what it's called in my family traditions cookbook.) I got everything I needed, and when I got back to my parking spot, I decided it would be a good idea to call and see if it was alright for me to bring a chocolate cake. I expected an answer along the lines of, "Heck yeah! Your chocolate raspberry bundt cake is delicious! No way we're turning that down." But instead I was met with, "Someone else is already bringing chocolate cake." I was crushed, thoroughly discouraged and slightly perturbed and indignant that someone else would dare to make a chocolate cake when I was coming to dinner. Then the small rational voice interjected with, "They probably don't know you're coming and that you're on dessert duty." Okay, okay. Fine. I won't make my chocolate cake. But I am NOT going back to the grocery store. So I trudged inside with my now useless groceries.

I spent the next several hours in a mad search through my cookbooks, trying to find something that was not chocolate (so my dessert wouldn't completely put the chocolate cake to shame, so grand was my indignance) and not vanilla (because I most certainly was NOT going to make 3 chocolate-less desserts in 3 days). After hours spread out on the living room floor with the boys trying to watch March Madness over my indignant huffs and puffs over vanilla desserts, I finally settled on my mom's Cape May squares from my family traditions cookbook. Surprise surprise. I don't know why I have so many books of recipes when I almost always end up making something from my mom's arsenal. I had everything I needed to make them. Except that I'd have to use the confectioner's sugar intended for my homemade frosting. Good thing I bought some chocolate frosting at the grocery store just in case. I hoped Megan wouldn't mind and was somewhat relieved that there would be some chocolate in my weekend.

So I frosted cake #2 with chocolate fudge chip frosting, made my best batch of mac'n'cheese ever, and set to work on the Cape May squares. How can I describe Cape May squares? They are a layered bar with yellow cake on the bottom and...a sort of sweet, cream cheese custard on top. They are way better than they sound. But I wanted to add a little interest so I mixed in some of my homemade strawberry jam with the cream cheese layer. I cut up the squares and put them on a plate so I could test one and make sure they were edible. The result was subtle and delicious. And my presentation of the bars, all arranged in a diamond configuration and covered in powdered sugar and adorned with strawberries and freshly picked flowers, was quite impressive. But I forgot to take a picture. Of course.

So here are the remnants of the vanilla x's 3 Easter weekend.
And here is what I learned: if you're going to make dessert, claim chocolate early.


  1. MMMMMMMM....I love vanilla! I would die for some of Mrs. Benson's cake today....with buttecream frosting and a giant glass of milk.....

  2. Horray for chocolate. You are absolutely right about claiming your chocolate early. Good lesson learned

  3. Good work, Robin. I hope you put those ingredients of your Robin's Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake of Deliciousness to good use. If not, you're coming NEXT WEEKEND and you can certainly bring them here. Here's a girl who will never turn chocolate down!