Recently I was sent and asked to review: United Cakes of America by Warren Brown. A Collection of Recipes Celebrating Every State! How Unique! What fun! I couldn’t wait to dive in and see what cakes went with what states. Almost all recipes have big beautiful pictures, and some history to the origins, or an explanation as to why the cake fits the state it was cataloged under. I liked that the dedicated cakes weren’t just cake, but also included cheesecakes, whoopie Pies, Pancakes, Johnny Cakes, cobbler, rice crispy treats, (not cake, but can’t be passed up) and even a Cherry Trifle! Making a selection was once again hard to do. What to make out of so many eye candy, taste tempting recipes. I went through the book over and over finally settling on one recipe, making 2 different desserts. I opted for the Bundt cake, following the variation to make his version of The Tunnel of Fudge Cake. (Minnesota – The pan itself was created in the 1950’s by David Dalquist of Nordic Products, based in Minneapolis. It rocked to fame when Pillsbury (another Minneapolis-based company) promoted it nationally along with the Tunnel of Fudge recipe by Ella Rita Helfrich of Houston, Texas, winner of the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest.)
15 oz. (3 Cups) All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Cup Milk
2 tsp. Vanilla
8 oz. (2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter
21 oz. (2 1/2 Cups+2 Tablespoons) Superfine Granulated Sugar (Blitz in a food processor if you don’t have superfine sugar)
For the Glaze:
1/2 Cup Milk or Water
8 1/2 oz. (2 Cups) Confectioner’s Sugar, plus more if needed
Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F and place the rack in the middle position. Spray a 12 Cup Bundt pan with non stick oil and starch spray. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Set aside.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low-speed for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl all the way to the bottom using a flexible spatula and mix until everything is thoroughly combined. Alternately add the dry and wet mixtures about a quarter at a time without pausing between additions. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and mix on low another 20 seconds. Gently scoop the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed and a wooden skewer inserted in the deepest part comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a rack so it’s resting right side up. Let it cool completely.
Combine the ingredients for the glaze and whisk. Drizzle the mixture over the cooled pound cake and let gravity push the glaze down the sides of the cake. If it wont’ pour well, add a little more liquid, as needed.
Note: To make it the Tunnel of Fudge Cake, you add 1 oz. of Cocoa to the dry ingredients, 1 ounce of melted unsweetened chocolate and 3 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate to the wet ingredients. Replace the white sugar glaze with a chocolate glaze.
Bring 1/2 cup of half and half to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour it over 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chunks or pistoles. Let the chocolate cool slightly, then drizzle it over the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides. (I made this exactly as written, but the glaze was way too runny. I checked the recipe several times to make sure I had the correct amount the recipe specified. Maybe a typo? I would suggest 1/4 cup of half and half and 4 oz. chocolate, adding more or less liquid or chocolate if needed.)
VERDICT: I baked my cakes in mini bundts, saving enough to make one 8 inch round cake for another recipe. I wouldn’t classify this as a tunnel of fudge cake, as I found no tunnel of fudge in the center of the bundts. I remember my mom making the tunnel of fudge cake and tasting that definite chocolate-y fudge-y center. This didn’t have that, but it made a Great tasting chocolate cake (and tasted even better the second day) and the kids loved the mini’s. Some I drizzled with the glaze, and some I sprinkled with powdered sugar.
My second choice and the reason I baked an 8 inch round with the mini bundt’s recipe was so that I could serve something that just spells summer! The Baked Alaska! (Alaska – Baked Alaska bears the name of the state, but it didn’t begin in Alaska. As with many other after-dinner delights, the origins of the first dessert to include ice cream and sponge cake encased in pasty dough or meringue are disputed. It’s believed that Thomas Jefferson indulged his guests at the White House with the version encased in pastry. The reigning story credits Charles Ranhofer – a famous French-born chef at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York – with creating the dessert, which he included in his 1893 cookbook and dubbed “Alaska, Florida”.) Who can resist cake and ice cream!? Certainly not I. Baked Alaska is one of my favorite desserts.
1/2 Recipe of Amazing Vanilla Cake (recipe follows)
2 Pints Ice Cream (Any flavor)
For the Meringue:
1/4 Cup Water
10 oz. (1 1/4 Cups) Superfine Sugar (use your food processor it you don’t have superfine sugar)
5 Egg Whites
Once you’ve made the Amazing Vanilla Cake, line a 9 inch cake ring with plastic wrap and place it on a heat proof platter. Slice the cake twice horizontally to make 3 layers about 1/4 inch thick. Stir or whip the ice cream until it’s spreadable. Place one thin layer of cake inside the ring and smear about 1 1/2 cups of ice cream on it. Repeat for the remaining cake layers, ending with ice cream on top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 24 hours. Preheat the oven to the highest setting – 550 degrees F, if possible. While the oven heats, prepare the meringue.
Combine the water and 8 ounces of the sugar in a small saucepan over medium to high heat. Insert a candy thermometer. Whip the egg whites on low speed in bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment. When the sugar syrup measures 200 degrees F on the thermometer, tun the mixer on high speed. Beat until the whites are a stiff peak, then slowly pour in the remaining 2 ounces of sugar. When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, slowly pour it into the meringue, as you continue to whip at high-speed. After adding the syrup, whip for 2 minutes longer, then reduce to medium speed and whip the meringue for another minute or two. Use immediately. Remove the cake from the mold, using a dish towel soaked in warm water against the ring to help release it. Remove any plastic wrap. Working fairly quickly, apply the meringue. Use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or just spread with an offset spatula. Cover the cake completely. Place the cake in the oven and set the timer for 3 minutes. Check often to monitor progress. As soon as the meringue peaks are browning, remove the cake from the oven. Alternatively, use a chef’s blowtorch to brown the meringue. Immediately cut the dessert tableside with a knife dipped in warm water, and serve.
Amazing Vanilla Cake
8 oz. (1 1/2 Cups) All Purpose Flour
1 oz. Potato Starch
2 Pinches Salt
1 Tbsp. Vanilla Powder
4 oz. (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp. Rum
6 Eggs, separated
12 oz. (1 1/2 Cups) Superfine Granulated Sugar
1/2 Vanilla Bean, seeds only
Directions for Vanilla Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and place the rack in the middle position. Line two 9X2 inch round cake pans with parchment. Measure dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it is browned, then remove from the heat. Stir in the rum and vanilla and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire attachment, beat the egg whites on high-speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly pour 2 ounces of the sugar into the whites and whip for another 20 seconds. Transfer the whites to a clean bowl and set aside.
In the mixer bowl, beat the egg yolks, vanilla seeds, and remaining 10 ounces of sugar until the mixture is pale yellow. Reduce the speed of the wire whip to slow, and add the dry ingredients to the mixer in three portions. Stop the mixer and fold in the meringue with a flexible spatula, followed by the browned butter mixture. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans. Use an offset spatula to release the cakes if they stick to the sides when you invert the pans.
Absolutely Delicious!! I’ve never seen a recipe for Baked Alaska that divides the cake with layers of ice cream, but I sure like the idea! If you don’t want to split the layers and want a more traditional Baked Alaska, follow these easy directions. Do not cut the cake layers. Find a bowl (upside down) that will sit over the 9 inch cake all the way to the edges. Spray the bowl with nonstick spray, and then line with plastic wrap. Make 2 pieces of plastic wrap the same length that fits all the way into the bowl with leftover hanging over the edges. Put one sheet of plastic one way, and place the second piece the other way. Spray the plastic wrap with non stick spray. Fill the bowl with ice cream of your choice of ice cream(s). I usually use two different flavors, freezing the ice cream for a couple of hours in between adding the layers. After you have your bowl filled with ice cream, freeze ice cream in bowl for at least 4 to 8 hours, preferably overnight. Invert the bowl onto the layer cake. (You should be able to remove the ice cream from the bowl without too much difficulty. The hang over plastic wrap should aid in the removal. If you have difficulty, sit the bowl in warm water for a couple of seconds. You should have a nice dome of ice cream sitting on the layer cake. Peel the plastic wrap from the ice cream and continue with the recipes directions.) I cut my cake into 2 layers. I had to stop for a minute, mid meringue making and my meringue paid the price. It did not come out as it should have. But you know what, it still tasted great!
This book earns a place on my cook book shelf and comes highly recommended. It’s one of those books that you will reach for time, after time when wanting to make a cake. The quality of the book is first rate. United Cakes of America, will round out my collection of Cook books for years to come.
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