Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Plenty of cakes in this cookbook

"The Cake Mix Doctor Returns" by Anne Byrn. Workman. 502 pages. $15.95.

Over the years, I've cooked many cakes and whipped up quite a few frostings courtesy of Anne Byrn.

Byrn is the author of the "The Cake Mix Doctor" cookbooks. And her latest, "The Cake Mix Doctor Returns," is packed full of recipes that made my mouth water just reading them. There are 160 new cake recipes and 23 frostings. That's a lot of dessert! If you're still looking for a Christmas gift for the cook on your list, I highly recommend this book.

As with the other titles in her series, this latest book starts off with a small color photograph of each of the recipes in the book. So before I even got to the first recipe, I was wishing I could taste Fresh Orange Birthday Cake, Toffee Cake, Pink Lemonade Party Cake or perhaps something pretty called Houdini Bars.

As with her other books, Byrn gives suggestions for making better cakes from how to choose a cake mix to choosing a substitute if you're all out of buttermilk.

She also talks about making her desserts healthier. Over the years, Byrn has been trimming down the fatty, high-calorie ingredients in some of her creations, all of which start with a box of cake mix. Now she finds herself using low-fat or no-fat cream cheese for some recipes and cuts the amount of oil in others. Some recipes in this book are lightened versions of old favorites.

Byrn's newest book is divided into several categories with recipes for Bundt cakes, sheet cakes, layer cakes, bars, pound cakes, brownies, cupcakes, muffins, cookies and frostings. There's even a wedding cake!

Cooks should have no trouble choosing a cake for the family, one to take to a church gathering or a fancier cake for a special birthday.

How about Tiramisu Cake, Cookies and Cream Cheesecake, A Better Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake or Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls? The cinnamon roll recipe came for Byrn's media escort in Minneapolis when the author was on tour with her first cookbook, which was published 10 years ago.

I had a hard time choosing which cake to try first, but I decided on Chocolate Chip Layer Cake. Only recently have I overcome my fear of layer cakes, so I was ready to impress my family with this effort. And impressed they were. Everyone in the house loved this cake and begged me to make a second one this weekend. I obliged. The second one wasn't as pretty as the first one, but no one seemed to mind.

My daughter, Anna, suggested we warm each slice of cake in the microwave for 6 seconds before eating. This leaves the chocolate chips gooey and the frosting the perfect creamy texture.

I opted to use a different recipe for my cake, which I've included here.

Chocolate Chip Layer Cake
  • 1 package (12 oz.) miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package (18.25) yellow cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
Place rack in center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

Measure 1/4 cup of the miniature chocolate chips and set these aside for garnish, if desired.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, vanilla and eggs is a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until combined, about 11/2 minutes longer. Fold in the remaining 11/2 cups chocolate chips. Divide the cake batter evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

Bake the cake layers until they are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 33 to 37 minutes. Transfer the cake pans to wire racks and let the cake layers cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each cake layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen the cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool completely, 20 minutes or longer.

To assemble the cake, transfer one layer, right side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with a generous portion of the frosting. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top and side of the cake, working with smooth, clean strokes. Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup chocolate chips over the cake, when the frosting has just been spread so that the chocolate chips will stick to the top of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Stir or mix butter and cocoa until well blended. Add milk and vanilla and stir. Gradually add in confectioners’ sugar for desired consistency. Frosting should be thick but spreadable.

“The Cake Doctor Returns”
(This is how I prepared it, using my frosting recipe.)

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (don’t use low-fat or no-fat versions)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place the butter and cream cheese in a medium-size bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar, a bit at a time, beating with the mixer on low speed until the confectioners’ sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Add the vanilla, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the frosting until fluffy, 1 minute longer. Use the frosting at once.

“The Cake Mix Doctor Returns”
(This is the frosting Anne Bryn uses with her Chocolate Chip Layer Cake)

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