So, please accept my apologies for doing this in a combination post, but I wanted to at least make an effort. And now that I think about it, there will be a few other stand-alone posts coming your way. But since these go way back (and I foolishly didn't write them as I cooked -- what a dummy!), I don't necessarily remember all the details and I'm not sure these recipes warrant their own posts anymore.
PW Pineapple-Upside Down Cake
Verdict: Oh my goodness!
Cook it again: Yes, but only for a crowd.
Cost Factor: Canned pineapple and maraschino cherries were the only non-pantry items. $8?
I'd never made one of these before and was a little nervous. Not because of the difficulty of the recipe, but because I wasn't sure I'd care for it. Pineapple upside-down cake? Clueless. Strange, I know... there are weird pockets of things I've never tried that make people look at me funny.
It bakes right in a cast iron skillet, and other than the nice burn I got on my arm from accidentally leaning into the skillet when Mick and I tried to flip the cake out of the pan and onto a platter, this recipe was fantastic. And how cool is it to cook a cake in a skillet?! It's always fun when you get to do that, right?! PW says it's best to eat it warm, and boy-oh-boy was she right. It makes an ENORMOUS amount of cake, though -- best to bake it for a crowd, if you are able to. For our little family of four, with Mick not super into cakes, we ended up throwing away a lot. (And it didn't reheat nearly well enough -- it tasted best right out of the oven!) We used to have home-cooked dinners with Caitlin's godparents a good bit when we were in Georgia, and this recipe would have been the perfect cake for those nights -- you can prep it while you're having cocktails with your guests (it's that easy), and throw it in the oven while you eat dinner. Then it will be hot and ready just in time for a fresh, delicious dessert. In fact, even though I have no idea if any of us in that group would have necessarily loved or hated pineapple, this recipe made me especially miss those nights.
PW: Pumpkin Cream Pie
Verdict: People liked it. CAM looooooved it. I didn't try it.
Cook it again: Probably ... for a big enough crowd where there's a demand. It was easy enough and a nice change from regular pumpkin pie.
Cost factor: I have no idea!
Prior to this Thanksgiving endeavor, I'd never made a graham-cracker crust before. Holy moly are graham crackers expensive! I don't know what's in grahams, but I need to invest in some stock. But the crust? Oh, my goodness... it was two things in equal proportions: ridiculously easy and ridiculously delicious. I could have stood at the counter and eaten the crust all alone.
(Maybe a little.)
As you know, I can't stand pumpkin -- or anything in the squash family, for that matter. That made this recipe torturous, because it involves pudding and oh! I soooo wanted to like it when I dipped my finger to taste it ... I mean, it's pudding! It must be good! But I didn't like it. (Point of fact: I liked it when it was just vanilla pudding and nutmeg and whatever else, but once I added the pumpkin, my heart broke a little.) I just don't like the taste of pumpkin, and although I'd hoped the texture aspect would be overcome by this "cream" cake (more like a cheesecake, really) -- it didn't happen.
|The filling on the stove. Oh, how desperately I wanted to like it!|
[Pretend I have a photo of the actual finished product here. I kinda forgot to take one ... you know, with it being Thanksgiving and all!]
Anyway. About the recipe. You make the crust. You press it down. You call your husband to help because your pie dish is a little smaller than the amount of crumbs you have, and you need his superman strength to help compress it. You make some concoction with pudding and other stuff and canned pumpkin, and you pour it all in the pie dish. It sets up similarly to a no-bake cheesecake, and you serve it the next day after your fabulous Thanksgiving dinner.
Everyone likes it, but your daughter really loves it.
PW: Red Velvet Cake
Verdict: Not bad!
Cook it Again: Definitely
Cost Factor: Pantry items, plus red food coloring (which is also a pantry item in my house, but I always replace it when I use it, so I count it here).
Our cooking club wasn't clear about whether to use PW's layer cake recipe or the recipe on the blog, which is for a sheet cake. I compared them, and they were identical -- with the exception that the recipe online called for more red food coloring -- but the recipe online also called for a non-cream-cheese "best frosting you'll ever have," and although that was hardly the point of the recipe, I was intrigued. (I've got a buttercream down pat, and a cream cheese frosting down pat, and I already have a pretty decent recipe for a red velvet layer cake that, when I don't over bake it and dry it out, is delicious.) Plus, I was hoping to make this to bring to our extended-family Christmas party and it was easier to do that in sheet cake form. The combination of the ease of the sheet cake and the claim to be the "best" icing meant the blog recipe won.
This recipe -- like every red velvet recipe I've seen -- calls for mixing the red and the cocoa separately from the rest of the batter and then mixing it in. I need to call Alton Brown and ask why red velvet cakes are that way. (Also, Alton, if you're reading: what's the purpose of the vinegar that's also in so many recipes?) But it was easy, and just the right balance of sweet versus chocolate. (If that makes sense? Hopefully so.) And although one person said she thought it was a little bland, others raved, and no one complained. It was a hit, no doubt. I really liked the frosting, too -- a nice change of pace and apparently, from the countless comments I've since read online, the original way red velvet cake was iced back in the 60s. Red velvet's having a second heyday now with the cream cheese frosting, but this other recipe was wonderfully sweet and simple, and just a tiny bit off from the expected, because you could taste the fact that it's made with butter.
This recipe was a success, but I'm probably lame-o because I was a bit turned off by its need for a cup of shortening. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather use butter than Crisco. I know, I know ... and from everything I read, red velvet really came to be in the 1960s when Crisco was the rage. So I have to wonder what would change, or how I could modify this, to get rid of at least some of the Crisco required. On the other hand, I have no idea if it really matters. It wasn't as if the cake tasted terrible, not by a long shot! The cake was great!
And check out how pretty:
|I cut up a cardboard box, made two layers for strength, and wrapped it in foil. I didn't have to worry about the cake sliding, and I didn't have any dishes to bring back home!|
I did learn, though, that the original red velvet cakes got their "red" from beets or other natural colorings. Independent of the fact that I like this recipe and will likely make it again, I think I'm also one day going to try a more natural version. Not because I'm a health nut (I had bbq potato chips for breakfast, my friends), but because that kind of stuff fascinates me. I love learning more of the science of cooking -- what the color is like, what the flavor is like, how I have to make other accommodations, all that stuff. Besides, if we're going all "as it was originally" with the frosting, may as well go all in -- at least once. :)