Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Simple & Easy Vanilla Cake Recipe

Like I said in my previous article, if you want to work on a flavorful and very moist cake, you must know that egg whites will do the trick for you.  The day I made the egg custard pie, I didn’t plan to embark on another baking idea. It was just me, playing a genie, granting my husband’s simple wish.

But after using just the egg yolks, I hated the idea of throwing something that I believe can still be useful. That’s when the image of a vanilla cake popped up suddenly.  And it’s so easy! 

The idea though, of using a lot of butter, is frowned upon in this house. Yes, it lends a lot of flavor to the recipe but it is very unhealthy to load up your recipe with it. And half of a cup, like what my original recipe suggests, is too much! So I decided to cut the amount into a quarter of a cup and used apple sauce, of the same amount, instead.  

I have done this kind of trick many times. Last summer, I used the combination of apple sauce and olive oil (which works like butter too) when I made blueberry muffins.  In some recipes, like spinach cheese puffs, I did the same.

This kind of cake makes a perfect basic cake for birthdays, weddings or for any kind of celebrations. Its unique richness of flavor helps a big deal in creating overall taste of your holiday cake. Its texture also will make those looking for a “melts in your mouth” kind of cake very happy. It’s too simple and yet, the cake’s taste is not underwhelming.  Sometimes, you really don’t have to come up with an icing idea or to make your frosting. It’s already good enough to enjoy. I love its special taste! 

When I made this cake last time, I whipped up some dark chocolate frosting, just enough for a 9x9 inch cake. The cake and the frosting combo were just so amazing. We didn’t have a lot of leftover for the next day. Sweet forces of calories!

For purposes of sharing, below is the original recipe. It’s up to you if you want to do your own tweaks. If it is your first time to make this, it’s best to follow this one first. Save your idea for your next kitchen adventure.

3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 whole eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
3 egg whites
2 tbsps vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Mix well. Set aside.
3. Cream together 1/2 cup sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time. Then pour in flour and milk, alternately. Add the vanilla extract and mix well until the batter is smooth.
4. In a big bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar while beating continuously. Continue beating until mixture is stiff.
5. Add half of the egg white mixture to the batter. Using the cut and fold technique, try to blend the two mixtures well. DO NOT BEAT.
6. Then add this blended batter into the remaining egg white mixture. Continue the cut and fold technique.
7. Once it is blended well enough, pour the batter into a greased baking pan. Spread it evenly using a spatula.
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Egg Custard Pie Recipe

Speaking of custard, after a trip this morning to the supermarket, my husband mentioned that it's been a long time since I made an egg custard pie. With "a long time," he actually meant just six to seven days ago. So that says a lot about this dessert.  It is his favorite. We would usually make this pie once a week, so I understand why he has this cute craving for it. Yes, it's about time to whip it up again.

So as a happy camper at our small kitchen, I pulled out a medium-size bowl and whisk in everything that I needed. This time, I decided to just use egg yolks instead of using whole eggs. Plus, instead of using plain milk, I went a little too far by making my own sweetened condensed milk. Now that's a lot of work.

He had two major roles in this task, of course. Preheating the oven and eating the finished product. :-)

Hey, the efforts paid off in the end. I noticed that the flavor is richer this time. Also, I loved the texture of the condensed milk and egg yolks combo. The soonest time the pie was cool enough to be tasted, my husband had a big slice for himself. And came back for a second one. Knowing that he liked them big time made me very happy. (BIG TIME = two-three big slices when there are only four slices).

That sounds like the ending of this story. NOT.

Halfway through this baking day, I realized something while waiting for the sweetened condensed milk to come to a boil. What will I do with the egg whites since I only used the egg yolks for this recipe? I didn't plan to waste them.

Like a pop-up, the idea of making a vanilla cake just flickered. Last time I made this simple white cake, Jande raved about it. So from one recipe to another, my muscles had to work today a little harder. Just because I didn't want to throw away something that I thought would still be useful. It turned out to be a good idea. Egg whites do the trick if you're looking for a very spongy or very moist cake. As Jande would put it, it's the magic ingredient in every "melts in your mouth" kind of cake. (Then I figured again into another situation. For the cake, I didn't want to use the prescribed amount of butter. But I won't go into that right now. I will share the vanilla cake recipe and the tweaks I made next time.)

So, yeah. This has been another day for my husband’s sweet tooth. And I cared less about all the hard work today. Baking is something that I love doing anyway.

*Slap me with this article next time when I talk about weight gain. LOL!*

After mentioning what happened today to a close friend, she commented that "it sounded like you're hosting a feeding program." I thought that was funny. How in the world will we finish all these baked goodies when there are only two people in our house? She also found it funny that we dressed up our table with tablecloths and napkins.

Don't expect us to eat the egg custard pie and the vanilla cake in one day. Although, we really can. :-)

To share the fun I had, please feel free to use and follow the recipes below for the custard pie and for the pie crust. You may always opt for a ready-to-use pie shell, but I would suggest that it's better if you make your own. The steps are easy and simple anyway!

1 9-inch pie crust (recipe below)
3 eggs
2 tbsps white sugar
1 ¼ cups of milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
Dash of cinnamon-sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Mix egg and sugar.
3. Heat up milk in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Or, place milk in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a low-simmer.
4. Pour milk onto egg mixture. Mix well.
5. Add nutmeg.
6. Pour into the pie shell/crust. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar on top of it.
7. Bake for 10 minutes at 425F then lower the temperature to 350 and continue baking for 20-25 minutes.
7. Allow to cool.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix well.
3. Pour the mixture into a greased a 9-inch pie pan. Press mixture into bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, poke holes in bottom and side of crust.
4. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown. Allow to cool. 

My next blog will cover the vanilla cake recipe ... and the kitchen adventures that came with it!

**This is the original recipe.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Healthy Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

Five days ago, I posted a photo of the custard cake that I made on my Facebook Wall. My friends really poured in all their Likes. When I mentioned that I opted to make my own sweetened condensed milk instead of grabbing a can at the supermarket, folks filled the comment mill and my message inbox with the question, "How the hell do you make it?"

I did respond on my Wall. But for my curious friends, instead of sending individual messages, I am sharing the recipe below.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
MY CUSTARD CAKE. Thinner cake. Thicker Custard.
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan, mix sugar and milk. Bring to a low-simmer over medium-low heat. Stir often. When steam starts lifting off the milk, lower the heat even further. When sugar dissolves, put heat at its lowest. Stir, stir, stir. In my case, I would stir it every 5-7 mins. Once you get the desired texture or once reduced to your satisfaction, whisk in butter and vanilla. Stir a little more. Then, remove from heat and allow it to cool. It is that simple!

(Stirring speeds up the process. Mine took only 45 mins to accomplish; other people would do theirs for two hours.)

Playing Rewind

November 17th. Wow, it's amazing how time fleets swiftly. Today marks my fourth month here in the United States. Yes, days went by unnoticed. It feels like it was only this morning when I secretly shed a tear inside the plane that would take me to Narita, Japan. From there, we'd hop to another plane that would take me to Portland, Oregon.

On my way to the airport, the picture of being reunited with my husband--after three freaking months of not seeing each other--made me excited. I could hardly believe that after going through the paperwork nightmare and a long waiting game, we'd be back into each other's arms again and start life in a place where only fate can help us. Thoughts of him made me busy inside the cab. Actually, it was my way of not letting my heart get into the situation.

But emotions made me powerless after boarding time. For one second, my mind figured in an imbroglio inside, with blurry scenarios popping up. I didn't plan to give it a minute but yeah, the mood inside just ate me whole. I struggled to not let the lady sitting next to me see me getting teary-eyed because it would be very funny. So, I pulled a tissue from my pocket and wiped my tears away. It was still a puzzle for me, back then, why suddenly it happened. Was it because I knew it will be long before I'd see my siblings again? Was it because I will definitely miss flying to Palawan? Was it something just natural and normal?  Or, was it because this was one flight where I wouldn't be home later?

FIRST GLIMPSE: These islands hinted that we were in Japan. 
I didn't bother to figure that out. After all, we planned for this move to the US to happen anyway. An image of a coffee cup being handed to me by the stewardess helped me ditched the dramatic scene in my head. Then she poured some more, when she came back to check if I was done. A few minutes later, her colleague asked me if I wanted some wine. And my reply--which was a smile--was not misquoted. She left me with a happy face. After a few sips, I started to enjoy the flight.