Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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And Cake! / Blog

New great books to read! Plus cake!

FAIR GAME finally arrived. Yay! It only took SIX DAYS instead of two, but hey, I don’t expect that will happen very often, and Amazon did give me a $5 coupon, so I can’t complain.

Anyway, of course I enjoyed it — I always enjoy Patricia Briggs’ werewolf books. The bad guy was more than a tad obvious, but it’s not like I was reading it for the mystery, right? And Charles’ problem seemed a little too easily resolved. But I liked Anna’s attitude when she was in trouble at the end. Good for her, not being a victim.

I have to say, if I’d been on that jury, I’d have hung it till Kingdom Come before I let that guy off for torturing and raping and murdering dozens of people. Are you kidding me? So I’m not sure I believe in the jury verdict, although of course Briggs needed to do it that wa if she wanted to do the next bit, which, whoa, that ending certainly throws a HUGE spanner in the gears. Wow.

Okay! On to the cake!

It was Dad’s birthday a few days ago, and this chocolate-peanut-butter cake is what I made. I combined a couple of recipes and then fiddled around a bit to make this one. Dad says that as he’s gotten older, he’s stopped liking really intense chocolate, so I deliberately toned the chocolate down, using a little less cocoa than indicated for the cake and semisweet instead of bittersweet for the icing. And he loves peanut butter. This cake came out REALLY good, with a great moist crumb and just the right amount of peanut buter. I admit that whenever I happened to stroll through Mom’s kitchen, I would sneak another little tiny slice.

There really aren’t any eggs in this cake, so don’t think I left ’em out accidentally. The vegetable oil provides the moisture and fat and the baking soda give it lift. This cake is from Bon Appetit Jan 2009, except for the peanut butter cups, which are my addition. (Why, yes, I have hundreds of interesting magazine recipes indexed so I can find ones I’m interested in when I want to. Why do you ask?) (This one is filed under Fancy Cakes, of course.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

3 C all purpose flour
2 C sugar
2/3 C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 C water
2/3 C veg oil
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
8 oz peanut butter cups, all but five or so chopped.

This is a super easy cake, really a one-bowl cake. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla and whisk into flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour most of the batter into two 9″ cake pans that you have lined with circles of parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped peanut butter cups over and then spoon the rest of the batter over the candy. Bake at 350 degrees for 24-28 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool 10 minutes and turn out cakes onto racks. Cool completely. Obviously it’s fine if the surface of the cakes aren’t smooth because of the peanut butter cups — which mine weren’t — because you’re going to frost the cake anyway.

Now, I made the frosting based on a totally different recipe, and then fiddled with that, thus:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

8 oz semisweet chocolate — the recipe said milk chocolate, but come on, are you kidding?
4 oz cream cheese — I added this to help thicken the frosting
1 C cream — without the cream cheese, to me, the frosting seemed too thin.
2/3 C peanut butter — the recipe specified 1/2 C but I put in more than that.
1 C powdered sugar — the recipe didn’t call for any additional sugar, but Dad likes sweeter frosting.

Put all frosting ingredients in a microwavable bowl and microwave, stirring frequently, until everything is melted enough that you can whisk until it’s smooth. I found it necessary to chill the frosting for half an hour or an hour before frosting the cake — sorry, I didn’t time the chilling.

Frost the cake. There! All done! Except go get those few reserved peanut butter cups, cut them in halves or quarters, and use them to decorate the cake. Birthday candles optional.

This made a bit more frosting than necessary. Either slather it on or, hey, just eat the extra with a spoon. It’s quite good and not too sweet despite the extra sugar. Mmm.

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And Cake! / Blog

A new (-ish) project . . . and cake!

So, a whole week since I finished revising MOUNTAIN. So naturally I got bored. Even though I was reading some really good books. Maybe there was some guilt in there too, the kind of not-working-just-reading-is-this-allowed kind of guilt that is (I suppose) just an intrinsic component of life. But mainly I was bored.

Plus, I needed to try actually working on my new laptop.

Which only lets me play music one artist at a time rather than selecting (say) all the instrumental and letting me randomize a couple hundred songs in one playlist. Which I hate hate hate not being able to do. I suppose it will be possible to find a different music program. Anyway!

Picked up an old project. Not very old, actually. A year or two? It’s fifty-plus pages of an adult secondary world fantasy based around an Ottoman-ish society. See, I realized that it would be better if I took some of the recent backstory and turned it into story! It’ll start faster! It’ll pull the reader in better! It’ll encourage the reader to immediately become involved with the main character! Who is this really neat character because she . . . well, never mind, that would be a bit of a spoiler.

So, rewriting the beginning of the story. Figure that’ll take the rest of the week or thereabouts, after which, I don’t know. I might continue and write another chapter or two of this book, or I might bang the beginning into shape and then put it aside again and go on to something else. We’ll see.

Oh, but maybe I’ll post the opening scene, though. I don’t think any eventual editor would care, do you?

Now, the cake!

I made this last week for someone who doesn’t eat chocolate (I know, right?) and WHOA did people rave. I got comments ranging from “wonderful!” and “so light” to “best cake I ever ate in my life!” so I thought I would toss the recipe out here and let other people try it if they like. It’s no harder than making any other layer cake, but it is a little different because the butter you would usually use is replaced by cream.

So!

Apricot Almond Cream Cake

3 eggs, room temp (you can submerge them in hot water for ten minutes to bring them to room temp, and it’s worth doing if you want a really light cake.)
1 1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C cake flour — the recipe didn’t specify, but it matters.
1 C ground almonds — not all the way ground into flour, but coarsely ground.
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C heavy cream, whipped

8 oz cream cheese
1 C sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract (the recipe says 1 tsp and everybody loved it, but I’d reduce the almond extract if I did it again)
1 1/2 C heavy cream, whipped

10 oz jar apricot preserves, warmed

1/2 C. slivered almonds, toasted (you can toast the almonds while the oven is hot from baking the cake; about four minutes and then shake the baking pan, then about two more minutes and pour the golden almond slivers into a bowl to cool).

Make the cake: beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until “thick and lemon colored”, which was about 3 minutes, maybe a little less. Combine the dry ingredients. Whip the cream (you know it’ll whip better if you use a chilled glass bowl and chilled beaters, right?) (PLEASE DO NOT USE WHIPPED TOPPING, or if you do, don’t complain to me if people don’t like your cake as much as they loved mine.)

Beat the dry ingredients into the cake batter alternately with the whipped cream; three additions of the flour mixture and two additions of cream.

Pour into two 9-inch cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 22-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with a very few moist crumbs sticking to it. Cool ten minutes and turn the cakes out onto racks. (If you line the cake pans with circles of parchment paper and grease the paper, the cakes will definitely turn out every time.) Go write a book or play with the puppies while the cake layers cool completely.

Make the frosting: soften the cream cheese (I do this in the microwave) and beat in the sugar, salt, and almond flavoring. Whip the cream and beat that in on the lowest speed.

Now, halve the cake layers horizontally. Here’s the easiest way to do that: get eight or so toothpicks and carefully poke them into a cake layer around the equator. Take a long piece of ordinary floss and weave it over one toothpick and under the next all the way around the cake, so that the toothpicks will hold it right around the equator. Garotte the cake with the floss, which will make a beautiful even horizontal cut right through the cake and is kind of fun besides.

Okay, now place one cake layer on the serving platter and frost with a cup or so of frosting. Place another layer on top and spread with apricot preserves. Then cake, then more frosting, then the last layer of cake. Now ignore the top of the cake and frost the sides, but reserve a cup or so of frosting. Get the sides smoothed out pretty well. Then spread apricot preserves over the top, but not necessarily right out to the very edges. If you have a decorating bag with a star tip, pipe a decorative edge around the cake and then on the platter around the bottom of the cake as well. If you don’t, then you can use a doubled-sheet of plastic wrap, poke a hole in the plastic, and pipe using that, but of course without a star tip it won’t be as decorative. Anyway! Once you have edged the top of the cake, sprinkle the toasted slivered almonds all over the apricot preserves on the top.

Chill for a couple of hours or overnight. Bring to room temp before serving. Mmmm! Everybody will love it.

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And Cake! / Blog

So we are progressing . . . and Cake!

The part that is progressing is, of course, the ongoing revision. That’s sort of the royal “we”, I guess, except my mother is contributing by never calling me. Thanks, Mom! (We kind of use the phone like other people might shout to somebody upstairs. “When you come down, could you bring an extra stack of towels?” Only for us it’s like, “Could you put a bag of flour out to come over here?” (My Mom’s enormous overflow pantry serves as extra supply for me during holiday baking, since she lives right across the street.))

Anyway, the revision! I put together a more-or-less-bulleted list of everybody’s general comments and I think now is the time to start reading through the ms. from the top, nudging it here and there as I go. And frequently re-reading the list, of course. The basic outline has hardly changed at all, but some scenes have moved or been deleted or (rarely) added. I think some motivations have become clearer, and a little more has been revealed about the world, and at this point I sure hope no one would read it and think, But WHY did Gulien / the king / the Kieba do this or that stupid thing?

Plus it now makes perfect sense why the Kieba chose . . . oh, actually, that would be a spoiler. Never mind. But it was a question raised by all three initial readers and now it’s solved.

Also! New title. Still a working title, but I’m much happier with it. The ms. is now named THE MOUNTAIN OF KEPT MEMORY. Thanks to all who made suggestions!

Also! Speaking of my mother, it was her birthday this Saturday, and QUITE happy to take a break from revising, I made a cake! Only I could not find the recipe I wanted, which was for a Bundt cake with a cheesecake filling.

It’s not like I have a shortage of recipes for fancy cakes, but I was DETERMINED to make a Bundt cake with a cheesecake filling. So when I found a recipe for a Bundt cake with a coconut filling, I seized upon it.

Only it started with a cake mix, which I never use. I mean, as far as I can tell, a chocolate cake made from a mix merely LOOKS chocolate. Such a disappointment when it turns out to have no discernable chocolate flavor! Plus I think mix cakes often have a faint but unpleasant almond-ish kind of flavor — I suspect almond flavoring is cheaper than chocolate flavoring.

But! For some reason I actually had a cake mix, acquired for some purpose long forgotten, which was sitting in the back of my pantry waiting for me to do something with it. So I combined several recipes, my memory of the cake I actually wanted to make, and a strong preference for real chocolate flavor and did this:

Cake:
1 German chocolate cake mix (18.25 oz)
1 pkg instant choc pudding mix (1.7 oz) (I like instant chocolate pudding, okay? Even though I know it is not objectively good as such.)
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
4 eggs
3/4 C veg oil
3/4 C water
1/2 tsp coconut extract

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
2 Tbsp sugar
1 C. toasted coconut
1/2 tsp coconut extract
3/4 C mini choc chips

Glaze:
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1/4 C. powdered sugar

First I combined all the filling ingredients. Then I beat together all the cake ingredients, then beat the batter for five minutes. Then I spooned half the cake batter into a (greased) Bundt pan, spooned the filling on top, added the remaining cake batter on top of that, and baked the cake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

The cake turned out of the pan just fine! Always a relief! Then I melted the chocolate with the cream cheese, stirred in the powdered sugar, and glazed the cake with a thin layer of this mixture. (This kind of icing looks greasy and suspiciously like it won’t work, but I’ve used variants of it often and it is actually easy to work with and sets up very nicely, with a shiny finish. It’s excellent for those like me who hate a super-sweet icing. Plus it makes a great filling for sandwich cookies, too, btw.) I used a glaze because I wanted a shiny cake, because I then finished it off by dusting confectioner’s gold dust across the top.

The cake turned out very pretty, nicely chocolate, distinctly coconut flavored, and really very good — it was a little dense, but moist and with a good texture. So I hereby share it with the world! If you happen to have a cake mix sitting around, this is SO MUCH BETTER than just making it according to the directions.

Tonight I get to finish both my share of the cake and (sigh) the revision.

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And Cake! / Blog

Firecracker Apple Cake

Okay, as promised! This cake is for those who like desserts that bite back, but I promise you it is FABULOUS.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, the Dec. 2007 issue, and Bon Appetit notes that they got it from the Firefly Grill in Nashville. The actual recipe also includes spiced pecans to scatter on the top of the cake, which I have never made.

THE CAKE

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon (I use 1 tsp because cinnamon is not my favorite)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger (I use a heaping 1/2 tsp because ginger IS my favorite
1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 C veg. oil (I think this seems like a lot and I subtracted 2 Tbsp last time I made the cake and will try using just 1/2 C next time.
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C sour cream (I used Greek yogurt)
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 3/4 C cubed apple (the recipe specifies 1/3″ cubes, I just zip the apples in a food processor and call it good. This is about 1 large or 2 small apples).

THE CARAMEL GLAZE

2/3 C packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp light cream
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
1/2 generous tsp cayenne

Make the glaze:

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat four about four minutes, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. If you make this ahead, you will need to warm it to pourable consistency before you use it.

Make the cake:

Grease and four a Bundt pan. Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside. Whisk together the oil, brown sugar, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and fold together to blend. Fold in apple. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes and turn out onto plate. Glaze warm cake with half the warm glaze. Pass the rest of the glaze with the cake as you serve it.

The recipe suggests vanilla ice cream, but I never use it because I love the glaze and don’t think the cake needs anything else. In fact, I can eat the glaze out of a jar with a spoon. Mmmmm.

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