And Cake!

100 pages! Plus, cake.

So, yesterday? I reached the 100 page mark! As in, 100 pages written — the actual WIP was 53 pp when I picked it up on May 16th and reached 158 pp yesterday. Go, me!

Plus, the proportion of the plot that is still a mystery is shrinking. A few days ago I had about 2/3 of the plot, but now I would say it’s more like 9/10. Of course, the tenth that I don’t have? That is kind of the crucial “And then the good guys win after all by . . .”

The good guys are just reaching the part where things will start going totally wrong. They’re going to do something sensible, which will work but produce unexpected (and very bad) side effects, after which they will do something else sensible which won’t be sufficient (I know what that is), after which they will find out JUST how much trouble they are really in and do something to pull their chestnuts out of the fire (I have no idea about that).

Plus, this WIP is YA, so what’s really going on is that the adults in the story are doing sensible things that ought to work, but won’t. The kids will then save the day, but not because the adults are stupid or clueless. I hate stupid adults in YA.

I’m expecting to hit pretty close to 200 pp or the halfway mark by June 4th, which is when the summer session starts and I will suddenly lose four or five hours a day. Which I’m not complaining; part-time jobs are fabulous! I don’t know how anybody gets anything done when they also have a full-time job.

Anyway, at that point I’ll undoubtedly slow down, but I don’t want to stop. I want this book finished by the time school starts in the fall (late August). Then I’ll go through and cut — I always overshoot any reasonable page limit — and take a break and then look at it again to see if it seems to flow. And then cut again, I expect, and finally send it to my agent. So that’s the plan.

Meanwhile!

I got moderately stuck last night, and you know what I did? Well, I stopped of course, to let things work themselves out in the back of my head (they did, everything sorted itself out and I figured out the whole next chapter or maybe two chapters when I woke up this morning but before the alarm went off, which is my best thinking time. So that’s all good.

But what’s really important here is, last night I finally started watching the Battlestar Galactica DVDs I’ve had sitting on a shelf for, like, years and years. (How long ago did that come out?) I have the initial miniseries and the first couple of seasons after that and I figure a tv show will be less distracting than reading fiction. I hope.

Didn’t I read a warning on some blog way long ago that B G jumps the shark someplace in the middle? I wonder if I should be planning to get the other seasons? Anybody got an opinion on that one?

Anyway, I’m at the part where it looks like Apollo got blown up. I’m pretty sure he is actually still alive, but it was well past my normal bedtime and the dogs don’t let me oversleep, so I went to bed. So I don’t know how he and the new Madam President — I like her, btw, a great combo of hesitancy and decisiveness — are going to have survived what looks like a ground zero nuke.

And what’s with that human-woman-cylon? She sort of seems like a ghost, what’s with that? Is that idiot who hacked her into the defense net hallucinating or what? My guess is “or what”. Don’t tell me, btw. Those are rhetorical questions. I like the whole “God told me to do it” thing. What, the cylons are all into religion? Because what a neat idea, if so.

Okay! Also having time to cook, of course, because you can’t work on your laptop 24/7. At least, I can’t. And now that the upstairs (main floor) is all clean, I find it hard to bother with the downstairs. The spring cleaning is suffering from an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing. Though I have almost another week to finish, so there’s a pretty good chance I will get to it. Or most of it.

But anyway, I like baking a lot more than dusting, and I had this extra 8 oz of sour cream that needed to get used up, so I made this cake:

Double-Ginger Bundt Cake

This recipe is from the April 2009 issue of Bon Appetit, in case you want to track down the original, which involves ginger-infused strawberries, which I didn’t make.

1/2 C raw (Demerara) sugar
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (my addition, the recipe didn’t call for it, but hello, we’re putting in sour cream? So of course baking soda is an expected ingredient and I don’t know why it wasn’t in there.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 C butter, room temp (I always microwave it for a few seconds because I never remember to take it out of the fridge beforehand. No, it is not okay to melt it, that will really change the texture of baked goods, so be sure you pay attention and just soften it.)
2 C sugar
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla (I used 1 tsp of double-strength vanilla, but that’s just me.)
1 C sour cream
1 C crystallized ginger, chopped (which if you don’t have a handy supply, I will tell you how to make.)
Ginger syrup (my addition, so it’s optional, but you automatically have it on hand if you make your own crystallized ginger, so why not?)

Butter or spray the Bundt pan. Put in the raw sugar and swish it around to generously coat the pan.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat two to five minutes (longer is better if you’re using a handheld mixer.)

Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla.

Add a third of the flour, then half the sour cream, and repeat until you’ve added all the flour and sour cream.

The batter will be stiff. Spoon it into the pan, trying not to dislodge the sugar more than strictly necessary.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with a few small crumbs attached. Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a cake plate.

Now, when I made this cake, I didn’t put enough Demerara sugar in the pan, and the cake didn’t come out as glittery and pretty as the picture showed. So I brushed the cake with ginger syrup and then sprinkled more raw sugar over it, and that worked fine. So that’s an option to keep in mind.

This cake is really good, with a creamy crumb and a surprisingly crisp crust (from the raw sugar in the pan). I wasn’t sure how people who aren’t gingerophilic would feel about this cake, but the people I offered it to for a taste test (the staff at my vet clinic — believe me, we’re on a first-name basis) liked it a lot. So did I, but with all that ginger, that goes without saying.

Crystallized Ginger and Ginger Syrup

14 oz fresh ginger root
3 1/2 C water
3 1/2 C sugar, plus additional sugar
A candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer

Peel and slice the ginger into pieces that are . . . oh . . . about an eighth to as much as a fourth of an inch thick, and up to three inches long or so, which means you can slice the root lengthwise and make fewer but larger slices, which will make your life easier later.

Stir the sugar into the water. Add the ginger. Bring to a boil. Boil gently until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. This will take at least one and a quarter hours and actually for me it always seems to take nearly an hour and a half. I know this seems unbelievable, but I am not kidding. The temp rises fairly fast to begin with, but those last five degrees just take FOREVER. The ginger syrup will be thin but usable if you get it to a mere 216 degrees, but I want it thicker, so I sit there with a book for the last bit, checking the thermometer periodically.

If you do this without a thermometer, then plan to boil the ginger (fairly gently) for an hour and twenty-five minutes, and I expect that will work, but watch the syrup like a hawk for the last fifteen minutes and get it off the burner the instant you see it starting to show the least trace of color. If you caramelize the sugar, you’ll have made ginger brittle, which is perfectly edible but not the plan.

Let the ginger cool in the syrup just to make everything easier to handle. Strain the ginger slices out of the syrup. Store the syrup in a glass jar in the fridge. It’ll last for a good long time, possibly until the heat death of the universe, so don’t worry about it going bad if you shove it to the back and forget it for a while. However, it doesn’t last that long for me. It packs a powerful ginger kick and it’s really good on lots of things. I like it with yogurt and bananas. Or drizzled over ginger pancakes. Whatever.

Meanwhile, lay the ginger slices out in a single layer on a wire rack. (This is why it’s easier to make larger slices.) Let the slices air dry for a while. Toss them in sugar. Let them dry on the rack overnight. Store in an airtight container. I personally store crystallized ginger in the fridge because I once had a batch mold, which was really disappointing. It’ll get harder and drier with time, but there’s no great rush to use it up. Although making the above cake twice would probably do it if you were worried about that.

So . . . there you go.

Incidentally, I just realized that not only do I have ordinary powdered dried ginger and crystallized ginger and ginger syrup on hand, but also fresh ginger; frozen ginger; pickled ginger; and ginger peeled, sliced thin, and preserved in sake (by far my favorite way to preserve ginger, you use it identically to fresh (you can use sherry or vodka or whatever instead of sake (the alcohol does not seem to contribute anything to the taste of the ginger))).

But I honestly think you’ll love this cake even if you’re not the ginger fiend I am.

Okay! Back to REAL writing now.

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Puppy pics! And cake!

Puppy G made it up onto her feet this weekend! Woo hoo!

I was actually a bit concerned about this because the puppy was about a week late to start walking. One does expect a puppy to make it up EVENTUALLY unless she is a “swimmer”, which is a problem way different from (and much worse, and often confused with) just being too heavy. MY puppy was fine, only fat fat fat and lacking in hind-leg strength.

I did two things to help Puppy G get up:

1) Used a terry cloth surface to give her better traction than the smooth absorbent pads I usually use in the whelping box and placed rolled-up towels under the surface to give her hills and valleys to crawl over so she would build muscle strength in her hind legs, and

2) Every single time I noticed Kenya going into the box to nurse, I would let the puppy start nursing and then move her the full length of the whelping box and make her crawl back to her mom. My policy was: if you are not hungry enough to crawl back over there, you are not hungry. After all, getting a little less to eat would only be a plus for this puppy!

And it worked! She was up at three weeks and two days, just about exactly what I’ve seen before for heavy singleton puppies. If she hadn’t been up by Sunday, I was going to start swimming her in a tub of warm water to help her exercise those legs, but it wasn’t necessary, so I am happy.

This is Puppy G at one day! She weighed 4.25 oz.
This is Puppy G yesterday! She weighted 2 lbs 8.0 oz.

Quite a difference, huh? The limbs are so pink in the just-born picture because she was too premature to have a full coat. In fact, it’s amazing she had so much hair and such dark pigment. She doesn’t look like a full-term puppy, but closer than she had any right to.

And those stuffed animals she has in the box with her now are her “siblings”. She likes the lion toy best. She is active enough to spend ten minutes or so at a time playing, so I try to make the lion toy “play with her” several times a day. It even nips back, but only very gently. Soon Puppy G will be steady enough to really benefit from playing with Folly (four months old) and Dara (two years and my very best and gentlest babysitter).

I’m thinking of naming this puppy Anara Give Me A Break for her show name, btw, and the name I like the best for a call name? It’s Lithuanian — Giedre. Pronounced GYEH-dray. I think I could learn to say that (“Giedre! Come!” it sounds all right) and doesn’t the word look neat? Unusual and distinctive. Plus, the semi-famous Giedre right now is a Lithaunian model (I found out while goggling pronunciation). Naming a show dog after a model is perfectly reasonable.

I celebrated the puppy walking by baking a cake! (Seriously — I promised myself I would try out this keen new recipe the day the puppy got up on her feet).

This started as a Moss Rose Cake and I didn’t make very many changes. (You know, I always thought I followed recipes until I started posting some? And I was just wrong, because actually I almost never follow the recipe all the way through. It took me by surprise.)

Anyway, the cake!

(Mostly) Moss Rose Cake

This is a sponge cake, not a butter cake. If you do it right, you’ll get a light, airy cake that sort of seems like a cross between a normal cake and an angel food cake. The original Moss Rose cake uses almond extract, but since you’re using a coconut-orange filling? I thought it made sense to use coconut and orange extracts instead. Also! Please notice that you need to put the filling ingredients together ahead of time!

Filling:

3 C sweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
4 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp sugar

Cake:

4 eggs
2 C sugar
1 C hot milk — I actually used almond milk because I had some that needed to get used up, and it worked just fine, but I wouldn’t actually suggest it or anything. Just FYI.
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 C cake flour
2 tsp baking powder — which not all sponge cakes use, but it does help guarantee lift
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coconut extract — I would use 1/2 if I did it again
1/4 tsp orange extract — I would keep this at 1/4

Frosting:

1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp orange extract

Combine the filling ingredients and chill overnight.

Now, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar and beat until thick, like four minutes or so. Combine the milk and oil and have that ready. Combine the dry ingredients and have that ready. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat in half the milk mixture. Repeat, ending with the last third of the flour mixture. Beat in extracts. Pour into 3 8″ or 2 9″ cake pans (it’s best to line them with circles of parchment paper and spray the circles with baking spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, a bit less if you’re using the larger cake pans. I took them out when a tester came out of the center with a few moist crumbs stuck to it, and that was perfect.

Let the cakes cool ten minutes and turn out onto racks. Peel off the parchment. Cool.

Make the frosting: Mom commented that this is like seven-minute frosting. What it reminded me of was making marshmallows. It’s VERY sweet, and obviously you won’t need it all if you’re making a two-layer cake, but I didn’t want to deal with cutting the amount down (how do you cut the recipe by a third when you’re using two eggs?), so I made the full amount. Anyway!

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan to 240 degrees. While you wait, beat the egg whites just until frothy. When the syrup is hot enough, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream while beating on medium speed. Then beat on high until quite stiff peaks form. I didn’t beat it quite long enough and the frosting showed a distinct tendency to ooze gently down the sides of the cake, so don’t get bored and quit early. I bet it’ll take at least eight to ten minutes to beat it till stiff. When you think you’ve beaten it enough, beat in the extracts.

Assemble the cake: Put the first layer on a platter and spread with frosting. Sprinkle with about a cup of the filling. Repeat, so there will be coconut-orange filling on the top of the cake. Frost the sides of the cake. I chilled the cake to help set the frosting and make it easier to slice the cake, but I don’t know that you’d need to. Like all cakes, it’s better eaten at room temp rather than cold.

The frosting is getting a little crackly crust in places after being stored overnight in the fridge, so I don’t know, you might want to make this when there’s enough people around to eat basically the whole thing the same day it was made. People with a serious sweet tooth could also help you take care of any extra frosting you might have! It’s a little over the top for me!

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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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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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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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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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