Not Martha

to new things

chocolate mousse frosting on yellow cake

Thing #1: a new frosting. The other week I made a cake. I used a boxed mix (Alton Brown once said it was ok on Good Eats and I have at least one other person who can back me up on that) so I could concentrate on trying out a new to me frosting recipe.

I’m normally a chocolate cake and vanilla frosting sort of gal, but loved this frosting from the start. I had it first at, I think, our Cookbook Club’s gathering for Cookin’ With Coolio. @gfrancie (Twitter) made it and a bunch of us demanded the recipe. She sent us to this entry over at Au_Gout, that’s the recipe I used. Turns out it’s a recipe from Joy of Cooking, gosh I love that book and must get myself a copy soon. (I have a copy on cd, back when I got my first computer I thought it would be all fancy to have my favorite books on my computer. Once I moved into a larger place and the walk from my desktop screen to the kitchen was longer I saw the error of my ways as I started needing to print out recipes.)

chocolate mousse frosting on yellow cake

(Hey! Look over here! The Chocolate Mousse Frosting recipe from Joy of Cooking is viewable on Google Books.)

My first try at the frosting was good, but not quite the unbelievably fluffy result I remember. I think I need to whip it longer, which means I’ll just have to try it again and make cake after cake until I get it perfect. Oh darn, that sounds just awful doesn’t it?

chocolate mousse frosting on yellow cake

Thing #2: a new cake server. Above is my new cake server, I’ve needed one for years but never seem to remember until the point at which I’ve just cut a wedge out of a cake and find myself trying to pull it out while balancing it on a knife. This time I was prepared, yay for small victories.

chocolate mousse frosting on yellow cake

Thing #3: a new laptop. This is the first blog entry I’ve created on my new laptop. Hello world. It’s the first new laptop I’ve ever owned, and only the second new computer. (My first new computer would be a then-zippy but bulky desktop I bought from Gateway for my first apartment. I had the computer and a desk, a futon and a ficus tree happily for a year but never got around to buying a dining room table for that place.) I’m used to having machines that are cobbled together from corporate cast offs and bits scavenged from Re-PC, I’ve happily waited for downloads that take ages no battery life whatsoever. But I recently realized that a good laptop would make a lot of sense so I talked myself into spending the money (some slow breathing was necessary) and I now have something fast and light and it’s so very delightful, if unfamiliar. I’ll tell you more about it, and the process of learning all about all the new fangled computer talk, when I get back from the Altitude Design Summit.

· comments [18] · 01-18-2011 · categories:food · mumbling ·

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jessica // Jan 18, 2011 at 5:17 am

    Congrats on the new laptop!

    I’m always surprised by how long it takes to properly whip frosting. It feels like the clock can’t tick by fast enough to count off the minutes!

  • 2 Seanna Lea // Jan 18, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Congrats on the new laptop. I’m a computer junkie, so I have more computer than I truly need.

    I try to use my computer for cooking, but normally that involves moving it onto the washing machine or drier to more easily access my recipes. It is usually just easier to find a similar recipe in one of my cookbooks.

  • 3 Fionnuala // Jan 18, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I’m very much looking forward to new-fangled computer talk, as I am in the market for a new laptop too, but on a practically non-existent budget. So extra knowledge would clearly be useful, where extra money is not a possibility.

  • 4 Liz // Jan 18, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I am not trying to sound like a total moron here (though starting any comment with those words pretty much guarantees that one will be greeted as a total moron), but is a boxed cake mix really any less work than making a cake from scratch? You still have to add eggs and oil/butter and such to a boxed mix, right? Is the only difference between a boxed mix and making a cake from scratch the fact that a boxed mix means you don’t measure flour, leaveners, and flavors (cocoa powder, vanilla, etc)? Forgive my ignorance, but, um, I’ve never made a cake from a box (I know, I know–I’m a total Luddite).

    This question isn’t coming across as sounding like a real, honest question, but I swear it is. What’s the big benefit of using a boxed mix? I am extremely curious.

  • 5 Rachael // Jan 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

    That frosting looks amazing. I’m going to have to start my own quest to create the perfect version of it. And since you and Alton Brown say it’s okay, I’ll be using boxed cake!

  • 6 megan // Jan 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Liz – You aren’t coming across badly at all. I shortened my box mix reasoning a bit but here is what Alton Brown’s opinion (at least at the time, which was years ago) was — it’s not a lot of work to mix up cake ingredients but it is difficult to get the cake to bake well. We have those strips you warp around the cake pans, and Baker’s Magic oil/flour spray, and we can level the cakes by trimming them. But in the end your cakes will probably come out tasting a lot like a box mix and it’s just easier to go with the box. It’s harder to overmix boxed cake, it’s more likley to rise correctly and stay moist (shout out to haters of the word moist!). So I’m fine with boxed, at least when it’s an everyday cake sort of affair. I find it cuts out time for me (I’m a slow measurer/baker) and saves a few dishes. Alton Brown did say that you should never dare buy canned frosting though.

  • 7 Emira // Jan 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Super lame, but I have the same need for a cake lifter! And I love yours, though I realize it’s really nothing super fancy. Super lazy web here, but where did you get it ;)

  • 8 Lisa // Jan 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    The frosting recipe says you can use milk, coffee or water. Which did you use?
    I often bake cupcakes for work events and find that most people prefer cake mix. I think, in the U.S., we have come to expect a certain texture and flavor from our cakes. While I do still make cake from scratch (my favorite is the Double Chocolate Layer Cake from Gourmet, March 1999, via Epicurious), I never feel any guilt or reservation about using a mix!

  • 9 Liz J in Central Illinois // Jan 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I am in the process of putting all my favorite recipes online on a recipe blog. I want to make sure if anything happens to my recipe books or file of handwritten recipes, I still have them available.

    Also, what I have done is put my laptop on a rolling cart (that we got a Menard’s on sale, and with an additional rebate!) and keep my laptop on it. It’s very easy to roll around the kitchen to wherever I need it to follow a recipe. Works out very well!

  • 10 Lindsay // Jan 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Yum. Frosting recipe = officially bookmarked.

    Also, can I just tell you how glad I am that there were _3_ things in this list, thereby making my initial cringe after reading the heading (thinking you were making a list of two things and just spelled “two” wrong) completely unwarranted. heh. But yes, here’s to new things! :)

  • 11 Liz // Jan 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for laying all that out, Megan! Having read that, I think I might actually try out a boxed mix. For some reason, I always thought they were just dry ingredients pre-measured for you, which didn’t make a lot of sense to me (there had to me more in there, right?).

  • 12 Kate // Jan 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I’m with you on the boxed cake mixes. There are certain types of cake that I always go with scratch on… carrot cake, for instance… but if I just want a plain chocolate or vanilla cake for a simple layered cake or cupcakes, it’s boxed mixes all the way. Those mixes are better than a lot of scratch recipes I’ve tried.

  • 13 megan // Jan 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Liz – No trouble, thanks for calling me out. The episode of Good Eats did mention that there are some additives – gums and leveners, that work really well but are difficult for the home baker to get ahold of. I do think a homemade cake would be a bit healthier, but we don’t make cake very often and I like to cut corners where it makes sense :)

  • 14 Lindsay Jewell // Jan 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Hooray for cake experimentation!

  • 15 Monica // Jan 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I have the Cookin’ With Coolio book. Made the strawberry banana muffins and they were very good!

  • 16 Anne // Jan 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I took a cake decorating class at South Seattle Community College and my teacher suggested that unless you are making a specialty cake as previously mentioned, to just use a box cake mix. I find the chocolate more chocolatey in a box of plain chocolate cake mix. She did suggest that you always sift the cake mix though. I have never bothered though. I found that after the class, I started making more specialty cakes with ganaches instead of a buttercream frosting.

  • 17 Jenny // Jan 25, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Just wanted to say that if you ever felt like doing a frosting tutorial I would be eternally grateful. I made my first layer cake last week and I think I would rather floss my teeth than frost something. It was tasty but what a mess!

  • 18 expat divorce // Jan 26, 2011 at 8:43 am

    That cake looks amazing- congrats on the new laptop!

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