WND – Birthday Related Baking

December 6, 2007

Baking : Chemistry as Cooking : ____________

(a) Rhetoric
(b) Postmodernism
(c) Mathematics
(d) Alchemy

It’s worth noting that this is an entirely self serving analogy since I cook all the time but only bake sporadically.

. . . . . possibly it’s also worth noting that I was a medieval history major who got there via fantasy novels and gothic churches.

And the answer is . . . . . (d) Alchemy.

I am an adequate, if unexceptional, baker. By this I mean I understand the basic principles of baking and I can follow directions, but I don’t understand the chemistry of baking enough to start experimenting or conjuring recipes. I bake for occasions – birthdays, parties, nice dinners – but I only feel inspired to bake for the sheer fun of it about once or twice a year.

I also have an entire folder of recipes that I’ve culled from various sources because they sounded interesting. I have either made them once on one of my bi-annual baking urges (pumpkin whoopee pies) or never made them at all, but glance at them periodically and think, ‘I should really try that’ (speculaas cake). For all other occasions I use one of 10 recipes that cover pretty much all baking eventualities.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal Cookies
Red Velvet Cake
Chocolate Layer Cake
Wonder Cake (with Butter Sauce)
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Chocolate Pudding Cake
Pumpkin Cider Tea Bread
Buttermilk Pie
Lemon Chess Pie

This is the final birthday of the year and the request was for:

Chicken Fingers
Corn Pudding

Apple Sauce

Chocolate Pudding Cake

This is a ridiculously labor intensive dinner, mostly because very little can be made in advance. But, it’s a birthday and it’s traditional, and it ends with chocolate so it’s not all bad.

I made the apple sauce Monday night, and I filled 4 bowls with the various stages of the pudding cake so all I would have to do on Wednesday was put it together. On Wednesday night my goal was to eat at 7:45pm. I got home at 6:30pm, and:

– put the applesauce on to warm
– mixed up the corn pudding, to put in the oven at 7:00pm
– breaded the chicken fingers
– melted the chocolate for the pudding cake
– assembled the pudding cakes to the stage just before adding the water to the top
– fried the chicken fingers
– chopped & dressed the salad
– sat down to dinner
– after dinner I finished the pudding cakes and put them into bake while we cleaned up and made tea. The timing is a little bit fiddly, but hot fudge pudding cake is amazing when it’s served warm (it’s okay cold, but really just not as good).

Chocolate Pudding Cake

I find this cake entirely fascinating because it looks highly dubious when you put it in the oven, and then while it bakes it turns upside down and turns into pudding on the bottom and cake on the top. I don’t get how that works, but it does and it’s yummy. On the downside, it requires that you get every bowl in your kitchen dirty to make it.

In a small bowl stir together:
2 tsp instant coffee
1.5 cups water

In another bowl mix together:
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar

In a small bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt:
6 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Whisk together until smooth, and then allow to cool.

In another bowl sift together:
3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder

In yet another bowl whisk together:
2/3 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk

To milk/sugar mixture add melted chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into an 8” greased baking dish (for individual ramekins see instructions below) and spread evenly to sides and corners.
Sprinkle cocoa/sugar mixture evenly over the batter.
Pour water/coffee mixture gently over the batter & cocoa/sugar mixture.
Bake at 325 until puffed, bubbly and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the baking dish (about 45 minutes).
Cool for 25 minutes before serving.

For individual hot fudge pudding cakes*:
Heat oven to 400.
Grease 8 ramekin dishes.
Put 1/4 cup batter in each ramekin. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp cocoa/sugar mixture. Pour 3 Tbsp water/coffee mixture into each ramekin
Bake about 20 minutes. Cool 15 minutes.

* It’s a little bit more work, but it looks so impressive when you serve them. Plus, how often do you get to serve things in ramekins**?

** Unless, of course, you’re the kind of person who serves little individual savory bread puddings at luncheons on a regular basis . . . . if you’re wondering, I’m only that kind of person in the alternate reality where I married the Ambassador to France.



  1. […] Recipe previously given: Birthday Related Baking […]

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