I have a lot of cookbooks on the go right now so when Agate Publishing wanted me to review Pat Sinclair’s Baking Basics and Beyond I said yes, as long as I just read the book and did not have to do recipe testing. They said that was fine.
Then I got the book. I started reading the book. I really liked the book! I was intrigued by the recipes. Then… I just had to make one! I had to see if the recipes were just as clearly, simply and well written as the rest of the book. Which of course meant I had to bake a cake!
To be clear, I do not like cake. I have a little PTS from a cake decorating course I took out west. I find most cakes dry, boring and too much work. This recipe sounded quite effortless, delicious and easy. Perfect.
I made 1 1/2 cups of “buttermilk” by adding 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice to a measuring cup and then adding enough milk for it to show 1 1/2 cups. I let it stand 5 minutes before using.
I heated the oven to 350F with the rack in the middle. I greased and floured the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ baking pan.
In the introduction to the cakes section she says to line the bottom of the pan with parchment to let it come out easily, especially for layered cakes. I hate it when anything sticks so used this technique just in case.
I sifted 2 cups all purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp of salt together.
I beat 3/4 cup of softened butter in my mixer until creamy. Then I gradually added 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, scraping down the bowl to make sure it was all getting mixed.
I also added 3/4 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar and made sure to scrape down the bowl too, beating for only 2 minutes.
I beat in 2 eggs, one of a time. Again, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate everything.
I drizzled in 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla and beat for just 2 minutes until everything was light and creamy.
I reduced speed to low, added some of the dry ingredients followed by some of the “buttermilk” to make the batter. I alternated in three additions, finishing with the dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
“Beat until smooth but no longer than 15 seconds.” Umm… That did not seem like enough time to make the batter smooth but I knew it was more important to not beat too much.
I poured into the prepared pan.
I smoothed the batter and spread evenly across the pan.
You are supposed to bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean but I took my cake out a little early because the side has pulled up and the top was firm. Turned out I was right, mine was baked through a little earlier.
I cooled the cake on a wire rack. The recipe ends with, “Frost as desired.” OK, that is a little too basic for me. And this is a huge cake! So I got creative.
I used a biscuit cutter to cut out a thick circle of cake. I did a bad job of cutting it in half. Then I slathered one half with some jarred chocolate icing. I topped that layer with the other half of cake.
I used a smaller circle and repeated the frosting-layering-process to make four layers, finishing with a dollop of frosting on top.
I used the PC Caramel Syrup I had to decorated the plate, put the tiered-cake-for-one on top and dusted with icing sugar. I finished with a sole chocolate chip on the very top.
This literally took me minutes to do and I can tell you, presentation can make a difference to how we enjoy our food. I usually do not do very much to “beautify” food but I wanted to do the recipe justice and not just have a photo of the cake in a pan. Plus, this was fun and easy! Trust me, if I can make this pretty, you can make this pretty.
This was a very good chocolate cake. I was quite impressed actually. I did not find it dense and fudgy like the author describes it though. Mine was very light and airy. An excellent cake, in my books, does not require frosting but I do recommend using some if you make this cake.
My own complaint is what happened to the small cake recipe? Everything lately seems to be ginormous. I had to freeze half the cake because there is no way we were going to get through that entire cake on our own.
Reg, being crazy about chocolate, loved this cake and enjoyed every single bite. Even I liked it which is saying a lot. The recipe was incredibly clear, easy to read and so basic (as advertised) that I had to play with it when I was done making it. An excellent first cake for a new baker. I give it four and a half out of five wooden spoons.
Don’t be scared to have fun! Get out some sprinkles and candies. One of the best parts of being a foodie is getting to play with your food.