Monday, March 23, 2015

Light as Air, Heavy on Taste

I realized a few days ago it had probably been about ten years since the last time I had an angel food cake. Perhaps this is due to the fact that when it comes to cake flavor, I want to get the full bang for my (fatty) buck. Angel food cakes require their very own pan that can't be used for anything else, they're finicky during the cooking and cooling process, and the results leave me with an overall feeling best described by the word "Meh." Angel food cakes have certainly proven to be bland and boring, the Ann Veal's of the cake world, if you will. I realize not every cake can be a bold, in-your-face rum cake (clearly the Lucille Bluth of cakes), so I wanted to try to give Ann (her?) another chance. I will always maintain that there is never a bad time for an Arrested Development reference. Also, you can figure out who is clearly superior in your group of friends and family by viewing their recently watched history on Netflix to see if A.D. is part of that line up. This way you're clear on who is not ashamed but actually proud of the fact that they're a part of your dysfunctional hodgepodge of a family. Good times. Back to the Ann-gel food cake. I wanted to prove that these cakes could be more than just a circular, tubish platform for Cool Whip and frozen strawberries.
They can also be Bundt cakes! With flowers!
I am constantly trying to find new ways to not screw things up in the kitchen (at least I'm being honest), so I knew baking an angel food cake in a Bundt pan could turn out to be an absolutely tasteless disaster. Thankfully, both the cake and I survived this experiment, only for one of us to be eaten (Hint: clearly the blogger is still in tact). There's also NO ROOM for Cool Whip when it comes to this angel food is topped in a decadent lemon cream cheese frosting and decorated with adorable gumdrop roses. So let me give you the rundown on Bundt strategies, frosting deets, and making spring come to life for your taste buds with my gumdrop rose tutorial. Onward to greatness!
A really hefty ingredients list thanks to Betty Crocker.
I had planned on making my angel food cake completely from scratch, but then I noticed the recipe I found called for like 35 egg whites and not the kind from the carton, so I made the command decision that a box cake is DEFINITELY way cheaper than a dozen eggs. was the weekend after all, and all that egg money needed to be better spent on beer. I prepared my cake as directed on the package, and then I took a paper towel, folded it into quarters, and sprayed it heavily with cooking spray. I lightly wiped the paper towel all over my Bundt pan, coming back in a second time to grease up all the tiny crevices. I know, you're never supposed to grease the pan so that the angel food cake can "climb" up the sides of it. But I realized that if I didn't grease my Bundt pan, I'd end up with handfuls of cake instead of one whole cake after trying to remove it from the pan. I eat cake by the handful, but it would be pretty close to impossible to decorate that way.
At this point, I had eyes, fingers, and toes crossed that things would turn out well.
I baked my cake for the full amount of time advised on the back of the box (47 minutes. Such an arbitrary amount of time, Betty), and set my pan on top of a cooling rack and left it alone for about an hour and a half to cool. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, do not invert your Bundt pan at all. I know this also seems weird because you might believe the cake will totally cave in on itself if you don't flip the pan upside down. Trust me, it won't budge thanks to all those grooves in your pan sucking it in place.
See, no cave ins!
Once the pan is totally cool, take a small metal spatula and slowly work your way around the edge of the Bundt pan to loosen your cake. Don't forget to loosen the inside edge. I realize this seems obvious, but I had a mild panic attack when I couldn't get my cake to come out of the pan until I realized I had forgotten to loosen up the inside edge. Even the greatest and smartest of blondes still have their moments. I was able to place my cooling rack on top of the pan and flip it over with my cake coming out in tact after the minor meltdown I was having.
So, about that angel food cake being healthy...
I realize a lot of people like to eat angel food cake to quell a sweet tooth without being totally fatty fat fat fat, but that really makes no sense to me as I am a have my cake and eat it, too, person. As my stepdad always says, right before you die you're probably not going to be thinking to yourself, 'Thank God I had that salad for lunch.' So let's leave the Cool Whip out of this equation and go full-on fatty fat fat fat and make this delicious lemon cream cheese frosting:
  • 1.5 blocks of room temp cream cheese (you could use the reduced fat version here since a thinner consistency of frosting will work well for this cake)
  • 1/2 stick of room temp butter
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice (not pictured because I am an idiot)
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon zest (I am lazy and use the kind out of a jar. Using a zester/grater normally means losing knuckle skin in my world.)
You can use a fresh lemon for the juice and zest if you so choose. I am sure it would be fantastic, and you could feel just that much better than the baking blogger because you're organic and blah, blah, blah. Damn hippie. Start by mixing your butter and cream cheese together until fluffy. Then mix in the lemon juice and zest. Finish up by adding one cup of sugar in at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing well between each cup.

I forgot to take a few pictures here because I kept eating frosting instead (again, I'll say it: skewed priorities). Dude, organic or not, this stuff is legit. Anyway, you want to get your frosting melty so that you can pour it over your cooled off cake like a glaze. I scooped all my frosting into a LARGE liquid measuring cup. Seriously, the thing can hold almost five cups of liquid. A two and a half cup measuring cup would probably work, but I'm from Texas and everything has to be bigger. I melted my frosting for 40 seconds in the microwave, and then drizzled/poured over the entire cake. You can use as little or as much frosting as you want depending on your taste preferences. No surprises here, I used every last drop of frosting.
Because I'm an adult, and I can do that.
I won't lie, you're gonna make a bit of a mess here, and you may have a moment of complete doubt in what I've just made you do, but we're gonna make things look nice like they are in the photo above. At this point after dripping frosting all over your cake, you might want to kill me (please don't, I need to bake Easter egg cake pops next weekend). Angel food cakes are obviously very spongy, so it will soak up a bit of frosting. Your cake won't be completely covered by frosting, and cake will show through because of this. It's okay. But you do want to clean up the mess a bit by taking a small angled spatula and swiping up from the base of the cake and then down into the hole in the middle of the cake. This will create the alternating ridge pattern shown above. Depending on your Bundt pan, you can just follow the natural grooves of the pan, which is what I did. I finished up by taking a damp paper towel and wiping the edge of my cake plate so that frosting wasn't everywhere. You could call it a day here, but the gumdrop roses are both tasty and delightful, so keep on truckin' through my crappy photo montage.
To make the roses, you need a bag of gumdrops, a cutting board sprinkled generously with sugar, a rolling pin/thick drinking glass, sharp knife, and a small bowl of warm water.
There's two ways of making roses. This first way is much quicker but will yield smaller roses with less detail. Start by rolling out a gumdrop to an oval about 1 1/2-2 inches long. Follow suit with two more gumdrops. Make sure you have plenty of sugar down because it will keep your gumdrop from sticking to the pin and the cutting board.
Now take one flattened gumdrop and roll it up like a carpet.
Moisten the end with a bit of warm water on your fingertip to seal the end

Then take another flattened gumdrop and wrap it over the seam on the first part you rolled. Do this again with the third gumdrop, covering up the seam from the second gumdrop. Make sure you are pinching the ends each time so the gumdrops stick together.
Then pull your "petals" out a bit and you've got a rose!

Now, this next method of making gumdrops is more labor intensive, but as a result, it will yield much more beautiful, larger roses. Take four gumdrops and roll out to 2 inches (or one Kate-sized thumb). You don't want them to get too thin, or your roses will be very droopy. No one likes droopy roses.
Cut your flattened gumdrops in half horizontally.

Take one piece and roll it up like a carpet (the cut side should be at the bottom). Moisten your finger and seal the bottom edge together.
Now take another gumdrop half and cover the seam left from the edge of the first and wrap it around. Make sure it is nice and secured at the bottom.
You want to continue covering the seams/edges left by the gumdrop halves you've secured. You will use all 8 pieces total, so your final layer will be three "petals" overlapping each other.
You can see this a bit more clearly here.

Now take each petal and bend it down a bit to open up your rose.
No rose it complete without leaves, so flatten out a green gumdrop.

Cut it into quarters. If you've rolled them too thin, you can always just fold the half in half again as I did above.
Then simply secure to the bottom of your rose with a little bit of warm water and pressure.
Use as many colors of gumdrops you like! You can even mush colors together or alternate gumdrop half colors to get the multicolor effect here.

Or keep them all one color for a classic look. So pretty you won't want to eat them. But you will eventually because hunger always wins out over beauty. Truth.
I believe I created about 16 roses. This took about two hours, but it was worth it for the end result. Plus, when I was little, I used to help my mom make these gumdrop roses to put on the various cakes she would make, so it was a lovely and sentimental trip down memory lane now that I'm the adult (or at least adult adjacent). I can now see why she wanted my tiny, nimble fingers to help her out with these because good LORD it would cut the time in half. I still do not consider this a good enough reason to have children, but a minion or two would suffice. You can also freeze these for later use, so that's a plus!
Cue Vivaldi's "Spring"...
Because these babies have sprung!
Simply place each flower wherever you'd like to on your frosted cake. Press the flowers gently into the cake, and they will stick quite well thanks to the thick cream cheese icing. You could take the time to completely border the cake, but I'm going to say I went with a more minimalist look here, and not that I was lazy and got tired of rolling out petals. Yep. Could also argue that I was trying to remain "calorie conscious" and not obliterate the angel food with too much sugar.
Thanks for the advice, Lucille.
Either way, I am happy my science experiment turned out almost as I had pictured it in my head (in my head I didn't eat so many gumdrops during the rose making process). The angel food cake itself is still so simple and "it’s as Ann as the nose on Plain’s face," but with the help of the rich frosting and delightful zing of the gumdrop roses, the overall flavor is as bold and tasteful as any other regular-consistency cake (the Michael Bluth of cakes, naturally). So if you're looking for a way to add beauty and class up an angel food cake, this is the way to go. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

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