The other week I had the genius plan to invite my mom over to my house for Mother’s Day brunch with me and my sister. Inviting my mom turned into brunch with my mom, sister, grandparents, aunt and cousin and then brunch turned into lunch because Cuban people are late to EVERYTHING. I was really excited as this would be the first time I had a big family meal at my new home, so I wanted everything to be perfect. i.e. a spotless house and tasty treats.
While a clean home may be of high importance, it comes a close second to all things food. I wanted to create a feast of epicurean delight. My younger sister happens to be the Queen of Quiche, so she took charge of the main dish, and I took over sides and dessert. I recently receive a copy of United Cakes of America (Abrams Books, imprint: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, May 2010), from a friend and had been dying to try it out. The book is beautifully made with bright colors and a cut-out of the United States on the cover. Not only does it look lovely on my cookbook shelf (yes, I have a shelf just for cookbooks in my kitchen), but it is an incredibly fun concept. The book goes through the 50 states and has cake recipes for each one. (Georgia gets the Coca-Cola Cake, which I am thinking of trying just for kicks!).
I think it is important to note that you should never try making a new recipe the morning of Mother’s Day, because you will inevitably wake up late because you stayed out until 3 a.m. for a friends birthday the night before and open your eyes at 10 a.m. thinking, “Oh God, I still smell like bar and I have to bake a cake & fresh buttercream frosting in the next 3 hours.” Learn from my mistakes. Don’t be me.
I soldiered onward and confident in my baking skills, crawled out of bed to tackle the task at hand. I pulled the book from the “shelf” on top of my cabinets where I keep my cookbooks and flipped it open to the strawberry shortcake recipe. It seemed simple enough and in all honesty, the cake came together pretty easily. I was a little worried at the beginning because I was supposed to mix butter and sugar in a mixer until creamy and I don’t have a fancy KitchenAid mixer, so I had to make my hand mixer work. Let me tell you… a good mixer makes all the difference! I got a weird lumpy consistency of butter and sugar. Lucky for me, from then on, everything went as planned. The recipe was clearly written, with the ingredients listed neatly & separated by dry, wet and creamy ingredients. This made it simple to find everything I needed. Flipping through the book, I found this consistent with the other recipes. I *did* accidentally over-fill my mini-bundt cake pan on the first go around, which made an awful mess in the oven. The mini-bundts were absolutely worth it (everything tastes better if it is mini) and my follow-up attempts were a success!
I’m not going to lie. I was really proud of myself. All of my mini-bundt cakes looked lovely! Next I just had to slice up some strawberries and coat them in sugar to make the topping, & tackle the buttercream. This did not go nearly as well. I really needed more hands to handle this one. My mom stopped by and helped, but the ingredients just didn’t come together properly. I don’t own a candy thermometer, so I think that maybe the melted sugar didn’t get hot enough, but I ended up with a soupy mixture instead of the more firm icing I was looking for. I put it in the fridge, hoping to fix the problem, but that just made it impossible to spread, although it still tasted amazing. Maybe buttercream just isn’t my thing?
Ultimately, it turned out wonderful and everyone ate more than I thought possible. I think that the cookbook is certainly for more dedicated bakers, but there are plenty of fun and simple recipes in the book for us novices out there. Baking is such a precise art, that I really needed more time and attention to detail for the frosting. This is definitely up there on my list of favorite cookbooks and think it is a great addition to any cooks library. Mini-bundt cakes don’t lie.