September 5, 2013

What's Cooking?

A few weeks back, I saw this cooking show while I was tread-milling. Yeah, I know. How pathetic is that? Anyway, the show included this two-ingredient cake thing using a box chocolate cake mix and a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. Gee, I thought, how hard could that be? So when I saw a similar recipe posted by a friend on Facebook, this one using a yellow cake mix plus a glaze, I decided to give it a try. It's just two ingredients. Nothing for a seasoned veteran of the Food Channel like myself. Hah!

First I had to get the ingredients, so I went to the store. I hadn't bothered to write any of the ingredients down. I mean it's just a box cake and a can of pumpkin, right? Oh wait, there's the glaze. No problem. I'll just look it up on Facebook using my cell phone. No signal. Now we got a problem. But I had made glazes before, starting with an infamous episode involving a spice cake that we need not distract ourselves with here, so I shrugged it off as a minor glitch in an otherwise smoothly unfolding plan of action.

Back home, I quickly assembled the two ingredients with all the confidence of a master opener of cans and boxes. Into the stand mixer to blend while I looked to see what I would cook them in. I had assumed it be a 13"x 9" pan. No problem. Except this recipe called for a 7"x11" pan. Now we got a problem. Shit. I had no idea if we had one -- although my wife later found one immediately, buried under a stack of other baking pans that hadn't been used in a couple of decades. Undaunted, I selected a 10"x10" Corning ware casserole dish. Close enough would have to be good enough.

With the cake in the oven, I moved on to the glaze. No problem. Made a ton of those in my day. The recipe called for confectioner's sugar ... check ... pumpkin pie spice ... hmm, don't see any ... and apple cider ... wtf, who keeps apple cider around? Now we got a problem. Well, I'll just have to improvise.

Pumpkin pie spice. Hmm. I decided it must be a blend of existing spices, so I looked in the spice cupboard and pulled out some cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. I blended them in equal measure and combined them with the confectioner's sugar. Problem solved. On to the glaze.

Now I was really stumped. We didn't have any apple cider -- although it turns out there were some small boxes of apple juice behind the cereal boxes left over from the last visit by the grandchildren -- but honestly, who would think to look there? Besides, that would actually require moving things, a distinctly un-guy activity.

In my search, I did find some unsweetened apple sauce, another holdover from the grandchildren. Not that I was desperate, but the cake was baking and a decision had to be made. So, I took a couple of spoonfuls of apple sauce and blended it with water, coming up with a rather insipid looking fluid that a designer would label dirty rainwater. I threw it into the confectioner's sugar and spice blend, ending up with a syrupy concoction reminiscent of a sewage overflow. I sampled it and well, let's just say I wasn't overcome with taste bud euphoria. But it was what it was.

By now, the cake was done. I let it cool and then flipped it out on to a rack. Miracle of miracles, it actually came out. I poured the glaze over it and stepped back to admire my creation. There was a distinct sag in the center, due, my wife informed me, to using a casserole with a rounded bottom as opposed to a cake pan with straight sides. Who knew?

Other than that, it looked more than passable, and when I tried some later, the damned thing actually tasted pretty good, although the cake part was a bit dense. The hallmark of a homemade cake, I was assured, even if it did come out of a box I thought but did not say. Whatever. I'm good with the homemade cake theory.

So there you have it. A simple two-ingredient cake ... the hard way. Maybe I should go on that Food Network star-search show. My theme would be cooking for the clueless. A natural fit if ever there was one.

Guess I should have included the recipe in the original post:

1 box of yellow cake  mix (chocolate or spice would work too)
1 15-oz can of pumpkin (not pie mix)
Combine in mixer and beat until smooth. Pour into a greased 7"x11"x2" pan and bake at 350 for 28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit for 5 minutes and flip onto rack.

While the cake is cooking, combine 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar with 3/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. (Or blend your own.) Add 3 tablespoons of apple cider (or whatever you come up with) and stir. Consistency should be runny. Drizzle over cake when you flip it out of the pan. Poke holes with that toothpick to get the glaze into the center of the cake.

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