Monday, February 1, 2010

Let's Bake a Cake!

Since General Mills introduced America to Betty Crocker in 1921, every photograph of her has looked younger and more modern than the previous one. Is she real? Well, of course she is. If she wasn’t real, how could she have come up with all those delicious cake mixes and cookbooks?

Sitting on my desk right now is a beautiful, old Betty Crocker cookbook that my wife has had since her mother gave it to her as a birthday present on her 17th birthday. The copyright on the inside says 1956. This is a marvelous book with almost 500 pages and tons of 50s-style illustrations and photographs. And more recipes than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

I have had a request recently to include a recipe from the fifties, so I’m going to pick one at random, and tell you exactly how Betty does it. I’m going to give you her recipe for a Pumpkin Cake. Yummy! Here’s what Betty says:

Bake large Orange Chiffon Cake (see page 162)
(Rats. Now I have to go to page 162. Hold on.)

Okay, I’m on page 162 now. It says:

Follow key recipe for Large Cake (above) except omit vanilla and lemon rind. Add 3 tbsp. grated orange rind. Finish with Orange Butter Icing. (see page 177).

Oh, crap. We haven’t even gotten started yet and we’ve been re-directed three times. I shouldn’t have started this. I think she was just trying to make it difficult so we would go out and buy her cake mixes. Here’s what I would suggest. Go to Walmart and get yourself a Betty Crocker cake mix in a box. Take it home and bake it. But don’t add any vanilla or lemon rind. Throw in a little grated orange rind.

I’ll pick up Betty's instructions where we left off…

Place cake top-side-up on serving plate. With spatula cover sides, top, and inside center hole (center hole? When did we punch a hole in it?) with a fluffy white frosting (see page 180) tinted orange (pumpkin color) with yellow and red food coloring. (I guess you put this over the orange butter icing from page 177 that you’ve already slathered over it.) Color about ¼ cup with green for the stem. Smooth frosting in deep curves from top to bottom to resemble pumpkin. Make grooves in pumpkin by using tip of spatula, starting at bottom and going up to center. For the pumpkin stem, insert peeled banana in hole in center of cake. (There’s that hole again.) Use pieces of another banana as wedge to hold it firmly in place. Spread stem with the green tinted frosting. Serve the same day, removing the stem for cutting.

Personally, it seems like way too much trouble. Too many opportunities for error with all that page changing. I think you could get the whole thing at Walmart ready to eat and save yourself a ton of trouble. See the children in the picture above? See how happy they look? See the look on her husband's face? You can fool the kids, but hubby knows she didn't bake that cake. You can't fool a man who wears a bowtie. The little girl in the purple dress seems to be giving thanks that it's not another Halloween Pumpkin cake.

I'll find a simpler recipe with no references to other pages next time.