Friday, December 3, 2010

Please, Make Your Own...Cake and Frosting

The other day, my husband brought home a piece of cake from a local chain grocery store's bakery.  Most people probably think the same thing I did:  Since the cake was made in a local bakery, it's probably a lot like a cake made from scratch in somebody's home.  After all, this cake didn't come from a factory, and didn't come from a box that came from a factory.  It turns out that I couldn't have been more wrong.

I should mention that this happens to me a lot these days.  Everyone buys certain packaged foods at the grocery store that maybe they've been buying for their whole life, without giving it a lot of thought.  They seem familiar, they seem like food, and they seem like something that could've been made in their own kitchen.  Well, I strongly suggest that everyone take the time to read not just the fat and calories on the label, but the actual ingredients.  I can guarantee you that you will be surprised, and maybe even shocked, at the crazy things that food processors use and then tell us it's food.  (Milk protein concentrate?  What on earth is that anyway?  Really, Velveeta?  I mean, really?!!)

Back to the cake, I wasn't really intentionally reading the ingredients list, I was just opening the clamshell package.  The ingredients label was over the opening, like a piece of tape, so I had to look at it to open it.  Then I realized the ingredients list started on the top of the package, ran down the front, and then wrapped down to the bottom of the package.  In a tiny 6 point font, the ingredients list is almost 2 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide of solid print.  And what are "propylene glycol mono and diesters of fats and fatty acids" anyway?  Do you have that in your kitchen?  Would you want that in your kitchen?  Most boxed cake mixes aren't any better, and don't even get me started on the trans fat bonanza that is canned frosting.

So I'm here to ask you to please, make your own cake and frosting.  From scratch.  Without a box.  I can't subscribe to the belief that it's okay for a food ingredients list to read like a science experiment.  We already have food that can be turned into a very nice cake without a test tube anywhere in sight.  I promise you, to make a nice, simple cake that your family will enjoy from scratch is not any harder or even more time consuming than using a box.  And you will know and control exactly what is in it.  And your ingredient list, even in a 12 point font still probably won't be 2 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide!

To see just one example of an incredibly easy, low fat cake that takes about 5 minutes to make, and delicious frosting that also only takes a few minutes, using only these ingredients:



just click on "read more"!

Easy Low Fat, Healthy, and Delicious Chocolate Cake
(adapted from an old Betty Croker Cookbook recipe...if they know the right way to make a cake, why do they put all that garbage in their mixes?)

1 2/3 Cups Flour (I use Whole Wheat Pastry Flour...more on this below)
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Cup Water
1/6 Cup Plain Fat Free Yogurt and 1/6 Cup Oil (measure the two together to make 1/3 Cup total)
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
Add-ins like chocolate chips or nuts are optional.

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray an 8" square pan with cooking spray.

Step 2:  Put the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir a little bit with a whisk or spoon.

Step 3:  Add the water, yogurt, oil, and vanilla extract to the bowl.  If you're using chocolate chips, nuts, etc., you can either put these in now or sprinkle them over the top of the cake once it's in the pan.  Stir everything together for a minute or so, until it looks like a cake batter.  No 300 strokes, no electric mixer, just a quick mix by hand.

Step 4:  Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
I sprinkled a few chocolate chips on at this point, just for fun.

Step 5:  This is essential!  Lick the bowl!!!  No eggs in this batter, so go to town!

Step 6:  Place the cake in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the top springs back when touched and/or a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Step 7:  Place the pan on a cooling rack and let the cake completely cool.

Now, a note about the flour.  I switched to using almost exclusively whole grain flours quite a long time ago, and it was a steep learning curve to figure out the best way to do that.  If you're not ready to make the switch, you can use half regular all purpose flour and half whole wheat pastry flour, or even just all purpose.  If you really want to go crazy and up the healthy quotient, substitute up to 25% of the wheat flour for a different whole grain flour, like oat flour, brown rice flour, millet flour, etc.  I think it's great to have your cake, and eat its good nutrition too!  If you're making a cake that doesn't have a strong flavoring though, like a vanilla cake, or an angel food cake, you're probably going to want to stick to refined white flours.  Even I admit that there are times when whole grain isn't a viable option.

Easy Caramel Frosting
(adapted from a Taste of Home recipe)

3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
5 Tbs. Butter, cut into pats
1/4 Cup Skim or 1% Milk (my preference; use 2% or whole if that's what you have)
1/8 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar (Confectioner's Sugar)

Step 1:  Put the brown sugar, butter, milk, and salt into a small saucepan.  Put it over low to medium low heat and stir only until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 2:  Increase the heat to about medium or slightly above medium.  Allow the mixture to cook, without stirring, for about 5 minutes.  It should bubble up from the center and turn a bit (not a lot) darker brown.  It's okay to swirl the pan a bit, but don't stir.

Step 3:  Pour the caramel sauce into a small mixing bowl.  (If you're using a plastic mixing bowl you should allow it to cool a little in the pan so you don't melt your bowl.)  Set the bowl aside and allow the caramel sauce to cool completely.  Try hard to avoid the temptation to pour it in a glass and drink it. ;-)

Step 4:  When the caramel sauce is cooled, beat in the powdered sugar with a fork until it becomes frosting.

Step 5:  Frost your completely cooled cake, let the frosting set for a few minutes, and dig in!  Yum!
Okay, I probably should've sprinkled it with chopped nuts or something, just to make it prettier.  But trust me, it was delicious!

Now, I'll never say that this is health food, but if you're going to eat cake, this is one example of a cake with less guilt.  Without any scary chemicals, using much less fat than is typical, and with whole grain flour, you can make a great cake in literally only a few minutes of hands-on time, completely from scratch.


  1. Great thank you, my family will be happy.

  2. Very nice job thank you very much.