Thursday, September 27, 2012

There Is a Reason Betty Crocker Is Successful

As of today, my husband no longer dangles on the cliff of "I'm in my 40s?? How is this possible?"  Today he turns 41.  He's all in now, my friends.

Unlike the posts on my childrens' birthdays, I won't regale you with his birth story.  You're welcome.

I will, however, give you a little story to illustrate how far he's come.  How he's grown.  How he has learned that his words can unintentionally hurt others.

The other day I was at the kitchen counter, my back to the kitchen.  Hubby and Turken were in the room with me.  I heard the following conversation:

Turken:  Daddy, watch this!

Hubby:  Oh, don't do that!  This floor is filthy!

short pause

Hubby:  And that was not meant to be a comment on the cleanliness of the house.

He's learning.  Ten years ago, it never would have occurred to him that his comment may have annoyed me.  Perhaps in ten more years he won't even say such things. 

Today, to show him just how much I love him, I will bake his favorite cake.  The cake I curse.  The cake that makes me want to ring his mother's neck. 

I grew up with a mother who makes cakes from a box.  I am a mother who makes cakes from a box.   My mother-in-law is a mother who makes difficult cakes from scratch.   Cakes like the dreaded "red cake" that Hubby loves so much.  The cake that from the first time I ate it, even before I knew what went in to making it or that I was going to have to make a million of them over my lifetime, I didn't like it.  I, a lover of cakes, didn't like the taste of this cake.  Twenty-five years later, it hasn't grown on me.

Today, I will give you the recipe.  I'll also walk you through it, because the recipe is so flippin' vague that I messed up untold times before I figured different things out.   For some reason, men seem to love this cake.  If you want to show your husband some love, make it for him. 

How to Make the Famous Red Cake

This would be Hubby's handwriting.  He wanted this cake so badly that first year we were married that he called his mom for the recipe and wrote it on a card for me.   He loves this cake.

Before you begin you must prepare.  As you can see from the recipe card, things are going to get messy.  Change into some serious work clothes.  Clothes that you will never wear outside of the house.  Whatever you do, do not wear your cute outfit that you wore to the store when you bought the ingredients.  Next, you need to get the work space ready.  Clear the counter of absolutely everything.  .  You also need to get rid of the kids.  This cake requires serious concentration.  Kids cannot help.  They will only distract you and mess up the cake.  You do not want to have to start over, because some of the ingredients are odd, and you don't want to have to go to the store to buy more.

Gather the cake ingredients:
group e(asy peasy)                                                        
1/2 cup butter                                              
1 1/2 cups sugar                                         
2 eggs

group t(oo messy for words)
1 oz. red food coloring
2 Tbsp dried cocoa
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. vinegar

group w(aste of a good bowl)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

and don't forget your
1 cup buttermilk

Mix group e.  Now concentrate, this is where it starts getting difficult.

Add group t to the group e you've already mixed.  And yes, every last drop of that bottle of red food coloring.

I highly suggest that before you turn your mixer on to mix this all together, you first give it a stir with your spatula.  Otherwise, you, your counter, your floor, and everything within a five foot radius will be covered in dried cocoa.

Once these two groups are mixed, in a separate bowl mix the group w ingredients. 

Now, grow another arm and hand, but DO NOT invite a child in to be that extra hand.  This is a critical time and you need all of your focus to be on the everlovin' cake.  The next instruction is to alternately add the group w mixture and the buttermilk to the group e/group t mixture while continuously mixing with the mixer and scraping with the spatula.                                                              
Now, pay attention, this is the one and only tip I have gained from this recipe that is invaluable to making cakes in general, boxed or otherwise.

To prepare the cake pans, spray the bottom of the pans with Pam.  Sprinkle a touch of flour in the pan and knock it around to get a nice thin layer of flour on the wet pan.  PAY ATTENTION!  THIS IS THE GOOD PART!  Cut a piece of wax paper to fit in the bottom of the cake pan and place it inside.  If you do this every time you make a cake, you will never again have a crater in the center of your cake that you have to fix with a mound of icing. 

Important note about the wax paper:  Make sure to take the wax paper off before you ice the cake.  There may have been a time or two that I forgot, and wax paper in between layers of a cake really takes away from the deliciousness of the cake.  Watching people pull cake-covered wax paper out of a cake you spent hours making is just depressing.  When they have to pull it out of their mouths, it's just gross.

Of course, today when I got the wax paper out of the cupboard, there was only a sliver left in the container.  I just ripped it in half and put the little bit I had into each pan.  No nice, neat circle today, the day I'm actually taking pictures.  Typical.

Pour the batter evenly into two round cake pans, then bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

I did tell you it was going to be red, didn't I?

While the cake bakes, take a nap.  You will need all of your strength and mental capacity for the icing.

While the cake cools, get started on the icing.

Ingredients for the icing:

group p(ain in the rear)
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp. flour

group m(akes me gag)
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar

and don't forget your
1 tsp. vanilla

This is where the directions really get interesting.  I'll quote the recipe, then give you my thoughts and hints.

"Cook in microwave group p ingredients until thick and smooth.  Let the mixture cool."

For one thing, some general idea of a time would be helpful.  Considering it will be in the microwave, where I can't actually see it, I have no idea how long that might take.  And for another thing, the mixture doesn't by any means just magically turn thick and smooth.  Some serious stirring is involved.  I threw out untold batches thinking that I was doing it wrong, only to find out that I just needed to stir.   I suppose this could easily be done on the stove top, but I am a rule follower, so...To clarify for my readers:

Cook in the microwave for a minute, stir, cook for another minute, stir, stir some more.  Cook again if needed.  It should end up the consistency of yogurt.

Once it is done, put it in the fridge to cool.

While it is cooling,

"Mix group m for about 10 minutes.  Dissolve the sugar in the butter."

First of all, I don't know if it is scientifically possible to dissolve sugar in butter.  Secondly, I do not have the attention span necessary to stand and mix something for 10 whole minutes.  And neither does my mother-in-law.  On this, I have to call a whole mess of hogwash.  I do believe she was just messing with me, just another booby trap in my attempts to make this cake.  Her way of keeping her baby boy attached to her instead of me.  To clarify for you:

Mix the sugar and butter for about 5 minutes, or until you lose interest. 

"Add the cooled group p mixture and 1 tsp. vanilla to group m mixture.  Mix until it's good, 5-10 minutes depending on the weather."

First of all, good is an extremely relative term, and as far as I'm concerned, this icing will never be good.  Second of all, since when does weather get a say in how long it takes to mix icing? I won't be making this in the out of doors, so I don't have to worry that the rain will cause excess water to get into and thin the icing.  What exactly does this mean???  To clarify for those who have stuck it out this far:

Mix all of the ingredients until it looks like icing.

Now, before you get all excited and think that we're done, calm down.  We have to make this fancy now.

"Split the layers using a bread knife and ice."

I have yet to see this amazing trick of splitting the layers with ice, so I simply use a butter knife. Apparently two layers just aren't good enough for Hubby.  We have to make it a four-layer cake.  Some people will say to use plain dental floss or some other clever method to cut the layers in half.  By this point, I am so over this cake that I don't care how lopsided the layers are.  To clarify:

Stab each layer with a butter knife, and while using a sawing motion with the knife, twirl the cake to cut it in half horizontally.

Remember, before you spread the icing, 

remove the wax paper!

Get out the fancy cake stand and ice between each layer.  The first time I made this cake I covered the entire thing with icing, not just between the layers.  The look on Hubby's face told me that I had made a terrible red cake faux pas, so I have never done it again.

Now, unless your house is as climate controlled as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, put the cake in the refrigerator.  One time I left a cake out on the counter, and the next morning all of the icing had melted, slipped out from between the layers, and puddled around the bottom of the cake.

I try very hard to keep this cake away from my children.  They get one piece on Dad's birthday and that's it.  I am always thinking about the future, and I don't want my many future daughters-in-law to hate me forever.  Yes, I will sacrifice my sons' pleasure to preserve the relationship with the daughters-in-law of my dreams.   I certainly don't want them cursing me the way I do my own mother-in-law one day each year.

I'm off to clean that mountain of dishes it takes to create this work of art before Hubby gets home. 

Let me know if you ever make this.  I'd love to know how it turns out.

Have a lovely day!


  1. What does it say about me that the easiest bit of your instructions is to grow another arm and hand?

    1. It says you are a well-kept woman and I am jealous.

  2. WOW, you obviously love your husband very much to go to that much trouble. Us old farts hitting the big 5-0 just call up the bakery and have them do the dirty work.

    1. Well, I have to make up for the fact that I never get him a gift. This is all the celebration the man gets.

  3. I am laughing so hard right now at all the warnings and instructions. Thanks for the laugh. Maybe next year just get him a gift it might be easier
    to drag all 6 kids through the department store while shopping for a gift than it is to make this cake. and it seems similar to what we in the south call a red velvet cake. a popular grooms cake...
    i am a scratch cake baker and a box cake baker. you can buy this in a box mix try it out see if he can tell the difference.
    enjoy the red stain of the cake

    1. At least with the cake I get some "me" time. Maybe I'll try the box with the homemade icing. Make things a touch easier?

  4. You are a better woman than I...I would make a white cake (which has no discernable flavor), add a whole bottle of red food coloring and call it done. Sure, he would notice a difference but since he's not a chef in any way, shape or form, I could simply blame it on the fact that it's different b/c it's a different person making it. :) God bless you, woman!

    1. Thank you. Everyone enjoyed his cake, and I am done for another year. Except Cuckoo did mention today that he now wants a red and white cake for his birthday. I'm fairly certain that I can get him to forget about it by August.

  5. Old, vague recipes are the best aren't they? My sister-in-law gave me a really old copy of Fannie Farmer, and that's the way a lot of the recipes sound. They would be hard to replicate today. Your cake came out pretty, but I don't care for the taste of Red Velvet Cake either. Give me a real chocolate cake anytime.

    1. I am with you. Chocolate cake, chocolate fudge icing. Yum. The Fannie Farmer cookbook would be fun to look through, but I'm sure I would not be able to make anything edible out of it. Did you try any?

  6. Muhahahahaha That is hilarious! That frosting looks funky to me for some reason >.> Not exactly sure why lol maybe just in the gooey looking form where it hasn't cooled.

    Is that the same as Cream Cheese frosting? Cause that is YUM and I think used for a lot of red velvet cakes.

    I think you may be right about the MIL sabotaging the recipe to keep her claws in your husband. Can't believe you don't get a gift, though! Gifts and cards and cake, oh my!

    I'd like some of your special cake :-)

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

  7. Clicked over from your post today...this is hysterical. I am certain it is hysterical because every single part is so true. I recognize several of those terminology gems from my own relatives' cooking.
    My husband does not get cake - and certainly not one like that! He does not have fond memories of a cake from his boyhood. Usually on his birthday, he's overjoyed if I make him anything that's "not the pineapple chili." That's a pretty good story, now that I think of it.
    But seriously, you gotta love a guy to make him that cake just because he loves it. Go you.

    1. Glad you liked it. I had more fun writing about it than making it, I'll tell you that much.

      Ha! Bryan has certain meals that we now call "Salisbury Steak" even though they have nothing to do with Salisbury or steak. When he was in law school, we were dead broke. I bought frozen meals like salisbury steak. I grew up on stuff like that and loved it. He grew up on all things made from scratch and hated it. I didn't care. I made them anyway. I have since given up on the frozen dinners, so he doesn't have to suffer anymore. However there are a few meals that aren't his favorite, and we just call them salisbury steak.
      Thanks! I do love him to pieces. :)

  8. It's a beautiful cake. The recipe is wonderful. You had me at w(aste of a clean bowl) . If I ever have the desire to make a red cake, I will use this vague, funny and wonderful recipe and channel the inner Christine while I'm doing so. LOL


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