Normally I’m quite studious when approaching this recipe swap. This month, however, I was stumped about the original recipe, ‘Busy Day’ Wacky Cake, as its ‘wackiness’ totally eluded me. Fortunately fellow swapper Jennifer of The Adventuresome Kitchen popped to the forefront, breaking the code for all of us. She explained the method behind the madness was one of a chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar, causing air bubbles in the cake. Jennifer’s description evoked memory of my own experiment last year with a 2 liter bottle of Diet cola and a pack of Mentos. It was explosively glorious.
So as my compatriots have toiled, experimented, researched historical roots of the Depression era cake, I went a totally different direction. ‘Off the rails’; full on whimsy. I hope my exuberant attempt will still warrant inclusion in this lofty gang of talent and not have me relegated to the end of the swappers line, only to be called forth in future if there is a ‘Kid’s Birthday Party’ challenge.
As background, this recipe redo/swap idea was brought to life by Christiana of Burwell General Store upon finding a cool vintage hymnal/recipe book at a swap meet in Arizona. She had the vision of bringing those recipes back to life with a twist. We redo/swappers must change at least three things to make it our own and stay true to the intent of the recipe (I took a bit of artistic license on this aspect).
CHOCOLATE CAKE (regular or gluten free)
With inspiration from Crème de Colorado Cookbook
Plan to double this cake recipe to ensure you have enough for the whole volcano. If you have extra batter you can always make some cupcakes too!
· ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (if making this GLUTEN FREE only; not required otherwise)
· 2 ½ cups flour (gluten free or regular)
· ½ teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon white vinegar
· 2 teaspoons baking soda
· 1 cup whole milk
· 1 cup butter, softened
· 2 cups sugar
· 2 large eggs, room temperature
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· 1 cup boiling water
Baking Pan Preparation: I used one Bundt pan and one metal bowl (8 inches in diameter/across and 4 inches deep). I sprayed them with non-stick cooking spray to prepare for baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. In a mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients except baking soda: cocoa powder, baking powder, xanthan gum (if gluten free), flour, salt.
2. In a second bowl, combine vinegar, baking soda and milk.
3. In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and eggs until light and fluffy. Add eggs to fully combine.
4. Pour in dry mixture a bit at a time, alternating with wet mixture (milk/baking soda/vinegar) until fully combined. Mix in vanilla.
5. With mixer on lowest speed, slowly pour in boiling water and stir in until standing water has disappeared.
Pour into Bundt pan and metal bowl, filling a bit over 2/3’s full. Begin to watch the pans at 30 minutes. For me the Bundt pan was done at 40 minutes and the bowl at 45-50 minutes (ironic since it was smaller but I’m sure it’s a function of the metal). I noted the batter was still moving until then; a toothpick will help determine readiness too (when it’s clean if cake seems firm, it’s good).
Cool slightly and turn onto cooking racks to fully cool.
· 1 cup butter, softened
· 4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
· 1-1/4 cups baking cocoa
· 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1/2 cup milk
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Slowly add milk to achieve desired consistency for spreading. This should make a bit more than you’ll need, depending on how thickly you frost the volcano.
The purpose of the glaze is to simulate flowing lava and earth. After frosting the cake, I poured the glaze around the cake and decorated with my secret totally-put-it-over-the-top, Pop Rocks. Strawberry (looks like lava embers) and Limited Edition Chocolate (looks like dirt). Adds more texture and I liked the idea they would pop, bringing the lava into one’s mouth (they do ‘pop’ when encountering moisture so my cake was popped when I added them; still looks cute and some were unpopped when I sampled).
Add all ingredients into mixing bowl. Mix well until achieving a ‘will run down the side of a volcano cake’ consistency. You can play with the sugar and milk amounts to arrive at a texture you like. After running, it will harden in place so don’t make it overly runny or thin.
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
· Red and yellow food coloring
Add all ingredients into mixing bowl. Mix well until achieving a ‘will run down the side of a volcano cake’ consistency. You can play with the sugar and milk amounts to arrive at a texture you like. After running it will harden in place so don’t make it overly runny or thin.
I separated the batch and colored half red and half orange (mix of red and yellow coloring) for lava.
Working with Dry Ice, a Cautionary Tale
If you are unfamiliar with dry ice, it requires precaution. I purchased mine at a local grocery store chain. A one pound block was $1.52 and an amount far more than required for this purpose.
When you go to buy it, take a cooler and towel to wrap it in. If you will handle it there, you’ll also need work gloves. It immediately begins to evaporate so when you buy it you’ll need to wrap it in a towel and put it in your cooler. Plan to use in within a few hours.
It begins to smoke when put in liquid. It’s great in a Halloween punch for that reason though the smoking only last 10-15 minutes’ish. For this volcano I broke up the block of dry ice by hammering it through the towel while wearing work gloves. CAUTION: IT WILL BURN YOU so you can NEVER HANDLE IT WITH BARE HANDS. Please also if working around children be very careful of this as well.
I put a piece about one inch size in the paper cup of water to create the smoking effect for the cake. As an aside I have several friends who are doctors I’ve consulted about any ill effect of food or drink that has been around dry ice. There is no issue with any sort of contamination though if drinking punch that has had dry ice in it be sure no little piece remains in the cup which could cause a burn.
ASSEMBLING THE VOLCANO
· Paper or plastic drinking cup (do not use glass)
· Dry ice (see section below)
· Serrated knife
· Apple corer
· Small plate
· Water in liquid measuring cup
1. Place the open side of the paper drinking cup you will use face down on the top (dome side) of the bowl cake. Cut around the edge, through the cake to remove a round circle of cake. Do this gently as you will be using this piece for the top of the volcano.
2. Place the bowl cake on top of the Bundt cake, flat side against the rounded top of the Bundt cake, aligning the openings in the middle of each. Place the paper drinking cup into the top of the bowl cake, making the opening of the cup flush with the top opening of the bowl cake. The cake opening should hold the cup snugly.
3. Using a serrated knife, ‘carve’ the sides of the cake so the sides form more of a smooth line (like a mountain). My Bundt pan has many indentations as you can see and I wanted to minimize that look. I also chose to stick some of the carved pieces in between the two cakes (under the bottom of the bowl cake, on top of the Bundt cake) to form a cake ‘shim’ (an angled piece that fills the gap). I wanted to stabilize the cakes, and fill the gaps before frosting rather than filling it purely with frosting.
4. Using an apple corer, make a hole all the way through the ‘top of the volcano’ (the cake piece you removed from the bowl cake). Place the top of volcano piece on a small plate.
5. Once in the shape you like, frost with the chocolate frosting. I used a spreader and made downward wave-like texture. Carefully frost the top of the volcano piece as well.
6. Drizzle the different color glazes down the cake, making the affect of lava. Do the same on the volcano top. Sprinkle with Pop Rocks if you choose to do so for both the base cake and top.
7. Place the top only in the freezer. I did this to ensure it was firm before placing it on the top of the cake. Leave in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
8. When ready to complete the assembly, add water to fill paper cup ¾’s full of water. Have the cake top ready. Following the Handling Dry Ice Precautions above, with gloved hand place a piece of dry ice in the water (no bigger than 2 inches by 1 one inch; it will melt and you don’t want it to overflow inside the cake). It will begin to smoke immediately. Place the top on the volcano, aligning the hole in the middle of the opening. Voila! You should have a smoking volcano!
Believing most things in life are always made better when paired with an appropriate cocktail, I included a favorite find from a trip to Costa Rica a few summers ago. I would set out daily, doused in SPF 4000 sunscreen and donning mosquito repellent embedded clothing into the rain forest to observe caiman (in the crocodile genre), trudging through national parks avoiding camouflaged venomous snakes, tasting termites live from the trees on a dare from wildlife guides (they taste like peanuts by the way), only to the return to the luxurious winding pools of a Marriott resort with a swim up bar. An enticing little ditty on the menu caught my fanciful taste, the Sneaky Tiki. Who is not going to order that? And so I did. Daily. To the point that the wait staff saw me coming and would call out ‘Hi! Sneaky Tiki?’, like it was my name. It could have been worse. This rum delight will give your mainstream Mai Tai a run for its money.
· 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
· 1 1/2 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
· 1/3 ounce orange curacao
· 1/4 ounce Grenadine
· 1 ounce Light Puerto Rican rum
· 1 ounce Dark Jamaican rum
Blend with a cup of crushed ice and serve in a Tiki or tall glass.
Our recipe swap group has blossomed further with this round and expanded to include more mixed food genres and international contributors. Please visit the other swappers and see how they’ve spun this dish. I guarantee you’ll find some new favorite recipes if not new favorite blogs. Click here or on the hymnal on the right side of my blog to land at the command central page of our swap group! All recipes will be posted by 9:00 p.m. PST, Sunday April 3, 2011.