How were your holidays?
I realize that as the world turns the corner into 2012, Christmas is a distant memory in the minds of most of us. We’re at the gym…cleaning our closets…heads down into a new project with a deadline that knew of no holidays. Even so, I’d like to do a short recap, so thanks for your patience.
This year, the holidays were a bit different for me. And while I was grateful that I had someone special to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with, I missed my family and our annual holiday traditions. Nevertheless, I created some new traditions for myself and enjoyed a Christmas dinner with some people I recently met this fall. If I couldn’t be home for the holidays, this was a great way to spend it otherwise. So in an effort to contribute to the rather large dinner I was invited to attend, I agreed to help bring two desserts for Christmas dinner. Eagerly, we agreed to bring my infamous caramel cake and ambitiously decided to attempt a southern pecan pie from scratch — pie crust included.
At noon on Christmas Eve, the baking began. The pie turned out perfect. But by Christmas morning, I stared through angry tears as my third batch of failed caramel was scraped into the kitchen trashcan. My mother’s words from the night before were right, you cannot make homemade caramel icing when it’s raining outside.
It’s meteorologically impossible.
With most grocery stores closed on Christmas, and most of my remaining baking ingredients sitting in the trashcan beside the stove, I pulled out my favorite cookbook, A Taste of Georgia, and searched for something that I could make to cover the two layers of yellow cake still waiting patiently on my kitchen table. Almost immediately, I found a really easy chocolate frosting recipe.
The frosting was delicious. No, it was perfect.. It was exactly what I needed to save a disastrous attempt at baking my infamous caramel cake from scratch. Eagerly I walked over to my cake and began to spread the chocolate frosting onto the bare, yellow cakes. The frosting dripped…it slumped…it slid everywhere I didn’t want it to go…it looked terrible. While my grandfather would say that the ugliest cakes on the table were the best tasting ones at the dinner, there was there was no way I was taking that cake to Christmas dinner. In a moment of passionate frustration, I ceremoniously dumped the entire bowl of icing on top of the cake and walked away, resolved that my attempts were met with the finality of disaster.
My patient boyfriend, bless him with his impeccably perfect timing, waited until the storm clouds were cleared and gently invited me to revisit the disaster that sat so ceremoniously before us. Who knew that once the icing dried a bit, I could scrape the excess frosting away and smooth the remaining icing around the cake into a presentable creation?
Literally five minutes later, the cake was ready to go.
The cake was a hit, I learned two valuable lessons with frosting cakes and I now have a knock-out chocolate icing recipe to carry with me for years to come.
Happy baking in 2012, y’all!
1 stick of margarine or butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
1 shake salt
1/3 cup water
2 cups powdered sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla or rum extract
Mix the first five ingredients and bring to boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat. Beat in sugar, then add extract. Quickly ice cake before frosting cools. Recipe doubles with good results.
Mrs John P. Woods, Jr. (Elizabeth) in A Taste of Georgia