Cook's Corner

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, December 24, 2008

By Staff
Cakes make the holidays
Cook's around town are scurrying to make sure there are plenty of sweet goodies on the table for the Christmas holiday. I know that my time is getting short and I haven't gotten nearly enough baking done for the holiday.
As promised, I'm passing along a few cake recipes this week that you may find interesting. I hope that something here will catch your eye and make your mouth water enough to get out the cake pans and get baking.
With just one week until the big day, it's hard to imagine just how much there is still to do to be ready for this special family time. I've tried to hunt down some recipes that will give you good results and some great finishers to any meal, especially Christmas.
First of all, everyone knows how good red velvet cake is, but it is a little on the work intensive side of the page. I've found a recipe for the cake that takes a few short cuts and will impress everyone at the dinner table.
Easy Red Velvet Cake
1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
1 (3.5 ounce) package non-instant chocolate pudding mix
red food coloring, as desired
1/2 cup buttermilk
Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake according to package directions, substituting half of the water called for with buttermilk (approximately 1/2 cup). Stir in pudding mix and food coloring. Pour into cake pan(s) and bake according to package directions.
For frosting, cream butter and cream cheese. Mix in sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans if desired.
If you're looking for other easy dessert ideas that make a great holiday treat, this is a recipe that I've made many times and always get great results.
For some reason, having a box of chocolate-covered cherries is mandatory at the holidays. This recipe gives you those flavors without all the dripping of a liquid center. The recipe here gives directions for a chocolate glaze, but I've used canned chocolate frosting in a bind. No matter which way you cover it; the cake is really good either way.
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake
1 pkg. devil's food cake mix
2 eggs
1 can cherry pie filling
Glaze:
5 Tbs. butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 pkg. (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake ingredients together by hand just until blended. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake for about 40 minutes. Cool slightly. While cake is baking, combine butter, sugar and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Pour glaze over cake while cake is still warm.
What holiday would be complete without chocolate? None is the right answer to that question. Since that's the case, here's a recipe that combines chocolate and coffee flavors - two of my favorite things on earth.
Chocolate Espresso Cake
1 Betty Crocker SuperMoist chocolate fudge cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 tbsp. dry instant espresso coffee
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz. semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
1 carton dark chocolate frosting
2 tsp. instant espresso coffee (dry)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make and cool cake as directed on box for two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans–except add 1 tablespoon espresso and the cinnamon with the eggs and stir in the chocolate just before pouring into pans. To make glaze, remove lid and foil cover of frosting. Microwave on high 20 to 30 seconds or until slightly melted. Stir in 2 teaspoons coffee until blended. Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on serving plate. Carefully spread almost half the glaze to edge of layer, allowing some to drip down side. Top with second layer, rounded side up. Carefully spread remaining glaze to edge of top layer, allowing some to drip down side. Store loosely covered.
If you have trouble finding the espresso powder, you can substitute with regular instant coffee powder. One good variety to try is the International Coffee cappucino crystal. The powder is fine and gives a more robust flavor that regular instant coffee and dissolves easier in recipes.
This next recipe is for a coconut cake. Please keep in mind, the whole focus of my column this week is quick and easy cakes. This certainly won't be like your grandmother's holiday coconut cake, but it's still pretty good.
Easy Coconut Cake
1 box butter cake mix
2 pkgs. frozen coconut
2 c. sour cream
2 c. sugar
1 (9 oz.) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
Mix cake mix according to package directions. Bake 2 layers. When cool, split layers to make 4. Mix together coconut, sour cream, sugar. Chill. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture; spread remainder over cake layers. Mix the reserved 1/2 cup of coconut mixture with whipped topping and spread over the cake top and around the sides. Refrigerate covered for a few days before cutting. Keeps in refrigerator and will freeze.
For some reason, most coconut cakes get better the longer they sit, so this would be great on Dec. 28. You could even freeze half of the cake and serve it for New Year's.
Speaking of New Year's, there won't be a Cook's Corner next week. I'll be giving up my spot in the paper for letters to Santa and other Christmas items.
I will, however, have a column in the Dec. 31 edition with some great ideas for New Year's dinner recipes. I promise to make those recipes quick and easy to allow everyone a chance to enjoy the day rather than cooking.
Until the, happy cooking and Merry Christmas.