Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kids Bake Orange Poppy Seed Cake

Applying elbow grease to cake baking

By Ed Bruske

aka The Slow Cook

Ever tried to cream butter and sugar with the back of a wooden spoon?

Most people would use an electric mixer. But we don't cotton to electric gadgets in our food appreciation classes. We do everything by hand on the theory that if kids know how to make things manually, they will better appreciate making them later with labor-saving devices. Besides, what did chefs do before they had electricity? Kids learn a lot about ingredients through intimate contact with them. I believe they should touch everything they cook.

But this is no sermon. The point is to make an orange poppy seed bundt cake as described in the original Silver Palate cookbook. Here's a warning: this recipe is loaded with sugar. But that's fine with the kids. As far as they're concerned, the sweeter the better. We are now preparing for a parents "tea" later in the month when we will display all of our creations on a spectacular buffet, along with tea, coffee and sparkling cider.

This is our first bundt cake and the hardest part, as I may have mentioned, is the first step: creaming the butter and sugar. You'll need 1 stick room temperature butter (eight tablespoons) and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Most of you will probably pass on beating them together with a wooden spoon the way we did and choose the electric blender. Your choice. Creaming by hand is a lot of work. My wife tasted the final result and declared the cake a bit heavy. We probably didn't beat the butter and sugar enough. You want to mix them until they are light and fluffy.

Next, add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add this mix to the creamed butter and sugar alternately with 3/4 cup milk--some dry mix, then some milk. Dry mix, milk. And so forth. Mix well after each addition, but don't beat the batter too much at this point.

Pouring batter into bundt pan

To finish the batter, fold in 1/3 cup popper seeds, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the grated zest from two oranges. Pour the mix into a greased bundt pan and bake in a 325-degree oven for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert the pan and remove the cake onto a serving platter. The final step is to soak the cake with a syrup of orange juice and sugar. Pour 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup sugar into a small sauce pan. Heat until bubbles begin to form, then simmer for about 5 minutes, or until syrupy. Use a long toothpick or skewer to poke holes deep into the cake, then pour the syrup over the cake.

Serve warm if possible. The kids might complain that their slices aren't big enough. Pay no attention. There will be plenty of cake left for the next day.

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