Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Southern Living

As you've read because you're religiously following me  most likely stumbled upon, I'm on the lookout for the best cake recipe out there. So, while standing in front of the magazines at work  working really really hard, I noticed this: 

An edition of Southern Living magazine, promising me the "10 easiest layer cakes ever". Ever? Ever is a really long time. This better be good. $4.99 ($6.99 for my sisters to the north). Well worth it-I should never have to look for another recipe again. Southern living, you're on.

Not to be a negative Nancy here, but as soon as I turned to page I knew there would be issues. There's only two cake recipes here. Granted, there's variations for sheet cakes and "petit fours", but really there's only a recipe for vanilla and a recipe for chocolate. So how do you get all of these recipes, you ask? Because there's about 8 icing recipes when you flip the page. So they're asking you to mix and match. Mind you, that's more than 10. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt-they're bakers, not mathematicians. On to the recipe, Nancy. . . .


Makes about 6 cups


  • 2  cups  sugar
  • 1  cup  butter, softened
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  almond extract
  • 3  cups  cake flour
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  buttermilk
  • (Southern Living Magazine, March 2009)

The ingredients look pretty basic. Sugar, Butter, Vanilla, etc. But wait-what's this? Cake flour and Buttermilk? I'm going to have to deduct some points from the "everyday ingredients" scale for that. Not everyone has buttermilk on their shopping lists. Not that it would be an issue to get it, but if we're talking easy, we're talking stuff from the pantry. Not to be confused with stuff from the panty, which is what I originally typed. So here's my ingredients all laid out:

Not bad. If I wouldn't have made everything all laid out and pretty, the mess would be minimal. Bonus points awarded for little clean up. On a side note, maybe I haven't purchased vanilla extract in a while, because when I bought it I noticed it has a flip top? 

Which isn't exciting to most of you, i'm sure, but for anyone who has fought with a leaking lid of vanilla in your bag to transport to cake class, this is a godsend. It's also made out of plastic. How do I know this?

I dropped it. Actually, this picture is a re-take. I dropped it, HARD, and as I was picking it up, realized how awesome it was that it didn't break-so I threw it back on the ground, and took a picture-which must of looked pretty strange to Mr. TDWP, who promptly asked me what the hell I was doing.

 The recipe starts by telling me to cream my butter and sugar in my heavy-duty electric stand mixer for 5 minutes. Loss of more points due to the fact that not everyone owns a stand mixer. My grandma made cakes for years with a pair of electric beaters, as do many home cooks. Recipes should be friendly to both. After making the recipe, I did find that with REALLY soft butter and a lot of patience, you could make this with a pair of electric beaters. So, we're beating together the butter and sugar, and it should look like this:

After adding the eggs one at a time (tip: crack the eggs into a separate bowl first to avoid extra special shells in your cake), the extracts, and alternating my wet and dry ingredients, you get something that looks like this:

Which is thick, just as the recipe says. Notice the bottle behind the cutting board? That's tonic, which I have a sneaking suspicion that and vodka contributed to one persons vote at the tasting. More on that later. So, what was missing from the recipe? Hmm, how about baking times and temps? It's over on the other side of the page, in a section called "pick a pan", with different times and temps, and cooling directions. I'm guessing that's part of the "mix and match" appeal. Anywho, I picked two 9-in rounds, for 32-36 minutes. It told me to cool as directed, but then I wasn't directed in this recipe to cool anything, so I guess if i'm being absolutely literal, I should be eating this hot. Here's the one (or two) substitution I did make:

Looking past the fact that I apparently thought I was a hand model (is this the price is right? are we bidding on that bottle? what was I doing?) in the top picture, that's a bottle of Wiltons Cake Release. Amazing. Amazing amazing. It's greasing and flouring in one step, in any pan. It's pam on steroids, without that whole spraying it on the floor and slipping on it thing. I use it on anything. You can buy it at the craft store, and with the 50% off coupons, you can't beat the price. This paragraph was not brought to you by Wilton, I really have like 4 bottles of the stuff. 

In the second picture you'll find disposable pans, because I originally intended to make the chocolate cake recipe also, and wasn't in the mood to wash more pans. 

So, after 33 minutes, this is what you get when your toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean:

Looks promising. This is after the cooling stage, which I did anyway, seeing as I didn't think they wanted me to eat burning hot cake and i'm assuming that was a typo leaving it out. On to the judging:

Texture-The texture of this cake was very good-moist and dense but light. If that makes any sense. However, when I cut the cake, crumbs were EVERYWHERE. I've never seen so many crumbs come off of a piece of cake in my life. However, there's more to life than crumbs. There's also dishes:

Which were minimal. Therefore, prior to tasting, I give this recipe a B-. Easy to make, minimal ingredients, and little clean up, but points lost for unconventional ingredients, the stand mixer thing, and lots of crumbs. On to our expert panel of judges.


1st-Code name: Meat. (can you tell everyone came up with their own?)- Also known as Mr. TDWP, Meat is a foodie at heart, with a heart of gold-poor thing will eat anything at all that I come up with in the kitchen, for the simple fact that I made it-even if he ends up with food poisoning. *swoon*
2nd-Code name: Dorothy (we're really stretching with these names, people)- Also known as The mother figure, she wanted no parts of the mess in the kitchen or of having her picture taken.
3rd-Code name: Tonic - a killer sweet tooth and also an apparent ability to drink in copious amounts prior to judging, while still maintaining the ability to make sense with his review. 

So everyone eats the cake (myself included). We're smelling, we're tasting, we're chewing. . .and then nobody can swallow. This cake is DENSE. Like, trying to swallow a wad of tissues dense. It was as if while in your mouth, it multiplied into 7 pieces of cake, and you were trying to swallow them all at one time. Okay, the cake is Dense, Nancy. We get it. What about the taste? to quote the judges 
"This sucks", "I can't swallow it", "What's that taste?", "Next" ,"Maybe if we put chocolate syrup on it?". 

It was very. . .odd. So odd, that I checked the expiration dates on my milk and eggs. Not that it tasted Bad, per se, but it just didn't taste like vanilla cake. Mind you, we didn't taste with frosting-that's another search altogether, but still. Dorothy referred to it as "an angel food cake gone bad", and decided to do this to hers:

after which she said it tasted a lot better. So, the votes?

As you can see, Mr. TDWP gave it a sideways thumb, which apparently in his world means it's "so so". Which I have to agree with-if you hadn't told me it was a easy vanilla cake, and told me it was maybe a almond-sour cream pound cake, I would say it was an adequate rendition of one. But, that's not what it was. Next!  C+

Next time on The Cake Chronicles: Martha Stewarts Wedding cakes!


  1. So my question is what does Tonic like to mix with, gin or vodka? And can you make a cake with that?

  2. My tonic prefers vodka to gin-and the day I can make a cupcake out of that, is the day I become the most popular person EVER. Hmm, margarita pie, perhaps?

  3. When you start making chocolate vodka cupcakes with cherries, please let me know. For some reason, that's all I can think about now. I must need a drink =)

    I llllove your blog - especially the way you take step by step pics. Awesome stuff! Keep it up.. I might learn something.


    please make this!

  5. This made me laugh! I bought this issue too but was disappointed and didn't even go as far as trying any of the recipes!