Setting a perfect table is part of any celebration. And more organizers of weddings, parties and special occasions are choosing centerpiece cakes instead of flowers. Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle explains the trend and shows how to make some of the most popular flavors and shapes.
Cakes have traveled through time and were first associated with the Vikings. In fact, "cake" comes from the Norse word, "kaka". But cakes as we know them are a relatively new concoction. Viking cakes were actually slabs of bread baked hard, which explains the term when applied to cake of soap or cake of yeast. It is thought that a point in time the batter for these bread-like cakes was contaminated with wild yeasts and rose; therefore, lightening the batter. When baked off, it was a lighter more tasty bread than known before.
Through the decades, the much lighter yeast batter was enriched with butter, spices, eggs and became a sweet leavened bread. Baking soda and baking powder were invented in America in the late 1700's, which moved cakes closer to the texture we know today. In 1889, the introduction of double acting baking powder made it even easier to bake a light fluffy cake. One leavener that most of us should be glad to leave in the mists of time is sal ammonia which originally was derived from stale urine. Bakers ammonia works much like sal ammonia without the unpleasant back story.
The first round shaped cakes were baked in Europe in the mid 1700's but it wasn't until the 1800's that layer cakes made an appearance. To bake a cake rich with dried fruits and spices from the spice routes was reserved for ceremonial occasions and important people. To receive such a cake was an honor. Even today, a made-from-scratch cake, especially one that only sees the cakeplate at certain times, is an event typically reserved for a holiday, wedding, baptism or anniversary.
The larger the cake the more important the person or occasion. Socially speaking, a large cake represents the best a person has to offer and to present that cake to a person or family shows love, respect, and honor. It is also a communal offering. Families gather around the celebration cake and after the ooh's and aah's, they cut and share it together. Celebration cakes symbolize all that is good and honorable about a family and an event.
Celebration cakes now include centerpiece cakes. The centerpiece cake is a type of cake that is layered and formed into shapes like animals, houses or stacked like a birthday or even wedding cake. The French buche de Noel is a log- shaped cake symbolizing the Yule log that burned constantly through the winter.
Christmas is a great time to explore family recipes and find a celebration cake. Even though the much maligned fruitcake may not be accepted in many households, it was truly an expensive labor of love. Still yet, there are other celebration cakes like a homemade coconut cake, hummingbird cake, lane cake, and even the red velvet cake that makes modern mouths water.
While most of us watch our waistlines through the year, the holidays are a time of celebration and enjoyment that should include a family favorite, like a large fluffy layer cake enrobed in a delicious frosting. A cake so special that its' memories will carry us through those New Year's diet resolutions in the upcoming new year.
Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Cooked Icing
1 cup milk
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups sugar
½ cup milk
¼ cup light corn syrup
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the cake: Bring milk to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and cover; set aside for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour three 9" cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour and salt in large bowl; set aside. Dissolve baking soda in ¨÷ cup hot water; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat both sugars and shortening until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, until smooth. Add flour and chocolate mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat until smooth. Beat in soda water and vanilla. Divide batter evenly among pans, and smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing: Heat chocolate, sugar, milk, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan, and cook until mixture thickens and reaches 220° on thermometer.
Pour icing into a mixing bowl; beat on medium speed of a hand mixer until slightly cooled. Add vanilla, increase speed to high, and beat until consistency of frosting. Working quickly, place 1 cake on a cake stand; spread about ½ cup icing on top. Cover with second cake; spread with ½ cup icing. Cover with last cake, and spread icing over top and sides of cakes. Let cool to set icing before cutting and serving.
FREE RECIPE BOOKLET!
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Centerpiece Cakes Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen on Facebook: click here.
CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.
CloverFields Farm is dedicated to the preservation of southern, especially Kentucky, food traditions. The kitchen is commercially-outfitted compliant with Health Department standards. In this kitchen I develop new recipes based on original ideas, inspirations from my culinary research, and most often according to what is in season.
On the farm, they make many gifts and specialty items. She is currently working on her first cookbook, but she also has a long resume developing recipes for several companies. She has also won several contests and cook-offs with her original recipes.