Welcome to Cooking the Books, where we try recipes found in, well, books! This month, Children’s Assistant & STEM Specialist Ms. Meghan tried out a recipe from one of her recent favs:
Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott has been on my TBR (To Be Read) list/mountain for over a year now, so I was excited to have a chance to finally get around to it.
This is a nonfiction graphic novel for kids (but readable and enjoyable at any age!) about the history of desserts from around the world. Specifically, it focuses on ice cream, cake, brownies, pie, gummies, and cookies. These tales are introduced to us by Peri, a food sprite, and her sprite friends Fee and Fada. The history of each broad category of delectable dessert is told through a combination of history lessons, story times, science labs, interview corners with famous foodie figures, and recipes! The pages are jam (ha) packed with information and colors, and can at times be a bit difficult to follow. But overall I really enjoyed this book and learned all kinds of fascinating facts, like how in the mid 1800s street vendors used to sell ice cream by the ‘lick’ (exactly as hygienic as it sounds), and the science of how the butter in pastry dough leads to those lovely flaky layers.
I chose to make the Funfetti Cake recipe in cupcake form, as opposed to an 8×8 inch baking pan, since that would be the easiest way to share it with my discerning critics/co-workers. This recipe produces a very wet batter. It was quite messy spooning it into the cupcake liners. I also filled them completely full; this was a change from my usual ‘fill ⅔ full’ method of baking, but hey, I’m following the recipe! Fortunately for my oven, they didn’t overflow during baking like I feared. I did need to add two minutes to the upper range of the baking time listed by the recipe to get them to cook through. Upon removal from the cupcake tray, the paper liners were soaked through with oil.
The cupcakes are incredibly dense and moist. There’s a good flavor, with a hint of tang from the sour cream (which was a new cupcake ingredient for me). If I make these again, I’ll do a frosting from scratch, as I found the canned Pillsbury vanilla to be too sweet for my taste. While my husband and I found this recipe to be a bit too dense and moist, my coworkers disagreed. These traits were mentioned in every review, and almost always positively. ‘Much more flavor than a box mix’, ‘would happily eat again’, and ‘festive and fun for kids!’ were highlights of the reviews. While I found the recipe less than stellar, I really did enjoy the book and look forward to the companion Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments, which comes out in December.
Cupcakes: 8/10 stars (based on all reviews)
Book: 4/5 stars (based on my own opinion)
1 c sugar
½ c butter
¼ c sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c milk
½ tsp salt
1 can of your favorite frosting!
(and more sprinkles)
8×8 – inch cake pan or 1 cupcake tin
Mixer with beater attachment
Whisk and spatula
2 large mixing bowls
- Make sure the butter, eggs, sour cream, and milk are all room temperature!
- And before you start, preheat your oven to 350 F. Prepare your pan! If you’re using the cake pan, grease with butter. If you’re making cupcakes, line the cupcake pan with liners
- NEXT, cream the softened butter and sour cream with the sugar! Make sure you beat the mixture until it’s light and fluffy.
- THEN, beat in one of the eggs until the mixture is fluffy. Then, beat in the other egg until fluffy! Add them one at a time to keep the batter light!
- ONCE MIXED, stir in the vanilla.
- IN A DIFFERENT BOWL, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- FOR THE NEXT STEP, you’ll be taking turns between adding the flour mixture and the milk. Always make sure to mix it in completely before adding more! Add half the flour and mix in with the spatula.
- THEN add all the milk and mix.
- FINALLY, add the rest of the flour and mix!
- NOW’S THE FUN PART! Add the sprinkles! Gently mix until they’re evenly spread, but not for too long.
- FINALLY! The batter is ready! Pour into the cake pan and smooth the surface. Or, if you’re making cupcakes, spoon carefully into the liners.
- NEXT, bake at 350! The cake will need 30-35 minutes. The cupcakes will need 20-25 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when you stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean!
- WHEN IT’S DONE, let it cool COMPLETELY! If you have a cooling rack, use that! If you frost it while it’s still warm, the frosting will melt and get EVERYWHERE!
- WHEN IT’S COOLED, DECORATE IT!