Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let's Have Cake

"Baking" in the Microwave

Sometimes it's fun to just play in the kitchen. Today in The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market, we decided to test a cake recipe "baked" in the microwave. To be honest, it felt a little like being 10 years old and baking with an Easy Bake Oven! We eagerly stood around the microwave waiting to see how our cake would turn out. Unlike the spongy texture of remembered childhood "cakes", this Espresso-Walnut Cake was moist with a nice crumb. Disclaimer - This is not an oven-baked cake, but for a spur-of-the-moment, no-muss-no-fuss cake, it was good. The coffee flavor and walnuts elevate it to an adult-level and the espresso butter cream icing is yummy. The only childhood behavior left to indulge in is licking the spoon!

You will need a microwave-safe pan for the cake. We had a Pyrex 6x8x2 inch glass pan that worked really well. Lightly spray it with non-stick cooking spray.

The ingredient list is short and you may have most of them in your pantry with the possible exception of the instant espresso powder. You may substitute instant coffee granules for the espresso. If you are making a trip to Jungle Jim's, you'll find the espresso powder in the Italian section of the International Department.

Leigh mixed the batter with a handheld electric mixer, but you can use a stand mixer, too. It comes together quickly and the aroma of the espresso is nice. The purple spatula is a hands-down favorite utensil in the Cooking School. The Gourmet Galeria carries Switch It by Chef'n in many bright colors. It can withstand high temperatures - we use these spatulas in every class!

As you can see, there is not a copious amount of batter. It came up about a fourth of the way up the side of the pan.

We microwaved the batter just as the recipe stated. After the cake has cooked for the  2 minutes at 50% power, you will notice that the batter along the edge looks slightly wet. Ignore that and just look for a toothpick to come out cleanly from the center.

When the cake is finished it will come up about halfway up the pan. Wait until the cake cools completely before you ice it. This may be overkill, put have a piece with a cup of coffee!

Espresso-Walnut Cake
For the microwave

3 ounces very soft butter
3 ounces sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces self-rising flour
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon milk
2 ounces very soft butter
4 ounces confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

Grease an 8x6x2-inch baking dish* with nonstick spray.

Make the cake: Beat the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs in 2 additions. Add flour and espresso powder and mix well. Stir in ¼ cup walnuts by hand. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish, spreading evenly.

Place in microwave and cook at full power for 2 minutes. Reduce power to 50% and microwave again for 2 minutes. After the 4 minutes, check to see if cake is cooked – it should have risen, will spring back when touched and a toothpick should test clean when inserted in the center of the cake. If it needs a bit longer, microwave at 50% power for 1 minute more at a time, checking for doneness after each minute. Do not overcook or cake will be dry. Allow cake to cool completely on a rack.

Make the espresso buttercream: Dissolve the espresso powder in the milk in a medium bowl; add the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the buttercream over the cool cake and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts.

Serves 4-6

* Jungle Jim's carries the 8x6x2-inch glass baking dish in the American Grocery Dept. 

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