It was much too cold to leave the house today.

Because You Can’t Be Trusted Cake


A candle-lit cake for Billy the Kid

If you’ve ever tried to halve a double-layer cake recipe in an attempt to minimize potential gluttony, you probably wound up cutting more calories than planned as you deposited the unfortunate anomaly directly into the trash bin. Almost all recipes can be doubled with little repercussion, but a division symbol has no place in the kitchen. Betty Crocker perfected the formula five or six decades ago for the “Dinette”, a single layer of moist vanilla cake slightly denser than the traditional double-stack. It’s also well-suited for my sudden late-night baking compulsions, as I can always come up with an egg and some Crisco, even at my pantry’s leanest.

1-1/4 C flour
1 C sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C milk
1/3 C shortening
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Set your oven to 350 and grease and flour a square or round 8″ cake pan. Cream together the shortening and sugar by hand until fluffy, then mix in the egg and vanilla, beating until smooth and airy. Add the dry ingredients and stir them in while pouring the milk in a slow stream. Once the mixture is combined, throw the bowl under the mixer (or use a hand-held) and beat it on high for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the pan, even it out with a spatula, and bake for 28 minutes or so, peeking in after 20 to make sure everyone’s behaving.

Let the cake sit out of the oven in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the perimeter before inverting it onto a wire rack to cool. I always frost this with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, and as a follower of the never-halve rule, there’s usually half a batch leftover from the previous Dinette sealed in a plastic container in the back of my fridge.

As a mother and baking enthusiast, I find few things more gratifying than watching BK slip into a trance as he savors and relishes each mouthful of a cake I’ve just made, emitting barely audible grunts and sighs of delight as his beard of frosting takes shape. I decorate most of my cakes with my little fella in mind these days, and he goes crazy for a ring of maraschino cherries and a circle of nonpareils (set a light-weight round cookie cutter in the center and sprinkle generously, then press the nonpareils down gently to assure adherence).

Whether you use your small canvas for a burst of creativity, or just spread some Nutella over the top and cut it into quarters, you can only do so much damage, so go ahead and make this Friday cake-for-dinner night.

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