capability mom makes the rainbow cake - spoons Here are some cake recipes that I have posted before but seem to get searched for fairly frequently. I am putting them on the front page to make it easier to find them…not because I am lazy and this is an easy way to post.

Here is the thing. I love to bake but am not especially gifted in this area. Oh, pshaw, Capability Mom, you say, it looks like you are…well, capable. I am capable but I am not inspired. I am a nervous baker and can’t easily adapt a recipe or change part of one that I like and add something else instead. I have friends who are incredible bakers and so I know the difference.

When I made The Whisk Kid’s crazy gorgeous rainbow cake, for instance, I followed her recipe exactly…except when I didn’t. Here is another thing about me – I love to read but not directions…like on cake flour boxes. So I had cake flour and thought how nice it would be to use it for a cake, logical, yes? But I failed to read the box which told you the formula (not difficult – just another tablespoon or so of cake flour for each cup called for in recipe) and when we made the first batch (yes, this was before we had no water – thankfully) – they were flat and full of airholes and some were quite raw. The colors were gorgeous but I knew the cakes were a failure. Sigh. I do so dislike failure.capability mom - cakes in the oven - rainbow cake After determining that all were mostly lost, we remade the cakes with all-purpose flour – as I should have known to do in the first place – and they came out perfectly wonderful round layers.

At this point we called it a night. I had made the base butter cream frosting from The Whisk Kid’srecipe – my first ever – and was thrilled because it was delicious.  I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, I made the top coat of butter cream frosting and waited for the under or crumb coat frosting to come to room temperature. Despite the heat of the day (and it was so hot), that butter cream remained unspreadable. Rookie that I am, I was too nervous to do anything to it other than jab at it with a spoon (this does nothing) and make 3 or 4 more batches of the top coat (because I had started frosting with that and was now committed to it). Luckily, I had tons of eggs and sugar (and a container of egg whites that vaguely felt like cheating). Why did I not just go to the store and buy Duncan Hines? Because I am stubborn and I was making this cake and it would be from scratch because that would show my daughter that …what, exactly? The lesson learned was that her mom is, if anything, determined and stubborn, yeah, like that is news. I was pretty flustered but mostly capability mom's rainbow cakekept it together (except when I gave up and enlisted two middle schoolers to frost the cake because this is an area of great weakness for me) and I was putting together a party with a moonbounce, cotton candy machine and no water, thank you very much.

It was a success and thrill and surprise to most of the guests and worth the eggs, sugar and time spent. Next time I might read the directions, too.

capability mom rainbow cake

nabisco famous chocolate refrigerator roll We love chocolate at our house – well, except my husband and instead of deeming that a character flaw (which it surely is), I have decided to embrace the positive result of this particular preference which basically means…more for me. It does mean I don’t have to hide chocolate (except from the children…not that I would do that) and I know any stash (if there were such a thing) would never be disturbed even if discovered. So – all good for me. Above is a picture of a easy fun cake to make with kids that a friend just reminded me about (we made it last for a favorite stuffed animal’s birthday party).

Basically it is Nabisco FAMOUS chocolate wafers, whipping cream and vanilla. Here is the recipe from including the nutritional information – oh, come on, there is some vitamin A in there and some calcium.  My mom made this with us when we were young (it is a classic) and it is so easy (whipped cream and chocolate cookies). Let even the youngest of toddlers stack the cookies and spread the whipped cream. Sure, it’s a little messy but the little ones can make their own and will be so excited about it. Freeze for about 4 hours. When cut on a diagonal (by an adult) it is really cute. Almostrainbow cake cute but a black and white version.  A good project with no baking but you still get a cute, fun cake.

I made the following amazing (I am so modest) chocolate ship cookies for the same friend (a while ago! but talking to her just now made me connect the two) and just made a batch for teacher gifts on Tuesday. Best chocolate chip cookies ever. From the Ghiradelli bag of milk chocolate chips and the Ghiradelli website.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

11 1/2 ounce(s) Milk Chocolate Chips
1 cup(s) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup(s) sugar
3/4 cup(s) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla
2 1/4 cup(s) unsifted flour
1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1 cup(s) walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 375ºF.

Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. I use the milk chocolate chips – or semi-sweet if you must. Really, really good.

I was asked by a friend (the one who also reminded me about the refrigerator cake – we called it zebra cake) if I was going to put this up. I found the recipe in The Boston Globe magazine – it is from the Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge and I have been making it for years. I make it as a welcome to the neighborhood cake, a sorry you-don’t feel-well cake, an all-around great dessert. I call it Vanilla Bread – maybe I should rename Brownies as Chocolate Bread.

Vanilla Bean Loaves

3 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
2½ cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into the sugar and left for a few days*)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped*
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 eggs

1¾ cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped*

For the cake:
Heat the oven to 325°. Generously butter two 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a heavy-duty mixer, using the paddle, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean seeds to the mixture along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.

Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat with a few turns of the paddle until it is just smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter from the bottom of the bowl into the mixture to make sure it’s well blended.

Divide the batter between the pans. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, turn the pans around, and continue baking for 25–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out almost clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out of their pans and return them to the rack.

For the syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla beans and stir so the seeds disperse. Remove from the heat.

Place the cakes on the rack over a piece of wax paper. Brush generously all over—tops, bottoms, and sides—with the syrup. Brush with more syrup as they cool. Cool completely and slice.

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