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Bake and share to beat the blahs


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Buttermilk Chocolate Layer Cake with Sea Foam Frosting

Turn on the stove, get out the pots and pans, make something. That seems to be the best antidote to stave off cabin fever all this long winter. Just about everybody I know is baking, braising, stewing and roasting. Some of us make way too much food. So we share.

Recently, my neighbor, Diane, made a generous amount of Julia's Beef Daube. When she called to ask if I'd like to have some I said, "Sure. How about if I make dessert?"

A layer cake is sure to beat the blues, I thought. Because a whole cake is way too much for either household, I'll make a layer for her and a layer for me.

Not too rich, not too dense, this cake bakes with perfectly flat tops. Sea Foam Frosting is light enough while paying homage, sort of, to snowdrifts. And licking the beaters after making this old-time gooey frosting is better than dipping a spoon into a jar of marshmallow creme. Don't tell me you haven't done that.

-- Marlene Parrish (marleneparrish@icloud.com)

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco, preferred)

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

2½ cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1½ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans or spritz with baking spray; cut 2 circles of parchment paper to line the bottoms.

Using a hand-held electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat thoroughly. Stir in vanilla extract. Add melted, cooled chocolate and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add dry mixture alternately to the batter along with buttermilk.

Divide batter evenly between the pans. Give the pans a good shake back and forth to even out the batter. Bake for 40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool on racks before frosting.

Sea Foam Frosting

Adding cream of tartar or corn syrup prevents sugar crystals from forming and keeps the frosting from becoming grainy.

2 egg whites (1/4 cup)

1½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the top of a double boiler, combine everything but the vanilla. Mix with a hand-held electric beater. Cook over rapidly boiling water (water in bottom should not touch top of double boiler) beating constantly with beater at medium speed until soft peaks form when beater is slowly raised -- about 7 minutes. Set a timer.

Remove from boiling water. Add vanilla and continue to beat until frosting is thick enough to spread -- about 2 minutes longer. Makes enough to fill and frost 2 8-inch or 9-inch layer cakes or a 13-by-9-by-2-inch cake.

-- Marlene Parrish


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