Posted by: Erin | August 3, 2009

Cakes, Brownies, and Fireworks!

When I was little, I was taught that you didn’t go to someone’s house for dinner or a party without bringing something. I find that this suits me just fine now, because it gives me an excuse to bake. (As a general rule, I don’t bake much, though I enjoy it, because most recipes are intended for large numbers of people, especially cake recipes, obviously. Since the gifting of Small-Batch Baking, though, this may soon change.) My friend invited me out to Nahant to watch the fireworks for the 4th of July, so I jumped at the chance to try a new recipe.

I wanted to make a cake, since I knew that my friend and his brother were both having people over, so there would certainly be enough people around to eat it. I really wanted to try either the Coconut Cake with Buttercream Frosting or the Double Coconut Cake, but I do not have cake flour nor cream of tartar just hanging around my kitchen, and they both were a little more labor-intensive than I had time for. So I kept looking.

At long last, I settled upon a recipe: Blackberry-Lemon Upside-Down Cake. I did not have any fresh blackberries, but I did have some fresh raspberries. I decided to use those, and supplemented them with frozen raspberries and blackberries. In theory, this was a good idea. The problem I’ve had using frozen fruit before is that when you thaw it, the fruit gets a little mushy. And mushy is not good. I tried to thaw the berries just enough that they wouldn’t have ice crystals on them, but without turning them into a little berry-flavored puddle.

On the whole, the cake turned out well, but what I learned it: there’s a reason a recipe calls for fresh berries and not frozen. And that reason is this: When you put semi-thawed frozen fruit on the bottom of a cake pan, even a cake pan already coated in melted butter, and then baked, the fruit releases juices, and those juices make it damned near impossible to get the cake out of the pan. I let the thing cool completely. I used a spatula around the edges. I put it in the fridge for a bit. I left the pan sitting upside-down on a tray for hours. This did basically nothing. In the end, I managed to find a spatula flexible enough to sorta slide it under the edge of the cake while it was still in the pan, and eventually freed it. Mercifully, there wasn’t really any damage to the cake. (A friend’s solution was “Eat it out of the pan!” In theory, a good plan, but this was to share with people, and I wanted it to be pretty.) Here’s how it came out:


I imagine that had I used fresh berries, the top wouldn’t have looked so blotchy, but whatever. I managed to snag a little piece of it while we watched the fireworks out on the rocks over the water, and may I say, I am kind of awesome. The blackberries and raspberries, because of the juice, made almost a jammy sort of top to the cake, which had a nice vanilla flavor to it. I imagine it would have been good with vanilla ice cream, or some chocolate sauce as well. (I am firmly in the “pro fruit and chocolate together” camp.)


And because I was on a baking kick at the time, I also made a batch of my favorite Irish Cream Brownies. I made some a few weeks back, and, on a whim, decided to throw in some unsweetened shredded coconut (because I had it left from the Pre-Christmas Cookie Extravaganza). The result was pretty excellent (though perhaps I should have toasted the coconut first, to release more of the flavor), so I did the same thing this time. The coconut changes the consistency of the batter a little bit, because it’s adding more dry ingredients (I may have added a little more Irish cream to the batter the first time I tried this, to compensate), but they’re still very good, and fairly moist. These went over well also, particularly with friend’s brother. So all in all, a successful baking spree.


And, if you have a few minutes, here are my pics from the fireworks. They don’t have quite the apocalyptic feel of the 2008 fireworks in Boston, but the reflection over the water is pretty nice. I’m getting more used to the Fireworks setting on my camera. Now if only I could hold the camera steady while the shutter stays open!

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