I always looked forward to the end of summer and the beginning of a new year, with a new teacher, and new room. The school in Lake Norden was a big,old 3 story brick building with the lunchroom and kitchen in the basement. When you came throught the big double doors at the front entrance, you stepped on to a landing. You could either go upstairs to classrooms or the principle's office or downstairs to the Home Ec room (remember Home Ec?), a passage leading to the kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms, or you could go all the way down to the kitchen and lunchroom. The first thing you noticed, as you came into the school, was the aroma of whatever was being prepared for lunch. On most days, you didn't pay a lot of attention to lunch, except for the days you would smell a warm, chocolate-y scent climbing the steps to greet you as you walked in the door. Chocolate cake for dessert! There was no place in the school you could go to and not smell that wonderful cake baking. It didn't matter what the entree was. It didn't matter if peas or broccoli was being served. We would choke it down because we were having chocolate cake for dessert and that's all that mattered.
That chocolate cake is probably the best memory I have of school lunches. In our house it's known as the "World Famous Lake Norden School Chocolate Cake". Two of the cooks, Cecile Albertsen and Jane Espland, were good enough to share the recipe for their chocolate cake in a church cookbook. Every time I make it, I think of coming in the big, double doors of the Lake Norden school, catching the scent of chocolate cake, and wishing my own children could've experienced school lunches like I did.
In addition to a great recipe, I also have a few tips for baking cakes:
A good quality cake pan - like a Fat Daddio's pan - ensures a successful cake. A high quality pan heats evenly and allows the cake to bake evenly from all sides. A good quality pan also means less sticking and cleaner, sharper corners (if you're using the pan for a decorated sheet cake).
When you grease the pan, use shortening and be generous. Also, if you want to be sure the cake will release, dust the pan with a little flour and empty the excess flour from the pan before adding the cake batter. If you're baking a chocolate cake, try using cocoa powder instead of flour. You'll be sure the flour doesn't leave any tell-tale signs when the cake is served.
No buttermilk on hand? No problem! A simple substitution works beautifully. All you need is milk and vinegar or lemon juice in a ratio of 1 tbsp. vinegar (or lemon juice) to 1 cup of milk. Just add the vinegar (or lemon juice) to the measuring cup first and then add milk to the 1 cup line. Stir and allow the milk to sit for about 5 minutes before adding it to your recipe.
Did you know a slower oven temp equals a level cake? Sure, it'll take a little longer for the cake to bake, but wouldn't you trade that for a cake with a hump in the center or having to level it? Just slow your oven temperature by 25 degrees and you'll be guaranteed a level cake every time.
|See how level the cake is?|
Please let me know if you have any recipes, tips, or techniques you’d like to share. They’re always welcome! And, if you try any of the recipes and want to share them, please send a photo along with any comments to me. I’ll publish them in the next post!
And, if you have any questions about this recipe or a technique, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll do my best to answer it!
Next week: summer's last picnic.
This recipe is linked with love to the following: