Zebra Cake

It’s one thing when a cake is appealing to the eye on the outside, but, when you cut into a cake and reveal a hidden surprise on the inside your eyes widen in wonder and delight. That’s the excitement behind a Piñata Cake. Who wouldn’t want to cut a slice of cake to only have sprinkles and candy come cascading out? A smile (and squeals from little one’s) is sure to follow. The same can be had when the cake itself reveals a pattern or design. Think of a Checkerboard Cake (Sorry for the pictures in both of those posts – Nighttime baking is not a blogger’s friend when it comes to taking pictures.)

I recently made a cake to celebrate a friend’s daughters (aka my nieces) dance recital performance – it was their first. Since I was making a cake for one of their birthdays the day before I didn’t want to make another chocolate cake for their recital celebration. And since I was making a themed cake for that birthday I also didn’t want to make a cake that I would have to heavily decorate – I was actually able to find doll-sized versions of their dancing shoes to top the cake with so I figured that was perfect enough decoration. So, I figured I should do something special with the inside. After a little thought I decided to make a zebra cake with a Nutella mousse filling since they both like the hazelnut spread.

To make things super easy I went with box cake mix – a yellow cake mix and a chocolate cake mix. I prepared both per the box directions. Whenever I use cake mix I normally use Duncan Hines. One of the reasons, and it will sound silly, is because it has a Wilton approved emblem on it. Truth be told though, Duncan Hines is perfect for making a zebra cake because they do not have pudding in the mix which can make the cake batter thick and not ideal for making this cake.

Once my batters were prepared, I poured a ¼ cup of the yellow cake batter in the center of two 8-inch cake pans that I sprayed with baking spray. Next, I poured a ¼ cup of the chocolate cake batter in the center of the yellow cake batter, and then a ¼ cup of the chocolate cake mix in the center of the previously poured yellow cake mix. I continued in this pattern until the pan was about 2/3 full. You won’t use all of the batters, but, just about.

I gently tapped the pans down and then baked them in a preheated 350 F oven for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle came out clean. I let the cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then inverted them on cooling racks to cool completely.

One cooled, I torte the cakes to remove the dome that formed on both. The zebra pattern was instantly visible and I was quite excited that it worked.

The pattern was even more visible once the cake was layered and cut into.

You could really customize this cake. Use a white cake mix and tint it colors to show your team spirit, someone’s favorite colors or even a gender reveal cake.

And here’s a pic of the birthday cake I made the same weekend – An Elena of Avalor themed cake.

A Delicious Short-Cut Peach Pie

Short-cuts aren’t always a bad thing. When you are driving they can get you where you have to go quicker and hopefully help you avoid some traffic along the way. In our day-to-day lives they can make us a bit more efficient to get daily tasks completed. And in baking they can guarantee us a flakier crust and fruit that’s perfectly ripe for a pie!

A few weeks ago I got it in my head that I wanted to make a peach pie. I’m actually not a big fruit pie fan – I’m not that keen on fruit pie filling, especially when it’s on the runny side – but, I think the Pillsbury Pie Crust sitting in my refrigerator got me thinking. I’ve made pie crusts from scratch once or twice before but, like I said there’s nothing wrong with taking a short-cut every now and then. I went one step further with my short-cut and opted to use frozen peaches. I just wasn’t in the mood to peel and slice a few pounds of peaches.

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I combined 2 pounds of frozen sliced peaches with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice and almond extract. I decided on the almond extract after reading that many bakers used to add the nut – sometimes called a “bitter almond” –  that’s inside the pit of the peach to the pie while baking to give it an almond flavor. That practice has since diminished as it was discovered that the nut contains trace amounts of cyanide, granted you would have to eat a large quantity of them for anything to happen, but, who wants to bite down on something hard when they are enjoying a piece of pie.

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Next I unrolled one of the pie crusts and pressed it into the bottom of the pie dish.

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I then added the filling and mounded it slightly in the middle and dotted it with small pieces of unsalted butter.

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Instead of just unrolling the other pie crust on top of the pie I decided to give it a little pizazz with a lattice pattern that wouldn’t require weaving. First I sliced the top pie crust into 6 1-inch strips…

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And then divided those strips in half to end up with a total of 12 1/2-inch strips.

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I laid five strips across the pie, doing my best to equally space them

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Then I laid four strips across the previous strips diagonally.

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And after some trimming and crimping, voila, a simple lattice pattern.

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I then placed the pie on a baking sheet in a 400 F preheated oven for about 25 minutes. I then lowered the oven to 375 F and baked the pie for about another hour. Prior to lowering the temperature I brushed the top of the pie with an egg wash to ensure a nice golden brown color. I kept a close eye on the pie and when I noticed the rims of it were browning a tad bit too much I covered it with aluminum foil. I knew it was time to take the pie out of the oven when the filling was bubbling.

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After letting it cool it was time to slice into it…

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And I happy to say that the pie was a perfect consistency… Not too watery and not too dry! It was a definite winner!

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Peach Pie – Adapted from here

1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

Filling:

2 pounds of sliced and peeled frozen peaches (Use frozen, do not thaw)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour (I doubled the amount the original recipe called for to allot for the water the frozen fruit would release while baking)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Make the filling by mixing the peaches in a large bowl with the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, all spice and almond extract.

3. Unroll one pie crust and place in an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Add the filling, mounding it slightly in the center and dot with the butter.

4. Unroll the second crust and dust it lightly with flour and cut it into 1/2-inch wide strips. Lay half of the strips on the pie in one direction, leaving about a 1-inch space between each strip. Lay the remaining strips on top, crossing them diagonally to make a faux lattice pattern. Trim the edges of the strips leaving a small overhang and crimp the edges into the bottom crust with your fingers.

5. Place the pie on a baking sheet and place it in the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature of the oven to 375 F and brush the pie with an egg wash (beat the egg with a tablespoon of water). Bake for another hour until the filling it bubbly. If you notice the out crusts of the pie is browning too quickly cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Once baked, transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing. Store remaining pie in the refrigerator.

 

Checkerboard Cake

I’ve attempted to make a Checkerboard Cake two times before and both times I didn’t have much luck. The first time I followed the directions on the pan set  I have for it exactly, even following the recipe for the cake and I didn’t like the taste of the cake and my cake batter ran into each other so it didn’t look all that great when I sliced into it. The second time I opted to use box cake and while the cake tasted better I still had the issue of the cake batter running so once again not all that checkerboard looking when I sliced into it. According to the directions for the pan set you put the ring separator into the pan, pour the batter in, remove the ring and then bake. This wasn’t working for me, so on this (my third) try I opted to bake the cakes first and then use the ring separator to cut the cakes and then assemble it for the checkerboard pattern and I’m happy to say I didn’t strike out! Granted it was a bit messy to assemble but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed (or hidden) with a little frosting.

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Using Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Milk Chocolate and Yellow cake mix I prepared the cakes according to the directions on the box.

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After letting the cakes cool I took the ring separator and sliced each of the cakes into three rings.

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And then the messy part began… Assembling. As you can see some of the rings broke up a little, but like I said frosting covered up all the little imperfections. To make sure the rings of the cake wouldn’t fall apart when slicing I “glued” them together with icing along the inside of each ring.

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After covering the first layer with frosting I added the second layer and then spread frosting on it as well.

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And finally the third layer…

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I’ll admit the final product was a bit lopsided and could have used a little extra frosting (I used two containers of Betty Crocker’s Milk Chocolate Frosting to get to this point) but this was an afternoon whim of baking to see if the technique would work.

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And the moment of truth… I got a pretty decent looking checkerboard!!! The saying is true… If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again. And I’ll definitely be trying it again with more time and frosting.

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