Saturday, July 9, 2011

Scratch Before Baking

Many years ago, my sweet-as-pie aunt, known for making things that tasted good and looked pretty, told me a secret to baking enviable desserts, breads, and cakes - from scratch.

"Rachel," she said as I waited eagerly to hear the secret that made her delectable sweet-and-moist-in-every-bite cornbread so delicious, "Always be sure to scratch the box before you open it. Then, follow the directions on the box."

I laughed. And for many years, I have taken her advice to heart. Tonight was no exception.

I have an extra 9 kids here this weekend, cousins, and we are having a blast! Spent the day at the lake, soaking up the sun and enjoying 80 degree water and warm sandy beach. We played Duck Duck Goose, Motorboat Motorboat, Ring Around The Rosie, Water Spider, and more... all in the water. Lots of splashing, lots of smiles, and lots of fun. But after hours of enjoying Sand Hollow, the wind began to pick up and it was time to go home to celebrate a birthday this evening.

What I really wanted to make was a Brownie and White Chocolate Strawberry Silk Torte. But with 16 hungry children, there wasn't a lot a lot of time to throw the ramen noodles in the pan, change everyone out of their swim clothes, or shower off the pound of sand brought home in my hair - let alone put together an elaborate cake, or go to the store for missing ingredients. So... I fell back on Auntie's trusted advice.

I scratched the box of the chocolate cake before I opened it, mixed it up, and threw it in the preheated oven.  And then - I grabbed the can of pink frosting floating around in my cupboard, bought as a precaution for a day like this, and (after scratching the lid, of course) opened it and whipped it up to be even fluffier and lighter than  it already was.

The four round cake pans were cooled in the freezer while I took the last remaining cup and a half of powdered sugar I could find in my pantry and made a half batch of Fudge Frosting. (This delicious concoction is the ONLY thing I made tonight that I didn't have to scratch before I pulled it out of the box.) After everything was cooled, I carefully layered the cake, strawberry frosting while my daughter looked on.

"Mom," she said.

"Yes?" I asked.

"You do realize this cake is for a BOY right?!?"

"Of course dear. Why?" I say, as I think to myself "I'm pretty sure I know whether that kid that popped out of me 12 years ago was a boy or a girl. I did change quite a few of his diapers, after all!"

"It's PINK!" she exclaimed.

And so of course, we had to cover up the beautiful pink layers of fluffy strawberry frosting sandwiched between the four layers of cake. My powdered sugar was gone, and so as I stared at my pantry trying to decide what to do, my eye rested on a box of chocolate pudding mix.

Voila! I hastily scratched the box as I ripped it open and whisked in the milk, making a thick, goopy chocolate paste that I carefully smoothed around the edges of the cake. After dumping the fudge frosting on the top and letting it drip down the rim of the cake, I stuck it in the freezer to firm up a bit more while the kids finished eating their ramen.

The result?  Fabulous. It was six inches tall, covered in chocolate, and paired perfectly with the Cookies 'N Cream ice cream that was halfway melted before we got through dishing up for all 18 kids at the party.

Happy Birthday Big T.  Love you more than you'll ever be able to comprehend.

(PS... the recipe for Sweet Cornbread is below.)

SWEET CORNBREAD RECIPE - delicious to the last crumb. 

1 box of yellow cake mix
2 small boxes or bags of cornbread mix
1/2 cup sour cream

Add the cake mix and cornbread mix together. Make as directed using ingredients for both mixes, replacing 1/2 cup of water or milk with 1/2 cup sour cream. 

Bake til golden brown and top springs back lightly. (Or at least doesn't leave an indent!)


  1. Ha Ha I love it Rachel!!! Thanks"

  2. LOL You are the best!!!!!!!!!! :)


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