I was thinking about writing a blog post concerning health care and health care reform here in the U.S. but today is M’s birthday and I’d rather celebrate his life than whine, moan, and bitch about the health care rationing that I experience with my health insurance coverage. Besides, I’m trying to practice kindness and gratitude these days and have reminded myself that I should be (and am) grateful that I have medical coverage.
I am not much of a baker. The reason for that is I prefer a free-for-all when I cook, adding this, that, and whatever suits my mood and/or taste at the time. You can’t free-for-all with baking. There is a required precision to it if you want your cake, bread, or cookies to come out right.
It’s not that I don’t know how to bake or can’t bake. As the title of a cookbook I was given by M the Younger states, You Can Cook If You Can Read (Muriel and Cortland Fitzsimmons, 1946). (Side note: I love old cookbooks as well as old books on housekeeping.) I believe that’s true about baking as well. I can read (and follow directions) so I can bake and even enjoy it once in a while, especially when it comes to breads. There is something almost therapeutic about creating a loaf of bread.
There are a few times a year when I will bake a cake or something sweet. Family birthdays are the majority of those few times, and the only time I will take requests although requests are probably not necessary since everyone has their favorite cake and except for a few years when M the Younger was young and experimenting, usually the requests are the same every year (thus giving me the chance to perfect my baking skills when it comes to those cakes).
M the Elder’s favorite cake is walnut cake. The recipe was handed down to us by his Grandma Kraus. As with a lot of her recipes, it doesn’t go into a lot of detail. Fortunately, she did have exact measurements, something you won’t find with some of her other recipes and often we’ve had to work things out on our own, trying to figure out exactly what she meant by things such as “a heaping tablespoon” (in her case, that’s about two to three times the amount or 2-3 tablespoons).
Grandma Kraus’s walnut cake is not low-fat. It is not light and fluffy, but dense and rich. It is a cake to be enjoyed and savored, and you don’t need a huge piece to be satisfied. That’s not to say you might not want a huge piece, but you don’t need it.
For the past few years I haven’t baked a walnut cake for M’s birthday because his birthday is so soon after the holidays that we’re usually still recovering from the over indulgences of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Instead, we go to our favorite Thai restaurant for dinner and if he’s not too full after dinner, M orders a slice of their walnut cake. It’s not as rich and dense as Grandma Kraus’s walnut cake but it seems to satisfy his yen for it.
We did go to our favorite Thai restaurant for an early birthday celebration on Thursday. (Note to Jen & Eric if you’re reading: We thought of you while we were there and toasted you with our cups of green tea.) M was too full for cake so he didn’t order it. And since we’ve decided to cut back on buying things for birthdays and such, I decided I would treat him to his favorite walnut cake.
Not wanting to make a whole layer cake that we’ll be forced (heh) to eat, I decided to convert it to cupcakes, figuring we can freeze some of them, unfrosted, to eat another time. I also cut the recipe in half. Even so, it made 12 cupcakes.
I’ve had a request for the recipe over at Facebook so here it is:
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 3 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cups sugar
- 1-1/2 cups butter
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Grandma Kraus’s instructions: Combine all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.
I follow the basic recipe instructions for cakes (combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl; cream the sugar and butter together in a large bowl; add eggs to the sugar and butter mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes; add in the flour, milk, and walnuts a little at a time). As cupcakes, they had to bake for 25 minutes.
If you decide to give this recipe a try, keep in mind that the batter is not as thin as a typical cake batter. And if you decide on cupcakes instead of layers or a sheet cake, fill the cups. The cake will not rise as much as most cakes do.
The best icing/frosting for this walnut cake is a buttercream frosting. I usually add some chopped walnuts to the frosting or decorate the top of the cake with walnuts.
The cupcakes are cooling now (which is why there are no photos with frosting on them). They smell delicious. If I think of it later, I’ll post a photo of them frosted (and maybe with a few candles stuck in ’em).
Happy Birthday, M!
For those wondering how the puzzle project is coming along:
We still have a long way to go.