After a little more than three months of following my resolution to learn how to cook, I was getting pretty cocky. After all, I'd only killed one pot and ruined one recipe thus far. So when an advance copy of "Cake Mix Doctor" Anne Byrn's new e-book arrived in The Virgin's inbox, I scoffed at the simple recipes.
Four lousy ingredients? Cooking Virgin can do that in her sleep.
If you haven't picked up any of Byrn's books, she basically helps the home cook make a decent, interesting cake using a box mix as the base. The new e-book is literally The Icing on the Cake -- a "bite-size collection" of her best homemade frosting recipes. With Byrn's tips, even if you use a plain box mix for your cake, you can customize it with all-natural frosting and avoid that creepy hydrogenated crap that comes in a tub.
Read on to find out how one of Byrn's simple recipes iced the Virgin...
After reading through the short online book, I opted for a recipe that actually involves a little cooking; a Chocolate Pan Frosting featuring melted butter and cocoa cooked on the stove. Begin by melting a stick of butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring a little to help the process along.
In the meantime, I grabbed the dusty flour sifter out of my appliance graveyard and began sifting the confectioner's sugar. Unfortunately, my sifter was clogged with rice from some previous experiment I don't recall, so I wasn't able to fully sift all of the sugar.
Getting back to the butter...
When it's fully melted, add cocoa powder and milk and bring to a gentle boil for about one minute. Take the pot off the stove and begin to add the confectioner's sugar a little at a time. I dumped in the sifted sugar I had ready and stirred, not realizing that I had stopped several cups short of the recipe when my sifter went kaput.
It seems that if you don't put enough sugar in the pot, your butter will separate out, leaving a pool of melted dairy products on top of a gloppy, disgusting cocoa paste. Not good.
The Virgin frantically added more and more sugar, sifting and clogging, sifting and clogging, and finally just dumping a pile of unsifted sugar into the pot until the mixture began to thicken into some semblance of icing.
"Why is sifting important?" you might ask. Because if you don't sift the flour properly, your frosting will turn out lumpy and gross. Kind of like this:
After the icing thickens and starts to congeal, but while still warm, pour it over the cake and use a knife to smooth it over the surface. My poor cake (a store-bought angel food variety)
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ended up with a patchy application of lumpy, sugary frosting dripping down its sides. Not the prettiest thing we've seen here at Chow Bella, but a heck of a lot tastier than a beautiful cake with that tub stuff smoothed all over it.
Want to make this Chocolate Pan Frosting at home? You'll need the exact measurements first. Byrn's book, The Cake Mix Doctor's Icing on the Cake, is available online for $2.99 and contains this and 29 more recipes for tasty (and somewhat easy-to-make) cake frostings including flavored buttercreams and a Strawberry Cream Cheese version made with fresh strawberry puree.