This is one of those cake mixes that, once you make the darned thing and have your first piece, you’re wondering how long you’re going to have to wait before you can eat the next one. Here it is the day after we made it, and I came downstairs to find my teenage daughter having a piece of this cake for breakfast. And yes, when it comes to cake she can be rather picky …
About a month ago I’d won a contest over on the lovely Bren Hererra’s Flanboyant Eats blog. The prize for that particular contest was that I was to receive 3 packages of dry mixes from Cottage Hill Farm in Florence, Vermont. The circa 1795 dairy farm is now owned and operated by La Verne and George Lesznik who are adding organic dry mixes and preserves to the offerings of the beautiful old farm.
A couple days ago I received a box in the mail from La Verne with her Cottage Hill Farm dry mixes inside. The image on the packages is that of the farmhouse itself, as can be seen on the Cottage Hill Farm About page.
I decided since the kids would be here this weekend I’d go ahead and make the Old-Fashioned Fudge Cake. They probably wouldn’t be too interested in English Cream Tea Scones (although Adam would only because he’s the most adventurous when it comes to food). And the Farmhouse Buttermilk Pancakes would require a side of some of the best hand-smoked bacon I can lay my hands on. Not having any of that fine bacon, the Old-Fashioned Fudge Cake was the obvious first choice.
The ingredient list on the package is not only minimal but also more detailed than most. Who in today’s food industry actually names the brand of flour they use in their mix? In this case it’s that of one of the King Arthur organic flours, some of the better flours for baking purposes. Ok yeah, some of the better flours for anything, sure. For some reason it still always reminds me of the King Biscuit Flour Hour though …
“Non-aluminum leavening”. What?? Never heard of such a thing … It turns out some chemical leaveners can include some sort of aluminum in them. Leaveners such as sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP) are used in the industry, something I suddenly find a little nauseating. A corn starch baking powder is a non-aluminum leavening agent, which of course I have in my own cupboard. I find it kind of odd that on their commercial leavening agents page, the venerable Clabber Girl lists non-aluminum as a “feature”. Kinda weird, that.
Here’s a quiz for you, gentle reader. Now, I have to preface this by saying what I’m about to point out happens to not only the best companies in the world but also some of my favorites. I recently did this same thing with the Vice President of a certain pasta company I really like, and she had a good laugh. So, no harm intended whatsoever! Take a good, hard look at the label in the image of the package instructions and ingredients. Click on the image to make it larger if necessary. Something’s missing. Go ahead, try to figure it out. I’m anal this way, as my kids tend to tell me … The answer will be at the the end of this post.
When I opened the package I found the mix was actually inside a plastic bag that was in the outer packaging. I had imagined the outer package was sealed like a bag of coffee and that the mix was just inside it. What this meant was that I could save the outer package and use it in the photo of the piece of cake at the top of this post, which I did. Yeah, my brain works that way, deal …
Pouring the mix into a large mixing bowl I noticed it just plain sparkled. I felt like showing my teen daughter, but it wasn’t purple so she probably wouldn’t have cared. The small sparkling elements were probably the small-ground pieces of Kosher sea salt, something I’d also never heard of in the ingredient list. I’ve heard of Kosher salt, I’ve heard of sea salt, but Kosher sea salt? It only took a moment for me to realize since God made the sea salt Himself it’s probably Kosher by default. That would make sense.
I added the eggs, oil and hot water and blended them as per the instructions. At that point I became a little concerned as the batter was less of a cake batter and more of a soup. I double-checked the instructions thinking maybe I had added a cup too much of the hot water. Nope, I’d done everything correctly. Shrugging my shoulders, I poured it into the greased-and-floured glass dish and popped it in the oven, hoping for the best.
35 minutes later, tooth pick in hand, I checked the cake. It had baked up beautifully and checked correctly all the way to the bottom of the cake. I put it on a cooling rack to “cool completely” and waited a couple hours.
Adam and I had elected to top this cake with a thick coating of a simple whipped cream cheese frosting to complement what we assumed would be a rich and moist chocolate cake. Mary had also asked for ice cream, so we picked out Turkey Hill’s Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream for a little contrast with how we suspected the cake would be.
I’ll tell you what, we were not at all disappointed.
A few years ago I’d posted this photo of a 6-layer chocolate cake which had been made from scratch by Sous Chef Cedric Theiler at the Frog Leg Inn. It was a chocolate cake he made us out of pride in various ways on multiple occasions before moving on to work at other locations.
This cake made from Cottage Hill Farm’s Old-Fashioned Fudge Cake mix tasted almost identical to Chef Cedric’s cake. It’s just rich to the point that if it were any richer it would be too much. The moisture I’d been afraid of in the soup-like batter translated into a wonderfully moist cake that still held together very well. The package weight of the mix is 28.6 oz. With the added water and other ingredients, the overall cake weighs over two lbs. Is the cake too dense? Not at all. In fact it’s just right. I’m sure this cake is something my own mom would have been very proud of.
This is the kind of cake that would do well on a clear glass plate with a coating of powdered sugar, swirled with a little chocolate syrup, and topped with sliced strawberries and real whipped cream. In a fine restaurant where you have to wear a tie.
Ok, that blooper on the label? Here’s what’s missing:
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease and flour two 9″ pans or one 13×9 cake pan. [Pour the enclosed mix into a large mixing bowl.] Add eggs, oil and hot water …
That’s alright, La Verne. In their package instructions Pierino’s forgets to add their pastas to the boiling water. So no problem, really.
We really like this cake, which 12 hours later is almost gone. We think you’d really like it too.