It's like this: you bake something sweet because you want something sweet, something hot and delicious right out of your oven, something you can eat three slices of without anyone watching or giving you dirty looks when you keep returning to the cashier. Then what? You have something delicious yelling, "eat me! eat me!" on your kitchen counter until you succumb, eat too much, and want to lie down.
My sister lives three hours away, a safe enough distance to keep my sweets from screaming. She's got teenagers at home and, so far, hasn't been upset when I've previously shared my problems. My problems today are the remainders of two cakes I unsuccessfully tried to silence by freezer. I stick them in a gift bag and plop the offenders onto her kitchen counter.
"It's Red Velvet cake," I say, "and Lemon Buttermilk cake. The Red Velvet has a cube and a half of butter in it, be warned. The Lemon Buttermilk has a quarter of a cube but it's rubbery. Enjoy." Butter content is valuable information when passing off a couple of Saran-wrapped guilt-inducers with enough calories to negate the past week and a half of exercise. "There's only half of each cake because we ate the other halves. These halves are your problem."
My sister actually thanked me and, having teenagers around, kept me distracted enough to forget about sweets for one night.
Other people's refrigerators are like Christmas morning to me, so before anyone else woke up, I found the motivation to take a walk by emptying my sister's fridge of an assortment of cold leftovers and a couple of slices of really tasty cheese. I disappeared with my iPod only to come back to my sister saying, "I had the rest of that Lemon Buttermilk cake for breakfast. I couldn't help it. I hope you don't mind."
"I had some, too," Kaitlin, my oldest niece, says. "You need to give me the recipe. It was really good."
"If you like rubber," I say.
"Sorry we ate it all," my sister says again. "We ate all the Red Velvet cake late last night. Sweets don't last very long around here."
Mua-ha-ha, I thought. Who needs self-control when you have a sister?
Kaitlin, these are for you:
Lemon Buttermilk Cake
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
finely grated rind of two lemons
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter or spray a bundt or angel food pan.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and lemon rind until blended. Add butter and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and beat until blended, making sure the butter and flour have been combined, and the buter has had a chance to coat all the flour. Add the eggs, vanilla, and remaining buttermilk only until barely blended, and scrape into the pan.
Bake for 1 3/4 hours or less, depending on your oven (mine's lazy, just like me). The cake will be brown around the edges so test with a toothpick to make sure it's done. Cool, if you can help it, before cutting.
Red Velvet Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and, again, grease or spray a bundt or angel food pan (lazy? certainly).
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar into a bowl. Mix until well blended. Beat the butter into the dry ingredients until well blended and mixture resembles corn meal. Stir in eggs, vanilla, food coloring, vinegar and buttermilk until just blended.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting or dust with powdered sugar. Michelle cuts thin slices and layers them with whipped cream and sliced strawberries, but she is professional so her food is pretty and looks like it was made by someone who knows a thing or two about presentation.