Calling All Cooks: Crowd-pleasing cakes for all

By LISA ANDRUS-WELCH

The Easter holiday will be here before we know it and because I like to plan ahead, I’ve begun thinking about my menu, which I’ll share in following weeks. For now, let’s start with dessert. Since there will be quite a few of us at the table I need a dessert that can feed many, making cake the wisest choice. I toss around the notion that whatever recipe I choose should look spectacular, but then my thoughts turn to taste and I know that a cake is nothing if it doesn’t taste heavenly.

Coconut Cream Cake, lily white and fluffy, fills the bill in both the beauty and flavor categories. This incredibly moist cake, which starts with a white cake mix, is so rich that a little goes a long way and feeds up to 24 people.

We all know that cakes baked in a Bundt pan look extra-special, perfect for a holiday meal. But what guests won’t know is that a fancy Bundt cake is less time-consuming and a nearly foolproof alternative to the classic layer cake.

Then there is Peanut Butter Meltaway cake, similar in flavor to the famous Gardners chocolate peanut butter candy. As a brown sheet cake, it may not be the most beautiful pick but it just may be the most delicious. Some readers may recognize this recipe from a previous column but I had to include it since a cake this heavenly deserves an encore, especially for Easter.

Coconut Cream Cake

(A rich coconut cream sauce turns a plain white cake mix into a moist and luscious masterpiece.)

1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix

3 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup water

1/2 tsp. coconut extract

1 (14-ounce) can coconut cream

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 T. white sugar

1 cup flaked coconut

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13x2-inch pan, or for a layer cake, (2) 9-inch round or square cake pans.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil, water and coconut extract. Beat 2 minutes and pour into pan(s). Bake about 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.

In a medium bowl, combine coconut cream with sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth. When cake comes out of the oven, poke holes into the top in even rows with a chopstick or a large fork. Pour milk mixture over the top, allowing it to soak into the cake. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

In a large bowl, whisk cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue whipping until stiff. Spread over chilled cake (for layer cake use some of whipped cream as filling.) Sprinkle top of cake with coconut. Refrigerate leftovers. Serves 24.

Hummingbird Bundt Cake

Cake:

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large)

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple (do not drain)

3/4 cup canola oil

1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract

Glaze:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 to 2 T. milk

Directions: Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a shallow pan, bake pecans in a single layer 8 to 10 minutes or till toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir in eggs, pineapple, bananas, oil and vanilla, stirring just till dry ingredients are moistened.

Sprinkle 1 cup toasted pecans into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan (will hold about 12 cups batter. Fill pan 3/4 full.) Spoon batter over pecans (if using a 10-cup Bundt pan bake excess batter in mini bread pans.) Bake 14-cup about 70 minutes, minis about 25 minutes, or till long wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake in pans on wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely.

For glaze, with electric mixer combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk till well blended. Add remaining 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating till smooth. Immediately pour glaze over cooled cake. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup pecans over top of cake. Serves 12 to 14.

Peanut Butter Meltaway Cake

Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsps. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsps. vinegar

2 tsps. vanilla

2 cups water

Peanut Butter Middle:

3/4 tsp. vegetable oil

1 cup creamy peanut butter

Topping:

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup cocoa

1-pound powdered sugar

6 T. sour milk (sour milk by adding 1/2 tsp. vinegar to the milk)

1 tsp. vanilla

Directions: Combine cake ingredients and bake in 9×13-inch pan in preheated 350-degree oven 40 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

In small bowl, mix together peanut butter and 3/4 teaspoon vegetable oil. Spread on top of cooled cake. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

For topping, heat 1/4 cup cocoa powder, powdered sugar, sour milk, butter and vanilla. Mix smooth and it comes to a boil. Let cool a few minutes. Pour and spread over the peanut butter layer. Cool. Store in refrigerator. Serves 16.

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