Father’s Day

Father’s Day Sugar Cake: Part Three of the Butterscotch Triology

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Old Fashioned Sugar Cake as developed by the website chocolatechocolateandmore.com. Fantastic!

This simple and delicious dessert was made for Father’s Day, and is the third of my dessert recipes to feature butterscotch extract. (Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip cookies being the first and second). I’m not sure how I found this recipe (think it was through some kind of Pinterest investigation) but I am glad I did.  It was from a site called chocolatechocolateandmore.com, so you know it’s good!  Warning: it contains no chocolate.

The recipe was near-perfect, but as always, I had to go and mess with it.   A couple of tweaks were necessary, not least of all was the elimination of the cast-iron pan, as mine recently broke (snapped, really).  Of course, increasing the vanilla and salt levels (this worried me at the batter stage, but paid off at the cake stage).   Lastly, I added 1/8 tsp of butterscotch extract (Frontier brand), which is a bit of guilding the lily—you can leave it out and it makes for a great, simple dessert.  But I thought it needed just a tiny little bit more personality.   Also, I found myself wondering what it would be like if I beat the egg whites (to stiff foamy peaks) with the sugar separately and then folded them into the rest of the recipe.  I didn’t try it, but that is how egg whites are frequently used in baking this type of light dessert.

My one big deviation from the recipe as written was to add a cup of sugar to the shortening, milk and vanilla combo, rather than add it all to the wet ingredients with the dry.  I felt it was necessary.  Did it make a difference?  I think when you can cream or semi-cream your sugar, you eliminate the possibility of that granular mouth feel.

Despite my track record of putting great desserts on table, my family doubted this would be a dessert they would like.  After all, it’s not chocolate, and what is it, really? Plain cake?  But no, as its original author contends– it’s melt in your mouth delicious.  Might I need to add a streusel layer (one of my other obsessions)?  Most likely.     This is also a great cake as a base– for covering with strawberries, or strawberry filling (like that from my version of hand pies) or some other kind of sweet confection.  If you have a good maple syrup, you might substitute for that for the butterscotch.

As for whether this is better in the morning, it will be hard to tell, since my family of four almost completely cookie-monstered the cake last night, which rarely happens.

So if you have a Father (or Father substitute) that you want to make happy, this a great recipe: simple and quick.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp butterscotch extract
  • confectioner’s sugar for covering

Instructions

  1. Cream together shortening and milk for about 3 minutes, (it will look like small curd cottage cheese.)
  2. Add in 1 cup of a sugar and the vanilla.   Continue to mix.
  3. in a separate bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add flour, one third at a time to the milk mixture, blending well after each addition.
  4. Add in egg whites, beating just until all combined.
  5. Pour batter into a greased and floured (not sprayed) 9 inch round cake pan.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 40-45 minutes (mine was ready at 43) or  test for doneness.
  7. Let cool on wire rack for at least 45 minutes before serving, cover top with powdered sugar.

After cooling, I ‘heavily dusted’ the top with powder sugar, covering the top like a ski-chalet after a heavy Vermont snow.  The original recipe called for a dusting, but I thought it needed more.  Some in my house suggested it needed frosting, but I am not among those who agree.  However, you can check out this simple vanilla cream frosting recipe (at the bottom of this chocolate cake recipe) if you like.  Otherwise, Happy Father’s Day!

On Father’s Day

As I reflect on the holiday known as Father’s Day, I am thinking about my relationship to food and my children.  I desperately want to teach them things I know about food, and some things I think about food, which aren’t facts, but to me are just as important.  There are two big goals for me: in teaching them to cook and prepare food, make sure I teach them to appreciate flavor, and to love food and foods for what they are.  In doing this, I have thought a lot about how men relate to their children through food.   In some cases, the kitchen and/or preparation of food is central to their relationship, as it is in the movie “Chef,” which I highly recommend to sentimental father-loving foodies.    And in some cases, the father has almost no relationship to the food in the house other than paying for it, or carrying it in, like when he’s called upon to pick up the pizza or Chinese Food.    Food does not have to play a pivotal role in child-rearing, but it has always been important to me.

My father was an original foodie, and was very interested in new foods, foods from other countries and generally any and all spices, tastes and flavors from outside the united states.  From him I learned to love spicy things, like horseradish,  and Lingham’s Chili Sauce and I suppose, eventually refuse all that is tasteless and flavorless, like the French’s “Classic” Mustard.   I can’t remember ever liking French’s, and for most of my adult life I have waged war on it, whenever anyone gave me the canvas, or opportunity to weigh in on it.   Except for it the fact it was completely tasteless, I could only bring one argument to mind, and that was this exchange (below) between Linus and Lucy, from Peanuts:

French's Yellow Mustard

The worst condiment on earth: flavorless, formless and useless.

Linus: How do you like the chocolate I made for you?
Lucy: It’s terrible! It’s too weak! It tastes like some warm water that has had a brown crayon dipped in it!
Linus: (tastes it.) You’re right. I’ll go put in another crayon.

That’s all I can ever think of when I taste French’s.   It tastes like a melted yellow crayon.   It is a slimy, flavorless condiment that I suppose is used as  a “starter condiment” for children who cannot tolerate flavor.   For whatever reason, it continues to be the choice (the #1 mustard and #7 most popular condiment in the United States) for hot dogs and sausages around the country, and I suppose on Father’s Day, and all the rest of the summer BBQs it will be on hand to ruin some father’s fine and hard work at the grill turning out hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and the like.

As for the other element—appreciating foods for what they are—that for me has really been the understanding that most of the best foods in the world don’t need too much ‘fixing.’   Certainly I have learned this from my Mom, and from my Wife and her family, but it is an important lesson for kids, and one that I think is completely obscured by people like Jessica Seinfeld (“Deceptively Delicious”) who advocate “hiding” or “sneaking” veggies into other foods like brownies for kids to eat.    Why should I sneak “cauliflower” into brownies?  My kids love cauliflower.  Sure that took a couple of years to figure out how, but the alternative— where they eat lots of brownies later in life and wonder why they aren’t thin or healthy—seems absolutely tragic.    When is Jessica going to tell her kids about the ol’ Switcheroo?  How is that teaching kids to love food? Or love honesty?

For me, I am going to keep being honest— which means adding all the bad stuff—salt, sugar and fat— to foods I make as long as those things are relatively organic (like butter or olive oil).  I am going to make sure my kids know the difference between stuff that’s bad for them, like Sour Patch Kids, and stuff that’s not especially bad, but I don’t like (like French’s Mustard or Boston’s Bagels).  As they start to work with me in the kitchen, I will happily teach them that you can easily and healthily make a grilled cheese sandwich without butter, but it just won’t taste as good.    And as I typed this, my daughter was making a grilled cheese sandwich with lots of butter.  She pronounced it perfection.   So, to know that I’ve given her at least that one skill is probably the best Father’s Day gift I can get.