Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 23: Gift, and a Rare Recipe Post.

I'm a day behind, and it'll probably stay that way...but I don't feel bad about it, if it means I get to enjoy my entire Christmas day instead of racking my brain for a blog post! ;)

Christmas Eve already. It really did sneak up on me - somehow, with all my late nights and frantic busyness sewing and stitching. Funny how Thanksgiving just feels like a week or two ago.

I finished all my Christmas sewing this morning, so tonight I took a break and wrapped my little pile of gifts, and baked two cakes. I guess it was half-a-break - I love wrapping presents, but I don't like baking so much. (Ok, I lied. It was really only one cake, but I split it into two pans.)

I only had one roll of wrapping paper. #makingitwork
Christmas is so much fun when you're a kid, receiving presents - but I think it's twice as fun as an adult, giving them. Receiving is still fun, of course. But giving gifts to others, especially kids - there's nothing like it. Watching their faces light up as the paper is ripped off and discarded, revealing something special they've been hoping for...it's just an instant shot of warm and fuzzy.

This year for Christmas the family was split into two groups, those over 12 and those 12 and under, and both groups are doing a simple book exchange. With everyone home for Christmas this year (first time in, I don't know...a while!) we needed something small that everyone could participate in, from the oldest down to the babies. Yes, the babies are giving and receiving books too! Also, the book you (or your children) are giving to someone else has to be one that you already own. (I suppose in dire cases a thrift shop run would have been acceptable...) 

Sometimes it's not about the best and biggest, but the gifts that force you to think about the recipient, and what would they really like. Sometimes the perfect gift requires you to give of yourself, your time, and your own possessions. Trust me, I'm a book hoarder. But I'm giving up three of mine, and there is something very satisfying about knowing that those three books will be going to three other people, who (hopefully) will love them as much as I have! 

Now. Very quickly, the cake. This is a Rare Recipe, because 1) when I cook, I typically don't use a recipe. Most of the recipes I use, I have adapted to my tastes, stored in my head, and nothing is ever the same again; 2) the only time I DO use a recipe is when I bake, and I bake strictly as needed (basically, when I want cake badly enough to have to do it myself). I don't actually like baking. It's too picky. My sister told me I should have a show called "The Grumpy Baker", because of my penchant for repeatedly voicing my dislike for the craft, as well as my constant "But whyyyy can't I just (insert shortcut here)? Why does this have to be so exact? Why can't I just throw this stuff in and be done with it?"

Well, I can. This cake is so, oh so easy, that even the Grumpy Baker doesn't complain about it. Much. ;)
Growing up we'd go to my grandparents' for Christmas dinner, and this cake would always be the star of the dessert table (in my opinion, and not a few others too). 

 First, you get a medium-large bowl, and toss in 2 cups of flour (I always use all-purpose unbleached, but you could use cake flour I think, if you're picky about stuff like that.) Then a cup of plain old white sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. And mix them up nicely.
 Then you cut up 6 Tablespoons of butter into a little bowl and microwave it until it's melted. Cutting it into smaller chunks lets it melt a little faster and a little more evenly. Measure out 2 cups of milk.
 You'll also need 2 cups or so of cranberries. Whole, beautiful, bright red cranberries. The standard 12 oz bag that you find in the grocery store will be just fine. They can be fresh or frozen - if they're frozen, don't bother thawing them. Just throw 'em in there. But rinse them first, and pick out all the yucky ones!
 Then make a little well in the middle of your dry ingredients (the flour mixture you made a few photos back) and pour in the milk and butter, mix it up, and gently add in the cranberries.

This batter is stiff. Like a really thick pancake batter. See? I broke my wooden spoon :( Don't worry, this is not a common side effect of making this cake. But even if it was, it would still be worth it.
What not to do.
 Once it's all mixed up well, pour it into a greased 8x8-ish baking dish. I made a double recipe (which can go nicely into a 9x13), and split it between my 8x8 and my 9 in round pan. That's why I said I made two cakes earlier up there, but then I only took a picture of one.

I like to take a little plastic baggie, stick my hand in it like a glove, grab a little chunk of softened butter, and rub it all over the dish. Then you just flip it back over your hand and throw it out! Easy, and clean.

Bake the cake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, until the cake is golden on top and not squishy in the middle. I stick a toothpick in it and if it comes out covered in batter, it needs a few more minutes.
This one came out perfect.
Then you serve it warm with butter sauce, which you make like this: melt 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar, and 3/4 cup of half-and-half (or heavy cream, if you're feeling dangerous). Bring them to a boil, then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir frequently, because you don't want this stuff sticking to your pan - you want to drink it from a glass, trust me. ;)

No, you don't. But you do want to ladle it generously over individual servings of your cake (pour it into a cute bowl and let your guests do it themselves) and then eat it, and then go back for seconds. And thirds.

Not that I do that.


I don't have any pictures of the sauce because I haven't made it yet - one of these cakes is for tomorrow (well, today) evening at Dave's parents' house for Christmas Eve, and the other is for my parents' house on Christmas Day, so I'll be making the sauce at the respective houses. It's better fresh, but I would never turn it down reheated either. ;)

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