A group of 13 kids between the age of 9 and 12 gathered at Cooperative Extension in Dobson on June 21 and got creative in the kitchen.
Whitney Collins, extension agent for 4-H youth development conceived the all-day program of baking and creatively decorating cakes and cupcakes for local 4-H members.
Collins enlisted Lisa Hall, the bakery manager of “Just Save” in Dobson to demonstrate for the kids the art of cake decorating. The cupcake portion of the class was taught by 14-year-old Rebecca Cahall who is also a 4-H member.
It was Rebecca’s first time teaching cupcakes. Two years ago, she did an internship where she learned the skills that have brought her to this point. She entered 4-H food show year before last and has gone from there.
The 4‑H website states, “We believe in the power of young people. We see that every child has valuable strengths and real influence to improve the world around us. We are America’s largest youth development organization—empowering nearly six million young people across the U.S. with the skills to lead for a lifetime.”
Rebecca is well on her way. She’s already comfortable in a leadership role at the age of 14. The younger kids took note and will get there in their own way.
If the talents of Surry County’s young 4-H members have inspired you to try your hand at some creative cakes and cupcakes, some recipes follow to help you get started. They are very basic, designed to let your creativity show. Experiment with flavors, colors and textures. While you’re at it, enlist a young relative, friend or neighborhood child to help and do your part to pass on life skills to the next generation.
Unless the child you choose is a 4-H kid in which case he or she can probably show you a thing or two.
Yellow Butter Cake
This is the classic, All-American cake that tastes like birthdays past. A perfect way to teach the classic layer cake to a young person and also easy to modify with flavors and additions.
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Classic Chocolate Layer Cake
The chocolate version of the classic. Dense and rich, like chocolate should be.
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350º F. Butter two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add to the flour mixture and, using an electric mixer, mix until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Transfer one of the cakes to a platter and spread with ¾ cup of the frosting. Top with the remaining cake and spread with the remaining frosting.
The basic buttercream frosting that everyone’s Grandma used to make before frosting came in cans. It’s worth a revival and can be colored with food coloring. The consistency is suitable for piped decorations but due to the melting point of butter, will go soft at room temperature. Intricate piping could lose definition in the heat but the taste is far superior to commercial frostings.
4 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks softened butter (salted or unsalted)
2-3 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. milk
Add powdered sugar to mixing bowl. In your mixer or big mixing bowl, add 4 cups of confectioner sugar. You can sift the powdered sugar if it is really lumpy but mixing the powdered sugar on low for 30 seconds will break up any large lumps. Add two sticks of softened butter Then add vanilla (to taste) and 1 tablespoon of milk. Keep the milk handy to add at the end if you need to thin out the frosting. Start your mixer (or beaters) on the lowest setting. You can put a clean dish towel around your mixer to keep the sugar from flying out. Keep on low until the butter and sugar are incorporated and then kick your mixer up to medium high. Once fully incorporated, after a minute or so, stop the mixer and check the consistency and taste. At this point your frosting may be a little dry. Add a little bit of milk, mix and check again. Always taste your frosting to see if the consistency is wrong, if it needs more vanilla, etc. If you are adding food coloring now is the time to do it. Make sure the food coloring gets fully incorporated. (You can do this part by hand.)
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Classic buttercreams chocolate version.
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
In medium bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed until blended. Stir in vanilla and chocolate. Gradually beat in just enough milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar. Frosts 13×9-inch cake generously, or fills and frosts an 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake.
This is the icing that professional cake decorators use for their fanciest flowers and decorations. It pipes well, holds detail but dries rock-hard. Keep it covered while using to keep it from drying prematurely. Wipe up spills or mishaps immediately because it dries rock-hard on your floors and counters just like it does on your cakes. Can be thinned for floods of color.
2 egg whites
2 lb. confectioner sugar, sifted (Not all may be used)
1 tsp. lemon juice
Combine egg whites and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add some of the sifted confectioners sugar to the mixture and start the mixer. Keep adding sugar a little at a time. When the mixture looks like thick whipped cream and makes soft peaks when you push down the hooks/paddle in it, you can use it for piping.
When you have the soft peak icing, you start to only add 2 tbsp. of powdered sugar at a time because from now on the icing will get more and more stiff. When you can pull out small stiff peaks, the icing is ready. Cover the icing with cling film and a lid or wet cloth and store it in the fridge.
If you want to make runny icing for flooding cookies or making run-outs then take some royal icing (stiff made) into a bowl and start mixing it with water, a few drops at the time. Continue this until the icing it thin and liquid. It should be smoothing out when you lift the spoon. The mixing with the water will most likely cause many air bubbles in the icing, so it is always good to cover up the icing and let it “rest” for 30 min. Then give it a slow stir and you have reduced the amount of air bubbles in your icing.
Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.