The thing I hear most when I tell people I am a baker is, “Oh, my brain doesn’t work that way! It’s too scientific. I like to cook but I can’t bake.”
I get it. I really get it. Baking is intimidating. There are so many RULES. One wrong move and you can ruin everything. Kind of.
I have actually found that is really hard to completely ruin a cake or a batch of cookies. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done it. My first day working at a bakery I was so nervous that I sprinkled a whole batch of muffins with iodized salt instead of sugar. Another time I forgot the sugar all together in a batch of SUGAR cookies. They were the worst. Ever.
Barring any major disasters, baked goods are pretty forgiving. Even if something goes wrong, its usually OK. It turns out that one of my favorite chocolate cakes is just my regular chocolate cake without the baking powder or baking soda. How do I know? Because one time I was making my regular chocolate cake and forgot the baking powder and baking soda. Oops.
And don’t get me started on substitutions. As long as I am cooking for fun and not for an order, I’m constantly making substitutions! Don’t have cake flour? Use all purpose. It will be different, but I promise you, it’s fine. Don’t have milk? Do you have sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt or mayonnaise? Any of those will do (well, mayo is for desperate times and generally works best in combination with one of the other subs.) Out of sugar? Do you have maple syrup or honey? You’re good. The only thing I try not to mess with is the baking soda/baking powder. Because, science.
I recently came into a bounty of citrus fruits. I juiced a lot of it and froze it, but I wanted to make something that day. I remembered that I had made Giada Di Laurentis’ Orange Ricotta Cake and loved it. I had ricotta on hand and decided to do it.
I am pasting Giada’s recipe below. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it. But let me tell you about some of the improvisation that I had to do (we were about to head out of town and resources were limited.)
First of all, I have no idea how muchRicotta I used. It might have been 1.5 Cups, but probably not. It may have been more like two cups, maybe just one cup. No Idea. I just emptied the rest of the container right into the mixing bowl.
Second of all, I only had about ¼ cup sugar left in my enormous sugar bin. I used a combination of honey and powdered sugar for the rest. Less than 1.5 cups total though because honey and powdered sugar are sweeter.
I did 3 tsp. of baking powder instead of 2.5. Just because!
I don’t know what kind of life Giada lives, but I don’t have amararetto lying around.
Also. I wanted a glaze on it. So I put a glaze it! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And you know what? It was one of the best cakes I have ever made. EVER.
And you know what else? I had so much fun making it.
ou do not have to take baking so seriously. It should be fun.
Giada De Laurentiis' Orange Pound Cake with Strawberries
You can also find the recipe HERE
· 1 1/2 cups cake flour
· 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
· 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
· 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
· 3 large eggs
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1 orange, zested
· 2 tablespoons Amaretto
· Powdered sugar, for dusting
· 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered or 3 oranges, cut into supremes
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and Amaretto until combined.
Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Using a mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.
Meanwhile, place the strawberries (or orange supremes) in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit until the juices have pooled around the strawberries.
To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of strawberries and their juices over the top of the cake.