Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gigi's Texas sheet cake

I like to live a leisurely life, it's not always possible, but with just one daughter, I get a few opportunities to do this. When she sleeps on the weekend - I do what I can to sleep as well. After TWO AND A HALF HOURS of sleep this afternoon, Recaro woke me up with a cup of tea and a request that he be released from duties to go to the pub. Peaches was still sleeping.

'Sure' I said. AND THEN LAID IN BED READING A BOOK, DRINKING TEA. It was more than bliss. There are words - I'm just resisting the temptation to swear on-line, let's just say it was fabulous.

Then I thought, if Peaches is still sleeping, I'd better start doing something useful before she wakes up. So I went downstairs to discover the kitchen in a bit of mess - but that Recaro had CLEANED AND REORGANISED our larder cupboard. How glad am I that I didn't mutter darkly about his trip to the pub. The boy did good.

With morning memories of making Peaches giggle, I started wondering what nice thing I could do next.
I decided today was the day to make Gigi's Texas sheet cake. I'd not heard of this before, but I'd seen her really straightforward recipe and compared it to The Pioneer Woman's more complicated version (which involves buttermilk...). Gigi's won my vote. After battling through the Daring Baker's Challenge I needed to try something simpler.

There were a number of factors that had intrigued me about this cake:

1. The name. I know very little about the big state, but it does have some romantic connotations. I have this idea that southern states know a thing or two about desserts and sweet stuff - I also imagine the women wear white gloves, hats and only drink homemade lemonade.

2. It involves boiling up water, butter and cocoa. Freaky.

3. I couldn't understand if it was going to be a cakey type of cake or if it would be a pudding type cake. Maybe it's a misguided perception, but I'm not certain that Americans make the same distinction between cake and pudding that Brits might. The only way to find out, would be to make it.

I used the following ingredients, converted to UK weights and measures from Gigi's original recipe:

For the cake
250ml water
8oz unsalted butter
6tbs cocoa (level)
8oz granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
8oz self raising flour
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp baking powder
6tbsp milk

For the icing
4oz butter
6tbs cocoa (level)
6tbs milk
1lb icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract (I forgot this!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F or 180C (Gas? Sorry, I don't know). Lightly butter a large swiss roll tin. American's call them jelly roll tins which sounds very jolly but no help at all if you are in your local UK cookshop.

2. Start with the cake, putting water, butter and cocoa in a saucepan. Stirring frequently, bring to the boil and then set aside.

3. Mix up sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla in a bowl. This ended up almost like dough - Gigi, did I go too far with this?
4. Add the hot cocoa mix to the cake dough and mix it up good.

5. Put 1tsp of baking powder into 6tbsp of milk. Stir it up and add to the cake batter.

6. Pour cake batter into the swiss roll tin. I was so cautious about how much cake I was producing that I prepared two tins. One tin was enough and two would have been a mistake.Put it in the oven for 12-17 minutes. Like many cakes, a knife should come out clean when it's ready. While the cake is baking, get cracking with the topping.

7. Put butter, cocoa and milk in a saucepan. Heat this till it's all melted and mixed together. Add the icing sugar - I added this pretty slowly so that it wouldn't dust the whole kitchen. It would have been a good idea to have sieved it - it took quite some heating to break down the lumps. The Pioneer Woman adds chopped pecans to her topping... but that was getting too close to brownie territory for me.
8. Here's the cake. You can see how uneven the heat is in my oven. It's supposed to be fan-assisted, but it's clearly only risen on one side and is even a bit burnt on the other. I'm loathe to open the oven on a baking cake... what to do?? The good thing is, that this cake is moist enough for this not to be a problem.
9. At this point, I was getting happy. Peaches had woken up by now and I'd cooked her dinner of pan-fried sea bass and baked beans (what do you mean that sounds revolting - it was lovely) while finishing the cake. I wasn't really paying attention to how the icing was flowing...
As you can see, it all worked out fine. To my mind, it works best as a hot chocolate pudding - if you can handle the time you'll need to spend in the kitchen getting it finished. It's going to be lovely cut into squares to eat with coffee. In fact, it's going to be ideal to take some to my mother-in-law's tomorrow for some daughter-in-law points.
Hot, moist, scrumptious Texas sheet cake just in time for Peaches' dessert.
So long as Recaro doesn't get in the way. This, by the way, was her second helping. She'd eaten plenty of fruit and veg at lunch, so it seemed mean to refuse her sudden ability to enunciate 'more'... That's my excuse, anyhoo.

Of course, the calorie laden dessert probably had quite a lot to do with her desire to tear around the living room pulling her dog behind her. We also had some dancing to Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.
It was all quite exhausting.
Thank you Gigi for the recipe, the calories, the smiles and the word 'more'.


Reluctant Housewife said...

Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince... really? Cool! I love Will Smith and have since his Fresh Prince days.

You know I have never made a cake from scratch? I should try it sometime.

scrappysue said...

as i was reading your post, i said out loud to DH - 'who feeds a 3 year old fried sea-bass and baked beans?' he replies - 'i wouldn't wanna see THAT on the way out!!!'

love it! anything healthy like that you can get into a toddler is all good.

GREAT POST!!! the cake looks amazing - did you invite the whole town around to finish it? that's the thing with american recipes - i usually have to QUARTER them and can still feed the entire family.

is it me, or have you jazzed up your left side bar - it's looking mighty spiffy! i might have to see what my reading level is...

come on people = sass is still at 25% for her charity run - SPONSOR HER NOW!!!!!

gigi said...

I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU MADE IT!! I'm so proud of you! Did you like it? I want to make again but I would just sit right down and use a spoon and eat most of it myself. I've got to wait until I feed a crowd again so that I will share it.

Another thing... I'm shocked that your husband organized your cupboard!? I would just love it if I could get that kind of help! He's a keeper! HAve a wonderful weekend! And thanks for trying my recipe.

jakelliesmom said...

1) Does your spouse offer lessons? Maybe he could start a blog, offering household tips to other husbands?

2) Oh, that cake looks delicious. I'm glad to see my oven isn't the only one with some issues.

Working mum said...

Mmm - looks scrumptious. I made cheesecake while daughter was away; she decided she wanted it separate: biscuit base, cheesecake, strawberries. Oh no, she's reaching the 'separate' phase!

gigi said...

I finally made this again yesterday! Actually I made two. I took one to my youth Sunday School class and the other one we had for sunday lunch and I also share with some friends! I love this but now I won't make it again for a long time. I made myself sick by eating two big pieces. Back to the diet today!

Nicol said...

Looks like a wonderful cake! Now being an American myself, I believe that I know the difference between cake and pudding. Cake is cake and pudding is that creamy stuff. lol! Perhaps our cakes and puddings are different.

CC said...

2.5 hours of sleep??????? Wooooooooow!