Thursday, March 31, 2022

A is for Angel Food Cake

#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

When I was little, angel food cake was THE cake for celebrations. My great aunt baked them and smothered them in thick frosting. 

With my mama on my 1st birthday. My great
 aunt made this cake for me

My mom also made angel food cakes when I was growing up (lightly glazed instead of fiercely frosted). Just like my great aunt, when the cake came out of the oven, my mom turned it upside down over an empty Pepsi bottle to cool, but unlike my great aunt, my mom's cakes came from a mix. 

My 5th birthday cake, made by my mama.
Excuse the logos; I was too lazy to look 
for a better version of this photo.

As a kid, I couldn't tell the difference beyond the different icing on each, but a few years back, my parents started picking up (unfrosted) angel food cakes from a Mennonite bakery, and I became reacquainted with the kind of cake my great aunt used to bake.

Since I decided to Eat the Alphabet for this year's A to Z Challenge, what better place to start than with - ta daaaa - angel food cake?!  And then see if anyone could tell the difference between a mix cake and scratch cake and see which they preferred!

Let me start by saying that anyone with a mixer and an angel food cake pan* can make an angel food cake from a mix. Well, unless you don't have access to water, of course, as that is the ONLY THING YOU ADD TO THE STUFF IN THE BOX. Dump cake mix into bowl of mixer. Add water. Mix. Pour in pan. Bake. Turn upside down onto a Pepsi bottle or something close to it. Let cool. Run a knife around the cake inside the pan and shimmy it out onto a cake plate. Done, unless you want to add frosting, which I have discovered I don't care that much for when it comes to angel food cake, so I make mine commando.**

All it takes for the mix cake

Couple of minutes in the mixer

Done and ready to flip over

The scratch cake was a little more complicated. 

For starters, you need a dozen egg whites, and thanks to supply chain issues and world events, a dozen eggs costs more than an entire angel food cake mix, but I soldiered on for The Cause and separated away AND am pleased to say I didn't break ONE SINGLE YOLK. I also ended up with a literal cup of egg yolks that I didn't want to throw away (stay tuned to see what I did with them).

Beat the egg whites. Add cream of tartar (which is a powder and not creamy AT ALL) and sugar and beat some more (bless you, my 29 year old Kitchen Aid mixer). Carefully fold in more sugar and cake flour. Do all the other things to end up with a cake on a plate.

Hmmm. A few more ingredients

About 10 minutes of beating egg whites
gets you this

Sifting in dry ingredients with a sieve,
even though I SWEAR I bought a
real sifter a few months ago. Sifting
with a sieve is messy or maybe
that's just a technique thing.

Dry ingredients folded into the egg whites

In the pan

Out of the oven

No, it's not a Pepsi bottle. It's a funnel
that had belonged to my grandma and
it's only function is EXACTLY THIS

The results:

The finished products. Scratch on the left.
Mix on the right.

An angel food cake made from a mix is extremely airy and light. You can see that by how much taller it is than the scratch cake. It's much sweeter than the scratch cake, and a little wetter. (Don't you mean "moister"? No, I mean wetter, because that's what it is. Wetter.)

The scratch cake is more dense than a mix cake, but by dense I don't mean heavy. Just has more body to it. Not so poofy. Less sweet. Not wet.

So how did the taste testing go at work? 

Half of my co-workers were unable to discern correctly which was from a mix and which was from scratch, but the scratch cake was overwhelmingly the favorite.

What does this prove?

Very little.

But it was certainly a delicious experiment.

*you CAN bake an angel food cake in a loaf pan (or two)

**please note that by saying "I make mine commando" I was NOT implying that I was commando when I made the cake; rather, the CAKE was commando by virtue of lack of frosting

Sunday, March 27, 2022

One Of Those Silver Lining Weeks

What a week, what a week! The university where I work was on spring break this week, but the child care center where I work was not (don't even get me started on that). Since we are largely staffed by student workers, it is quite the juggling act to find enough who stay local for the week to keep us within our mandated adult-to-child ratios. This makes for an exhausting week, not going to lie. By Friday, I was pooped!

I also had ants in my kitchen again this week, only this time, instead of just wandering around in front of the refrigerator, the little fuckers had found the cat food dishes AND THE $80 PRESCRIPTION DRY CAT FOOD as well as were scurrying all over the dining room floor (and as two empty nesters, we have not eaten in the dining room in MONTHS, so don't know what they expected to find there). Naturally, I found them in the morning before work (and by before work, I mean 15 minutes before I HAVE to leave to get there on time, and since I am the one who opens the Center and is the only one there that early with a key, it is imperative that I be there on time) and had to rush around squishing ants, spraying botanical ant spray (which ran out after two pitiful pfffffts), cleaning bowls, getting ants out of the prescription dry food, and building a moat for said dry food dispenser in a large cafeteria tray (it would be an understatement to say that that act, while brilliant, did not go over well with the cat crew). I also took the time to run all the upstairs and wake my husband up and OH SO GENTLY (hah!) let him know the state of the state. After a long day at work, I went to Lowe's for more of the botanical ant spray plus some ant traps, only to find they didn't have the spray in that store or any other within a 30 mile radius, and no other store in town carried it. I bought a substitute, took it home, sprayed the dining room floor, and placed the contents of one of two boxes of ant bait strategically around the kitchen and dining room.

Friday morning, as I was playing my down-to-the-wire-to-get-out-of-the-house-in-time-to-open game, I ventured into the kitchen, flipped on the light, annnnnnd NO ANTS. I was encouraged, but not enough to take the food out of the moat (sorry, kitties). I did think I would have just enough time to give them their little dollops of canned food (#spoiledcats) before I had to leave (picking up whatever they didn't finish and cleaning the bowls first), but I needed to run down to the basement and get the large cat carrier to put in the car, as I was leaving directly after work to head to Kansas City to spend the weekend with my daughter and bring back the grandcat while she went on spring break. 

As I walked down the stairs, followed by three cats who wanted breakfast and didn't know what was causing the delay, I could see what appeared to be cat poop and a puddle on the floor just beyond the foot of the stairs. Why, why, why, I shouted at them, since the litter box was literally six feet from that spot, but upon closer inspection, I found it was a hairball surrounded by saliva and what seemed to be a thousand ants feasting on this bounty. (My best guess is one of the kitties walked through the dining room where I sprayed the floor, and even though the new spray SAID it was safe for pets and children, I am having my doubts, then got it on their paws, tried to WASH it off their paws, and yarfed it up, along with a hairball. Poor kitty - now I feel bad for yelling.) I cleaned up the floor while trying to leave as many ants as possible, put out the second box of ant traps, and hoped the survivors would gobble it up and take it back to the queen. Now it's a waiting game.

Yucky weeks make the thankfuls shine even more!

In spite of an exhausting week, I love my job and I love my little nugs. 

It didn't snow! Hopefully, that's all behind us now.

The grass is greening up, the daffodils are blooming, the trees are budding.

I got to leave work a little early on Friday to head to Kansas City (two and a half hour drive).

Hitting the road!

Made a smiley stop at my friend Julie's favorite truck stop. It has heated toilet seats. HEATED TOILET SEATS. Why don't all toilets have these?! When I worked at Warner Bros in Burbank, our toilet seats were like sitting on a block of ice and made you levitate a little as soon as you sat down.


My daughter and I spent Saturday going to thrift stores, roaming around a mall, shopping at World Market, and eating.

We ate at a Thai restaurant that we have driven past several times and wondered about. Reviews for it were excellent, so we had lunch there. Not really that great, but now we know and won't have to wonder anymore!

Ate delicious ice cream at Fairway Creamery to make up for our mediocre lunch. I had salted caramel. She had toasted marshmallow.

Salted caramel. Mmmm.

My daughter and I took two walks yesterday above and beyond all the shopping (the first one because I guilted her into going with me since I was going to do it anyway, the second to get food, so she was totally up for that). We walked to the Nelson Art Gallery (which was already closed) and then walked around the entire (vast!) sculpture garden on the grounds, plus BONUS got to see high school kids taking prom pictures on the steps and a couple getting their engagement photos taken. We took a second walk to the Plaza to pick up food from Shake Shack and made it back to her apartment in time for the tip off of the Arkansas v Duke game.

With one of three of the famous shuttlecocks.

These are kind of creepy.


Close up.

View from the top (of the grounds, not
the building. That would have been cool 
though. It's tall.

The Razorbacks lost to Duke in the Elite Eight of the NCAA men's basketball playoffs, but we enjoyed the ride there and didn't give up on them!

Instead of virtual church today, I get to be there live and in person! My communion elements are more exciting when I'm left to my own devices (last week it was a toffee brownie and Diet Dr Pepper), but I love every chance I can get to attend Community Christian Church when I'm in KC.

I hope you can find thankfuls in any situation! Write yours and link up with us, this and every weekend at Ten Things of Thankful blog hop!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Keep Swimming

So much for not waiting until Sunday evening to post my Ten Things of Thankful list....

Last week, I conked out asleep in my chair Sunday evening and didn't wake up until right after midnight. No post for the host!

It's not easy to focus on things I am thankful for this week, as our town has had quite a shock. Three police officers were shot last week, and two of the officers were killed. The other has life changing injuries and is still in serious condition and will require many surgeries. All of it was over a pair of jeans that the suspect shoplifted from a local store. A pair of jeans. The suspect stole a police car and fled the scene after shooting the first two officers. The third was shot several blocks away as he sat in his police car. The suspect was shot and killed. On Friday, a former police chaplain had a medical emergency while driving and died in a single car accident.

It's a lot.

Our town is small enough that pretty much everyone knew these men or their families in some way, or they knew someone who did. The chaplain was formerly a pastor at the church we attended for many years and one of the nicest guys you could ever know. 

If you're a praying type, there are grieving families, friends, co-workers, and just plain citizens who could stand to be lifted up. If you aren't, some warm thoughts would also be welcomed.

My list this week:

I'm thankful for our law enforcement. We often think of them in terms of meanies who might give us a speeding ticket or catch us rolling through a stop sign, but in reality, they are so much more.

I'm also thankful for:

  • the return of daylight savings time
  • finding a Wilton Holly Hobbie cake pan at a thrift store
  • an unexpected snow day this week
  • committing to participating in the A to Z Challenge this year 
  • the promise of spring in the air
  • my 29 year old Kitchen Aid mixer that still serves me well
  • homemade marshmallows (more on that at a later date)
  • new tires on our minivan
  • being appreciated at work

Holly Hobbie cake pan. Stay tuned
for the actual cake to be baked!

Keep swimming, y'all.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Blogging From A to Z Challenge: Theme Reveal 2022

When my son was about 7, he decided he no longer wished to participate in the church Christmas pageant. We did attend the performance, however, and partway through the program, he leaned over to me and said with a heavy sigh, "I'm feeling the 'L' word." I looked at him blankly and asked what the "L" word was, and he sadly said, "Left out."

I get it. 

I've participated in the annual Blogging from A to Z Challenge five times since my first one in 2014. The years I didn't join the Challenge, I definitely felt the "L" word myself. 

I'm not sure how I think I'm going to pull it off, especially considering I am host of the weekly blog hop Ten Things of Thankful and barely (and often not) keeping my head out of water with it, but by golly, I'm not going to feel the "L" word THIS time!

This year, I am going to eat my way through the alphabet by making foods that correspond with each letter of the alphabet, accompanied by badly staged photographs and maybe some taste tests and, of course, the recipes. 

Come back and see if I can pull it off, starting Friday, April 1, with "A is for (fill in the blank). No, really, fill in the blank for me! Like all of them! I have not planned anything yet!

Not shown: lemon juice spatters, counters covered with
powdered sugar, spilled flour, butter wrappers, and
many, many dirty bowls and utensils