I jokingly say its to make and keep friends.
But there is some truth to it :-)
I work every weekend, while everyone else works every other. My one set of weekenders knows to watch for the Tupperware with the red lid. That means there are cookies or some sort of treat. One night I stepped of the elevator and heard:
"LOOK there's the red Tupperware!!!"
Um...glad to see you all too. Haha.
I have a variety of things I bake and have gotten bored with them. I could make most of them in my sleep while teaching a monkey to do it. So one night I asked them what they like...I wanted a challenge.
Jerry told me about this cake that is made by 2 bakeries in Cleveland. The story is that years ago a man by the name of Dick Baker had a bakery that sold a famous Date Nut cake. After he retired (or passed...not sure) his daughters bickered and split. They both took the recipe and now there are 2 bakeries in Cleveland that sell this cake: Dick's Bakery. And Baker's Bakery. I guess each claim to sell the best date nut cake in Cleveland.
Jerry went on to tell me that all Irish Catholics from Cleveland have a date nut cake for every birthday and every celebrations. I'm not sure if the *all* was exaggerated or not, but this cake seemed very special to him. It was obvious that it is a big deal to have a date nut cake. Who woulda thought?
I immediately was up for the challenge. I started researching it and trying to find a recipe. I found all kinds of information on this cake. But no recipe. I did find that there are people who live all over the country (Cleveland natives) that will FLY IN to Cleveland just to pick up one these cakes for their birthday. So maybe he wasn't exaggerating when he said *ALL* Cleveland natives love this cake.
I finally found a blog that claimed to have made up a recipe that mimicked it. The author's wife was from Cleveland and agreed it tasted exactly the same.
Jerry kept laughing while I was getting information from him about this cake. I'm still not sure if he was laughing at me or laughing because he was so excited to get a date nut cake.
I couldn't wait to make this cake. I love a challenge and I love to bake. It is my stress reliever. Not to mention how awesome would that be if I actually made a cake that was the same as a famous bakery?
Date Nut Cake
(This is single layer cake, double for layered cake)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your pan.
Warm the milk and dates in a pan or microwave until warm. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix on low until combined. Scrape the bowl. Add 1/2 of the milk mixture. Mix until combined. Continue until all the flour and milk is added. Mix in the walnuts making sure everything is combined.
Pour into a 9" round or 8x8" square.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
I sliced off the tops to make a nice even cake for layering.
Nibbling on the cut off tops, I was pleased that it wasn't disgusting. It tasted good. Jerry described it as a spice cake, and this cake has no spice and didn't taste like a spice cake. I knew then it was not the same as a Baker's Bakery cake. But since I had never had one, I wasn't 100% sure. I decided to journey on and finish the cake.
*I doubled this recipe. I should have make a third batch.
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter at room temp
5 oz powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3-4 Tbsp warm water
Cream shortening, butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. (Use the whisk attachment. It fluffs up so much better). Add water, 1 Tbsp at a time, to the creamed mixture. Once all the water is added, whip on high for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
It layered nicely and went together perfectly. I put it in the freezer to firm up before putting on the final layer of frosting and the decorative walnuts.
Once it was nicely firm, I took it out of the freezer and put the final layer of frosting on the cake. I have never used nuts on the sides of a cake, so I wasn't sure if I was going to mess up the entire cake at this point.
I took it in to work and we had to wait awhile until things quieted down long enough to cut in to the cake. Not to mention it was still a little (or a lot) frozen.
I passed the test.
He said it was really good but it wasn't the same as a Baker's Bakery cake.
Their's was fluffier (I noticed this batter was more like a banana bread batter, not a cake batter) and their's had a spice to it.
I need to do some more research. Or make up my own recipe.
Making an exact replica of the cake wasn't really about the cake. Its about accepting challenges and going for it. It is who I am. I thrive on them. It is what makes me tick and what keeps me going.
It is when someone tells me that no one can do something, in this case make a cake just like the famous Cleveland one, that I look them in the eye and say 'watch me'. It is about doing what it takes to succeed and beat a challenge.
Even though this cake was not an exact replica, it still felt like a success. I've only make 2 other layered cakes before in my life. One was a MASSIVE flop and the other one a friend (professional cake decorator) helped me layer it. I've always been afraid of making layered cakes.
Now that I know I can do it, I'm ready to take on my next challenge of a layered cake for this weekend.
Stay tuned :-)