For the very first time, The #1 Cooking Group ate dessert first.
Well, okay, we didn't exactly eat it, but we tasted....
and we tasted...
and we tasted...
(How could we not taste? See our role model in the painting? She's licking the spoon, too!)
As a rule, we haven't done much baking in Ninecooks group cooking, because we plan to cook and eat, and clean the kitchen, within three hours. However, the #1 group meets on weekends, so we have a bit more time for the actual cooking. And Mary, whom we all ask to bake our birthday cakes, volunteered to teach us how to make a basic cake, and to tweak the recipe ever so slightly to create a delicious variation.
We started with a Light Chocolate Cake, made with Dutch cocoa and a touch of cognac. Half of the group worked on that recipe while, at the same time, the others converted the recipe to a spice cake, by replacing the cocoa with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (and an extra third of a cup of cake flour).
Though both cakes could be baked in a tube pan, we opted to make them layer cakes, in part because the cakes themselves would bake more quickly...but really because we figured out that we'd be able to use more frosting.
For the frosting recipes, we turned to the King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion and used their recipes for Easy Buttercream (for the spice cake), and Easy Chocolate Buttercream (for the light chocolate cake). We made both frostings while the cakes cooled, and observed that the white buttercream stayed more moist, while the chocolate one needed to be loosened a bit (with a touch of brandy, which seemed to do the trick). Our guess? The white frosting contained some vegetable shortening, the chocolate one only butter.
After the frosting, we decorated simply with nasturtiums from the garden.
The rest of our dinner came together quickly: grilled salmon and haddock with peach and tomato salsa; grilled squash from Cathy's garden; salad greens and feta from Glocester Greens and Goats, with pears from my trees; corn on the cob; and grilled garlic bread.
It was all prelude, however, to the cakes. Both light and delicious, both beautiful. Both gone!
It was warm enough to enjoy our meal on the porch — a real treat before Fall really settles in. And for the #1 Cooking Group, Fall promises to be fun; two more members of this group have offered to lead our next cooking sessions. Look for Jessica's Korean barbecue and Jennifer's Mardi Gras/cajun menus in the months ahead as we continue our fifth year of cooking together.