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Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Kelly Cochran is a culinary dreamer, but some dreams are better left unfulfilled. As the author of Buying Time, the first in her humorous mystery series, Kelly leaves the cooking to other writers, preferring to let her protagonist, Aspen Moore, sustain herself on snacks and restaurant food. Learn more about Kelly and her series at her website. 

Attempting to cook with Kelly Cochran – The Applesauce Cake Adventure

Last Christmas Eve, my sister-in-law brought an apple pie as her contribution to our family dinner. When it was time for dessert, she announced, “This is Not Your Mother’s Apple Pie,” to which the apple of my eye, my adult son, responded, “Thank goodness!”

From burning bacon to permanently scorching my brand new pressure cooker, I have somehow managed to keep my family alive. It’s not that I’m a terrible cook; I’m just culinary-challenged despite the cookbooks and cooking magazines that adorn my bookshelves.

As an experimenter in the kitchen, I tend to use recipes as guidelines, which results in family meals being more like one-time adventures.  If a meal turns out really good, my family knows it will be the first and last time it will ever taste that way, and if it’s bad, well, it quickly becomes part of their comedic repertoire.

I wondered, was I even capable of following a recipe? And if I could, would it make a difference in my cooking? So, in honor of my so-called – apple of my eye - and National Applesauce Cake day (June 6th), I decided to find a recipe and follow it as written. But, I’m a rebel in the kitchen, so I couldn’t simply open a cookbook. I needed a little twist. What better way to create my Applesauce Cake Adventure than to choose a recipe almost 100 years old. Thank you Miss Nellie Maxwell.

Let the adventure begin!

The day before making the Cocoa Applesauce Cake, my husband whipped up some homemade applesauce. I stored it in the refrigerator overnight. The applesauce was delicious, but chunky. So the day of, I added a little bit of water and ran the applesauce through a food processor to get a smooth texture before heating it up for use in the cake recipe.

Because the recipe was almost 100 years old, I had to figure out a few things. Like moderate oven means 350° and soda means baking soda (hopefully). And an executive decision had to be made to utilize my Bundt pan since I don’t own any other type of fluted pan. Although the recipe did not indicate whether or not to grease the pan, I thought I should, so I rubbed in some butter flavored Crisco.

I mixed all the ingredients according to the directions and placed the mixture in the oven. After 45 minutes, I removed the pan and put it on a rack to cool. When I was able to pick up the pan without potholders, I turned it over and out came the cake with a thud! Still, I wasn’t discouraged. It was time to make the Sour Cream Icing.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to boil two-thirds of a cup of sour cream and two cups of granulated sugar. But, I figured Nellie Maxwell must know what she’s doing since she had a syndicated food column, The Kitchen Cabinet, during the mid 1900’s.

Amazingly, the contents of the pot became liquid in no time. I continued to cook until it threaded, which I took to mean that when you pulled the wooden spoon up you got a long string back to the contents. I turned off the burner and waited until it became tepid. When I applied the icing, I think it was actually warmer than it should have been because it ended up being more like a glaze. I put the pot in the refrigerator for a little bit then applied more icing to the cake. This resulted in a thicker icing and a big puddle of icing in the middle of the cake. But let’s face it; the icing is the best part isn’t it?

In writing this blog, I had to re-read the recipe and I think I found the culprit that produced my heavy and dense cake: Baking soda. The recipe called for one and one-fourth teaspoons of baking soda, and I vaguely remember only putting in ¼ teaspoon.

At this point, it is quite clear why I don’t write culinary mysteries. However, if I did, my Cocoa Applesauce Cake would make the perfect murder weapon!

Cocoa Applesauce Cake & Sour Cream Frosting (Arizona Tombstone Newspaper – November 18, 1917)

Cocoa Applesauce Cake - Mix together a tablespoonful of cocoa, a teaspoonful of cinnamon, a half-teaspoonful of cloves, two cupfuls of flour and a cupful of raisins. In another dish put a cupful of sugar, a half-cupful of sour cream, a cupful of hot applesauce and one and a fourth teaspoonfuls of soda, which has been stirred into the apple sauce. Beat in the flour mixture and bake in tube pan for 45 minutes in a moderate oven. Frost with sour cream icing.

Sour Cream Icing – Take two-thirds of a cupful of sour cream, two cupfuls of granulated sugar and boil gently until it threads. Cool until tepid. Add a teaspoonful of orange extract and beat until creamy, when it can be spread quickly over the cake. This makes a cream colored frosting.

Applesause (from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook):

4 medium cooking apples, peeled and each cut into fourths (1 1/3 pound)
1/2 cup water
14 cup packed brown sugar or 3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat apples and water to boiling in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up apples, until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Buying Time
Aspen Moore has a new life in a new city, complete with a new career. As a personal concierge, she sells her time to those who don’t have enough. One of the perks of her business is focusing on other people’s lives so she doesn’t have to face the demons in her own.

When Aspen’s most loyal customer dies and his suicide looks eerily like murder, she anonymously tips off the police so she won’t expose a secret she desperately needs to keep. But, murder and mayhem are a bothersome duo and she soon finds herself caught in a web of chaos.

A string of crimes, long enough to make a real detective sweat, threaten her livelihood and ultimately her life. Aspen’s only hope is to untangle the mess before they cause permanent damage. Pursuing the truth means solving the mystery of a decade-old land deal, while juggling a quirky DJ and his dog, an eccentric paraplegic, a curious set of twins, and a flirtatious neighbor with spy gadgets.

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Kelly Cochran said...

I had a fun time finding and attempting to follow the recipe. And taking the photo to make my disaster look scrumptious was also a blast!

I ended up eating a small piece and although it was quite dense, it didn't taste too bad as long as you had a couple of gallons of milk to wash it down!

The remaining cake found its way into my husbands car, so he could take it to his office. And guess what? His co-workers actually ate it!

My husband said that it reminded them of fruitcake - go figure, I created a "beloved" holiday treat (enough sarcasm?) without even trying!

Maybe I am a good cook!

Susan Oleksiw said...

Every now and then my husband asks about something I made that was delicious, but of course I have no idea what I did to make it a success. If I come up with something else, he asks, Did you write it down? I'm a regular at making lemon chicken without the lemon, etc.

Loved your post.

Pam De Voe said...

We all need adventures in our lives. Your culinary adventures add a lot to your family's (beloved) memories!

This was a FUN blog! Thanks!