Having three teenaged boys at my house means endless trips to the grocery store to keep their tremendous appetites at bay. Buying and cooking in bulk is key, and I try to make as much "from scratch" as possible.
One of my favorite things to do is baking, but sometimes keeping the cookie jar full around these guys is a challenge. When I'm really feeling whimsical (or lazy) I will whip up a pan of brownies but mostly I stick to the basics and am pretty certain I've made enough gingersnaps and snickerdoodles to circle the globe many times.
I'd thought about expanding my repertoire to include cakes, but with the recent explosion of cupcakes as art and cake decorating to the extreme (about which we have many books at Cecil County Public Library), I was intimidated. Not to mention that a cake seemed like an awful lot of work for the very short shelf life it would have at our home.
Recently, though, I found a cookbook at my local library that boosted my baking confidence. Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes is a collection of 100 easy-to-follow recipes for simple but yummy desserts broken down into six categories: snacking, round, loaf, bundt, crumb, and angel food and chiffon. They range from a basic gingerbread to rustic Italian treats like the red grape, polenta and olive oil cake.
My first attempt was a fresh strawberry cake with white chocolate chips that I made and gave as a thank-you gift to my husband's parents. It was fairly easy to do, looked like it was a lot more effort than it actually was and my in-laws loved it. Score! I then dug around in the back of my pantry and blew the dust off my bundt pan for a triple chocolate sensation that was just the right amount of gooey goodness.
Feeling somewhat more confident as a baker, I went on to try the cinnamon pudding cake (it reminded us of a cake version of shoofly pie), blueberry cornmeal bundt (delicious with morning coffee) and the Southern classic: Coca-Cola chocolate cake. Other interesting recipes I plan to tackle: Nutella swirl pound cake, peanut butter and jelly crumb, a stout and chocolate snacking cake with glaze (beer and chocolate together!?)
While the recipes varied in degree of difficulty, they all were straightforward with no frills or fancy fondants. They are flavorful and elegant on their own as everyday eats, but Chattman also includes serving suggestions to "dress up" the cakes if company is coming over. There are also plenty of pictures to entice, as well as helpful hints from choosing the right tools to determining when your cake is done.
Chattman's book is a standout and is worth looking into for easy and delicious treats to wow your family and friends (even teenagers!)
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin