Friday, December 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Lasagnas

Headlines can be deceiving. This actually has nothing to do with lasagna. Well.......not directly anyway. Today while talking over how to plan our day tomorrow, what time we have to be everywhere, what we need to bring, etc, we realized that not only will we be having lasagna for dinner at my family's Christmas Eve, we are also having lasagna at The Chef's family's Christmas Eve. That's a lotta pasta !! Oh well, we did the same thing on Thanksgiving- turkey at one house and turkey at the other.

Since we don't have to cook the meal I get the easy way out- making desserts again. This is a time in my life when new traditions are being created so I've chosen to make something new for one dessert- Red Velvet Cake Balls. And in keeping with some of the old traditions I'm hoping to recapture with my family, I've chosen a very old recipe, Watergate Cake.

Ohhhh cake balls. I've been reading about these guys for some time now, looking at all the photos on Pinterest of the fabulously decorated cake balls (mine will NOT be that fancy !!) The actual cake balls are super easy to make- the dipping and decorating are pretty time consuming. But...the chef is at work til late, and I have nothing else to do out here in the country so....melting white chocolate, dipping cake balls and experimenting is on the agenda for me tonight.

I have seen cake balls in every flavor imaginable. Red Velvet Cake is a childhood favorite of mine. My mother, when I was a young girl, worked at the Hyatt House in Des Moines. They had an amazing pastry chef on staff and always had the most incredible desserts. Once in a while she would bring something home for my sister and I, and Red Velvet Cake was my favorite of all. Their chef used the classic Waldorf Astoria recipe, and that is also what I always use when making this heavenly cake.

To make the classic Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake:

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces red food coloring
2 tb cocoa (heaping)
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vinegar

Cream shortening, sugar and eggs together with mixer. Make a paste of food color and cocoa, add to creamed mixture. Add buttermilk alternating with flour and salt. Add vanilla. Add soda to vinegar and blend into batter. Pour into 3 or 4 greased and floured 8" cake cakes (I used a 9x13 pan for this recipe). Bake at 350 for 25-30 mins. Cool completely.

To make the cake balls, crumble the completely cooled cake into large bowl. Using store-bought cream cheese frosting, start by mixing in about 1/2 the can of frosting- mix thoroughly, adding more frosting if needed until mixture is evenly moistened but NOT gooey.

The frosting "dissolves" into the cake and should mix in completely.

Cover mixture and chill for a couple hours minimum. Roll chilled mixture into balls and place on cookie sheet.

Freeze for an hour or so to set the mixture, then dip into melted chocolate or candy coating of choice. I am using about a pound of white chocolate.

Return to cookie sheet and chill until firm, decorate as desired.

Mine aren't as fancy as some I've seen but for a first timer, they were pretty delish !!

Another old favorite of mine is Watergate Cake. Once a staple in church cookbooks and potlucks, it has pretty much disappeared from the dessert menu. But it will always be one of my favorites. I'm making a much simpler version this time because I have to drive quite a ways with it in the car, but if I were making this for dinner guests at my house, I would make 2 layers, split them, brush layers with Di Saronno before filling and frosting with the pistachio mousse, which would have had about 1/4 cup of the milk swapped out with Di Saronno.

Watergate Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package white or yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup 7Up or Sprite (use can use sparkling wine for an extra touch)
1 3 oz package instant pistachio pudding mix
1/2 cup or so chopped maraschino cherries
additional pistachios, chopped, if desired.

Mix all ingredients in large bowl.

I added a little bit of green food coloring to brighten the color. You don't have to.

Pour into prepared cake pans. You can do layers, Bundt, 9x13, cupcakes- whatever you like. This time I am doing 9x13 because I have to transport the cake and it's much easier than trying to hold up four layers in the car.

For the frosting I use a "mousse" style frosting I have been making for years and works great with any combo of pudding/cake flavor.

1 envelope Dream Whip
1 box instant pudding (pistachio for this recipe)
1 1/2 cups cold milk
food coloring if desired (I used a bit of green)

Combine all ingredients in bowl, whip with mixture until firm peaks form. 

Frost cake, decorate as desired. Store in fridge.

I'm not overly thrilled with the cake as a 9x13 cake but the bright red cherries and green fluffy frosting do look a little festive! I think this cake flavor would make great cake balls too !!

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