Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ugly Betty

November is a big month for friends' birthdays. This week I baked for two of them.

In the past, my go-to mailing cake has been a dense chocolate-chocolate chip cake with a chocolate ganache glaze.

But I’m kind of tired of baking that one, so I decided to change it up this time. I found a recipe for Milky Way Swirl Cake in the Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor cookbook. I’ve been doing my best to avoid cake mixes lately; I don’t like the artificial taste, and I prefer to know how to pronounce all the ingredients in the food I bake, so for the most part I use the Cake Mix Doctor books for inspiration and frosting recipes.

I decided on Marcy Goldman’s Moist and Mellow Yellow Cake recipe from my standby, The Best of Better Baking .com.

Let me interrupt the cake story for a minute to announce – I got a new camera! My first DSLR. It arrived in the middle of this baking project.

At last, no more scheduling my baking according to the amount of daylight I have left.

Back to my cake. Basically the Milky Way Swirl Cake is a yellow cake with melted Milky Way bars swirled into the batter.

There are very specific instructions with regard to the swirling process. “Spoon the Milky Way mixture in a ring on top of the batter, making sure not to touch the sides of the pan. With a dinner knife, swirl through the batter to create a marbled effect. Do not scrape the bottom of the pan.”

Yeah, well, you need to tell me why I shouldn’t do something, or I’m going to do what I want. The one on the right is pre-swirl, but you can see most of it is touching the edge.

So I put them in the oven, and go about cleaning the kitchen. Eventually I can smell something burning, and I discover they are spilling over the top onto the cupcakes below them.

This should have been my first sign of things to come.

Not only did they sink at the last minute, but one of them completely stuck to the pan and didn’t make the cut for gift-giving. Oooooh, so THAT’S why you’re not supposed to let the caramel touch the pan. Lesson learned. The one somewhat salvageable cake did have a chunk missing from the top, but I did my best to piece it back together, and hoped I could disguise it with the glaze.

In an attempt to detract from the ugliness of the patched top, I sliced a candy bar and placed it around the top of the cake, but that seemed to make the whole thing even more homely looking. I ended up wrapping it in plastic wrap, tying a ribbon around it, and calling it good. What else could I do?

I took the finished cake photos with the new camera, then later that night accidentally erased the photos. Oops.

I still had one more cake to complete. The problem was that I’d run out of flour (and time), so I had to resort to a cake mix. I was careful not to let the caramel touch the side of the pan this time, but some of it snuck out and I had a few uglies on the outside of the cake. But I managed to get it out of the pan, and it seemed to be okay. I made the glaze, which consisted of more melted Milky Way bars, covered it in sprinkles to attempt to hide the imperfections, then covered the whole thing and let the glaze set overnight.

I don't know what happened, but when I got up the next morning the cake had somehow collapsed in spots. Now it really looked miserable.

Eventually I packaged them up and sent them on their way. What is it they say about first impressions and presentation? I was counting on the element of surprise and the creative packaging to make up for the sad little cakes.

I’ll make this again sometime, and I’ll make it from scratch. But I will follow the instructions, I will bake it in a bundt pan, and I will refrain from attempting to mail it anywhere.

Milky Way Swirl Cake

  • Make a yellow cake, your choice

  • Melt 5 oz of Milky Way candy bars with 2 T of water. Cool slightly, then add 1/3 cup of cake batter and 1 T flour.

  • Spoon the Milky Way mixture in a ring on top of the batter, making sure not to touch the sides of the pan. With a dinner knife, swirl through the batter to create a marbled effect. Do not scrape the bottom of the pan. This is important! If you DO, the caramel will stick to the sides of the pan and you'll never get it out in one piece.

  • Bake at 350 until the cake springs back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.

Milky Way Glaze:

  • Melt 5 oz. Milky Way candy bars, 2 T butter, and 2 tsp. water.

The recipe instructs you to let this cool for 10 minutes before pouring it onto the cake, but I think it would harden too fast. I poured mine on right away. Another instance of Stubborn Logic: “If you don’t tell me why not, then it must not be important”. I’m not sure if that’s why some of the second cake sort of collapsed. Who knows? I say use your best judgment.


  1. Congratulations on your DSLR! YOu will LOVE IT. Sorry about your cakes. I mad cupcakes yesterday that were flat... they were really hard to get out of the pan too. I'll blog about them later.

  2. Who cares how it looked. It had Milky Ways sticking out of it!! Double-spectacular-awesomeness! Thank you.