A sweet celebration: A cake from every state for the Fourth of July

Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lawyer-turned-baker Warren Brown's newest cake cookbook, "United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State," has a lot to offer.

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Photo By Joshua Cogan
Photo By Joshua Cogan
Warren Brown's new 224-page "United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State" features a cut-out of the continental United Sates front cover and cake and dessert recipes from every state. Brown's Texas Sheet Cake, upper right, which Brown describes as "easy, big, and dark-chocolate" and "one of the fastest ways to impress and feed a crowd," is a perfect dessert for celebratory occasions like the Fourth of July. Photographs by Joshua Cogan, cover design by Alissa Faden.

As the owner of several CakeLove bakeries in the Washington, D.C. area, Brown knows his following's penchant for variety and has filled his second cookbook with at least one recipe for cake or dessert from all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Brown's first cookbook, "CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch," won loyal fans with uniquely flavored recipes for Mojito Pound Cake and Triple Lime Chocolate Crunchy Feet, and "United Cakes of America" follows similarly, with formulas for Lemon-Ginger Pound Cake (from Florida) or Maple Creme Brulee (from Vermont).

Besides the recipes, one of the most appealing things about Brown's new cookbook is its front cover, which features a real peek-a-boo cut-out of America with views of Coconut Cupcakes from Hawaii, Texas Sheet Cake with Chocolate Pecan Icing, and a citrus-ricotta filled Cassata Cake from Brown's home state of Ohio.

Arriving in time for the Fourth of July holiday, "United Cakes of America" is a good resource for celebratory dessert ideas no matter where you live, or where you're from. From Baked Alaska to South Carolina's Lady Baltimore Cake, Brown's not overlooked a single state, or taste.

For more information about Brown, CakeLove bakeries, or how to purchase Brown's latest cookbook, visit Brown's website at www.cakelove.com

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com

Texas Sheet Cake with Chocolate Pecan Icing

Recipe from "United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State," by Warren Brown; photographs by Joshua Cogan, cover design by Alissa Faden. Stewart, Tabori & Chang publishers, www.abramsbooks.com. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Before you begin

Cookbook author Warren Brown recommends measuring flour by weight (rather than volume) by "sifting it into a bowl set on top of a scale." To make "superfine" granulated sugar, give regular granulated sugar a few pulses in your food processor.

Dry ingredients

16 ounces (2 cups) superfine granulated sugar

8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

2 ounces (1/2 cup) cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled for a few minutes

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon brandy

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees and place the rack in the middle position. Grease a 12-by-2-inch round pan or 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well for about 20 seconds. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the top of the cake bounces back slightly when gently pressed. Yield: Makes 1 (12-inch) round cake, or 9-by-13-inch cake.

For the Chocolate Pecan Icing

5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) pecans

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

16 ounces (about 4 cups) confectioners' sugar

1 ounce (1/4 cup) cocoa powder

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Sugared Pecans

10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) pecans

2 tablespoons honey

4 ounces (1/2 cup) superfine granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Roast the pecans (335 degrees) on a baking sheet for 4 to 5 minutes while the cake is baking. Remove the nuts from the oven, cool to room temperature, and chop. Combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Begin beating on low speed and then increase to high. Slowly add the milk and vanilla and beat well. Stop the mixer and fold in the roasted pecans by hand. Set aside. To make the sugared pecans, combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula.

Roast the sugared pecans on a baking sheet, while the cake is baking, until crisped and fragrant, approximately 10 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven and cool on a heat-resistant surface before using. Cool the cake completely before spreading the icing onto the top using a flexible spatula. (If you prefer, you can turn the cake out onto a tray, but it's fine to leave it in the dish.) Add the sugared pecans across the top, pressing them slightly into the frosting.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Buttercream

Recipe from "United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State," by Warren Brown; photographs by Joshua Cogan, cover design by Alissa Faden. Stewart, Tabori & Chang publishers, www.abramsbooks.com. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cocoa

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter

8 ounces (1 cup) superfine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1 to 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)*

Quickly whisk together 4 tablespoons of the milk with the flour. The slurry will be somewhat thick, so whisk thoroughly to make a smooth paste. Press out any lumps with a flexible spatula if necessary. Whisk in the rest of the milk and the cocoa powder and transfer the mixture to a 2-quart heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer for about 30 seconds over medium heat, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and cool for 15 to 30 minutes. You can also cover with plastic wrap directly against the surface -- this is the best way to prevent a skin from forming. Meanwhile, combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed. Add the contents from the pot to the mixer and continue to beat on high speed until the buttercream is smooth, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla and chocolate, if using. Yield. At least 4 cups.

Kitchen Ade Note: I used the full 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, which produced a frosting with a pleasantly mild chocolate flavor.

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