Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hillbilly Art and Chocolate Praline Cake-in-a-Jar!

The new “thing” I’m stuck on is cake-in-a-jar recipes.  Have you tried them yet?!  You make these little humdingers in wide-mouth canning jars, which means they are portable for your hubby’s lunch or for potlucks and barbecues.  I’m going to be posting several cake-in-a-jar recipes over time, and most of these little treats will store for several weeks in your pantry and several months in the freezer.  I love reaching into my cupboard and pulling out a little jar of cake before I settle in for the late show‑‑yum!

This recipe, “Chocolate Praline Cake-in-a-Jar”, is borrowed from the Potter Recipe Club.  The original version was created by Elizabeth Kisch from Pensylvannia, who won first place and $10,000 bucks in a cake contest back in 2002.  You’ll see why Elizabeth’s cake won when you try this great recipe for yourself:

Chocolate Praline Cake-in-a-Jar
(makes 10 to 12 servings)

You Will Need:
  • 10 to 12 half-pint canning jars with rings and lids
  • A rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan to hold the jars during baking

For the Cake:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup brewed coffee (you can use leftover coffee from breakfast!)

For the Praline Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves or pieces

Here We Go!  Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Place the canning jars on the rimmed baking sheet and set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar and eggs until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix until combined.  Add half of the flour and half of the sour cream and mix until combined.  Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream.  Drizzle in the coffee and mix until smooth.  The batter will be thin, like heavy cream.  Pour the batter into the jars, filling them about half way.  Bake until the tops of the cakes are firm to the touch, approximately 25 minutes.

For the topping, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and water and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar until combined, and then return the mixture to the heat and bring to a boil.  Stir in the nuts.  Working quickly (because the praline hardens as it cools), pour the praline topping over the cakes to cover.  Allow the cakes to cool completely and then screw on the jar lids.  The cakes can be kept for several days at room temperature.

Hillbilly Art

Here in Idaho, we have a lot of what I fondly refer to as “Hillbilly Art”.  We’re a mostly agricultural state brimming with cattle, homemade pies and county fairs.  In some parts, you can drive for a couple hours and see nothing more than a gas station and a greasy spoon café.  Small towns with beautiful names like Bliss, Sugar City, Garden Valley and Sweet dot our landscapes, and with so much work to do on our farmlands, people here tend to stay home and create their own, uh, art.

A few examples come to mind, unfortunately on days when I didn’t have my camera.  For example, I once came upon a deer made from logs with tree limbs for the legs and antlers.  That wouldn’t be unusual except for the fact that the farmer perched it on the roof of his house so you could see it from the highway.  Or the time I happened upon an elk’s skull painted with psychedelic colors and peace signs and wired to the front of an old Volkswagon bus (would love to have that come up behind me on the highway).  My recent favorite was a van on its way to a wedding which bore the words “Honk for Bridesmaids; Moon for the Bride”.  Ah, Idaho art.

I have simple rules for something to be included in my Hillbilly Art collection.  First, it’s tacky.  Second, I can’t respond other than sucking in my breath and whispering “Geeeesh”.  My first photo for this week hails from a gas station in Cascade, Idaho.  I was stunned by the sign that read “No Dogs Allowed”.  Perhaps the landscaping had been done by some local folks?  Maybe the Cascade Chamber of Commerce pitched in?  I seriously doubt a dog might leave something here that could damage the scenery.  Geeeesh . . .

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned for more exciting Hillbilly Art from a trip to Jarbidge, Nevada, a sneak peak at my new quilt pattern coming very soon, and another great cake-in-a-jar recipe.  In the meantime, Happy Stitchin’!   xoxo--Melanie

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