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Guest Post – Baking with All Natural Ingredients

My friend Candice is a talented cake decorator living in Green Bay, WI.  Awhile back she wrote up this guest post for me outlining her first experience baking with all natural ingredients.  If you’ve been wondering how all natural compares to your typical conventional ingredients – read on.  I found it very interesting!  She even included the recipes she used.  Thanks Candice!

To see what Candice can create for you – head to her website, All Occasions Green Bay for more information or follow her on Facebook and you’ll get to see all of the sweets she creates for her clients.

Cake Complete

By Candice Kunesh

The other day a good friend of mine asked me if I could make a Baby Shower cake with matching cupcakes using as many all-natural and organic ingredients as possible.  At first I thought, “No problem!  How different could it be from using typical ingredients?”  Then I started over-thinking things and started getting scared.  My recipes using typical ingredients are tried and true, but I had no clue how using different ingredients would make things turn out.  What if the texture didn’t come out right?  What if it didn’t taste right?  What if I couldn’t get my frosting techniques to work well?  Would my reputation as the go-to cake maker be ruined?!?

My friend was going to supply all of the ingredients to make the cake, cupcakes, and white frosting, so that wasn’t a problem.  My first hurdle was to find all-natural dyes to color the frosting.  While I was researching all-natural dyes I found many recipes that would potentially work.  However, some of them involved boiling cabbage and evaporating down the liquid.  My first thought about this procedure was, “Will this make the frosting taste like cabbage?”  Blech!  Thankfully, after doing some further research, I found a supplier of all-natural dyes and was able to have them shipped in time.  Whew!  After I received the dyes, I read the label and found that a couple of them used cabbage extract.  After I opened the bottle and smelled them, I got worried about the taste of the frosting all over again!  Yikes!

On baking day I started opening the all-natural and organic baking ingredients and started to worry even more.  Some of the all-natural and organic ingredients had unique, distinct odors and bore no visual resemblance to main-stream ingredients.  For example, the organic coconut sugar consisted of large, hard, dark brown crystals.  The crystals also had a mocha-like odor to them.  These buggers were so large that I decided that I needed to grind them down in a food processor because I was afraid that they would not dissolve enough in the cake batter.  Also, relative to main-stream sugar and salt, the organic evaporated cane sugar and pure Himalayan natural unprocessed culinary salt had a light brownish color and large crystals.  However, these two ingredients were close enough the main-stream that I decided no special treatment would be needed.

Ingredients Sugars

After mixing up all of the ingredients for the all-natural/organic chocolate cake, the mix looked the same as my typical chocolate cake mix.  However, for the yellow cake, it was obvious that the mix (on the right) was extremely different from my typical yellow cake mix (on the left).

Cake Mixes - labeled

Upon adding the wet ingredients, both the chocolate and yellow batters were thicker than I was used to so I ended up adding some water to bring the consistency where I wanted it.  Both the chocolate and the yellow batters baked as expected.  Upon breaking open the cupcakes, the chocolate cupcakes looked exactly like my typical cupcakes but the yellow cupcakes looked quite a bit denser.

CC Batter CCs

CC Yel CC Choc

The yellow cakes baked as expected, but unmolding them from the cake forms proved to be a bit more difficult.  I needed to cut around the edges of the forms to loosen the edges and did quite a bit of tapping, pounding, and flexing on the cake pans to finally get the cakes out.  As you can see from the pictures, although I didn’t successfully get one of the molded cakes out in one piece, they had the same density as the cupcakes.

Cake Unmolded Cake Cut

I attribute the lack of unmolding success to one or two things. First, I didn’t use my CK Pan Grease.  CK Pan Grease is awesome! (I agree – Pan Grease is awesome. It’s the same thing as homemade Pan Goop Kendra) I have never had a problem with cake unmolding using this stuff!  Instead, I coated the pans with organic palm shortening and then coated the shortening with flour.  Second, maybe the all-natural/organic ingredients were just stickier than my typical cake ingredients?

Now that the cakes and cupcakes were baked, I turned my attention to making the frosting.  The organic palm shortening pleasantly seemed a little softer and creamier than typical shortening and it had a faint, appealing scent.  The powdered sugar, however, was finer and a lot clumpier than my typical powdered sugar.  I ended up taking a very long time having to sift it!  The organic butter, vanilla, and almond extract all appeared to be no different than main-stream ingredients.  However, since I usually use clear vanilla extract instead of real vanilla in my frosting, the all-natural/organic frosting ended up having a brownish tint to it.  Thankfully, I wasn’t going to need a white frosting to decorate the cake and the dyes should easily cover up the brownish tint.

Frosting - labeled

Dying the frosting took a bit more elbow grease because it was thick and sticky.  Also, I wasn’t too happy with the how the colors were turning out.  Using typical gel paste dyes is so easy and the color selection is amazing!  Most of the all-natural/organic colors turned out OK, but I was most disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the baby blue color that I wanted.

Working with the thick and sticky all-natural/organic frosting was a bit harder than with my typical frosting because it just did not spread well.  Complicating matters, the cake was very crumbly and, while I almost never do this, I was forced to put a crumb coat on it.  Unfortunately, the crumb coat didn’t really help a whole lot.  I actually gave up on spreading the frosting and ended up patting it in place on the cake and cupcakes with my hands.  Thankfully, once the frosting set for a bit, smoothing it was a breeze.  Piping the details went OK.  It just took a lot more pressure to get the frosting to come out of the pastry bags.

 

Cake Complete

So, the cake and cupcakes look awesome, but how did they taste?  For the yellow cake, yellow cupcakes, and chocolate cupcakes, moistness was spot on.  I’m SO glad I added the extra water to the batters!  For both the yellow cake and cupcakes the taste was very good!  They didn’t taste like the typical yellow cake, but they had a pleasing nutty flavor to them.  The texture was good, but a bit denser than a typical yellow cake.  This cake and the cupcakes also had a pleasing and hearty, stick-to-your-ribs feel to them.  They actually ‘felt’ good to eat!  The texture of the chocolate cupcakes was perfect, but I think that the flavor needed some work.  I’m not sure if it was the flavor of the organic coconut sugar coming through or something else that needed to be tweaked.  If I make all-natural/organic chocolate cupcakes or a cake again, I’ll probably replace the organic coconut sugar with the organic evaporated cane sugar.  However, I had several of my family members taste them and they had no complaints, so maybe that was just me?   Since the frosting had an amazing flavor and texture (no cabbage flavor!), hopefully no one else will notice my issues with the chocolate cupcakes.

 

Overall, this was a very good experience for me. I really enjoyed working outside my comfort zone and learning a thing or two about using all-natural/organic ingredients.  Hopefully, some of my experiences will help a few of you who are considering taking the leap to a more natural way of life!

The following recipes are adapted from the ‘Light and Fluffy Master Cake Mix’, ‘Yellow Butter Cake’, and ‘Chocolate Cake’ recipes found in the Quick-Fix Healthy Mix book by Casey Kellar and Nicole Kellar-Munoz.

 

Yellow Cake Recipe

4 C (908g) Master Yellow Cake Mix (see below)

1 C (240ml) milk

2 eggs

Water as desired

 

Preheat oven to 325o.  Grease and flour two 8” x 8” or one 9” x 13” cake pan(s).  Beat together eggs and milk.   Add cake mix and blend well.  Add water as desired.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.

 

Master Yellow Cake Mix:

5 C (600g) super-fine cake flour (homemade*)

1 ¼ C (350g) coconut sugar

1 ¼ C (350) evaporated cane sugar

1 Tbs (18.25g) salt

½ C (60g) cornstarch

3 Tbs (42g) baking powder

1 ¼ C (238g) butter

 

*Super-fine cake flour: Blend traditional flour in food processor on high for 2 -3 minutes.

 

Sift together dry ingredients.  Cut butter into dry mixture using a pastry cutter until fine and grainy.  Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 months.

 

Chocolate Cake Recipe

4 C (908g) Master Chocolate Cake Mix (see below)

1 C (240ml) milk

2 eggs

1 tsp (5ml) vanilla

¼ C (57g) powdered unsweetened cocoa

Water as desired

 

Preheat oven to 325o.  Grease and flour two 8” x 8” or one 9” x 13” cake pan(s).  Beat together eggs and milk.   Add cake mix and blend well.  Add water as desired.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.

 

Master Chocolate Cake Mix:

5 C (600g) super-fine cake flour (homemade*)

1 ¼ C (350g) coconut sugar

1 ¼ C (350) evaporated cane sugar

1 Tbs (18.25g) salt

½ C (60g) cornstarch

3 Tbs (42g) baking powder

1 ¼ C (238g) palm shortening

 

*Super-fine cake flour: Blend traditional flour in food processor on high for 2 -3 minutes.

 

Sift together dry ingredients.  Cut shortening into dry mixture using a pastry cutter until fine and grainy.  Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 months.

 

Frosting –adapted from Wilton’s recipe

1 C (227g) butter

1 C (191g) palm shortening

2 lb (908g) sifted powdered sugar

2 tsp (5ml) vanilla

2 tsp (5ml) almond extract

4 Tbs (56ml) water

Salt as desired to make frosting less sweet

 

Cream together butter and shortening. Add vanilla and almond extract.  Mix in a portion of the powdered sugar on low.  Repeat until all powdered sugar is added.  Add water and mix on low.  Mix frosting for 7 minutes on high.  Cover until ready to use.  Can be refrigerated for 7 days or frozen for up to a month.

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