Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dutch Oven Zebra Cake

Last saturday, I did a lot of cooking, preparing dishes for the publishing company’s photographer.  Like last fall, she was to come out and shoot some pics of food for the cover of the next book.

I'd actually made this cake a long time ago, for my wife's birthday, but I'd done it with boxed cake mixes.  The basic idea is to make a white and a chocolate cake mix, marble and swirl the two mixes together, and then decorate it as a layer cake.  This time it was done from scratch as you'll see.

In “Best of the Black Pot”, I included, at the end of each chapter, a few extra recipes from our family collection. I adapted them a little, to be cooked in a Dutch oven, but most of those, I haven’t actually tried.  As I was planning this Saturday’s Dishes, I decided to give this one a test!

When digging through our family recipes, looking for things to add in to the Dessert chapter, I found this series of pages all about making your own basic mixes, and storing them for when you want to bake.  So, my first step was to mix up the mix.

Basic Cake Mix

10 ½ cups flour
⅓ cup baking powder
8 cups sugar
½ cup corn starch
1 Tbsp salt
4 cups shortening

I started by measuring out the flour into a sifter, then sifting it into the bowl.  I actually used a cake flour.  I did get a really fluffy crumb on the cake, so that might have been part of why.  Then I mixed in the rest of the dry ingredients.  Finally, I cut in the shortening with a pastry blending knife.  Once the shortening was pretty well blended, I mixed it in some more with my hands.  Finally, I put it in a zip-top baggie, well-labeled.

The Cakes

2x 12” Dutch ovens

10 coals below
18 coals above

Once the mix was made, I started a lot of coals.  I was going to need on the order of 60 for both ovens.  It took a while for them to all start and get a uniform white going on.  Once they did, I put 25+ coals on each Dutch oven lid, and brought the Dutch ovens in to the prep counter.

I got out two bowls for the cake mixing.

White Cake

3 ⅓  Cups Basic Cake Mix
3 egg whites
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

This one was a pretty straightforward mix. I just added the ingredients together and beat them with a hand mixer. The egg yolks got discarded.

Chocolate Cake

9 Tbsp cocoa
2 ½ Tbsp butter
3 ⅓ Cups Basic Cake Mix
2 eggs
1 Cup milk

For the chocolate, I mixed the butter and the cocoa powder together first, then added them into the other ingredients.  Again, I mixed it with a hand beater until it was smooth.

I noticed that the white cake was considerably thicker than the chocolate, so I added some more milk to try and even the consistency. The recipe reflects that added milk.  You might still have to adjust one or the other.

I sprayed the bottom and sides of each Dutch oven with cooking oil spray, and sprinkled some flour liberally across the oil.  In retrospect, I think I would also cut a circle of parchment and lay it across the bottom.  Getting the cake out was a bit of a challenge.

Then, I got two big serving spoons, and one spoonful at a time, poured in a bit of white cake mix, then a bit of chocolate, into each Dutch oven.  I continued alternating until both bowls were empty.  Then I took a spoon and swirled around through the mix. I took care not to “stir” it or to “mix” it, my effort was to simply swirl it a bit more.  One or two passes through, no more.

I took the Dutch ovens out to the coals, and put the heated lids on, adjusting the coals for heat above and below.

While the cakes baked, I cut a couple of 12” discs of cardboard out of some empty boxes in my garage. These would help me to extract the cakes.

The cakes themselves only took about 25 minutes to bake. I used the old toothpick method to determine doneness.  You simply stick in the toothpick, then if you can pull it out clean, with no batter, it’s done. Be careful, too, because cooking too long can dry out your cakes.

Once they were brought inside, I put on a couple of heavy-duty leather gloves. I put one of the cardboard discs on the top of the cake in the Dutch oven, and ran a spatula between the cake and the Dutch oven side to separate it.  Then, I flipped the Dutch oven over, turning the cake onto the cardboard disc.  Then, I inverted it back onto a cooking rack.  The parchment would make that easier as well.  I did that with both Dutch ovens.

Once they cool, then, it’s just a matter of decorating the cake.  We used chocolate and buttercream frosting for the zebrastripes.  I let my son and a couple of neighborhood girls (who are definitely NOT his girlfriends, right?) handle the icing and decorating. I think they did a pretty good job, don’t you?.

--Order your pre-release copy of "Best of the Black Pot", Mark's first Dutch oven cookbook!  It will be released April 10, and shipped soon after!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

1 comment:

  1. Watch your Dutch oven carefully during the cooking process. If you notice steam escaping from the lid, then it is getting too hot. This type of oven is designed to steam the food inside; if the steam is escaping then in most cases either to top or bottom of the food will be burned.



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