How was your mother’s day? Different than normal, I bet. Normally we’d try to take our mothers somewhere fun—like Bull Run Winery for wine or the Hillwood Estate for tea. This year, I turned to baking our mothers’ favorite cakes for them because just handing over our gifts didn’t seem like enough to fill the gap of treating them to a fun time out in the world. I ended up making Angel Food Cake w/ Strawberries (my mother-in-law’s favorite), Gingerbread Molasses Cake (my mom’s favorite), and bonus treats: banana pudding and a rhubarb custard tart (you didn’t think I’d go a weekend without making rhubarb, did you? lol).
I *usually* just buy finished angel food cake from the grocery store for strawberry shortcake occasions, but I couldn’t find it this year and I’ve always wanted to try making one from scratch. I followed the queen of baking and cooking Ina Garten’s recipe for the Angel Food cake. It turned out perfectly. I didn’t have cake flour or superfine sugar, as Ina suggests, but it still turned out light and beautiful. I sugared some strawberries in a separate container to put on the cake before serving and sent the cake and berries with Mr. Foodie to deliver to his mother.
It was my mother-in-law’s favorite cake that sparked my bonus baking projects. Have you ever made Angel Food cake from scratch? It requires 10-12 egg whites. Yes, I typed that correctly: 10-12 egg whites. I usually save the whites or yolks left over from recipes to use in scrambled eggs, to top stir fry, put in soup, or thicken sauces, but I’m usually only dealing with 2 whites or 2 yolks – not 10-12. So I googled ways to use up egg yolks, and banana pudding popped up. Serendipitously I also had four overripe bananas—the baking gods were with me.
It just so happens that Mr. Foodie LOVES banana pudding. I’m not a huge fan of banana-flavored things, but this pudding is pretty spectacular. I don’t know about you, but if pudding makes it to my table it is usually coming from a powdered mix or fully formed in little pudding cups. I’ve never made it from scratch, and now I can kind of understand why people would rather use a powder mix. What with all my other baking projects going on that day, I decided to whisk the egg yolks by hand while pouring the hot milk mixture into it. I nearly pulled a muscle trying to keep my whisking vigorous enough to avoid scrambling the yolks. While I wouldn’t say I could discern a *huge* difference between homemade pudding and powder or pudding pack pudding, it did taste less cloyingly sweet and had a less gloppy texture. All in all, I enjoyed the pudding even with the banana flavor. Mr. Foodie loves it 🙂
I’ve made this gingerbread cake before from Anne Byrn’s American Cakes cookbook. It is my mother’s favorite cake, so of course I had to make it for Mother’s Day. To me this cake tastes less like ginger and more like molasses. That burnt-sugar flavor permeates this thick and springy cake. Byrn recommends eating it with cream poured over, but whipped cream on top is also fine. We had neither whipped cream nor cream proper to pour over it, so mom used a little coffee creamer instead. In one of my favorite historical books on entertaining, Entertaining is Fun! by Dorothy Draper, the author (who also decorated our favorite winter vacation spot the Greenbrier Resort) remembers one of her favorite Christmas parties in which she places squares of gingerbread piled up on a platter near a pitcher of milk for her guests. She says they disappeared quickly.
My fourth and final baking project was the easiest of the three: Rhubarb Custard Tart. I had rhubarb to use up since I grab a handful every time I go grocery shopping these days, and I had a leftover store-bought pie crust in the fridge. I used this rhubarb tart recipe except for the honeyed strawberry topping (we ate all our strawberries on the deck in the sunshine). I can honestly tell you my favorite part of making this was using my tart pan for the first time! I pressed the pie dough into it and “trimmed” the edges with the pan itself since it is pretty sharp on top. This tart pan has a removable bottom, so getting the baked tart out is easy. Look how pretty it is! The “custard” is really just cream, eggs, and sugar poured over the rhubarb directly into the pie shell, then baked. Unlike some rhubarb recipes, this one wasn’t as tart as it could be because of the custard. I think my sister ended up liking it the best, but we all enjoyed it.
Note: the recipe calls for 20-30 min baking time (after 10 minutes on a higher temp), but ours definitely needed an extra 10 minutes before the custard stopped jiggling which is surprising since our oven runs hot.
What did you make or bake for mother’s day?