Strawberry Jell-O Cake

The passion of the Italian or the Italian-American population is endless for food and love and everything about it. – Mario Batali

My last post was a little more personal and emotional than I like to be, but I thought my absence over the past year deserved a proper, and honest explanation. Luckily, it’s not my style to get all sappy and emotional on a normal basis; only when necessary. I prefer my sarcastic and witty self the majority of the time and hopefully anyone reading this does too. I chose the above quote this week because I wanted the focus here to return back to passion and food!

So last weekend as I sat at Uncle Handsome’s babysitting, I was thinking about what I wanted to make next. I decided I would bake a cake for my Grandpa’s birthday dinner that Sunday.

One of my favorite cakes growing up was my Grandma’s Jell-O cake. I had no idea it was a classic American recipe. I always thought it was this secret cake she knew how to make, kind of like magic.

I like Jell-O. I really like cake. I love Jell-O cake. Perfect addition to my recipe collection.

I went to the store and had the intention of being creative with my Jell-O flavors, and maybe mixing things up, but in the end I just wanted the classic Strawberry Jell-O cake.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

1 box of Strawberry Jell-O

1 box of Betty Crocker white cake

1 container of Cool-Whip

Fresh Strawberries

4 Round Cake Pans

Jell-O Cake Ingredients

Bake cake according to the directions on the box.

(You could always make your own white cake, but I had to pick up miss Concetta who was stranded after a fun night out, so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked).

Betty Crocker White Cake

While the cake is baking, make the Jell-O according to the directions on the package.

Strawberry Jell-O

Strawberry Jell-O

When the cakes are finished let them cool and then switch each cake to a clean plan. This is an important step – so don’t forget! If you don’t do this, you will have a really hard time getting the cake out of the pan and it will more than likely fall apart. Mine did.

(I was not aware of this step, so when I brought my Jell-O soaked cakes to my Grandma’s to ice with Cool-Whip, my Aunt Anette and Grandma had to help me salvage my cakes.)

Betty Crocker White Cake

Stab each cake all-over with a fork (I attempted to do slits to control the color and this worked fine) and then pour the Jell-O equally all over each cake.

Put in the refrigerator for at least three hours to let the Jell-O set.

(This is also an important step. I am the most impatient person, so I took them out way too early. Again, I was lucky my Aunt Annette is a genius and helped me salvage my cake!)

Once the cakes have been in the refrigerator for at least three hours, remove the first cake and place it upside down on a cake tray (rounded part on the bottom).

Ice the top with room-temperature Cool-Whip and then place the second cake, with the round part facing up, on top of the first cake.

(If you buy Cool-Whip and it’s still frozen, don’t put it in the microwave. I attempted this and was looked at as if I was a crazy person by my Grandma. Who knew you couldn’t microwave Cool-Whip?)

Ice the remainder of the cake and add sliced strawberries on the top.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

My cake had a few issues, as I noted above, but it really ended up turning out pretty good. Most of it was in part to my Aunt who literally helped me piece my cake back together after it fell apart.

It turned out moist and had a lot of flavor. My cousin Antonia even took the leftover cake home because she thought it was so good. Turned out to be a nice little Sunday surprise!

As I told my Aunt and my Grandma while we were holding my cake together, hoping the Cool-Whip would help to bind it, “that’s why I call this blog ‘Kitchen Adventures’ – if you don’t try, you’ll never know!” Learning is always an adventure, good or bad.

Luckily this adventure turned out to be a good one!

So Happy Birthday to my wonderful and loving Grandpa! He is one of the reasons I love to cook and experiment with recipes.  I am so thankful for his influence in the kitchen and in my life.

Some of my earliest memories of being in the kitchen are with him, standing over a bowl of pancake mix and laughing while he threw random ingredients into the batter. One of my all time favorites was when he added Orange Juice.

Grandpa Page

Grandpa Page

It wouldn’t be Sunday dinner without some sort of entertainment. The only person missing in the above picture is Nick, who is typically right next to Michael standing behind Grandpa doing some sort of torment.

Until next time…

Scrape It Don’t Shake It!!

So I had a few things planned for my Easter activities, but they all unfortunately fell through.  The weather here in Chicago was SO nice, I couldn’t bring myself to stay inside after work coloring Easter eggs…so that never happened.  I was so flustered while packing Thursday night to go home, I  forgot to pack my recipes of inspiration for holiday flare and was unable to find them online in time to make them for everyone.  SO, instead, I went with second best.  I made an Italian Cream Cake and a Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing.

Let me tell you, I am so glad I did not find the recipes in time because I learned so much while baking with my mom (actually I did the baking, prepping, and cleaning while she did the directing and watching).  Similar to my first kitchen adventure when I was making dinner for my cousins, I learned a few things in the kitchen.

1. there is a difference between a wet measure and a dry measure.  How was I suppose to know that?  Who tells you these things?  It’s not like I had baking class in high school (thanks a lot Brebeuf…useless).  I asked my mom how she knew this little fact and she had no clue.  So here I am telling all of you – there is a difference.

2.  Do not shake off the extra flour when measuring.  You have to scrape it off the top or it will make your cake heavy.  Do not shake off the baking soda or the baking powder either.  You MUST scrape it off.  Ok, seriously?   That just seems absurd to me…what is a little shake going to do?  Apparently, a lot.  So don’t shake…scrape!

3. When the directions say combined and sift….you should always combined the ingredients in the sifter and THEN sift.  Sifting one at a time is not correct.  Adding all together without sifting is not correct and if it says combined into wet ingredients…combined together first then add.  DO NOT add one at a time.  Good thing I have baking 101 right in my own home kitchen thanks to my mother.

4. I don’t know how people bake without high-tech tools.  I could never accomplish what I did without the Kitchen Aid Pro.  That thing is a God Send.

5. When filling your cake pans, use a measuring cup and put about 2 cups in each round pan in order to make your cakes even after baking.

I was so grateful to learn all of these things over the weekend, so I hope you are equally as intrigued and appreciative!  My cakes turned out fabulous.  I was able to share a piece of the Italian Cream Cake with my sister before it was too late.  The cake was gone within 30 minutes after lunch (my family usually hides pieces of this cake to take home with them – it is a coveted dessert in the Bayt family!).  The carrot cake was taken to my mom’s family and I tasted a little bite of it.

I don’t usually choose carrot cake as my dessert option.  I was always freaked out by the fact that it had carrots in it and in my mind carrots ≠ dessert.  But in the cakes defense…it tastes nothing like carrots and was actually really good.

It was nice being able to spend the day baking with my mom, but it was exhausting….I was glad to finally be done and head out to my friends to watch the Butler game!  Sad ending last night, but so proud of them!