Fannie Felice of St Augustine, Fla., was looking for a recipe one of her favorite cakes that her mother-in-law used to make some years ago. The cake was made with graham cracker crumbs and no flour. It also had coconut in the batter and was frosted with a chocolate whipped cream.
Nancy Snyder from Easton sent in a recipe she found in one of her cookbooks, "All Cakes Considered" (Chronicle, 2009) by Melissa Gray, which she thought sounded very close to what Felice was searching for. This is not your simple one-bowl cake, but the effort involved in making this beauty is well worth the reward. I thought you could simplify the assembly of this cake by skipping the pastry bag technique and instead carefully spread the whipped cream with a spatula. That's what I did, and I still had one showstopper of a cake.
Emilia Schwartz from Pasadena is looking for Weight Watchers recipe from a few years back for a salad using cannellini beans. She does not remember any of the other ingredients but she said it could be eaten hot or cold.
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Graham cracker cake
Makes: 10-12 servings
For the cake:
25 graham crackers, crumbled (about 31/3 cups)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the filling and frosting:
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, well chilled
1/6 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon brewed coffee
1 tablespoon Kahluha
For the garnish:
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
About 1/4 cup raspberries (optional)
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or line with parchment paper) two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.
In a food processor, pulse the graham cracker crumbs and coconut until very fine. Add the baking powder and pulse six to eight times. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
With mixer on medium speed, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually, beating until blended. Add the egg yolks, two at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat for 1 extra minute. Blend in vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer to low. Add 1 cup of the crumb mixture along with 1/3 cup of milk and mix to blend in. Repeat until all crumb mixture and milk are blended in. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix 10 seconds more. Set batter aside.
Set up mixer with clean, dry mixing bowl and whisk attachment. Beat egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and kick the mixer up to medium -high. Beat until the egg whites reach the firm peak stage. Do not overbeat. Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, taking about five full rotations of the bowl. Fold in the remaining whites, about 10 full turns.
Spoon batter into prepared pans and smooth the surface.
Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake layers begin to come away from the sides of the pan and are springy to the touch. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto cake racks to cool completely.
To make filling and frosting: Chill clean mixing bowl and whisk in freezer for 5 minutes before beginning. Pour cream into chilled bowl and whip on medium high speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the confectioners' sugar and the cocoa, lower the speed to medium, and beat until the cream begins to thicken. Add the coffee and the Kahluha. Continue whipping until the cream reaches soft peak stage, then remove from the mixer and finish whisking by hand until cream is thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To construct the cake: Set first layer of cake on plate, topside down. Fit pastry bag with No. 5 plain tube and fill bag 1/3 full with mocha whipped cream. Starting 1/2 inch from edge of cake, pipe a circle of cream around the layer. Fill center with additional cream, smoothing surface with large metal spatula. Carefully place second layer on top of frosted bottom layer. Empty the remaining cream into the pastry bag. Pipe 1/2-inch dots on the top layer, beginning at the outer edge. Each dot should touch the preceding one, forming a ring. Continue working toward the center of the cake until the entire surface is covered.
Put the 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa in a fine strainer, and gently tap it to sprinkle the cocoa across the top of the cake. Add raspberries, if desired. Refrigerate, but remove from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.