Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

Seeing a happy winner was the best part of my day at the Stafford County Fair on Wednesday.

The youngest of three sisters, Jena started hanging out at the fair long before she was old enough to actually enter the 4-H division. This year, she won the overall grand champion prize in the 4-H foods contest with her Tropical Chiffon Cake. Though she has raised a grand champion steer before, I think this was her first grand champion in cooking.

Jena lives across the county from us, so I don't see her very often. But it's a pleasure to watch someone stick with something from the time they are a little ponytailed 7-year-old entering no-bake cookies until they are a soon-to-be senior in high school able to make a perfect chiffon cake.

I personally think chiffon and angel food cakes are difficult to make. When Jill was in 4-H, we attempted an angel food cake one year. It was an unmitigated disaster. When Jill turned it upside down on a bottle to cool it, it wasn't long before the entire cake was on the kitchen counter.

No, that was not supposed to happen.

But Jena had not only the prize-winning chiffon cake, but a good-looking angel food cake and a pretty Bundt cake, too.

Bundt cakes we can do. However, I wish I had been interested in learning to bake an angel food cake back when my Grandma Neelly was alive.

I have always been interested in eating angel food cakes. That was my birthday cake of choice. And nobody could make an angel food cake like my Grandma.

I know I need to take my own advice. It's always easy to dish out advice ... not so fun to take it.

I'm always telling my 4-H foods project kids that they can't expect to bake perfect bread loaves or roll out a fault-free pie crust if they don't practice during the year. I learned that the hard way as a Pratt County 4-Her long ago. So, I know if I'd practice, I could probably learn to make a decent chiffon or angel food cake.

Not that we need to eat the attempts around here. And not that I could ever compete with Jena or the other Cloverleaf 4-H cooking kids.

Three of my Corn Valley 4-H foods and nutrition project kids also got champion ribbons for their cooking divisions. Matt earned a purple ribbon in the beginner's division with his nutritionally improved chocolate chip cookie recipe, a recipe he got from me at a cooking project meeting. His sister, Allison, earned her champion ribbon with a loaf of white yeast bread in the intermediate division. Brianna was champion in the advanced category with her apple pie.

And the other Corn Valley 4-H cooks got their share of blue ribbons, too. Seeing the 4-Hers excel and learn from the judges was definitely the highlight of the day.

Being in the unairconditioned exhibit building from 8 AM to 7:30 PM was not.

After I finished up the foods paperwork in mid-afternoon, I saw the 4-H photography superintendent needed some help. So I volunteered. Even though I've given up duties as the photography leader to someone who actually knows something, I still have a soft place in my heart for that project, too. I was our local leader for several years when it was one of Brent's favorite projects.

Though some entries are down at the Stafford County Fair, I think the photography project is alive and well.

I enjoy the 4-Hers. I enjoy seeing their work - whether it's food or photography. But I can't say that I enjoy the heat.

As I drove down Main Street at about 7:45 PM, I noticed the bank thermometer was still at 97 degrees.

Just imagine 100 degrees earlier in the day. Put a bevy of 4-Hers, parents and judges in a metal building. The TV weatherman said the heat index was 115 on Wednesday.

I believe it. And so did my body by the end of the day. I wasn't feeling so well by the time I pulled into the driveway here at home.

But I've recovered, and I'm ready to take in the beef show this morning. Randy helped with the hog show yesterday morning, and they lucked out with cooler temperatures after an overnight rain. I don't think we'll be as lucky today.

This afternoon, we'll see how Aubrey does with her bucket calf she got from us this winter.

And if you're in the mood for a chiffon cake, here is Jena's prize-winning cake recipe. Enjoy!

Tropical Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup egg yolk
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
3/4 cup orange juice
1 cup egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Make well in center. Add in order: oil, egg yolks, lemon peel and orange juice. Beat until satin smooth. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Pour batter in thin stream over entire surface of egg whites. Fold in gently. Fold in coconut.

Bake in 10-inch tube pan at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

Jena didn't frost it for the fair, but it would be delicious with a light frosting glaze. I would make a thin frosting with butter, powdered sugar, orange juice and maybe a little lemon peel. After glazing, you could also decorate the top with toasted coconut. Yum!

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