I Can Cook… Kinda

My DIY project focused on the always important skill of cooking. I have never been a very proficient chef, in fact I’m pretty sure I can make a grand total of three items in the kitchen. (Burgers, spaghetti, and mac & cheese; if you were wondering.) I picked a DIY project in this area as I have almost zero experience in this area and I would like to be able to stop burning water. Therefore, I decided to bake a chocolate cake from scratch. From, this was a daunting task. Like I mentioned before, I do not cook. I don’t like it and I’m not good at it. I was worried after I picked this project that I would not be able to follow through, not because I didn’t think that I could follow the cooking directions, but because I was paranoid that my cake would taste bad even if I did. Aside from the crippling fear offbeat tasting cake, my only other concern was how complicated the recipe would be. I wanted to try and keep it simple and to the point- no unnecessary frills.

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To start this project I began research on cake recipes on several major websites dedicated to cooking. I wanted to find at least two cake recipes so that I could compare them and decide which would be the best for my novice cooking skills. I looked up highly rated cooking sites, and then on those sites searched for classic chocolate cake recipes. I found a great simple recipe called Classic Chocolate Cake Recipe” on a website called “Taste of Home”. It describes an easy but tasty recipe that can be baked in under 50 minutes (Anonymous). It was eventually the recipe that I ended up using, but I wanted to find another just in case I needed extra information. I searched another cooking website called “Allrecipes” for other chocolate cake based ideas. I found a slightly more complex version of a cake in recipe called “One Bowl Chocolate Cake III”. This recipe had a few extra steps to it, including adding vegetable oil and vanilla extract, making it a bit more complicated than the other (Shirleyo). Both of these resources were created to help all sorts of people find great new ways to bake cakes, and while I thought that they were both very effective and credible, I decided to go with the more simple take on the chocolate cake. The only issue was that they were both simply written instructions, not a demonstration.

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Other instructional resources I used were online video on YouTube. I learn best when I can see someone doing what it is that I am learning about. Therefore, I figured that I needed to   find good examples of cake baking to watch and learn. I found two great cake baking tutorials on YouTube. The first is called “Simple Chocolate Cake Recipe Demonstration” created by Stephanie Jaworski from JoyofBaking (an online cooking site). She explains all the steps of creating a good cake, including showing all the ingredients you will need, information about how to measure out ingredient effectively, and then proceeds to demonstrate the entire process of mixing the ingredients and baking the cake (Jaworski). It was extremely helpful for me to watch this process as it gave me a feel for how my own baking experience would look and feel. It also was very credible as she mentioned that she had been baking for many, many years. I wanted to find a second video demonstrations as well, in order to compare them and make sure I followed their leads as much as possible. After searching through YouTube again to find a more specific video dedicated to the process of mixing ingredients and less about preparation, I found video called “How to Make Not Your Mama’s Chocolate Cake” by Gregory Baumgartner, a professional pastry chef from LA. He does many things similar to Stephanie in the first video, but also gives extra details about what each specific ingredient does to make the cake better. He is essentially the “baking 1302” of online videos (Baumgartner). The last resource I used was an online blog named SmittenKitchen. A post called “The ‘I want Chocolate Cake’ Cake” was a great piece by an anonymous blogger chronicling her baking of a cake from scratch-much like myself. She went over ingredient lists, posted photos of his progress, and finally reviewed the cake she had baked (Perelman). This was probably the least credible source, but I liked its format and found the simplicity of the post appealing.

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After I found all my resources, it was time to bake my cake. After I bought all my ingredients at Wal-Mart, I started my task. Without rehashing the entire recipe I used, it’s safe to say that it went mostly without a hitch. The few problems I encountered were due to my lack of knowledge about all things cooking, not the fault of the instructional resources I found. For instance, I didn’t realize that butter had to be softened before you could mix it, so I spend a good ten minutes trying to whip firm butter sticks with the sugar. I also did not own certain important cooking tools such as a whisk, making the assembly a bit more challenging. (I used a fork to beat the eggs and flour together.) However, other than that I really had no problems with anything, surprisingly enough. I finished assembling all my ingredients pretty quickly, in around 25 minutes, and then popped it in the oven for 40 minutes. When it finished baking, I iced it and threw on some sprinkles for good measure. I had managed to bake an edible looking cake.

Looking back, I would have to say that the written recipe was the most helpful, but the instructional video was very high on the list as well. I am a visual learner, meaning that by seeing people do things I can pick them up quicker. Because of this, the videos were invaluable because I could watch people doing the exact thing I was going to have to do. It gave me visual examples of how certain things in the cake baking process should be completed. The written recipe was extremely important too, for obvious reasons I needed direct instructions on how to bake this cake. I would say that the least helpful resource was the blog posting, while it was specific and detailed, I already had the other resources and the format was not as clear to me. Ie: less visual so less learning.

In the end I was imressed with myself. I didn’t think that my effort would actually work out, but I’ll let you all be the judges of that when you snack on it in class today.

Works Cited

Anonymous. “Classic Chocolate Cake Recipe.” Taste of Home. 1 June 1993. Web. 10 September 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/classic-chocolate-cake

Shirleyo. “One Bowl Chocolate Cake III.” AllRecipes. 1 August 2007. Web. 10 September 2015. Retrieved from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/17981/one-bowl-chocolate-cake-iii/

Jaworski, Stephanie. “Simple Chocolate Cake Recipe Demonstration.” YouTube. Joy of Cooking, 13 September 2013. Web. 10 September 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsSz7t5lqzw

Baumgartner, Gregory. “How to Make Not Your Mom’s Chocolate Cake.” YouTube. Munchies, 8 September 2015. Web. 10 September 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukqXC_VkzSc

Perelman, Deb. “The I Want Chocolate Cake Cake.” Smitten Kitchen. 26 February 2015. Web. 10 September 2015. Retrieved from: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2015/02/the-i-want-chocolate-cake-cake/

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