Batter Beauty

I am not being paid to say this, but I love my new mixer.* I haven’t had a hand mixer (that works) in at least ten years. I’ve had my hand, my wrist and a good whisk, yes. And I’ve had a powerful stand mixer, the kind you keep in the cabinet and lug out for big jobs. But I haven’t had that in-between, lightweight kind that’s as easy to take out from a drawer as a spoon is and that in no time at all whips up cake batter or heaven knows what else I will discover in the coming months.

For now, the cake batter has my attention. Chocolate cake particularly.

I do not consider myself artistic either on the being-an-artist side or on the recognizing-good-art-when-I-see-it side. The beauty/appeal of modern art, including pretty much everything in the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, D.C., touted “as a leading voice for contemporary art and culture,” completely eludes me. Nonetheless I stand ever in awe at sunrises and sunsets, smiles on the faces of children, majestic landscapes, creatures large and small, and colorful, delicate flowers. I think we humans have an intuitive sense of what is truly lovely, even if we each identify different examples, even if we can’t articulate very well exactly what’s amazing about what we are looking at. There’s something about shape, gleam, patterning, movement, authenticity and that very fine line between familiar and unique that catches our eyes.

The chocolate cake batter had me utterly entranced! And no, I was not under the influence of any mind-altering substance.

The mixer did it. The mixer has thin but strong wire beaters. They don’t look particularly powerful.

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But oh, what they do to cake batter!

Understand, I repeat, that I have not had an electric hand mixer in a long time. I have been managing just fine with the baby and the beast – my whisk and my stand mixer. So I was a little skeptical. I beat the butter and sugar together. Okay, nice. “Fluffy,” as recipes like to say.

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I added two beautiful eggs. (Look at those eggs, huh?)

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The butter-sugar-eggs combo developed a smoothness that started to look kinda pretty. But, hey, I’m just here to make cake, right?

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My recipe calls for the rest of the dry ingredients to be added alternately with the buttermilk. This is the recipe by the way: Best-Ever-Chocolate-Cake-From-Scratch. It might have been on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa tin years ago, but I cannot be sure. The chocolate cake recipe that’s now on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa carton (no longer a tin) is different. (My note of praise in the upper right hand corner was from when I made copies of my favorite recipes for my children and put together cookbooks for them, but that is another story.)

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Anyway, I got to the part where you add milk and then flour, then more milk and then more flour. That’s when it started getting interesting.

Do you see what I see? Do you see the swirls, the cake-batter-landscape of little hills and valleys and possibly river gorges cut through in an age gone by? The random spatters just above the land mass on all sides? Now watch. Depending on where the beaters are within the bowl and what angle you hold them, the batterscape changes.

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For the record, I love chocolate. Vanilla ice cream doesn’t hold a candle to chocolate. Cake of any flavor but chocolate is trying, I know, and I give it credit for trying, but the competition is simply too great. Chocolate wins for me every time. This fact could perhaps contribute to my increased delight as I went from the batter above to its better (i.e. chocolate) version.

If you decide to try this recipe, please note that even though the recipe calls for you to get to the stage above and then mix up the cocoa and boiling water into the positively glistening paste that results, I suggest you do that at the start so as to let that mixture cool a bit.

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And if you don’t already have a mini-scraper like this, you might want to get one, even if it is not as cute as this. I find this size comes in very handy.

You add the chocolate to the beautiful swirly batter in the bowl. (Just imagine how excited I was at this point anticipating! If the pre-chocolate batter patterns moved me as they did…)

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Here we go, folks! Let the marbling begin, even as you know that the two will become one glorious mixture.

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I just loved the velvety smooth, different-every-second designs in my bowl…

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…the way the light shone here and there…

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…the kaleidoscopic variance.

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Call me crazy (and you may be right), but I had fun making this cake! Beauty is all around, isn’t it?

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*My new mixer is a Kitchen Aid model KHM512MY in majestic yellow.

5 thoughts on “Batter Beauty

  1. Congratulations on the hand mixer, I’m sure you will get to use it often. So like art the experience the artist and the observer expect sometimes leaves the observer wanting a little more. It will be my sons birthday this month. As I read your post I was thinking this cake would be fun to make for his birthday. Please follow up with a blog on how you finished the cake. 🎂

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      • I am not sure that The Icing on the Cake fully answered your need for a frosting recipe, but hopefully it comes close. It’s kind of hard to go wrong with sugar and butter…

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  2. As always I like your post and I would have made the cake myself but only one egg left. I know, you would just got outside. I will go outside later and drive to the store. I hope my comment isn’t sounding harsh – I wanted to be funny and uplifting. His needs – your skills. I miss you.

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