Supermarket shelves bulge with microwave cake mixes and few people hesitate to try them. Yet when it comes to stirring up a microwave cake from scratch, most cooks balk.
It's understandable. We've all heard tales about how microwave cakes are pale and anemic, how they don't cook evenly and how they're difficult to frost. All true, unless you know how to compensate for these shortcomings. Luckily, it's easy.
For example, in the two recipes that follow, we build color into the batter via spices and/or molasses so that the cakes are naturally brown. We also coat the tube pan for the lemon tea bread with fine gingersnap crumbs to approximate a crust, then use a dribbled-on glaze as a frosting.
To help the cakes "bake" more evenly, we elevate them on the oven shelf or on upside-down bowls so that microwaves can circulate around the bottom of the cakes as well as the top and sides.
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark molasses
3 tablespoons hot water
In mixing bowl, sift flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Add oil, sugar, egg, molasses and hot water, beating 1 minute at moderate electric mixer speed. Spread batter evenly in well-greased 8-inch-square microwave-safe baking dish. Rap lightly on counter to expel air bubbles.
Set baking dish on turntable centered on oven rack or elevate dish on shallow bowl and microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM (75%) 6 minutes. With no turntable, rotate dish 180 degrees at half time and again after 6 minutes.
Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100%) 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until wood pick, inserted in 2 places other than center, comes out clean. Small moist area in center of gingerbread will dry on cooling.
Cool gingerbread in baking dish flat on heat-resistant surface. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve as is or top with vanilla ice cream and finely slivered candied ginger, if desired. Makes 16 servings.
GLAZED SPICY LEMON TEA BREAD
1/4 cup fine gingersnap crumbs
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Grease well 9-inch (8-cup), microwave-safe ring mold and coat evenly with gingersnap crumbs. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Make well in center.
In separate bowl, combine melted butter, milk, eggs and lemon zest. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Spoon batter into prepared mold, spreading evenly. Do not dislodge crumbs.
Center mold on oven shelf or elevate on upside-down shallow bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM 8 minutes, rotating mold 180 degrees at half time.
Rotate mold 180 degrees again and microwave on High 1 to 2 1/4 minutes until tea bread pulls slightly from sides of mold, is springy to touch and wood pick inserted in bread comes out clean.
Let tea bread stand upright 10 minutes, loosen carefully and invert onto serving plate. Cover loosely with clean dish towel and cool to room temperature.
Drizzle Lemon Glaze over tea bread, letting it run down sides, then cool several minutes until glaze hardens. To serve, cut into thin wedges. Makes 16 servings.
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
Microwave lemon juice in uncovered microwave-safe 1-cup measure on HIGH 20 seconds just until warm. Slowly sprinkle powdered sugar into lemon juice and blend until smooth.