Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Riverdale resident, Ajisha Bowen, is not exactly Betty Crocker's biggest fan when it comes to cake mixes.
Well, Bowen, 28, actually said she is not a fan of any "cake mix in a box," regardless of what company produces it. She prefers the homemade method, the one that is taught in the school of "I made this from scratch."
Bowen, who hopes to, someday, open her own cake-making business, said the "from scratch" method is really the best way to make a cake. "I make all of my cakes from scratch," she said. "I don't like the box cake, you know, the one that comes ready-made ... It's too dry to me. When you taste it, it lacks any moisture," she said.
"I tell people, 'You don't really need the box cake, because it's really simple to make a cake from scratch.' "
Bowen, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, taught a cake-baking class to 15 local residents at the headquarters branch of the Clayton County Library System, on Tuesday. She said she's been working in the kitchen since she was seven, when she would do cooking prep work for her mother. Bowen said she now bakes cakes for churches, and small businesses.
During the 45-minute class, she gave participants a pinch of advice that flew in the face of everything celebrity chef Julia Child used to say about butter. Whereas Child advocated using butter often, Bowen recommended using less of it -- or just using PAM Cooking Spray instead -- to keep cakes from sticking to the pan.
"Do not use too much butter," said Bowen. "Less is better. After you cover the pan with butter, if you have excess, take a napkin and wipe it off."
Bowen's recipe for making a cake from scratch also lists one-half cup of vegetable oil as an alternative to using butter.
And, speaking of her recipe for making a basic cake from scratch, Bowen said there are very few ingredients involved. Her recipe for the basic yellow cake calls for two cups of all purpose flour, with a tablespoon of baking powder, two eggs, one-half cup of butter (or vegetable oil), and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.
"Mix it till it's not too thick, and not too watery, but just right," Bowen said. She said any potential cake-bakers should then place the mix in their refrigerators overnight, so the ingredients can better blend together.
Then the baking part takes a maximum of 30 minutes, she said. "If you're using glassware, then you should only cook it for 20 minutes," Bowen said. "If you are using one of those gray pans, then you should cook it for 30 minutes. The reason why you cook it for less time in the glassware, is because the glass will become fragile in the heat of the oven, and it might break."
Two participants in Bowen's class, Jonesboro resident, Carolyn Collier, and Stockbridge resident, Geneva Greene, said the class helped them learn a new way of baking that they weren't used to. Both women said they plan to use Bowen's recipes at home.
"I learned how to use nutmeg to keep your blood pressure low," Collier said. "I didn't know you could use nutmeg to keep your blood pressure down."
Greene said the class will be helpful to her as she begins to delve deeper into the world of cake-baking. "I learned much easier ways of baking, like how to make the cake lighter, by using vegetable oil instead of butter" said Greene. "Cakes were never my thing. I've always been more of a pie person, but just recently, I've gotten more into baking cakes."