Growing up, one of my favorite desserts was Swedish Nut Cake. It’s a delicious, moist pineapple cake with a cream cheese frosting, kind of like a less nutritious, sweeter carrot cake, if that makes sense. It’s easy to make, tastes great, and I’ve been having it for years.
Except yesterday I realized I hadn’t baked one in a while. Since I was feeling pretty chipper, I decided that was a problem I needed to rectify. And since the process went so swimmingly, I thought I’d share with you, my loyal readers, the secrets to making a really good version of this cake.
First off, it’s important to check to make sure you have the ingredients. Cream cheese is pretty much the only one that’s strange, so just check your fridge and make sure there’s some available. We had 3/4 of a pack, which I deemed to be enough. (You develop a sense for this after baking the cake enough.) Since we had cream cheese, it was Full Speed Ahead.
Next, turn on the oven and grease a cake pan. Because duh. Also, you want to make sure to commit to making this cake, and nothing says “commitment” like a greased cake pan. Cleaning that pan’s going to be a beast. You better at least get a cake out of it.
Now that the cake pan is greased, it’s time to get the pineapple. Of course, observant readers will have noted we failed to check to make sure we had a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple ahead of time. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, a really good Swedish Nut Cake doesn’t need pineapple, as I discovered yesterday.
Once you’ve ascertained a significant Lack of Pineapple, it’s time to move on to the next step: figuring out alternative ingredients. You could Google this, but I’ll save you the trouble. Canned peaches are not an alternative to pineapple. Neither is canned fruit cocktail. The problem with these is that, while they are canned, they are the wrong fruit, and they taste nothing like pineapple, no matter how much you may wish they would work out.
However, you’ll find convenient substitutions in almost any recipe book. I personally found one in my grandmother’s, and I discovered that if you replace all the ingredients in Swedish Nut Cake (minus the greased cake pan, which I’d already committed to) with all the ingredients in her Chocolate Cake, you can still end up with a pretty dang good cake.
(You also have to swap out the directions for making the two cakes. This is key.)
Proceed to make the cake.
Now, we all know no cake is finished without frosting, and a cream cheese frosting doesn’t quite go with our new version of The Cake Formerly Known as Swedish Nut but Now Known as Chocolate, so you’d better whip up a batch of buttercream frosting to wrap this all up. This would be a convenient time to make sure you are all out of butter, having used it baking the cake. (Rookies might think being all out of butter is a problem, but it’s a vital step in making a good Swedish Nut Cake. You get a feel for where to go wrong and where to go right, over time. Don’t worry. You’ll get there too. Eventually.)
If you’ve done everything right, at this point you have a “Swedish Nut Cake” baking in the oven, and nothing to put on top of it. No way of making a decent frosting. You might be tempted to Google “How to make frosting without butter,” but I can save you the trouble. (I’m nice like that.) You can make a glaze. You can make a ganache. You can make a sauce. But you ain’t gonna be making buttercream frosting without butter.
However, there are ways around this. I delved into deepest reaches of my cake baking experience to remember that sometimes I’d poured a caramel sauce over a chocolate cake, and it tasted great. I decided that was just the thing for the task at hand. I looked up a recipe online and got cooking. Of course, the recipe called for heavy cream. Heavy cream, as any smart baker will tell you, is for chumps. I didn’t have any, so I used the handy substitute of 2% milk. The sauce was more liquidy perhaps than a novice might expect, but Swedish Nut Cake is supposed to be moist, remember?
Pour that sauce all over the top of your cake, remembering to poke holes in the cake first, so the sauce can drizzle into it. (It’s okay if you poke holes after you’ve poured the sauce already. That what the pros like me do, anyway.)
If you’ve done everything right, you now successfully have what some might call a “Watery looking plain chocolate cake swimming in caramel sauce,” but which we all know is actually a really good, professionally made Swedish Nut Cake. (If you’ve *really* done things right, your four-year-old daughter will look at the cake and ask, “Why did it melt?” But it’s okay if you don’t get to that level on your first try.)
Serve and enjoy.
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