Monday, July 7, 2008

Snap, Crackle, Pop - It's the Fourth

To celebrate the 4th of July, our nation's Independence Day, I wanted to do something red, white and blue. I hit upon the idea of making a trifle to be patriotic, and as a nod of the head to the heritage we owe to England. So the evening of the third I was making the cake and keeping my husband company. We are not night people, but my daughter and her new husband were due back from their honeymoon and my husband was supposed to go get them at 11 pm from the airport. Since that's past our bedtimes, I thought he'd appreciate me helping him stay awake.

We were chatting in the kitchen as I was putting together the cake when "whooooooom," the lights dimmed waaaay down. Then came back up. My husband said, "That's weird. That was like a brown out." He was concerned how that might have affected his computer and turned it off. After several minutes with no further funkiness from the lights he turned the computer back on and found his speakers were toast and started smelling an acrid, burny smell. Dang, it blew out the speakers.

About 20 minutes later the lights dimmed again and we heard pops as light bulbs blew. 10 minutes after that our living room lamps turned themselves on, the ceiling fan turned itself on then we heard a "pop" and smoke started coming out of it. We ran around unplugging all of the appliances we could think of and then heard a loud "POP" from my daughter's room. Her stereo had smoke coming out of it so we quickly unplugged it and took it outside to the deck.

At this point my husband had to leave for the airport. My daughter and I sat huddled on the couch in the dark, wrapped in a blanket, hearts racing, praying. Every few minutes we'd hear an eerie buzz/ hum and then something would pop.

At about midnight I called the power company and they said they'd have someone out within an hour. And if I was feeling uneasy, I should call 911 to have the fire department come out to shut off power to the house. Uneasy? I was terrified! I called and within minutes a fire truck pulled up in front of the house and 3 burly men came in to check out the house. They were great. They turned off the power, checked for smoke, and brought out a thermal imager so they could see inside the walls for smoldering. None, thank God!

My husband got home at that point and showed them where the scorch marks were on the outlets and surge protectors. They called the power company and leaned on them to get out a little quicker and the end result was that by 3 am we were all able to go to bed with a machine attached to our power junction box to make sure our power would not go wonky again. If you're an electronics nerd, you can read what happened here.

So, while others were having picnics, enjoying the day of vacation, and relaxing, we were doing home inventory. Amazingly, good surge protectors saved our computers, our television stuff, and my sewing machine. My husband found some tripped GFI's and reset them to resurrect several appliances and my kitchen outlets. So, we were doing pretty well. My worst fear, the house burning down and my children frying in their beds, did not come to pass. The next fear, of everything exploding, also did not come to pass. But what did die, sadly, was my ovens. Yes, my lovely ovens have no pulse, not a flicker of life in them.

I have so much to be thankful for, I know. And I concentrate on that. But a part of me mourns my oven. We'll call the repair people today and see what can be done for them. But until then, it's stove-top and crock pot cooking for me. If you know any great crock pot cookie recipes, let me know.

Among my blessings to count is that I did get the cake finished before the house tried to commit electrical seppuku. So I was able to make my patriotic Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle. Here's the recipe and the moral of the tale: Invest in good surge protectors! They're insurance - you might not ever need them, but when you need them, you're so glad you have them.

Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle

A traditional trifle uses a sponge cake, but I used a silver cake since I like the flavor, plus the egg whites in the cake balance out the yolks in the custard. You can also use angel food cake.

Silver Cake
- adapted from Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan Purdy

2 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup skim or 1 % milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond or orange extract

1- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 deg. F. Coat 2 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, dust them with flour, and tap out excess flour.

2- Into a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3- In a large grease-free bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add 1/4 plus 2 Tbsp of the sugar, and whip until the whites are stiff but not dry. I used my hand mixer for this, but you can use a stand mixer, also.

4- In another large bowl whisk together the oil, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the milk, the vanilla, and almond extract. Beat until well blended. Whisk in about half of the flour mixture. Then alternately fold in the whipped egg whites and the remaining flour, being careful not to stir and deflate the whites.

5- Divide the batter evenly between he prepared pans. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake is spriny to the touch and a cake tester inserted in the center of a layer comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Top each layer with another rack, invert, and remove the pans. Cool completely.


4 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups scalded milk

Put a large saucepan with a few inches of water in it over medium-high heat. In a heat-proof bowl that can rest over the saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and vanilla. Place the bowl over simmering, not boiling, water, stirring constantly. When custard coats a rubber spatula with a thin coating (you can draw a line with your finger in the custard on the spatula and it will stay), remove from the heat. Pour into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the top, and set in the refrigerator to cool.

Raspberry or strawberry jam
Fresh raspberries and Blueberries
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp sugar (vanilla sugar is good here)


Whip together the whipping cream with the vanilla. Gently shake the sugar over the cream as you are whipping it. For best success in whipping cream, especially in the summer, place the bowl and beaters that you will use into the refrigerator 2 hours before you make the cream. Otherwise the heat from the beater friction can melt the fat in the cream and make it greasy.

Chunk one layer of the cake into the bottom of your prettiest clear bowl or trifle dish. Dab on globs of jam. Sprinkle with half of the blueberries then half the raspberries. Pour 1/2 of the custard over this. Spread half of the whipped cream over that layer. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Garnish, if desired with a few berries or mint leaves.

If there are any leftovers, store them covered in the refrigerator.

(I'm still accepting entries for the contest in the previous post. The drawing will be held later this week.)


VeggieGirl said...

Yikes, thank goodness no one was hurt!! And thank goodness you were still able to make (and enjoy) that sensational trifle for the 4th of July :0)

pattio said...


Several years ago we had a similar problem with power surging through our house. All the LED displays on the dishwasher, oven, and microwave were fried. They were easy to replace (just expensive), but the power company paid because the problem was their fault. Good luck getting everything up and in working order.

Chelsea said...

I wouldn't know what to do without an oven. I rent though, so I could just complain and get a new one. I am currently having to entertain the thought of no KA mixer for two weeks while we are moving. I am totally in a bread baking mood so it looks like I will be working on my arm muscles.

CindyD said...

If the power company doesn't pay, your insurance might pay something towards repairing/replacing ovens, etc.
I haven't tried it, but I've seen recipes for dump cakes made in a crockpot.

giz said...

Wow - the computer got a surge - make sure you get a surge bar - storms are scary. Now you can tell your husband that what happened to your computer is similar to what happens with women - i.e, menopausal women - :)

eatme_delicious said...

Yikes how awful and scary! Glad to hear that you and your family are okay, though too bad about the oven. :(

Melinda said...

So sorry for your scary power surge...I bet Hallmark Cards didn't think to do a card for that event!

Joking aside, I am so glad you are all safe.(and that this didn't happen before the wedding! Yikes!) Ovens and other stuff can be replaced.
I think the BBQ needs to come out!
Hamburgers and s'mores. Yum.
Hope the insurance comes through and you get a good oven replacement ASAP. Tell them your blogger friends are relying on you to bake and cook. I am sure this will cut some mustard.

Kevin said...

It is really good that no one was hurt! That trifle looks really good! It has been a long time since I last had trifle. I will have to fix that.

LyB said...

I would have been scared silly! I'm so glad you're all OK. I'll be thinking of you while you're being creative and coming up with recipes not requiring the use of an oven! That trifle looks delicious, most patriotic indeed!

Oh, and I tagged you for a photo meme; please check it out here

Sophie said...

That sounds very scary! I would've freaked out for sure!

Yummy berry trifle though :).

Mary said...

How very scary! I'm glad you weren't hurt.

Peabody said...

Oh my goodness! How aweful, but I am glad everything worked out okay...well, minus the oven of course!

Grace said...

yikes! that's freaky and scary and i'm glad it didn't end badly!
speaking of ending badly, if i made that trifle, i'd eat it all. maybe i'd split it into two servings, but i make no promises. :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I don't understand much of that electrical discussion except to appreciate you're still around and I'm sorry about the ovens but they'll repair or replace! Wow that must have been super scary. With all that fun you still got your cake and trifle. What a fourth you had!

CookiePie said...

Thank goodness you're all ok! How scary for you - I'm so glad it all worked out. You'll get your ovens back in no time.

And your trifle still came out beautiful! :)

Steve (the English version) said...

Lyn, this sounds absolutely scrumptious. Yet I did note a missing ingredient in the "ideal" English trifle. Alright, that would be “my” “Ideal” trifle. That is the liquid enhancement for the chunks of cakes. This is, of course, the sweet Cream Sherry.

Still I am very glad no one was hurt. Seems the house was taking this English thing a little far. There they intentionally have 240 volts spread about the house. So maybe the electrical system just wanted to show its support for this English delight.

Kristin said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you had such a scary night (and that you lost your ovens) but thank goodness that was all.

I'm amazed that you still pulled together the delightful trifle. It looks delicious!

Marysol said...

Good Lord. That must've been terrifying for you and your family. I don't know that I would've kept my cool, as well as you, in that situation. But I've watched Poltergeist one too many times.
I'm very glad you're all fine and few things will need replacing. Good luck with your oven. Virtual hugs to you.
Btw, your Trifle looks absolutely delicious!

cakebrain said...

Sounds scary! Glad no one was hurt. Lovely looking trifle!

Deborah said...

That scares me. I live in an older house, and I'm sure the wiring wouldn't survive something like that. Looks like I need some surge protectors....

On the other hand, your trifle looks so festive and delicious!

Aimée said...

What a story! You sure have a way with words, Lynn.

Love trifle! Reminds me that it's a great dessert for summer, thanks!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I'm glad to hear not much was damaged, my friend. But for an outstanding baker like you, being without the oven must be awful - I know I'd freak out without mine. :)

I hope you had an amazing holiday - that dessert is wonderful, Lynn!

Jacque said...

Oh my gosh, that sound like a harrowing experience. And yet, you have a beautiful confection to show for it.

Sorry about your stove :(

thecoffeesnob said...

That must have been terrifying! I'm so glad no one got hurt and you still got to enjoy that gorgeous trifle. I hope your oven gets repaired soon.