Baking With Booze: Drunk Lemon Teacakes

Baking is one thing -– and it’s an awesome thing. Baking with alcohol is an even better thing.

It’s not that I can’t cook -- it’s that, as a general rule, I just don’t.

I order a damn fine round of Chinese food, and the delivery guy doesn’t expect me to spend an hour of my valuable time standing at the stove and stirring something. Yes, risotto, I’m looking at you and all of your creamy deliciousness.

So, I don’t cook except for when I do -- which is often right around the holidays. Regular dinner for two on a weeknight? I am so not interested you can see my not-interest from space. But if I’ve got 15 people coming over for a quiet evening (by which I mean an evening spent playing Guitar Hero and drinking) of holiday celebration? Oh, honey, in that case we’re cooking a turkey (with stuffing) and a ham. And maybe some eggplant parm for the vegetarians. And side dishes. Oh, the side dishes.

It’s possible I get a little extra manic around the holidays. Maybe. Possibly. Definitely. Anyway.

If there’s no one coming over, I still tend to jump at the chance to make something festive. Combine this with my unholy love of bundt pans, and you get me baking cakes in the shapes of other things.There are so many amazing bundt pans. I’d give you a list of the ones I want but it’d be easier for you to go search bundt pan and then just look at all the bundt pans that exist in the world.

Last year, I treated myself to a teacake mold that made eensy cakes in the shapes of bundt pans. This year, I had the bright idea to cook lemon teacakes with orange liqueur.Baking is one thing -- and it’s an awesome thing. Baking with alcohol is, for those who imbibe, an even better thing. I make rum cakes shaped like octopuses and chocolate bourbon cakes shaped like a ring of pine trees. And now? Now I also appear to make Drunk Lemon Teacakes.

Catchy name, right? I just made it up. And I want to tell you how to make Drunk Lemon Teacakes, too. Especially because this is, like, the least fancy recipe ever.

Here’s what you need: lemon cake mix, orange liqueur, oil, eggses (my precious), powdered sugar. Oh, and a box of instant pudding mix. Lemon or vanilla, it is unimportant -- rather, it is based on your tastes rather than mine. I think vanilla adds a little creaminess.

Cakes from scratch are a marvelous work and a wonder. They’re also a lot of work. (And, yes, they’re also totally worth it -- there is a different between a box cake and a cake from scratch.) That’s why doctoring up a box mix is pure genius.

Dump your lemon cake mix in a bowl. Add the specified number of eggs and the specified amount of oil. Now, instead of the water that is probably called for on the back of your box mix, add your orange liqueur. I used Grand Imperial for these teacakes -- there is pretty much no reason to bake with a top shelf liqueur. So leave the Grand Marn on the counter and unscrew the cap on something cheaper. Not too cheap, though. You don’t want to cook with anything you’d be upset about having to drink, after all.

Mix mix mix. Make your mix nice and smooth. Grainy batter is the enemy of clear and fine detail. Spray your teacake mold (or whatever) with nonstick spray. Then fill each teacake thingie about 2/3 of the way.

Because you’re replacing the water with liqueur and then baking them for such a short time, I wouldn’t actually recommend eating a handful of these for breakfast and then driving anywhere. They have a distinct aroma of delicious adult beverage -- nothing offensive or overpowering, but definitely present.

And these are strong; you can add less liqueur but, really, anything less than a cup isn’t going to hold up to the tartness of the lemon flavor. That’s one reason I like making this recipe as teacakes: The result is like a tiny little shot of cake and orange and alcohol.

Once your cakes are cool, dust them lightly with powdered sugar. This is, of course, entirely optional. I’m actually not a fan of icing or frosting or putting anything on my cake. I make the occasional exception for buttercream but, eh. I’m in it for the actual baked good most of the time. These would also be lovely with a light lemon/orange sugar glaze.

Now, this recipe would make a lovely cake, it would. But I go the teacake route for one simple reason: They look damn impressive. Sheet cakes are divine, but the miracle of the bundt pan is that it gives you intricate detail with no effort on your part. A pretty cake doesn’t necessarily taste better, but I’m all about indulging all of my senses. A pretty cake looks pretty, and that contributes to my enjoyment of it. Teacakes are also (so, okay, I made them for two reasons) easy to sneak onto a plate at a potluck or other serve-yourself meal. No one has to commit to a full slice.

Honestly, I wish all desserts came in miniatures, so I could sample a wider array. More dessert for them that want it -- that’s the holiday spirit. (Ha! I knew I could work a “spirits” pun in here somewhere.)