Later this month I'm having a Little House on the Prairie themed party for my friends' children. Ahead of the party, I'm practicing making some of the things I want to serve - I don't want any nasty surprises on the day of the party!
One of the things I'm hoping to serve is a couple of cornbread loaves shaped like little houses. I got inspired when I picked up a vintage house-shaped mold on eBay. It was probably meant for gingerbread, but I've already baked a lemon cake in it. I discovered the hard way that one box mix of Betty Crocker cake does not fill the house mold completely. Next time, I'll use 2 or even 3 boxes. It will be ok if the cake overflows at the top - I can always slice it off to make a level surface on the bottom of the house.
I used two inexpensive boxes of Trader Joe's cornbread mix. The mix uses eggs, oil and water. Simple! I remembered to double the ingredient quantities from the instructions on the first box.
Next, I flipped the mold upside down (it has "feet" built in to keep it level on your cookie sheet) and sprayed Trader Joe's baking spray generously all over the mold. I didn't bother to flour the mold - I learned from my cake baking experiment earlier that I didn't need to. Why add an extra step (and an extra hand washing session) if you don't need to!
Even using two boxes of mix, the cornbread mix didn't come close to filling the house mold. This made me nervous. It's normal for some of the batter to leak out onto the cookie sheet. That's ok, it just burns and gets a bit smoky during the baking process, but no big deal.
I popped it into the oven at 350, but wasn't sure how long to bake it for. The box suggested 40 minutes, but that was assuming a different kind of pan (a cornbread pan). I set my timer for 50 minutes. Ohboy, that was not long enough. The top of the cornbread (the bottom of the house) was really gooey and jiggly still. Despite my reservations, I stuck a knife into it. Yuck - a gooey sinkage happened. I baked the cornbread for 10 more minutes (so far a total of 60) and it still was gooey. So I turned the mold over, letting the sort of gooey bottom rest on the cookie sheet. 15 minutes more of baking - crossing my fingers the roof didn't burn.
Ta da! 75 minutes later, the cornbread house emerged. I was glad to see it was nicely browned (darker than I'd prefer, but oh well), thoroughly cooked, and not burned.
I was even surprised that some of the definition on the windows and door depressions still showed up.
Once this is sliced open at the party, it won't look cool any more, but at least when people walk into the yard and see this set up on the buffet table, it will look pretty nice. Since it's not a cake, I don't have to bother with frosting or sprinkling powdered sugar on top of it.
I consider this a success, and can't wait to see my nephews and nieces chowing down on cornbread (which I will bake the evening before the party!)