October is finally here and I couldn't be more pleased. I've always loved fall, and I'm particularly fond of the early part when there's drastically reduced chances of wet snow or dry turkey. As things start to drift along into November, fall's more liable to drop some family obligations or disastrous weather on you, but in these early post-summer days, no right-thinking man can help but smile at the moderate temperatures, reasonable daylight allocation, and dying leaves.
This October is a particularly momentous one for Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I, for we have become a baking household. I'm very willing and fairly able to cook normal meal-type foods (soup, chicken, toast), and Emily will boil pasta if you hold a gun or a crappy takeout menu to her head, but neither of us has ever done much baking.
I often claim to not like standard home-bakery items such as pies and cakes and cup-pies and chicken pot cakes and all the rest of it, but what I really mean is that I reluctantly choose to waste my empty calories elsewhere. A body has to make tough choices in a world with chocolate eclairs, oatmeal stouts, and adult onset diabetes, and I generally choose the middle path. But I've been cutting back on the booze lately, so I figure it's time to cut forth with the cake while the diabetes is somehow still stuck in traffic.
We made this pumpkin bread recipe. I was initially turned off by the word "bread," but fear not, young gluttons: This is the kind of bread that is actually and blessedly a loaf-shaped cake. It is bread best suited for dessert or perhaps for making a frosting sandwich. It was very easy to make, probably because we're baking prodigies but possibly because it's a simpleton's errand that uses pumpkin beer instead of creepy yeast or anything else living or otherwise complicated.
Oh yes, that reminds me to yell at you about yelling about pumpkin-flavored foods and drinks. Sure, I agree that it's gotten a bit out of hand, but please stop complaining so much. These pumpkin things aren't hurting you. People who gripe about the seasonal influx of pumpkin flavored beers, coffees, and string cheeses are the same people who gripe about malls throwing up the Christmas crap the day after Halloween: Sure, it's a bit tacky and off-putting, but it's not worth getting all exercised about. You just keep drinking your regular beer, and all of us suckers and fakers and mainstream sheep will sugar-rim our gourd brew, and we'll all live happily ever after. Please.
As I was saying, got me a sweet tooth now. And although I said I was picking up the cakes as a countermeasure to putting down the booze, on occasion a bottle will show up in the mail, and one of the most recent was Hiram Walker's Whipped Cream Imitation Liqueur. Of course that sounds ghastly, but like I said, it just showed up unbidden, and I'm not about to turn out a convenient stranger. That wouldn't be in the spirit of the season. Plus I've had good luck with even the most suspect-sounding Hiram Walker liqueurs in the past.
In addition to coming from a fairly good family, this stuff has two other big things going for it: It's 70 proof, which should be high enough to hide some of the anticipated over-sweetness, and it comes in a very handsome light-blue bottle. The packaging is quite tasteful for an $11 bottle of a thing called Whipped Cream Imitation Liqueur.
It smells mostly as you'd suspect—like an off-brand can of the aerosol whipped topping that the bad kids in high school somehow managed to turn into a drug—but with a faint underlying fruitiness. I won't go so far as to say it's two dimensional, but there's more to it than I expected. You can smell the alcohol when you really get your nose in there, but it's fairly muted. It tastes like it should. Take that as you do.
I can't in good conscience recommend anyone run right out to buy Hiram Walker Whipped Cream, but I can say that it's at least as good as Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka, which costs twice as much and is only 60 proof. If you're going to have one whipped cream booze in your cabinet, make it this one.