Feb 24, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

There was no clear winner in the Free Choice selection. Both Lois and
made the whipped cream cake. Monica found that it "transported" her to her days in Italy because it reminded her of eating gelato and watching beautiful men. Lois didn't mention being transported, but she took hers into work and served it with lemon curd, which sounds pretty transporting to me.
A different lemon cake from Nicola, who did the golden lemon almond cake, and made a brilliant rescue of the part of the cake that stuck to the pan. (Congrats on the new job!)
Both Elaine and Wafae made the classic carrot cake. Elaine thought it needed more cinnamon, and Wafae just used more cinnamon. She sprinkled the frosting with cinnamon,which, along with her fancy and fastidious decorating, made it look lovely. She decided, however, that she liked it better as cupcakes.
Jennifer did another cupcake version, but hers was of the the Rose Red Velvet Cake as cupcakes. Just as she did on the last occasion that she made a red velvet cake, she resisted all the entreaties of the people who urged her to use beet juice as a healthy alternative to red dye #40. I agree--beets belong in many things, but not in cakes.
Kristina was the third cupcake-baker: spice with peanut buttercream. Her buttercream is piped so sweetly. I'm very jealous of all these people with excellent piping skills.
Not cupcakes exactly, but Vicki made little gingerbread bundt cakes. I have to say that for someone who claims a lot of baking disasters, these bundt cakes looked very appetizing. (Vicki, the chocolate raspberry trifle is so good, and so is the red fruit shortcake!)
Toni, not satisfied with making just one cake, baked both the Manhattan Coconut Cake and another coconut cake to compare. She liked both cakes, but especially raved about the buttercream icing on Rose's cake. Mendy also went for broke and baked two different cakes: not only the Banana Refrigerator Cake, but also the Barcelona Brownie Bars. A glutton for punishment or a glutton for cake? You decide.
Lanier made the yellow cupcakes with chocolate egg white buttercream. Her icing on top of the cupcakes actually looks professional, while mine just looked blobby. She also has a piece of chocolate perched on top of the icing.
Lest you think that everyone chose one of the simpler cakes, Nancy B. tried her hand at the White Gold Passion Genoise. This has been one of my very favorite cakes, and Nancy liked it too, although she did note its "elaborate" nature, in a way that was perhaps not completely complimentary.
Raymond made the Hungarian Jancsi Torta. Raymond (whose cakes always look so inviting) loved this "simple and delicious" cake.

How did you like the Free Choice option? What best expresses your opinion:
a) I'd rather not do it again,
b) I don't mind doing it occasionally, but not regularly,
c) I'd like to repeat it regularly, say on a monthly basis, or
d) Other.

If there's a clear consensus, that's what we'll do. I personally thought it was fun to see everyone's choices. My only problem was that I couldn't figure out how to choose a Featured Baker when people were baking such different things, so I didn't.

Next week we're doing another quick and easy butter cake--the lemon poppyseed cake. It requires no exotic ingredients, and, although you can make it in a NordicWare heart pan (which I borrowed from Woody), you can also use any old bundt-type pan. This is a cake that's best left to mellow after you make it, so you can make it the night before and take it to work, which is what I plan to do.

To make up for next week's simple cake, be prepared for the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze the following week. If you just take it step by step, you shouldn't have any problems with it, but it does take a long time to get through all the steps. If you want to simplify it a bit, you can substitute store-bought apricot jam for the lekvar and omit the syrup.

As I've been tiresome about repeating, I'm going to Hawaii on Saturday, so I won't be answering any emails. I've made the next two cakes, and they're scheduled to be posted, so you will be hearing from me. I won't do the "Last Cake, Next Cake" posting next week (no Featured Baker next week either), but you all can still check in with each other.

Feb 22, 2010

Double-Chocolate-Whammy Groom's Cake (or Poker Group Cake)

I have a burgeoning collection of NordicWare cake pans, but I drew the line at purchasing the stadium cake pan. I have no plans to have a Super Bowl party, because we rarely watch the Super Bowl, and, when we do, it's only to root for the underdog, which is generally not that satisfying. But when Woody offered to lend me his pan, and it was Jim's turn to host the neighborhood poker club, it seemed like a karmic merger of the chocolate-double-whammy elements.
It's another Rose Special--a two-day affair, with several different elements and a multitude of steps, but I'm so accustomed to it now that it barely gives me pause.

Day one: make the Fudgy Pudgy brownies. Frankly, the name "fudgy pudgy" does not pass my presidential dessert name test. Say the president and his wife come to dinner. Say everything has gone well so far. It's time for dessert. You serve it. The president dives in, smiles, and asks what it is. "Well, President Obama, these are Fudgy Pudgy brownies." No, it just won't do. The Secret Service men are snickering. "Double whammy" is bad enough, but "double whammy with fudgy pudgy"--nope.
That being said, these brownies are awfully good. Indeed, they're so fudgy that I understand the urge to make "fudgy" part of the name.

The brownies start with a mixture of unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, white chocolate, and butter, all melted together. I've made cocoa brownies and I've made brownies with unsweetened chocolate, but I've never used both. I expect the white chocolate adds a little sweetness without being too sugary.

The dry ingredients and the walnuts (optional, but I recommend them unless you hate nuts), are stirred in, making a very thick batter, which goes in a square pan, lined with parchment and surrounded with a cake strip.

After just a half hour, you have a pan of brownies that looks good enough to be dessert in its own right, but, of course, you're not done yet.

Day Two: Make the chocolate cake, which is just called "batter," and doesn't have its own cute name. This is a nice sour cream and cocoa cake, which is probably quite good in its own right, although I didn't taste it alone. Here it is before you start adding cut-up brownies to it.

And here is the big pile of cut-up brownies that you add to the batter:

Cutting the pan of brownies into quarter-inch squares is the most time-consuming part of the project. It's one of those things that takes much longer than you think it will and ends up driving you crazy if you're a person of little patience.

And stirring all these little pieces into the batter is the most physically challenging because it's a big bowl, a ton of brownie pieces, and it's hard for a wimpy person to go all the way down to the bottom of the bowl and try to make sure that every little brownie piece is covered in batter.
The mixture goes into the stadium pan (you can also use a tube pan, but then you can't call it a stadium cake), and has to be tamped down so that it doesn't leave holes and bubbles at the bottom of the pan.

As it bakes, it goes up over the top of the pan, and you worry that that may be a problem, and that it won't unmold properly, but it's okay.

It was hard to get a picture of the interior of the cake so you can actually see the pieces of brownie suspended in the cake. This is the best shot:

I was lucky I got home in time to have a piece myself. It was better than I expected. I thought it was more a showpiece for the stadium pan, but it was an excellent chocolate cake. I agree with the anonymous taster who loved the nuggets inside. I may not have liked the name "fudgy pudgy," but I did like the results.
Jim was crazy about this cake. In fact, I think it's the first one I've made that he told me I couldn't take into work. (I think that night of macho poker-playing put him in an assertive mood).

The Garfield Avenue Poker Group

“It’s a giant brownie.”
“It would have been better if served by the Dallas cheerleaders.” (Jim thinks this was aimed at me).
“I like the crunchy outside and soft inside.” (Jim says there was some dissent about the outside; most liked it, but the dissenters thought it was "too dry" or "too hard." He said that everyone liked the middle.)
“Rich; creamy in the middle.”
“It had the right amount of nuts.”
“I like the nuggets.”

Feb 19, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

What happened to the week? It's Friday already, and my mid-week cake roundup has had to wait until end-week to be posted. Work is just cutting too much into my baking time. I would judge the double-chocolate heart cake to be quite successful, although I must say that there were an unusual number of minor glitches (my cake was not the only one that suffered from a broken heart).
Mendy noticed that his "cake came out a little lopsided without the proper height." And this was after his first attempt came out too dry. But, despite being lopsided, the second cake was "moist, fudge-y (, warm) and yummy!" And his cake, even though he thought it was "funny looking," was demolished by hungry and admiring guests, while a more level-headed bakery cake was left standing.
Monica didn't have difficulties with lopsidedness, but the double-flipping required by the recipe drove her to distraction: "I needed to move it to the serving plate, so I tried to do a flip and flip and realized that it was not going to work. So, I tried to slide it, and nope, nada. Next up lifting the cake with two spatulas and transferring it to the serving plate, and it seem to work, except that I did not count on it still being wet at the bottom, so when I tried to remove the spatulas, the cake started to split ... YIKES! Abort! Abort! And yelled for HELP!" Just as I did, she found out that the fact that the cake split didn't mean that all was lost.
Gartblue had an entirely different issue. She had no problems at all until she started smelling something burning. When she looked in her oven, she saw a cake having a growth spurt and suffering at least second-degree burns. Puzzled, she checked the temperature gauge and saw that it had somehow been turned to 250. (That's Celsius--in Fahrenheit, it's over 480). likely. Unless, I accidentally turned it to max when I leaned over to get the clingwrap for the ganache. Well. Damage was done. When she took the cake out, she said it looked like Mount Kinabalu. That's the highest mountain in Malaysia, and who says you can't learn geography from a cake blog. When she tried to brush on the ganache, she didn't get just one crack, but a whole seismic event, and the cake completely disintegrated.
On the bright side, Raymond not only loved the cake, but also loved the raspberries that he splurged on. He said the produce manager gave him a sample before selling them because he knew that Raymond "would make a fuss if I got them home and they were tasteless." Raymond, is there some way you could become an ombudsman for all purchasers of produce? You could go from store to store promising to kick up a fuss if there's any substandard produce. Granted, it's not the kind of field that superheroes generally get into, but you'd sure be a hero to me.
On the other hand, Jennifer praised the "familiar comforts of baking a butter cake" after our forays into more complicated and unfamiliar terrain.
And Vicki, who made cupcakes, had great fun with her Frosting Fun Gun, filling them with ganache, or raspberry mousse, or whipped cream.
Nancy B. also used texas muffin pans, as well as Mary Ann pans. She was pleased with the results, but there wasn't enough ganache to cover all the surfaces of her mini-cakes. Nancy, there are a couple of recipes that we'll get to eventually that call for those very same small Mary Ann pans. Do not give them away.
Finally, I just have to call your attention to the breathtaking basketweave decorating on Hanaa's cake. Look at it and weep.

Our FEATURED BAKER this week is Toni, for many reasons. First, the adorable picture of her daughter inspecting the cocoa powder--taken just nanoseconds before she breathed on the cocoa and sent it skittering all over the counter. Second, her brave search for raspberries. Third, her demonstration of how to make your own cake strips. Fourth, her mini-muffin after-school-snack version of the cake. Fifth, her pictures of snowpeople commenting on her cakes.
But the real reason is that I want to know whether Toni wants to be called Virginia. I swear that when I first got an email from her asking about being in the group, she signed it "Toni." But I also swear that she now identifies herself as Virginia. Is there a split personality thing going on here? Or did I just screw up?

Stay tuned for answers to this, and other life's questions. And I hope that you're all giving serious thought to what cake you're going to bake this weekend when you're not chained to my schedule. It's total freedom for you this week!
Also, note that there's been a change in the schedule. Saira had asked to do the banana cake as guest host on March 15. As you may recall, Saira's father died suddenly in January, and she has been with her family. She's almost ready to start baking again, but has a lot to get caught up on, so she asked to move her stint as guest host to April. Monica noticed the pistachio cake, and asked if we could put that on the list of cakes to bake soon, so I decided to move that one up to take the place of the banana cake.
Note that Rose has a preferred supplier for high-quality pistachios. A lot of you probably have access to good, fresh pistachios, but you'll want to get the best ones you can find since they're such an important element of this cake.

Feb 15, 2010

Double Chocolate Valentine

When I got up this morning, I saw that Jim had bought me a Valentine's Day card. I felt guilty because I hadn't gotten one for him (we're going out for dinner, after all--how many V-Day things do you need to do when you've been married for practically 50 years?) Then I remembered: "No card," I said, "but I'm going to bake you a Valentine's Day cake." It was a nice card, but he definitely got the better part of that deal.

I bought another new pan, but this one was just a cheap-ish Wilton 9-inch heart pan, not another cast aluminum mold. (It was top-of-the-line Wilton, however). I told Jim not to take a picture of the pan with my first-graderish freehand parchment heart showing, but he ignored me. Really, sometimes I wonder how we've managed to stay married for all these years.

I loved making this cake--it was so easy! I do try to intersperse the easy ones with the ones that require multiple heart-stopping steps. This is an official Quick-and-Easy cake, of which we still have 17 left to do. Easy steps: Dissolve cocoa in boiling water. Stir dry ingredients together. Beat in butter and cocoa mixture.
The batter gets nice and thick and chocolatey. A mixture of egg yolks, vanilla, and a little water gets added in two installments.
And that's it! Into the pan goes the batter, and into the oven goes the pan.
Don't worry, I smoothed the top before I put it into the oven. I've just been encouraging Jim not to take so many boring pictures, so he didn't take the obligatory cake-smoothing photo.
While the cake is baking, a dark chocolate ganache is made using Rose's super-easy method of chopping up chocolate in the food processor and pouring scalded cream into the processor until the two ingredients are mixed.
Instead of immediately removing the cake from the pan, you poke holes in the top and brush about half the ganache over the top, letting it soak in.
I forgot to put the cake strip around the pan, and I thought I smelled a slight odor of burned chocolate, but it was all right. Nevertheless, don't forget the cake strip of you have one! Also, although I usually use my oven's convection setting, I suddenly began to wonder whether the convection setting might be more drying for a chocolate cake than the ordinary "bake" setting, so I decided to try that. Of course, unless you bake two cakes, which vary only in the oven setting and in no other way, you won't know. This cake was not at all dry (except a bit at the edges), but it probably took ten minutes longer to bake than it would have using the convection setting. So I'm still undecided. For those of you who have a convection option, what's your experience? Do you think it has a drying effect?
But back to the cake.... After about ten minutes, you flip the cake over and repeat the hole-poking and ganache-brushing routine on Side B.
Whoa! All was going so well, until suddenly the heart started to split. This led to many lame jokes about broken hearts.
The chasm in the cake made me very happy that I'd decided to spring for the out-of-season raspberries, because the fastidiously placed raspberries covered a multitude of sins, particularly a split-in-two chocolate cake.
I thought it was pretty after the raspberries had been placed on top, but the shine from the currant jelly glaze added another dimension of glamour.
And an easy cake to serve, too. You can ask people how many raspberries they want, and then you can just slice them a 12-raspberry piece, or whatever they've specified. Be warned that someone who chooses a dainty 8-raspberry slice may want seconds. Mentioning no names.

This was a thoroughly satisfying cake to put together, decorate, and serve. Except for the broken heart, which mended itself, there were no hoo-hahs, and it was both delicious and beautiful. The heart-shaped pan made it just right for Valentine's Day, but I think this cake is one you'll want to keep in mind for any time of the year.

Karen: "It's really good and really beautiful, too. I can't remember all the cakes I've eaten, but this is one of my top choices. It's got a delicious flavor. It's fun to eat, too, because you can stick your fork down between the berries and get a column of cake."
Jim: "It's airy, delicious, and very pretty."
Laurel: "This is probably the best ever. It takes the honor away from the pretender cake which claims to be "better than sex."
The cake texture is delicate and the chocolate not bitter but more
than ample and the raspberries add a perfect but subtle tartness,
which would be unattainable by anything else that I can think of."
Jan: "Just delicious."

Feb 11, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

We've been talking about making the True Orange Genoise for such a long time, that, as Nicola said she feels like she's "been baking this cake for a month." I know what she means. By the way, Nicola has a beautiful photo of the Seville oranges on her blog. Reviews on the genoise itself were mixed. So many people had trouble creating the full two-inch cake, instead ending up with one-inch or slightly higher cakes that it can't be a coincidence. Lanier thinks she gets the award for the "shortest cake," but I think others would vie for that honor. There was some talk about genoise made with Wondra flour not rising as high as those made with cake flour. I think we need a volunteer to do a side-by-side comparison. Still, I must point out that Gartblue's genoise--her first ever--looked perfect. Beginner's luck?
A few other random notes: Rozanne made this cake for her husband's birthday, which turned out to be a good choice. In an admirable attempt at portion control, Jenn vows that from now on, she is making only half recipes. Good luck--I hope that vow works out better than my one-piece-only vow, which has gone by the wayside. In a similar vein, Lisa joined this baking group about the same time she decided to lose 50 pounds. I actually think you can bake and still lose weight, but I agree with Jenn that you do have to do some kind of portion control.

By the way, lanier used a Florida sour orange for the cake, and Rachelino got some Bergamot sour oranges.
Speaking of oranges, I think everyone loved the curd, which Jennifer described as "the bomb."

became so enamored of Seville oranges that she promises to start a Seville orange festival in Sacramento, where the sour oranges grow wild. When you go to your first Seville Orange Festival, look for Vicki. She says you'll recognize her because she'll be "the lady with oranges atop her head doing the merengue."

I don't think I've ever named a brand-new baker as the FEATURED BAKER before, but I was so taken with Jill's beautiful four-layer, six-inch true orange genoise that I couldn't help myself. Okay, so Jill is a professional baker--the owner of Jillicious Desserts--so she does have an advantage, but you've got to give credit where credit is due. Not only did she make four layers, which makes for an entirely different look, but she also decorated it with chocolate shavings and chocolate curls, with a few artistically placed orange slices on top. It really is a work of art. Jill didn't have access to Seville oranges, so she used a combination of navel oranges, blood oranges, limes, and lemons. The use of blood oranges gave her orange curd a particularly intense color.

Also, a warm welcome to Wafae, who has baked several other of Rose's heavenly cakes, but just joined the group. She is making her introduction as well with a version of the true orange genoise that's so perfect that it could be a stand-in for the cake that was photographed for the cookbook.

Our next cake is the Double Chocolate Valentine, which can be made in a 9-inch heart-shaped pan (if you're cutting the recipe in half, in a much smaller heart-shaped pan) or just in a round pan. I'll bet the recipe would also make good cupcakes. By the way, I noticed that as soon as I noted that nearly every cake we've made so far has been turned into cupcakes by someone, no one made cupcakes out of the True Orange Genoise. In the book, this cake is beautifully decorated with sparkly fresh raspberries in a currant jelly glaze. I know that some of you are rebelling against buying out-of-season raspberries (although at least they're not hard to find--just expensive). I think this cake would also look stunning with the raspberry whipped cream that we've made on several occasions.
The week after that will be our first "free choice" week. This will give you a chance to bake any of the cakes that I baked on this blog before we started the bake-through, on September 29. I think that's a total of 22 cakes. You can look at these results by browsing through my June, July, August, and September posts. or just check the Archives.
You could also bake one of the HCB cakes that you didn't get a chance to do the first time around OR you could bake one of the variations for an already-posted recipe OR you could try again if you made a cake that you weren't satisfied with the first time. Lots of options for you.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Feb 8, 2010

True Orange Genoise

I only made two mistakes with this cake: one that was fixable, and one that wasn't. Well, they were actually both fixable, if by fixing you mean starting all over again. Still, despite the starting over, the multiple steps, and, of course, the difficulty in getting Seville oranges, I would definitely make this cake again. If I'm ever so fortunate as to see Seville oranges in any store, I'll buy them up immediately, knowing that I can put them to good use.
Vicki sent me a ton of oranges, and if I'd been a better orange shepherd, I'd have had plenty to give to Hanaâ, who also lives in Minnesota. But I was a poor tender of the sensitive oranges, and I ended up tossing the moldy ones. I squeezed the rest, and made the orange curd last week.
This is the orange curd against which all other orange curds should be judged. OK, I've only made it one other time, and that was Rose's recipe too, from her Christmas Cookie book, but the Seville curd is just so amazingly intense. I still have a little left in the refrigerator, and I haven't yet decided what's worthy of it. Bagels? Toast? Not unless they're first-rate themselves.
The genoise is my fifth or sixth, so I wasn't even anticipating any problems with it, but this time it failed. It seemed fine. My first clue that something might be wrong was when I noticed it didn't come even close to filling the pan halfway.
And when it came out of the oven, it was a sad-looking little disc, barely an inch tall. After it cooled off, I wrapped in plastic and put it in the freezer, so in case I ever feel like eating a probably tough, and definitely puny cake, I'll know just where to find it.
The second try turned out fine.
I think my initial problem was probably underbeating the eggs, and I think that was because I was getting tired of hearing the high-pitched whirr of the KitchenAid on high speed. (I outsmarted myself, though, because I ended up beating them for almost ten minutes the second time, just to make sure). I wonder if we should all be wearing earmuffs when we bake genoise cakes. After my second try, I wrapped the cake in StretchTite and went to bed.
The only things left for Sunday were the orange-Triple Sec syrup
and the ganache.
I accidentally took some milk chocolate from the freezer instead of dark chocolate. After the ganache was cooling, I noticed that it was really anemic looking.
"Why," I said to myself, "that looks like milk chocolate." In my best Sherlock Holmesean manner, I checked the freezer and noticed that the milk chocolate baggie was smaller than it had been, while the dark chocolate was untouched. So I melted some dark chocolate and added the milk chocolate ganache to it until it was the right more or less consistency.
Now comes the hard part.
Cutting the cake into two small layers is always a challenge, but it went all right this time. (See the bread in the background? I made Pain a l'Ancienne this weekend, which I will blog about on the bread blog, as soon as I get around to it). I will say that bread is way less fussy than cake. Finally, I get to use the orange curd.
And then quickly put a thin layer of ganache on the top and sides. The texture was perfect when I started but began to harden just as I was almost done.
Drat! I forgot to use my new cake turntable.
I still had a little milk chocolate ganache left, so I drizzled that on top of the cake. The color and texture were just enough different to allow the drizzle to stand out. I forgot to dry the oranges last night, so I didn't have that extra bit of decoration, but really, have you ever said to yourself, "That cake would have been just about perfect if it had had a couple of slices of dried orange on top?" I didn't think so.
When I told a friend of mine what cake I was planning to make this weekend, she made a little face. She said she didn't like fruit and chocolate together--she liked fruit, and she liked chocolate; she just didn't like them together. Chacun a son gout, I always say, but I don't understand how you could like orange and chocolate, and not like this cake. The chocolate--especially the dark chocolate, I'm glad I didn't keep the milk chocolate ganache--is such a lovely foil to the sweet-tart orange flavors. Although I don't usually order dessert at restaurants, I would order this--if only anyone other than me had it on their menu.


Jim: "I like the chocolate and orange together. The orange flavor is really strong, but not too strong for the chocolate. The texture was grainier than I expected, but I still liked it."
Tony: "Delicious!"
Rachel: "Excellent!"

Feb 3, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

The pineapple upside-down cake is another dessert that was almost universally liked, even though, as usual, we had many different versions. I hope that all of you looked at Mendy's blog, not just to look at the cakes he baked in his little springform pans, but also to get some insight into the holiday Tu-Bishvat, and why the new year of the trees is celebrated in Judaism. It would have been more authentic if we'd baked a pomegranate and almond cake (and Rose, I hope you'll get to work on that because it sounds delicious, but I think the pineapple-cherry combo will do.) Some people used canned pineapple and some fresh; some used frozen cherries,andd some used maraschino; some added orange.
Nancy B. and Nicola used Texas muffin pans, which seemed to work very well. Jennifer, Lisa, Vicki, Monica, and Raymond used individual ramekins, which also worked quite well. Lanier and Lois both made cupcakes, again proving that there is no cake that can't be cupcaked. And Faithy decided to ignore the "individual" part of the cakes, making hers in an 8-inch pan, as did Elaine, who made hers in a loaf pan. (Apologies if I got anybody wrong--I made some quick notes when I read through everyone's blog, and found a lot of my notes to be indecipherable).
Some kind of special Sugar Award goes to Vicki, who found that she had somehow accumulated seven different kinds of sugar in the course of her baking escapades. It sounds almost professional, doesn't it?
I'm bestowing the title of FEATURED BAKER on Hanaâ this week, because not only did she make several heart-shaped upside-down cakes, which turned out to be quite lovely, but she also did what no one else thought of--and maybe no one else has ever thought of--she used the pineapple and cherry to make a pineapple-upside-down smiley face. Another clever thing that Hanaâ did was to add the grated rind of one orange into the batter. I didn't taste it literally, but when my mental taste buds tried it, they really liked it. Finally, she weighed the batter into each individual ramekin, so the batter was evenly distributed. A scale-loving girl after my own heart!

We're finally ready for the True Orange genoise, the cake we've all been anticipating in our searches for the elusive Seville orange. Although I'd been warned that these little oranges were touchy little things and went bad overnight, I ignored the warning and found that they literally do go bad overnight. I rescued enough to make Seville orange juice, and then made the orange curd last weekend. If you're on the fence about making this cake, I recommend that you try it--or at least that you try the orange curd. Every time I opened the refrigerator this week, I heard the siren song of this orange curd, calling to me. So far I've resisted. If you like the sound of something that's rich, tangy, sour, and sweet all at the same time, you'll like the orange curd. I can't vouch for the rest of the dessert, which I haven't made yet, but I'm crazy about the orange curd.
After that, we come to the Valentine's Day chocolate cake with a ganache glaze, fresh raspberry topping, and whipped cream. If you want to make it a Valentine's Day cake, you'll want a 9-inch heart-shaped pan. You can also make it in a round cake pan, and I'm thinking that no one would refuse to be your valentine because you baked them a round chocolate cake.
Valentine's Day is one of those holidays that people have strong feelings about. I've known some people (mostly women) who got very depressed on a V-Day where they weren't seeing anyone and where the world seemed populated only by loving couples. I've also known some people (mostly men) who get angry on Valentine's Day because they believe it's a stupid, trumped-up holiday designed to extort money from them and force them to mouth romantic platitudes.
Did you know that Valentine's Day is the biggest day of the year for restaurant owners? The common wisdom is not to go out for dinner on Valentine's Day because you'll get a second-rate dinner even at a first-rate restaurant. I don't know if this is true, but I do know that Jim and I are going out for our Valentine's Day dinner the week after the actual holiday. Who cares? We'll have chocolate cake to keep us warm.

Our most recent baker is Elaine, from Brisbane, who says that baking makes her happy. She baked the upside down cakes on Friday, so I had to hold off adding her to the list for a few days so she wouldn't be ahead of everyone else. (I know there's a time difference between here and Australia, but I'm pretty sure it's not 72 hours). I like the way Elaine's blog is set up--it's very organized, with ratings of scale of difficulty and yumminess, and a final paragraph called "How did it taste?"
This brings us to 28 Heavenly Bakers. I've decided to limit the number to 30. Hanaa has a friend who is interested, so that would be 29. If we get more applicants after 30, I'll put them on a waiting list. I'd like to encourage everyone to join, but I know we all like to check out each other's cakes, and I think it would just get unwieldy to have more than about 30.
If we ever get to the point where there's a waiting list, I'll probably be more religious about enforcing the rule about baking two cakes a month, but don't worry about it yet.

Feb 1, 2010

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

I started my baking project today with the humility brought on by last week's failure, but determined to get back on the baking bicycle (although not quite ready for the angel food bicycle, as Rose recommended). This time Woody assured me I'd have no problems. And, in fact, I didn't.
Even though there were plenty of things that could have gone wrong during the unmolding process and there were two separate caramels to make, I'd say it's a pretty easy recipe.

If you were inclined to cheat at any place in this recipe, you could probably use canned pineapple slices instead of a fresh pineapple. The advantage of fresh is that when you get a good one, it's so much more delicious. The disadvantages are that it's more work and if you get a bad one, it doesn't taste as good as a canned slice.
I got a mediocre pineapple, so it was probably a wash. Also, the pieces kept falling apart when I tried to move them to the pan. Also, my initial center holes, which I made using a small biscuit cutter, were too big. But the large biscuit cutter was the perfect size for cutting the rings to fit the pan.
As you see, I succumbed once again to cute Nordic-Ware mania. Jim has now laid down the law. Sort of. He hasn't forbidden me to buy any more, but he has said I can't retire until I'm sated. Only fair, since I told him he couldn't retire unless he augmented his meager pension by working in the shoe department at Nordstrom.
Pouring the caramel into the molds is trickier than making the caramel, because it solidifies so quickly. You can take care of that by microwaving it for a few seconds, but you still have to work quickly.
I wanted to serve it just like this, without even bothering with the cake, because I loved the way the pineapple and cherries looked.
After making the caramel and carefully placing the pineapple ring and cherry in place, the actual batter was quite simple. The turbinado sugar gave it an oddly speckled appearance.
There was very little batter, and I really should have portioned out the batter among the six molds by weighing it. But I didn't think of that until I'd already done a couple. They weren't totally evenly divided, but it was close enough.

I also loved the way the pineapple and cherries looked when the cake was done, so I was happy I hadn't served it without the cake part after all. Unmolding the pan was kind of a Thelma-and-Louise moment for me. I had to close my eyes and lift up the pan, having no confidence at all that it would all turn out all right. Fortunately (for me), the unmolding process turned out a lot better than driving over the Grand Canyon likely turned out for them.
Making the pineapple caramel for the drizzle was also no problem. Adding all the juice made the caramel a less fussy procedure than usual. By the time it had cooled, it was pretty solid; again, a few seconds in the microwave made it easy to drizzle.

I had planned to get a plastic squeeze bottle, as recommended, but I didn't see one and decided against driving all over the Twin Cities to look for one. So I just used a baby spoon for the drizzling--3 spoonsful a plate, with a small container left over - to flavor all the unflavored yogurt that I didn't use for the cake.
This is a lovely winter dessert. Rose's rendition of a traditional down-home cake is sophisticated enough to serve at a fancy dinner, but casual enough (it is upside-down cake, after all) to have with hamburgers or stew. The pineapple caramel drizzle makes a very attractive presentation, and the caramelized pineapple and cherry topping has more pleasing flavors and textures than the more typical method of just melting butter and sprinkling brown sugar on the bottom of the pan.
I already have a lot of cakes on my repeat list (the cakes I'll be able to make again, sometime after I finish going through the entire book), and this is the newest addition to that list.


Susan: "This is wonderful!"

Laurel: "Did you use fresh pineapple? The pineapple flavor is stronger than in most upside-down cakes."

Karen: "The cake is delicious--it's the sweetest of Rose's cakes, but just the right amount of sweetness. It's a tasty and satisfying dessert."

Jan: "It's very good. I like the taste and the texture."

Jim: "I really like this cake. I like the textures and that it's not overly sweet. I'd love to have it again."