Jun 9, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

As I was reading through your posts, it suddenly occurred to me that, although I assigned the cupcakes, I didn't assign any frosting. Because I check off any recipe that I've made, I assumed that you do too. And because there are two frostings that aren't attached to other recipes (the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream and the Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream), and I'd already used the Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream when I made the Yellow Butter Cupcakes way back last June, I naturally wanted to make the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream so I could cross it off. And I did. But I failed let you know that this is what I had in mind, and so you just did whatever you felt like doing. The result is that we have cupcakes that all look very different, although they're the same staunch little cupcakes underneath whatever it is that you put on them.
That ranged all the way from Mendy (nothing) to Saira, who made both strawberry AND vanilla mousselines, AND who dyed the frosting for one cupcake a deep teal blue, just for fun.
Monica and Lois used the same frosting recipe: an odd recipe made with flour, but they both swear by it, Monica going so far as to dub it "The Best Frosting I've Ever Tasted." Lynnette just whipped up a basic buttercream (no recipe), but she made no claims for it being the best ever.
Zerin really went whole hog! She not only made a chocolate ganache to drizzle over the chocolate cupcakes, but she also made the yellow butter cupcakes for those who "don't dig chocolate"(another cake to cross off her list!) and frosted them with pretty pink frosting.
Vicki went the minimalist route, simply dusting hers with powdered sugar. Lest you think she let herself off the hook too easily, she also "mixed up" an espresso buttercream with creme fraiche.
Several people used leftover frosting. Leftover frosting? This is not a concept I understand. Kristina had some leftover raspberry cloud cream in her freezer. Seriously. Kristina is the kind of person who rummages around in her freezer and finds something called raspberry cloud cream. Faithy had both leftover ganache and leftover dreamy creamy white frosting. Her refrigerator is as much a treasure trove as Kristina's freezer.
Raymond does get to cross off another recipe because he did the Chocolate Egg-White Buttercream, although he said the cupcakes were good enough that they didn't need frosting. And that comes from the "old cuss" who has "no patience" for individual cakes, whether they're called cakelets, baby cakes, or cupcakes.
Jenn almost got to cross something else off her list because she (almost) made the Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream. You can read all about her Buttercream Drama on her blog.

The hard-fought FEATURED BAKER contest was especially keen this week, and ended in a draw: Julie (Brand new to the Heavenly Cake Bakers) and Jennifer. Julie gets all kinds of credit for baking the cupcakes from the Transplant House (her husband is waiting for a liver transplant (and, in all seriousness, I wish you both well in that scary-sounding path)) after her husband was hospitalized with an infection. Julie, who sounds like an amazing woman, did not let the fact that she was in a strange kitchen stop her from making both the cupcakes and the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream. Julie piped "Thanks" on each cupcake, which she gave to the nurses, noting somewhat apologetically that she would ordinarily not use tube frosting from the grocery store to write "Thanks," but she hadn't brought her own piping equipment with her. Julie, you are a trouper, and I look forward to seeing what you produce in your own kitchen with your own piping bag.
Julie shares the Featured Baker award with Jennifer, aka Evil Cake Lady, for two reasons. The first is sprinkles. Specifically, sprinkles artistically strewn over just one side of the cupcake. The second is her great description of a serious jones for chocolate:
There comes a time in every girl's life when she really needs her chocolate fix. Like, when all she is thinking about is chocolate, and when she can get some chocolate, and what kind of chocolate, and in what form of delivery she wants her chocolate, and when this chocolate consumption can take place. You may think she is listening to you talk about your in-laws, or your back pain, or that she is hard at work, but really she is just running through all of her chocolate options and deciding which one she will take advantage of. You may be able to distract her for awhile, or satisfy her temporarily with some other delicious something, but it won't be long before the chocolate cravings begin again. She might try to settle for an easier, cheaper, and less delicious chocolate option, but oftentimes that will only make the chocolate cravings more insistent and cranky. A girl knows better--she has to have her chocolate, the kind she wants, the way she wants it, and RIGHT NOW.

Let's talk about dry cakes--or as some people have said, cakes that are "almost dry," or "just at the edge of dry." This is a fairly common observation, or even criticism, about Rose's chocolate cakes. In the case of these chocolate cupcakes, both Saira and Lois mentioned that the cupcakes seemed dry. Jenn thought they were dry when she made them last year, so she tried syruping them this time around. Mendy didn't think they were dry, but described an odd texture, sort of like hard-boiled egg yolks. Other people described them as "perfect" or "moist." What's the deal?
First, I'll say that I don't think the cakes are dry. My own theory--backed up by absolutely nothing--is that people have gotten accustomed to super-moist cakes from eating too many mix cakes with added pudding, so that a cake that is a normal cake consistency doesn't seem moist enough. But it doesn't make much difference what I think, and if people think the cakes are dry, then they're dry. You can't really say, "You're a moron; this cake is NOT DRY!"
Back in 2006, blogger Aaron said he thought the culprit was water--as much as two ounces--evaporating from the water-cocoa mix, and said it was solved when he wrapped the mixture with plastic wrap. Rose agreed.
Frankly, I don't see how two ounces could evaporate from the cocoa mixture unless you're mixing the water and the cocoa a week before you bake the cake, but it doesn't hurt to cover anything with plastic wrap if it's going to be sitting for a while. I noticed that Mendy added a little bit of extra water to the last chocolate cake he made, and the texture looked quite moist. Vicki also says she's started to take her cakes out of the oven just before she thinks they're done, and she thinks that's been helpful.
Overbaking is something that's also often named as a culprit, and Rose's recipes generally advise that they should not start to shrink away from the cake pans until after the cake is out of the oven. But, as Joan can attest, sometimes taking a cake's temperature can cause more problems than it solves. In the same vein, some people advise that if you use a cake tester, you should remove the cake from the oven when some crumbs are still sticking to the tester. If you wait until the tester is completely dry, chances are the cake will be as well. Obviously, using too much flour wouldn't make for a moist cake, but this shouldn't happen if you weigh the ingredients. I was getting lazy about weighing eggs, but I started doing it after Woody chastized me. I noticed that my organic, cage-free eggs have less yolk and more white than the "standard" egg. I wonder if this could have any affect on the dryness of the final product. It seems to me that I remember reading somewhere that too many egg whites could cause a cake to be dry.
I know that others have wondered about this issue--does anyone else have other ideas?

Well, anyway, the next cake isn't chocolate. It's a fabulous-looking four-layer (well--two layers sliced in half) white cake with a fabulous-looking strawberry mousseline and a fabulous-looking chocolate frosting. Can you tell that the picture of this cake just calls to me? If you can find American Spoon Food's strawberry butter in your grocery store, you won't have to strain strawberry preserves. Otherwise, you will. Unless you disobey orders.
After that, another cheesecake. And another Quick-and-Easy. I think the only thing that might cause problems here is the cream of coconut. The recipe warns: "not coconut cream"! I think that cream of coconut is the stuff you buy in the beverage aisle of your grocery store or at your liquor store--the stuff you use to make pina coladas. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is like coconut milk, only thicker, and it's not sweetened.


evil cake lady said...

Aw, thanks for the featured baker "award," and congrats to my FB partner, Julie!

Adding to the dry chocolate cake discussion, I noticed that my RLB choc cakes became less dry when I started to measure out the egg whites and yolks, and actually perfect when blogger Aaron told us about, duh, evaporation. So seriously, cover your choc paste. And, on the forums, people talked about using a high cocoa butter content cocoa powder as part of the solution.

And Marie, I agree with your theory about those chemical bombs called cake mixes. They have totally ruined most people's perception of what real cake is! *Shakes fist at boxes of cake mix*

My strawberry butter just arrived today--so excited for the next cake!

Katya said...

Leftover frosting can and does happen in my house, where I just don't like frosting as much as I like making it. Before I co-opted the leftover ganache for the cupcakes, though, Matt was happily mixing it into his ice cream on any given night, so it wasn't going to waste.

Katya said...

Also, slightly off-topic, but has anyone heard of mountain dew cake, or does anyone have a recipe for it? A woman for whom I am making a cake this week requested it, and all recipes seem based solely on pudding mix and cake mix--thoughts?

Jenn said...

Marie, I don't know why I feel this cake is dry, but it is. Try to compare it to the german chocolate cake base - that one is more moist.
And no, I'm not used to cake mixes - actually detest them. So I don't think that's why - in my case at least.
I do enjoy reading your analysis though, very interesting :).

Jenn said...

Marie, I don't know why I feel this cake is dry, but it is. Try to compare it to the german chocolate cake base - that one is more moist.
And no, I'm not used to cake mixes - actually detest them. So I don't think that's why - in my case at least.
I do enjoy reading your analysis though, very interesting :).

Mendy said...


Congrats to the featured bakers!

I made the strawberry cake and it is wonderful!

I found a substitute for strawberry butter online and scaled it down, like so:

1/4 of a 10 oz pkg. frozen strawberries, thawed
1/4 c. butter, softened (lightly salted real butter)
1/4 c. conf. sugar
combine in blender

It worked very nicely.

Monica said...

Congratulations to Julie (and welcome to the group) and Jennifer... see the sprinkles are the stuff!

Marie after I read the whole debate about "dry" and not "dry" ... I got to tell you I did not find the cupcakes dry at all.. but then I weigh my ingredients (even the eggs) and I have learned to FOLLOW the recipe directions.. so I guess all that pays off.

Katya.. I heard of 7-up cake.. in fact I think if you go to the Pioneer Woman web page or the Tasty Kitchen
web page there is one there.

This weekend is Tom's Birthday and the cake this week will be his Birthday cake... He is looking forward to it, I'm looking forward to it.. I been hearing from the other bakers that its totally yummy, so I know our 25+ guess will enjoy it. Plus, HELLO ITS A ROSE CAKE!

Mendy.. you are a life saver... I could not find the Strawberry butter, so I was going to follow the tip of
using perserved (which I bought today) with the lemon juice... I may make your suggestion.

Katya said...

Thanks Monica--right when I got back from the store with all the lemon jello and cake mix, of course...

Monica said...

Oh and by the way... I found Rose video of making the Strawberry Mousseline filling ... very interesting, specially for me that I live in Florida and we are basically melting over here....


Maria said...

Assuming that strawberry butter is the same thing as apple butter, there should be no (dairy) butter in it! It's basically just fruit that you cook down in a bit of sugar and spices, and then cook it down some more. Then strain through a food mill and a fine sieve.

Though it might seem like a hassle, I suspect you'll get nearer the flavor by straining preserves than by some mixture of butter and strawberries.

Vicki said...

Oh my gosh, I feel like a just read a college thesis paper! I'm still of the totally unsubstantiated opinion that it is the pans that are the main culprit. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd test the same recipe in aluminum, stainless steel dark, stainless steel light and silicone. I swear these pans heat up and cool down differently, as well as, hold the heat in differently when the cakes are brought out of the oven and left to sit before turning out of the pan. I didn't know about egg whites. I think Woody should test all these theories. Hey, Woody, take a memo and get back to us, okay?

evil cake lady said...

Monica, thanks for the link. It has been a long long time since I've made mousseline and the refresher was nice!

Vicki, I love your proposal for pan research!

faithy, the baker said...

Congrats feature bakers! :D

Thanks Mendy!! Me too..i was wondering where i can find strawberry butter..but instead i found Apple Butter..and was thinking perhaps i need to make apple cake instead .. lol! What is 1/4 of 10oz means it is 2.5oz?

Hanaâ said...

Congrats to both featured bakers. Julie, welcome to the club!

I too read that egg whites could dry out cakes. To be honest I'm a bit hesitant about our upcoming cake which is a white butter cake. I've tried the white butter cake from TCB a few times and it's always been a tad on the dry side. Despite that, it always tasted great!

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but I think Rose's recipes tend to be on the dry side. Baking her cakes has led me to purchase scales, baking strips, oven thermometers, instant read thermometers, etc. etc. in a quest to resolve the issue with dry cakes. I am not complaining because I think this is a much better way to bake then using measuring cups, but I still find her cakes dry. I thought the same as Marie, that my family was used to cake mixes, and the taste of a "real" cake was foreign to their taste buds. However, when I started to experiment with recipes from other books, using whatever measuring methods the author used (dip and scoop, spooning into cups) I didn't recieve the same complaints from my family. I am still a fan of Rose's recipes, I just wish I could resolve this issue.

Anonymous said...

So we're supposed to use Coco Lopez for this cake and the coconut seduction? I totally used the wrong thing then for the coconut seduction cake--I thought it was supposed to be unsweetened coconut cream for some reason. I was thinking it didn't turn out right.

Mendy said...


Sorry Faithy, yes 2.5 ounces of strawberrys. I actually used slightly more than that.

Don't forget to adjust the butter in the recipe if you decide to go with the substitute I found.

Anonymous said...

...I would also recommend using one of the strawberry butter cream recipes in the cake bible.

Julie said...

Just chiming in on the dry chocolate cake issue. In addition to potential problems from too much egg white or flour, evaporating water, or overbaking, in my expeerience there is definitely a drier outcome with a lower-fat cocoa powder.

Some cocoa powders are "full-fat", around 20-24% cocoa butter by weight, while others can be much lower in fat, 10% or so, having had some cocoa butter removed. And the lower fat variety make for drier cakes.

Two full-fat varieties are Green & Blacks and Bensdorpf.

dessertschick said...

@ Hanaa and an Anony... When I first started with The Cake Bible (about 1 1/2 years ago, relatively recent, I guess) I instantly fell in love with Rose's basic yellow cake, EXCEPT it was all crumbly and a tiny bit dry.

I've experimented and this is what I've settled on (for now):
- Substitute (by weight) 50 to 75 grams all purpose flour.
- After the cake bakes and cools, syrup with liqueur of your choice until the cake doesn't soak it in anymore, about 3 to 4 Tablespoons for a 9" cake, depending ont he ambient humidity. (I usually do a mixture of vanilla liqueur and Buttershots.)

I do weight my flour, but not my eggs. So maybe I should start doing that...
Also, I haven't found a choc cake of Rose's (yet, but I still have a TON of experimenting to do!) that completely fits the bill for me. I'll try the removing-sugar-and-turning-it-into-a-syrup idea next.