I'm afraid that my remark about doing penance with a chocolate cake scared some people off this week. As of this moment (Tuesday at 12:49 PM CST), only nine people have baked the cake. This is about half the number we had with the lemon meringue cake and the plum and blueberry upside down cake. (Katya kind of made up for that by baking the cake for the second time, and Jennifer made two different versions, so that enthusiasm made up for the relatively small numbers).
There were really only two basic decisions for this cake: 1) make the whole cake--which required two separate half-sheet cakes--or make a half-cake and 2) make the whipped ganache or just whipped cream. Most people opted for half a cake and chocolate ganache.
If you're really creative, however, you might do what Vicki did, and decorate the cake with grated white chocolate and garnish it with fresh blackberries. The blackberries gave it a lovely fresh look. If you really want to see cute, though, forget about looking at the cake and just take a gander at the picture of Vicki's granddaughter ensuring the quality of the ganache.
Monica did the half-cake and the chocolate ganache. Hers looks stunning, partly because she took the trouble to trim the cakes so they stacked neatly together and because she also took the trouble to make real chocolate curls, not just grated chocolate. It paid off in photogenecity. (I thought I'd just made that word up, but it's a real word and means just what I thought it should mean).
Nancy B also did a half-cake (in fact, she's the one who started the trend). I'm not sure how she does it--flying into town, baking a cake, then flying out again for another business trip (next week, it's Albuquerque)--but she does. She did her version of stabilized whipped cream and chocolate curls--which brought back memories of her grandmother's "zebra pie" (chocolate wafers and whipped cream).
Lois used the chocolate ganache. She compared the cake to a "very thin chocolate souffle," with a whipped ganache to "continue the light as air chocolate theme."
Jennifer decided against making either of the decisions, so she just made two cakes: one with the whipped chocolate ganache and one with the whipped cream. This decision, mind you, was made in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave in Portland. (Yes, a heat wave in Portland). "We all unanimously agreed the whipped cream variation looked more appealing as well as being more to our tastes."
This was Katya's second go-round for this cake, which she noted was perfect for Passover, and also gluten-free--a handy thing to have in your repertoire. This time, Katya decorated her cake with white nonpareils, giving it--in her opinion, at least--the look of a "cafeteria sheet cake." (Maybe in Brooklyn it looks like a cafeteria cake. Where I come from, in northern Indiana, there were no cafeteria featherbed cakes).
Mendy was racing against the clock to finish this before the start of Sabbath, and ended up (again, in his words), with "chocolate sludge" and a cake that was a featherbed cookie. Tasted good, though. Check out Mendy's blog from time to time to see if his wife posts for his birthday. I'm hoping for another spousal birthday blog event!
Jenn also claimed to have a feather-less chocolate featherbed. In her case, it wasn't the clock that was her enemy, but the cacao content (her theory is that the high cacao content made her cake ultra-thin--it took six layers for her to get the desired height. Take a look at how she decorated the sides of the cake before you feel sorry for her, though--it looks fantastic. I'll admit to piping envy.
This was another week when I had a very hard time deciding on the FEATURED BAKER. Such lovely cakes, and such dedicated bakers! Finally, after going from blog to blog, I realized that I was always giving extra time to Raymond. Not only were his step-by-step pictures perfectly illustrative, but his final product was so beautiful, with its piping (yes, I'll admit it, I'm jealous), and its sprinkle of almonds. I imagined walking in to Raymond's house and spotting that gorgeous cake, hoping that I'd be able to sample a slice. And, although Raymond claims to be the consummate "grumpy old man," I'm pretty sure he'd cut a piece for me. And that I'd love it.
Next week is the Marionberry Shortcake. For those of you with access to fresh marionberries in season, I apologize for missing the season. If I'd done research instead of just guessing, I'd have planned the cake for July. According to Rose, the thing about marionberries is that they freeze beautifully, so you can make this cake successfully with the frozen berries. If you opt for a different berry, or another fruit, you should use one of the fresh fruits that's available season now, unlike the marionberry, which must have about an eight-day season.
If you don't have the very cute little individual Mary Ann pans, you can use custard cups to make the baby shortcakes.
Coming up after that is the chocolate layer cake with caramel ganache. By then it will be the end of August. Perhaps the cool winds of autumn will make an appearance and this rich-sounding chocolate cake will sound wonderfully appetizing. If it's still hot where you live, turn on the A/C and eat up.