It was a struggle. Many of us--faced with blizzards, a demanding family, and stressful holidays--had to drag ourselves in the kitchen to bake one more thing in order to finish this week's cake. But those of us who did (including those who started the project at midnight) were glad we'd forced ourselves to open the oven door one more time.
Some of the draggers also were forced to substitute ingredients with what they had on hand.
Katya, for example, snowed in in her New York home, substituted ricotta and buttermilk for cream cheese and sour cream. She said it tasted good, although the wetter mixture seemed to cause some "bottom ladyfingers [to] float up, giving it an odd 'pond filled with floating logs' appearance." Hope your street has been plowed by now, Katya. I feel your pain.
Gartblue nearly didn't have time to bake, given the "rushy week" it was. And then she ran out of aluminum foil, had only the wrong size springform pan, and had blueberries but not cranberries. Did she have a snit? Well, yes, she did, but she still persevered.
It will probably surprise no one to hear that Jennifer was the above-named midnight baker--this isn't the first time that's happened. She also made some substitutions: a mixture of reduced-fat sour cream and full-fat yogurt. Again, the subs worked out well, converting at least one cheesecake naysayer to a fan.
Not everyone had to fly by the seat of their pants. Andrea was organized enough to make her own ladyfingers (after getting the right-sized piping tip--amazing what a difference that makes!). She also rolled out pie dough for two homemade pies: a pecan tart and a lattice-topped cherry pie. Nice work!
Raymond breezed through this cheesecake, even though he was also committed to "so many cookies and cakes and desserts for friends and parties" and San Diego was having "weird" weather (not blizzards). His reward? A "terrific" cheesecake, and high praise from one of the guests--a professional chef--at the party where the cheesecake was guest of honor.
Mendy's cheesecakes could have been guests of honor at about ten different parties--I don't know what size pan he used but he ended up with a multitude of cheesecakes, all looking very good. (Although there was one that "someone decided to poke their finger into ... a couple times.") That one looked, well, like someone had decided to poke their finger into it.
And then there were a few people who just couldn't get enough of baking--even in one of the busiest kitchen weeks of the year. Lois's extra baking time was a little inadvertent, since she ended up making two batches of ladyfingers. Apparently if you neglect to add flour to the ladyfingers, they end up being a little flat. You know how far you've come as a baker when you decide that it's easier to make another batch of ladyfingers from scratch than to run out to a nearby store to buy them.
Jenn chose this week to play more catch-up. Along with the cheesecake, she also made the financier-style vanilla bean poundcakes from a few weeks ago. She made five of those, which she and her husband "wolfed down" in minutes. (Can't imagine how "wolf" came to mean greedy eating).
This week's FEATURED BAKER is Nancy B.--in part to honor her as the only person who has made every single cake on the Heavenly Bakers list, and in part to show off her cheesecake, which was met with choruses of "good cheesecake" at the office potluck to which she brought it. Nancy made homemade ladyfingers to "reinforce her ladyfinger skills." She worried about a few imperfect spots, but was told that her ladyfingers looked so good they must be storebought. She thought she would have some left, so she could get a picture of an individual piece, but when she went to pick up her platter, all that was left was a "pile of crumbs." And I'll bet the pile wasn't very big.
And honorable mention goes to Joan, who didn't do the cheesecake, but instead did a reprise of the fabulous Saint-Honore trifle.
I think people are really going to like next week's Chocolate Bull's-Eye Cake. Don't be scared by all the components. Each one is easy, and the cake can be put together in a snap. It's going to be easier if you have the MaryAnn pan, because then you won't have to cut a circle out of the cake to put the chocolate in.
If you want your cake to be a little boozy, you have a couple of options. You can flavor the syrup with a vanilla cognac (or other liqueur) and you can also add a bit of apricot brandy to the strained apricot jam. Water, plus a little extra vanilla, works just fine as well.
This will be our first cake of 2011!
The following week, we go again to the Quick & Easy list, which is quickly diminishing. We'll make a layer cake: the classic White Velvet Cake topped with milk chocolate ganache. If anyone's birthday is coming up, it looks like it would be a fine birthday cake.
Happy New Year to all of you dear Heavenly Bakers!