It was a fairly small group that entered the Free Choice Sweepstakes last week (no, it's not really a sweepstakes)--of course, we're missing Mendy and Lois, who are somewhere in the process of house/apartment-hunting/moving. But those who baked really baked up a storm.
There must have been some subconscious chocolate thing going around because two people (in addition to me) made the Barcelona Brownie Bars.
Allergic-to-nuts-except-for-almonds Hanaa substituted toasted almonds for pecans, baked the brownies in her mini brioche molds, and decorated each brownie brioche with three almonds. Raymond followed the recipe almost exactly, except for the substitution of walnuts for pecans. Since he was making them specifically for someone who hates pecans, this seemed reasonable. Unlike Hanaa, Raymond made the ganache plugs, which he thought were good but "not at all necessary for the enjoyment of these little morsels."
We also doubled up on another recipe: the Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake. (I had to go to my book to see whether it was the Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake or the Heavenly Seduction Coconut Cake. This is a very confusing issue if you give it too much thought).
Our math whiz Jenn made 70% of the recipe--something I don't think I've ever heard of anyone else doing. But it worked for her--making a small heart-shaped pan and a few cupcakes. Jenn doesn't much like coconut cake herself, but was excited to make this because her husband does. (She calls herself "cheesy" for this sentiment, but I say it sounds like every day is Valentine's Day at the Knitty Baker household).
I almost missed Nancy B's posting about her heavenly seduction cake because she followed it so closely with her post about her ciabatta. Both are lovely; indeed, they are seductive. Nancy thinks of this cake as the "five forms of coconut cake," although she ended up using only four forms.
Speaking of every day being Valentine's Day, Kristina lets her husband choose what cake to make for Free Choice week. This week he chose the marble velvet cake, and Kristina obliged. She thinks she needs to "work on [her] marbling skills," but I say her marbling skills look A-OK.
Even in deep midwinter, the Lemon Crown Cake looked good to Maria, who made it with Meyer lemons as a treat for her mother, who was coming home from Dubai(!) Maria had never made homemade ladyfingers before (oh, how I remember my first attempt at ladyfingers!), but her first try was a winner, as was the cake, beautifully wrapped in a green ribbon.
Some people took Free Choice week to extremes. Sarah, for example, did the No-Bake Cheesecake as well as the Carrot Cake. You've probably seen the frosting carrots that a standard bakery uses as decoration on its carrot cakes. Nice. But then you should look at the marzipan "heirloom carrots" that Sarah dreamed up for her carrot cake. More than nice.
And Katya went on a baking rampage. She did three catch-up cakes: the Lemon Canadian Crown, the Black Chocolate Party Cake, and the Quail Egg Indulgence. I must say that Katya pooh-poohed those of us who were "moaning and groaning" about making homemade ladyfingers. She likes to make ladyfingers, and sounds like she's been doing it since she was about three years old. But her blog did remind me that I had some ladyfingers in my freezer, so I'm not going to get all sniffy about her ladyfinger superiority.
And then, if you want to talk about someone who really went baking crazy, take a look at Jennifer, and her epic 72-hour kitchen adventure. She made a wedding cake (which included the golden lemon almond cake as her free choice selection), as well as "baking three different cakes, making four fillings, seven syrups, and three different frostings (one frosting I made three times)."
And so we're all one cake closer to finishing all the cakes in the book.
This upcoming week is something very different: a sticky toffee "pudding" that's not a pudding at all, at least not an American "pudding." It's a spice cake flavored with dates--and stout--topped wiith a butterscotch toffee sauce and a pecan and creme fraiche topping. Just the thing if you're eating light. You can also make individual "puddings," and I'm hoping that at least a few people will take that route. The pudding/cake is made in a 9 by 13 pan and serves 12. That's a lot of pudding. I expect some people will want to cut this recipe in half, and I may be one of them.
The following two weeks are both chocolate cakes. I don't know how that happened--I usually try not to have two chocolate desserts in a row. I've learned my lesson, though, and will not change the order of recipes once they've been announced.