The Karmel Cake. Is it a true Plain Jane that has no business being in a cookbook that features the likes of the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze or the Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Buttercream? Or is it the ugly duckling that turns out to be a beautiful swan? That is the question the Heavenly Cake Bakers answered last week.
I thought that the ingenious Bakers might look askance at this single-layer unadorned cake and would find some ways to prettify it. But most people kept it simple.
Jenn, however, couldn't quite resist finding some way to make it cute, so she used her new butterfly cakelet pan. The little butterfly cakes are cute all right, although they pretty much refused to budge out of the pan. Also, Jenn's husband decided they had a "weird" taste, so the Karmel cake, cute or no, may not be repeated there.
Lola's husband also failed to rave about the cake. He said it was "okay, but he has preferred other cakes that I have made."
This less-than-enthusiastic reaction was decidedly a minority view, however.
Lois, for example, found nothing "plain about the finished product," and (after making two cupcakes for home consumption) sent it with her husband to his workplace, where it was devoured in record time.
Kristina sent hers to work for the same reason. When she asked her husband whether to leave the cake at home or take it to work, he said, “Take it to work. If you keep it here, I’ll eat it and get fat.”
Raymond was ecstatic about the cake: "The rich and butter taste of the caramel really shines through here and every mouthful is an explosion of rich and mellow caramel flavor. No tame flower this, but a full flavored gutsy cake with a nice crumb and a strong structure to back it up. You will definitely savor every bite of this cake."
As was Katya, who loved the cake's "unadorned simplicity." "I considered dressing up this cake for the camera, but I decided that its rigorous simplicity demanded simple presentation. We ate it just like this, and it was complete in itself. The Karmel Cake, which is also a caramel cake, is a butter cake made with a milk/brown-sugar caramel in the batter, which gives it a subtle depth of flavor and a crunchy brown crust."
Jennifer added this to her "List of Cakes that are Good for Breakfast," which I must say sounds like a very useful list to have. She added, "This lovely caramel cake was a snap to prepare, and just as easy to eat. It had a lovely moist, soft crumb, with the caramelly flavors taking this cake further down the road of awesome than my beloved yellow butter cake." Cakes that are "Further down the road of awesome" would also make a good list.
In fact, some people weren't even planning to make the cake because of its plainness. When Monica, for instance, saw the recipe, she wasn't "wowed" by it at all. But after eating it, (and eating it some more), she decided that "hidden in its simplicity ... is a stand out cake. It does not even need frosting or cream or anything - ...I recommend to eat it plain because sometimes plain is good for the soul - this is one of those times."
Faithy wasn't planning to make it either. (Full disclosure: her change of heart may have had something to do with a veiled threat about Woody chasing her down with his tai chi sword). She was glad she did, because "even with my slightly burnt caramel bits, the cake turned out great."
People loved the caramel taste; if anything, they would have preferred more caramel. Nancy would have liked a punchier caramel flavor, though she thought the cake was "nice and moist," and her nephew called it a "really excellent" cake. Nancy would like to experiment with the sugar, maybe trying the recommended Muscovado. (I think Hanaa's insistence on using dark brown sugar may be contagious.)
Vicki loved it, but also thought the caramel flavor was a little mild: "If there was a way to ramp it up even more, I'd definitely go for it." She recommends Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream (melting) as a perfect accompaniment.
None of you will be surprised to hear that Hanaâ is this week's FEATURED BAKER. I can't tell you how much I admire her fearless attitude toward baking. "Let's pipe 'Happy Birthday Rose' on the cake!" is just one of her many spur-of-the-moment ideas. And her curiosity knows no bounds. Unlike some people (yours truly, for example), who just want to turn out an edible product and stave off disaster, Hanaâ wants to know how everything works. And then she wants to improve it. She is also warm and fun and supportive.
Our next two weeks are also butter layer cakes. When we finish the coconut cake, we'll have completed with the "Butter and Oil Cakes" chapter.
Miette's Tomboy is a smallish cake. It calls for one 6 x 3-inch round pan. These are not easy to find. Fortunately, you have the option of using two 6 by 2-inch pans, which is what I'm planning to do. If you do this option, the cake "will be slightly less dense and fudgy." But I can live with that. If you don't think that the purpose of the flower nail is to make a chiffon layer cake, you can probably duplicate the pretty pink rose that's in the center of the cake. Otherwise, you can eat it without a rose.
The Southern (Manhattan) Coconut Cake is, on the other hand, a largish cake--it serves 16 to 20. Unless you're planning to cut the recipe in half, or even less, this would be a good cake to take to the office--or offer up at the end of a big party. This cake doesn't just require packaged coconut--it's supposed to have fresh or thawed and towel-dried frozen coconut. I've never seen frozen coconut in a grocery store. In the other hand, I've never looked. The buttercream also calls for CocoRibe, but since it's optional, I think I'm going to ignore it.