Jul 6, 2009

Golden Lemon Almond Cake

Poor Jim. This was his Father's Day cake, and I screwed it up royally. It's not a hard cake to make. In fact, it has a place on the quick and easy list, and rightfully so. It's a simple butter cake, with the addition of sour cream, lemon oil, grated lemon rind, and ground almonds. And yet, I totally messed it up.
When Sarah walked in the door, I announced that I had ruined the cake. She was ecstatic. "Oh, that's great," she said, "Is it bad enough for Cakewrecks?" It is her goal for a cake of mine to be pictured on cakewrecks.com. I don't find this to be a particularly supportive goal.
When she looked at it, she was disappointed. "Mom, it doesn't look like a wreck at all, it's pretty!"

But when I showed her the seamy underbelly, she had to admit it wasn't so lovely.

Here's the problem. I had all the ingredients ready to put in at the right time, and I thought I had done that. When I re-read the ingredients after I'd finished mixing everything, I realized that I'd forgotten the sugar. I was disappointed because it meant that the sugar wouldn't be added at the right time, which I believed would affect the texture. But at least it would be added. So I scraped all the batter in the pan.

Then Jim asked, "When did the almonds go in?" Or that's what I thought he asked. He says he asked, "When do the almonds go in?" I said, "When they were supposed to go in." He thought I said, "When they're supposed to go in." Then, after I smoothed all the batter in the pan, I saw the ground almonds, still in the food processor. Which shows, I guess, that you shouldn't have two old deaf people working in the kitchen together. I dumped the nuts on top of the batter, and stirred them in, but I could see it wasn't going to work out that well.
This is my new NordicWare Bavaria cake pan.

I love its intricate design, which is prettier than the regular Bundt cake design. It also makes it harder to remove from the pan. I sprayed the pan heavily with Baker's Joy, but a few dabs of cake still clung to the pan when I inverted it.

When the cake comes out of the oven, you poke holes in the bottom, and brush on some easy-to-make lemon syrup (lemon juice and turbinado sugar). After ten minutes, you invert it and place it on a platter.
I decided to put it on a plate, and then transfer it to the serving platter later. DO NOT DO THIS. You would think I'd have learned about transferring a finished cake after the ginger cheesecake broke in half. But some people learn the hard way. The cake was firmly embedded in sticky lemon syrup, and did not want to be moved. I finally transferred it, but let's just say the transfer did not improve the cake's looks. I ran to the garden to cut some roses to put in the center so you could not see how the cake was on the verge of collapsing.

I wish that I weren't getting so much experience in disguising disasters.

The truly amazing thing is that, after all this, the cake was good! A definite, although not overpowering, lemon taste, a richness from the sour cream and butter, and a moist but not heavy texture.

(Lots of lemon flavor from two big tablespoons of grated lemon rind, plus lemon oil (courtesy of Woody), plus fresh lemon juice in the syrup).
I'm very curious to see what it would taste like if I made it the right way, and it may be the first cake that I repeat, because how could you not like a buttery almond lemon cake that is still delicious even if you make serial mistakes?


Karen: "You made me think this was going to be awful, but it's really, really good."
Sarah: "This is the best cakewreck I've ever tasted!"
James: [big piece of cake in mouth] Gives thumbs up sign.
Jim: "Can I have the rest of it?"


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Sounds like your cake was a success, despite the comedy of errors that occurred during it's creation. Can't wait to see how it turns out for you the next time.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

PS - these things happen, even to the most experienced bakers. You just have to laugh about it and go on.

Anonymous said...

Oh Marie! You are the most honest and humerous blogger out there. Your mistakes did not seem to make a huge differnce in its outcome. Your cake looked quite lovely, at least you did not drop it.


Anonymous said...

Get a little artist's brush, and use it to brush the baker's joy in the crevices--that should keep the cake from sticking to the pan.

jini said...

it does look very fancy pantsy (not to be confused with easy peasy) with the crown of roses. definitely not the cakewreck variety.

doughadear said...

There is no way that this cake is a disaster. It looks great especially with that intricate design and your beautiful roses in the center. It reminded me of the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the mother of the bride is presented with a bundt cake from the grooms mother and it totally perplexed by it and later brings it to the table with a potted plant stuck in its center.

hector said...

Oh dear, this remembers me when I forget to add the water on white genoise! In your case, I would have returned everything to the mixer bowl and flat beat in the missing ingredients till there is no tomorrow!

Hint, butter cakes harden like a stick of butter when refrigerated for 1 hour or so, which makes it easy to transfer from plate to plate!

Bake away dear, I doubt any of your cakes will be on cakewrecks!

Anna said...

I think my dad would love this one! Almonds and lemon? Yum.

I hear ya on the frustrations of baking sometimes. Days like that I stick to my tried and true recipes, it saves me both groceries, dishwashing time, and stress.

Marie said...

Well, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make the same mistake twice, but I wouldn't swear that I wouldn't make any brand new mistakes. Yes, you do have to laugh, because otherwise you'll cry.

I think that will be my mantra--"at least I didn't drop it." Of course, when I drop it, I'll need a new mantra.

Good idea. This pan does have more crevices than a regular bundt pan.

Marie said...

It was pretty easy-peasy too, if you can follow directions.

I'd forgotten all about that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding! Maybe it was in my subconscious and it gave me the idea for the flowers.

Yes, I think I should have just returned everything to the mixer. I think I might have done that if I'd been using a regular cake pan. So glad to get the hint about refrigerating the butter cake to solidify it a little--thanks!

I never know I'm going to have a day like that until I'm right in the middle of it!

Melinda said...

Honestly, Marie, I just don't know. I think you missed your calling as a stand up comedian. Are you this funny in court?

Your cake looks fine from where I am standing and it sounds like it passed the taste test. So this is not a failure or a cake wreck. (I loved today's Boo Hoo Tommmy cake. That is a gas!)

Well, today I get to be on the tasting panel because I actually have tasted this cake! Rose made it for us to taste when we had lunch with her in May. We had wonderful samples to taste test! I know! How lucky could we get? Very, actually.
The cake is moist and buttery delicious. It was beaut. I love the lemon and almond together.
I actually have this Bavarian bundt pan given for a birthday present last year. Now I just need the recipe!
Cheers x

Sweetie said...

aw, i relate to your experience. your daughter's comment is hilarious!

baking911 (i think) has a really good tip that will ensure easy removal. look at this page towards the bottom right for details: http://www.baking911.com/cakes/bundt.htm

Anonymous said...

Hey girl,

This looks great! I love a yummy-yet-not-busy cake. Not everything needs to be drowning in frosting or have piles of topping on it. Simple but delicious is always a terrific combination, methinks.

So, "I wish that I weren't getting so much experience in disguising disasters." Hmmmm...you are being too hard on yourself. If I recall, no one noticed the broken cheesecake, and you stitched it up beautifully.

You can bake me a cake anytime, Marie. :-)

Laura NYC

Anonymous said...

You know, it looks good from where I am standing too, but then again I am standing in Rhode Island! ;)

I wish I were standing much closer though, so I could be part of the tasting panel.

It sounds delish, and your tasting panel was enthusiastically unanimous, so I think you have to say this cake was both quick and easy, and forgiving and delicious.

(I forgot the sugar in my own birthday cake once, but after quickly un-panning, mixing, re-panning, no one was the wiser. I don't have a blog, so that little adventure stayed between me and the mixer).

Chris in RI

Marie said...

It's not generally thought to be a good sign if the judges start laughing at you when you're talking.
You had Rose's version, not mine, and I'll bet that Rose didn't forget the almonds. This would be a good Lazy Bakers project when the book comes out and you're baking again. That would give me a chance to make it with all the ingredients.

I always forget about baking911, but they have some good tips, don't they?

I agree--you can't get much better than simple but delicious. Especially with a little whipped cream on the side.

Yes, you're right--I get wound up in the details sometimes, but the cake was both forgiving and delicious.
I wish you did have a blog. I'd be a faithful reader.

Marie said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

Goody said...

You aren't even close to a cake wreck.

I was reading an old cookbook from the 60's where the author had a picture of something jellied in a ring mould (hey, it was the 60's) and had a big bunch of flowers in the centre like your cake with the note that, sometimes the gelatin does not cover everything completely and using a smaller pan would solve the problem we had, etc. You would never see that today, and it was kind of refreshing to see a published, less-than-perfect attempt at something.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

i'm going to be late for lunch but just had to say that i'm lalughing out loud and why is it that things that don't go quite right are so much more entertaining and instructive than those that do.

please do make it again--you'll see how absolutely wonderful it is--probably my fav cake in the book. by the way, if too much bakers joy comes out best to dab it around with a pastry brush (i use silicione). that way it ensure that it gets evenly into every crevice. i do get total release with this pan (now don't start laughing at me--don't forget i'm rushing!).

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

My lunch date is late so must add that with the flowers it looked gorgeous and the slight bulge voluptuous.

Marie said...

I don't think unfrosted cakes usually make it as cake wrecks. You can do so much damage with frosting.
You're right--cookbooks today don't usually admit to imperfections, although I think I remember that Rose had to buy baguettes for the photographs in The Bread Bible because hers didn't get done in time or something like that.

Total release! (Sorry, I'm laughing). I'm definitely going to make it again, but I have many more to try for the first time before I have the luxury of repeating.

Bunny said...

This cake was an adventure wasn't it! But it turned out good, I love lemon I will definetly try this!

Marie said...

Yes, it was an adventure--that's a good thing to remember.

Woody said...

Hi Marie,
We are all prone to making mistakes in forgetting an ingredient or doing the recipe out of order, especially when we think we remember the recipe.
Then we discover the vanilla bottle or sugar bowl still on the shelf.
My worst cake wreck was several years ago, pre-Rose era, when i made a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving dinner. After pouring the batter into the springform pan, I realized that I forgot the sugar. Comon sense said, " Scoop out the batter and mix the sugar in the mixing bowl." Brain won out with, " You can save time and just stir in the sugar while still in the springform." Results: patchy spots of sugar, family was having Sara Lee pumpkin pie for dessert, and I was the only one to eat some of my wreck.
Great article. Best to laugh at our mistakes and enjoy sharing them with our friends and family.
Have fun making again some time. It is my most requested cake after the Chocolate Oblivion.


Marie said...

The story about your family feasting on Sara Lee pumpkin pie while you gamely eat your cake is a sad one--but funny too. Nice to know we all make mistakes, although I just watched the video of Rose making neoclassic chocolate buttercream, and I was in awe. No mistakes there.

evil cake lady said...

Marie, I just learned about a thing called baker's grease. That might help the next time you bake a bundt.
If the cake was delicious and you didn't make it the right way, you couldn't have gone too far wrong! I think someone already said it, that Rose's butter cakes can be very forgiving. I have learned that personally!
Keep on keeping on!

Marie said...

I use Baker's Joy, which has oil and flour, and it usually works perfectly. I like the name Baker's Joy better than Baker's Grease, although "grease" is probably more accurate.
Yes--thank goodness they're forgiving or we'd be in serious trouble! I know how much you love TCB, so I can't wait to get your take on this new book.

Julie said...

Loved reading this, I'm so glad you have a great sense of humor! Your comedy of errors benefited from Rose's two-stage method. If you had been using the creaming method, all the extra stirring from the "late" additions would have toughened the cake.

Marie said...

This cake was definitely not tough--it's nice to know why. Thanks for the positive spin!