Jan 26, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

Most of the bakers who did this cake had lovely and uneventful experiences with it. Only ButterYum and I were devastated by the sinking of our respective cakes. And thank you for your notes of sympathy on my cake's demise!

Kristina (and her husband and her co-workers) liked the cake a lot; her only problem was that 1) grating the chocolate was messy and 2) she didn't have a wine bottle that fit her cake pan (and she makes wine!). And Jenn turned hers into cupcakes. (Has there been a cake that someone hasn't turned into cupcakes? I hope that someone always does a cupcake variation with the recipes because I love to see how they turn out. It also occurs to me that if I had made cupcakes, my cake wouldn't have turned out the way it did).
Hmmm. Two bakers' angel food cakes failed. Maybe Woody was right when he said your chances of getting it right were about 90%. I'm just glad I was in such distinguished company with a fallen angel food cake.

Lois is this week's FEATURED BAKER. First, her cake turned out beautifully, even though she rarely makes angel food cakes because she thought--mistakenly, it turned out--that she didn't like them. I could be envious of her lovely cake, but my good angel is telling me to enjoy her success, so I won't succumb to envy. Second, she made it for her husband, who loves angel food cakes, which I thought was very generous of her (she must have been listening to her own good angel). Third, she made the cake while she was drinking Bellinis and while in the company of a picture-perfect bright red amaryllis. It's a recipe for an idyllic life. Fourth, she emphasized what a healthy, guilt-free treat this is (not counting the whipped cream, which she didn't make anyway)--and she even calculated the calories and the grams of carbohydrates per slice. If you're ever feeling guilty about the cake habit you're developing, just go to Lois's description of this cake and you'll feel practically virtuous.

Next week we're doing the Tu-Bishvat pineapple upside down cakes. I have never made a Tu-Bishvat cake before. This is clearly a holiday that did not originate in northern North America; with our February snowstorms and icestorms, we're not going to be planting any trees. If you were in Israel at this time, you'd be seeing beautiful flowering almond trees. (Don't confuse this with the recipe for caramelized pineapple pudding cakes, which we'll get around to eventually). For these cakes, you're going to need a nice, ripe pineapple and full-fat yogurt. Nothing too hard to find there. As I mentioned last week, you can bake them in the NordicWare mini pineapple pans. (I ordered them--I'm getting an insane collection of these pans!). You may also want to get yourself a squeeze bottle for decorating with the pineapple caramel drizzle (mmmm, that sounds good). I've noticed that some of you use these, and I think it's such a clever idea.
The week after that is when we're finally getting to the True Orange Genoise, the cake that's been causing us to search for the elusive Seville orange. And the touchy Seville orange. Like others of you, I've found that these little babies turn green without giving you any advance notice. I've squeezed mine and now have a stash of Seville OJ (serving a big glass of that would be a good April Fool's prank). If I have time, I'm going to make the orange curd this weekend so I don't have to worry about the juice staying fresh. According to the recipe, the curd is good for three weeks in the refrigerator.

Jan 25, 2010

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

I blame Woody for this cake.

He came over to my house last week to use my oven (he'd been having some odd results with his own oven and needed to check out the possibility that his own oven wasn't working properly). As I was watching him bake the chocolate cakes he was making to test the oven hypothesis (it's fun to watch someone else working in your kitchen, by the way, while you're doing nothing), I mentioned that it was angel food cake week, and I'd never made an angel food cake. I asked him if it was hard.
"Not really," he said.
Noticing immediately that he'd hedged instead of saying "no," I asked him, "What do you mean, not really?"
"I'd say there's a 90% chance it will come out all right," he said cheerfully.
"90%," I repeated.
"But you'll know in the first five minutes. I was there once when Rose made it for a whole group. It completely collapsed. She had to start all over." He was quite jovial as he was reminiscing.
"90%," I repeated.
"Hey, those are great odds," he claimed. "Nine to one."

"Woody," I said, "what if someone told you that if you got in your car right now to drive home, there was a 90% chance that you'd get home alive, would you drive home?"
He considered. "I'll leave you some of the chocolate cake," he said. "For backup."
I was very happy to have the chocolate cake backup, so I suppose I should be grateful to him, but I think he jinxed this cake with all his hilarity about cakes collapsing in their first five minutes.
And it all started so well. I grated the unsweetened chocolate ahead of time. The frozen chocolate bar was easy to grate, although it flies around like crazy in its grated condition.

And the egg whites, most of which had been lying dormant in the freezer since I baked the lemon cake, beat up beautifully.
They still looked perfect after the chocolate was added, and I was starting to feel comfortable and confident with my first angel food cake.

I checked the cake for doneness a few minutes before the buzzer was set to go off. I felt the top and it seemed to spring back lightly, just as directed. I put the cake tester in and, although it didn't come out dry, it looked like all I was seeing was melted chocolate. So I removed it from the oven and inverted it over the wine bottle (a nice little Riesling, selected especially for its thin neck).

It looks too light, doesn't it? I should have known better. Sure enough, just as Woody predicted, after five minutes, the top fell off.

Even then, I thought it could be rescued. It was just the top, after all, which would be the bottom when I served it. I could still slice it in thirds and fill and top it with whipped cream. No one would be the wiser.
Then the rest of the cake fell out.

I was disconsolate. I had promised to bring angel food cake to Fred and Betty's house to watch the Vikings playoff game. Jim said, "What about the backup cake?"
"Brilliant!" I said.
Jim was stunned by the unwonted compliment. He looked pleased. "I thought so too," he admitted.
"Quick," I said, springing into action. "I must make the ganache! To the grocery store, Jim, and bring back creme fraich!" He sprung into action himself, and returned, lickety-split with the creme fraiche required for the chocolate ganache to cover the chocolate butter cake that Woody had made. (He'd actually made two, to test the flour, and given me half of each. They were not the same size, but I figured I could plaster on the ganache so that no one would even know they were two cake halves placed side by side).
Jim and I were both so busy springing into action that we forgot to take pictures of the cake(s). At the football party, no one seemed bothered that I'd brought a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache rather than the promised angel food cake.
This chocolate cake, the base of the cover photo of Heavenly Cakes, was absolutely delicious, even without the glaze, the currants, and the edible gold leaf, as pictured on the cover, and I can tell you that you're going to love this cake whenever we get to it. And actually, the angel food cake, even underdone and unservable, was also quite good, if you picked around and found the good spots. Jim ate most of the messy-looking pile of angel food cake bits (ok, so I helped a little).
And the chocolate cake was good enough that I had to forgive Woody for placing a hex on my angel food cake. Maybe next time I'll make it past the five-minute rule. Thanks for the gateau, Woody!

Jan 20, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

It was a little weird sitting this week out, and just reading the exchanges between the bakers. I kept feeling that I was not doing something I was supposed to be doing, and then I'd remember that I wasn't writing my blog. But Hanaâ was, and doing a fine job of it, I might add. Thanks!

The Tres Leches cake seems to be a love-it or hate-it kind of thing. A couple of bakers had an almost visceral reaction to the milkiness of the cake. Raymond, who can always be counted on for a forthright opinion, concluded that, "The taste wasn’t all that bad but I just can’t get past the sopping wet cake concept. When I sliced it and it was sitting in all that milk my stomach did a little flip-flop. I just found it gross."

On the other hand, Gartblue decided that the cake tasted "really really classy and nice." She said she "love[d] the milky taste, and although she thought it might be "overkill" to eat a slice with whipped cream, she ended up eating "ALL of the cream that came with my slice. It was that good!"

And Nicola kind of hedged her bets, concluding that, "I think I like this cake. Even with the buttery whipped cream on top. I can imagine eating this, straight from the fridge on a hot (but not humid) day."

I hope you looked at all the versions of the cake, and especially of the whipped cream topping. While I just slathered the cream on top, plain, when I made it, others of you did beautiful, imaginative, and decorative things with the whipped cream.

The FEATURED BAKER this week is Sherrie, who gets first prize for persistence and dedication. After she baked the sponge cake, she looked at it, decided that she did not like the way it looked: it was not tall enough (yes, she measured it!) and it was "as pale as [her] Canadian butt." So she simply baked cake #2. Yes, I am a huge fan of anyone who is so gamely up to the challenge that she just shrugs off a less-than-perfect first try and goes at it again. She was not fully satisfied with Cake #2, but since she'd invited her running friends over for cake and running, she said, "I had to serve them something."

Cake #2 looked beautiful to me--she made little decorative swirls with caramel left over from the pumpkin cheesecake. Although she's fixated on the height of her cake (anybody else measure their cake or know how high it's supposed to be?), she found the cake "refreshing"--the kind of cake that should be served on a "hot summer's evening"--even though she was enjoying it in not-so-delightful temperatures of 0 degrees C. (I feel your pain, Sherrie).

The next cake up is our first angel food cake--it takes a lot of egg whites (14, to be exact), so I hope you've been freezing all the leftover whites. Make sure that you bake the angel food cake until it's completely done. Bad things happen when even slightly underdone angel food cakes are placed over a wine bottle to cool. That's all I'll say for now, but I'll have more to report next Monday.

If any of you are seeking more NordicWare buying opportunities, the individual pineapple upside-down cakes that are scheduled for the following week can be baked in adorable little pineapple molds. They can also be baked in slightly less adorable, but equally serviceable, 5-oz. ramekins. Or whatever you have available.

The cake calling for the elusive Seville oranges is coming up quickly. Mendy, Jennifer, and Vicki have found them, and I have some too, courtesy of Vicki, wonderful purveyor of sour oranges.
You may have noticed that February 22 is a "free choice" week. What I have in mind is that this is a chance for you to bake one of the cakes that I made before we started this group, or one of the cakes that the group baked but you missed, or even one that you baked before and would like to try again. I wasn't thinking so much of one of the cakes that we haven't baked yet, because I think it's more fun if we bake them together, but I guess I'm not going to pitch a fit if somebody really wants to do that.

We have another new baker this week. Toni describes herself as being "giddy with excitement" over the prospect of joining the group. On the list of Heavenly Bakers, it looks like she hasn't blogged for three months--but she has. There must be some glitch in the feed. She's already baked the Barcelona brownies and the chocolate streusel coffee cake. So don't believe Blogger when it tells you that she hasn't been baking, and visit her blog anyway.

You may have noticed that I occasionally delete someone off the list of bakers. This is not like having your name erased from the family Bible. Sometimes people are just too busy or have something else going on in their lives, and find they can't be active bakers for several months. But anyone is always welcome back in the fold.

It may be a few weeks before Saira is able to bake again. Her father died, sadly and unexpectedly, and she is spending time with her family. She would appreciate it if you keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Jennifer has started a flickr photo pool. It's for anyone who wants to share their pics of stuff they've made from RHC; they don't need to be part of the the bake-along.
She says that anyone can browse through, but only flickr members can contribute. Becoming a member is free.

Finally, on a more somber note, several of you have talked about feeling some distress at watching news of famines and suffering while you're baking cakes. I've shared that uneasy feeling of having too much when others have too little. I don't think it's a solution to the world's injustices, of which there are too many, to stop baking. But, as Vicki said, "Maybe we should find a way to turn baking into fundraising."
According to a recent Zogby poll, 64% of Americans have already given, or plan to give, money to a Haitian relief fund. I invite all of us to consider, whenever we bake a cake, how we could also give to those who don't have cake, or even bread and water.

Jan 18, 2010

Torta de las Tres Leches

I blogged about this cake on May 29, 2009, so I had crossed it off my list of cakes-still-to-be-baked. But Hanaâ wanted to bake it for her husband's birthday, and who am I to interfere with a birthday celebration? So I asked her to be the guest blogger for today. And--here's Hanaâ....

Hi everyone, it's me, Hanaâ. This week's recipe, Torta de las Tres Leches, was picked by yours truly. Yay! I chose to make this cake for my husband's birthday. And since Marie already made this cake before, I'm your guest host for this week :o)

A little history lesson... Although nobody knows for sure where this recipe originated from, it's thought to be somewhere south of our border. The Leches Leches cake, which stands for "3-milk cake", is a sponge or butter cake, soaked with a milk mixture, usually containing 3 types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream. In some instances, sweetened condensed milk is replaced with Dulce de Leche, which is caramelized sweetened condensed milk. I have done this before and that's really good too.

Rose's version of this cake uses a sponge cake and 4 types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, cream, skim and whole milk. The latter is cooked until reduced by half. I "cheated" and used 2 1/2 cups of evaporated milk instead.

About 30 seconds after removing the pan from the heat; not much volume and still pretty yellow

About halfway through the beating; at least doubled in volume and paler in color.

After 5 minutes; close to quadrupled in volume and very pale. Ready for the flour.

Poured the batter into my makeshift 3" pan and baked for 30 minutes, with convection turned OFF.

The sponge cake was easy to put together: heat up eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla au-bain-marie, and followed by a good beating in the stand mixer until quadrupled in volume. Gently fold in the flour and you're done. Since the sugar dissolves into the warm eggs anyway, I used regular granulated sugar, whereas normally I would have used the food processor to make superfine sugar.

Here's the baked sponge cake; nicely domed in the middle with a couple cracks.

I don't have a 9" x 3" round pan so I used my 9" x 2.5" spring form pan with a parchment paper collar. This worked very well too. I probably could have omitted the collar altogether because the cake didn't rise above the pan on the sides, like it did in the middle.

Removed the top crust but preserved the hump in the middle

While the cake is cooling, I prepared the milk mixture and then sat it in the fridge. After the cake is completely cooled, I removed the top crust. Normally I would have used my cake leveler for that but Rose specifically says to leave the hump in the middle. So I used a serrated knife instead. This brought back memories from when I sculpted two Bundt cakes into a volcano :o) Nothing goes to waste in this house (not often anyway) because I hate wasting food. I tasted the crust and it reminded me of lady fingers. Yum! I poured some Tres Leches over it and voila, there's your mini-torta!

The cake is ready for its milk bath

Nice and slow otherwise it'll end up in the gap between the pan and the cake.

After lining my 9" spring form pan with plastic wrap and putting the cake back in it, I slowly poured the milk mixture on the cake. This was the thirstiest cake I had ever seen. I could have easily poured in another 2-3 cups of milk, it seemed. Into the fridge it goes for an overnight rest before frosting it.

Instead of plain whipped cream, I made caramel whipped cream. Now don't get me wrong, I love sweetened whipped cream, but this is a birthday cake after all and I wanted it to be extra-special. To make caramel whipped cream, you start out by making a dry caramel. This means put sugar in a pan with a heavy bottom on low-medium heat, and wait until the sugar melts and caramelizes. The first 10-15 minutes is like watching paint dry. No change whatsoever. After that it goes pretty quick. After it's amber colored, you add cream at which point some of the caramel will seize and consequently harden, so you return the pan to the heat and re-melt it. Refrigerate overnight, then whip into luscious caramel-flavor whipped cream the next day and frost your cake of choice with it.

Ta-dah! The rose and leaf decorations are Caramel Panna Cotta which is cooked cream/milk/sugar + kosher gelatin.

After taking the cake out of the pan using the bottom of my 11" tart pan, I frosted only the top of the cake. There was too much milk oozing from the bottom. I contemplated using a straw to drink it (obviously the cake had more than it needed so I wasn't "stealing" it)... but I didn't. In any case, I feared that frosting applied to the sides would slide off the cake so I abstained. For next time, I think I will use less milk.

As you can see, there is quite a puddle of milk surrounding the cake. I need to find a straw!

A slice of milky goodness. Bon appetit!

Final thoughts/tips:
  • Hubby and I both liked the cake. The caramel whipped cream gave it a another dimension of milky-ness. We didn't feel it was overly sweet. The cake is not soggy at all. It's pretty sturdy when you cut it into it, but still melts in your mouth.
  • For a change of pace, you could try substituting Dulce de Leche for the sweetened condensed milk. Especially if you like caramel flavor.
  • The sponge cake is so good that I will use it to make other desserts as well.
  • The roses and leaves I used on the cake for decoration are Caramel Panna Cotta poured into candy molds, left to firm up in the fridge overnight. I got the recipe for the Panna Cotta from my dear friend Jane. Thanks Jane! :o)

Jan 13, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

The chocolate streusel coffee cake was another big success story. A lot of people commented on how flavorful the streusel was, and what a big flavor hit was provided by the tiny amount of cinnamon mixed in with cocoa and brown sugar, preferably made with Muscovado sugar, brought to you directly from Mauritius.
Even Lois, who is not that crazy about cinnamon, loved how it "rounded out and added to the chocolate flavor without overwhelming it."
Most people didn't have a six-cup bundt pan in their baking arsenal, so there was a lot of improvisation. Faithy used miniature bundt pans, which produced very cute miniature cakes. (Speaking of cute, did you see the picture of Faithy wearing a "Mr. Happy" t-shirt on her blog? You'd think someone who bakes as much as she does would be robust and matronly looking? But no--she looks like she's about 12 and weighs about 90 pounds.) And did you see that Faithy awarded all of us the Happy 101 award? Thanks!
I would say that most people went the cupcake route--12 cupcakes was the alternative to a six-cup bundt pan plus two cupcakes. Kristina, for example, made a dozen cupcakes (and says she had a little overflow--probably could have made a few more), and put streusel not just in the middle of the cupcakes, but also on top. She also got to try out her new Beater Blade!
Vicki, whose blog is now called "Heavenly Cake Walk," was one of othe few who had the regulation six-cup NordicWare bundt pan, and she was lucky enough to walk into a store and find the very pan she was looking for--on sale. With luck like that, I hope she plays the lottery.

And the FEATURED BAKER this week is Jennifer, Portland's own Evil Cake Lady. Jennifer was almost not in the running for Featured Baker, because she almost didn't make the cake. Then, around midnight or some such hour, she started reading the early returns on this cake, and decided it was too good to pass up. The notion of just deciding in the middle of the night (ok, this might be a slight exaggeration) to bake a cake evidences such a devil-may-care attitude that it takes my breath away. "How could I say no," she wrote, "when so many had said yes." Like Kristina, Jennifer also has a new Beater Blade. Really, I think the Heavenly Cake Bakers should be entitled to a Friends and Family discount on these Beater Blades.
While I'm praising Jennifer's somewhat casual attitude toward advance planning, I have to mention Shoshana, who also made a last-minute decision to bake this cake. She had already prepared one dessert, but she began to "have serious doubts" about her planned contribution to shabbat dinner as a "backup dessert." I like that concept! (I also like quoting people; it makes me feel like a Zagat writer).

We have two new Heavenly Cake Bakers: Lisa just posted about the chocolate streusel cake: her first cake as an HCB. Lisa says she's brand-new to baking, and never even knew that Rose was some kind of "goddess in the baking world," but she's been loving the cakes so much that she was willing to pay full price for the book! You can't get a better endorsement than that.
Monica, whose blog is called "Sweetbites," is too busy having fun in New York to write about a cake, but she should settle back into the baking routine when she returns.
Welcome to both of you!

I'm still searching for Seville oranges in all my usual haunts, but haven't found any yet. I'm also wavering in my resolve to order a crateful from California, and am now considering substitutions. But I still haven't given up--we still have a few week before this cake, scheduled for February 8.
As Rose says, you have a treat in store for you with the Torta de las Tres Leches, which I encourage you to try--I know it's the best version I ever had. Hanaa will be guest host for this wonderful cake.
Remember all those egg yolks you used in Woody's Luxury Lemon Layer Cake? I hope that you put them in your freezer. The January 25 cake will be an angelfood cake, which will require you to defrost those egg whites and clean out your freezer. If you don't have saved egg whites, you'll want to start saving them now.

Jan 11, 2010

Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake

I try to mix up the cakes (no pun intended), so that I don't have two chocolate cakes or two cheesecakes in a row, but I didn't do so well in the mixing department with my choice of chocolate streusel coffee cake right after the whipped cream cake. They're not the same cake, but they're both pound-like cakes made in a bundt pan. The reason I had to have the coffee cake in January is that every January, Jim and I host morning coffee open-houses each Saturday of the month (that's five Saturdays this year). Any neighbor who feels like having a cup of coffee or tea, a doughnut or something homemade, and a little conversation drops in sometime Saturday morning.
It is now expected that I bake something different every Saturday morning, and believe me, if something isn't up to snuff, they let me know. The only Heavenly Cake that was likely Saturday morning fare was this coffee cake, which worked just fine. For those of you who don't have people stopping by your house on Saturday mornoing, this cake also works quite well as dessert or a sweet bite with a cup of tea. But it really shines on a cold Saturday morning.

Just last week, I was at Kowalski's and I spotted a little bag of muscovado sugar. This sugar, which comes from Maritius, is not that easy to come by in the upper midwest, so I picked up the packet. Mauritius, an island off Madagascar, is famous for being the only known home of the dodo, which is, of course, sadly extinct. Is it possible that the dodo is extinct because it ate too much muscovado sugar? I would guess not, but stranger things have happened.
Anyway, I was delighted to see that the first cake recipe on the agenda since my purchase of muscovado sugar called for that self-same sugar. Never mind that the recipe called for light muscovado sugar and I had dark--I was going to use it anyway. I don't think that light brown sugar would have made it any better, and I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend that you use dark brown sugar--but only if it's Muscovado from Mauritius.
Like the whipped cream cake, this is easy to mix up.

The streusel is just cocoa, sugar (Mauritian Muscovado), and a little cinnamon. And the batter is one that you'd use for a standard sour-cream coffee cake.

The only reason for this cake not being on the Quick-and-Easy list, as far as I can figure out, is the step of putting half the batter in the cake pan (or in the cupcake pan--the recipe makes one small cake plus two cupcakes), a ring of streusel in the middle, and then topping it with more batter.

But this is such an easy step that I question whether its inclusion is a good enough reason for its banishment from Q&E. Making the caramelized cocoa nibs was harder, and yet the chocolate financiers are still on The List.
The cupcakes were so small that I wished I had just ignored the instruction to make two. But, as it turned ouot, the cake came almost to the top of the six-cup Bundt pan, so I was glad I'd dutifully followed the rules.

Usually when I turn over a pan that's been sprayed with Baker's Joy, the cake pops right out. This time, I turned it over and the cake stayed put. This made me anxious because I'd become so confident about that step I forgot to get preemptively nervous. After I played around with it using a sharp knife, the pan released its hold on the cake, and out it came.
You can see that I lost more tiny pieces to the pan than I did with the whipped cream cake, which released nearly perfectly.
And here is the cake next to a platter of doughnuts.
Sometimes people worry about hurting my feelings, and they take a piece of whatever I've baked, but they really want a doughnut, so they have to have that too. Or vice versa. I'm proud of being the neighborhood supplier.


Robert: "Nice and moist--very smooth-tasting."
Megan: "The chocolate is subtly laced with cinnamon, and it's got a rich vanilla taste."
Jim: "The chocolate layer is really good. I like the difference in texture between the cake and the filling. It's a good cake."

Jan 5, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

The whipped cream cake may have been the biggest hit ever--the combination of a cake that's easy to make--possibly foolproof, in fact--that lends itself to all kinds of presentations and is compatible with almost every known flavor, and that people love--well, that's a combination that's hard to beat.
It was such a hit that the blog posts were startling similar. There were no funny stories of narrowly averted disasters. The closest we came to trouble was Faithy, who was not 100% satisfied with her cake because she thought the crust was too chewy, and Nancy B., who thought the crust on her cake was too soft and sticky. Even with these mild crust imperfections, both of them reported that their cakes were well-received. The closest thing to a disaster was probably ButterYum's mistake in adding the eggs and vanilla to the cream, so it took a little longer to whip the cream. I know--shocking, isn't it? She referred to it as a "flub," but I think it was, at most, a blip.

It's Raymond's turn to be FEATURED BAKER this week. From the comments on his site, it looks like most people have already looked at his beautiful cake--if you haven't, you should see what this cake looks like in the new Heritage Bundt pan, available from Williams-Sonoma. Raymond said he'd been lusting after the Heritage pan for months, but hadn't let himself buy it--then he realized it would be perfect for the whipped cream cake, so he gave in to temptation. Raymond liked this cake so much that he baked a second one over the weekend because his first was gone within an hour.
Not only did Raymond lust after this cake pan, but he also caused serious cases of cake-pan lust and envy (two deadly sins in one blow!) in the hearts of his readers. But, if somewhere in the great hereafter, Raymond is chided for these sins, he'll only have to bake this heavenly cake and all will be forgiven. If Raymond's blog doesn't cause a run on Heritage cake pans, I don't know what will.

Next week is another easy pound-like cake that I included on the list in January because I wanted to serve it at a morning open house on Saturday. It's different enough from the whipped cream cake that you won't mind having it just a week later. You can either bake it in a six-cup bundt pan or you can make cupcakes. I think it would work with a small loaf pan too. It calls for muscovado sugar, which is probably not essential--but you should ask Jennifer how she feels about muscovado sugar. She lusts after it as if it were a cake pan.

A word about the following week: On January 11, Hanaa will be guest host. She's making the Tres Leches Cake for her husband's birthday; since I've already made this cake, I think I'll sit that week out, although I'm a little worried about what might happen if I get out of the rhythm of baking a cake every weekend. I'm also worried about Jim's reaction when he finds out there's going to be no cake. Saira has asked to guest-host the banana refrigerator cake in March. If you'd like to do this, or have some other request, let me know, and I'll try to accommodate.

Mendy, I hope that the pineapple cake is appropriate for Tu-Bishvat. Come February 1, I hope that those of us who are ignorant about Tu-Bishvat will get a little education.

Finally, note that the True Orange genoise is scheduled for February 8. According to Rose, this cake is best made with Seville oranges, which have a short season: from the end of December through February. You may want to start being on the lookout for these oranges. You can make the cake with some other orange, but it sounds like the taste of the Seville oranges is distinctive enough to make it worth searching them out. If you find them, let people know where and when.

Jan 4, 2010

Whipped Cream Cake

This is probably the most basic and simple of the cakes I've made so far. It's also a cake that everyone just gobbled up. When I looked around the table after people were done with dessert, there was not a bite left on any plate. Nary a crumb.
The juxtaposition of the holiday pinecone cake and the whipped cream cake shows how eclectic Heavenly Cakes is. One is so elaborate, and the other could only be simpler if it were a cake mix. But both are good.

The cake is an oddity in that it has no butter or oil--just whipping cream. Rose recommends 40% butterfat cream if you can find it. The whipping cream available in the supermarket doesn't give percentages, and I didn't go try to cadge cream from a baker, so I'm assuming that mine wasn't 40%. It still worked, though. Just whip it, then beat in the eggs, sugar and vanilla.

It's nice and thick and creamy at this point. Rose says it will have the consistency of mayonnaise, which is about right, but I didn't like to think of it as a bowlful of Hellmann's, so I tried to ignore that description.

Then the flour is folded in. If you forgot to sift the flour, as I did, it helps to fold it in with a balloon whisk instead of a spatula, because that does a better job of breaking up the tiny clumps of flour.
If you read the recipe, you won't forget, because it says "sifted into the cup and leveled off." Because I don't use cups, I ignored the entire sentence.

That's it! That's all you have to do. Spoon the nice thick batter into some variety of tube or bundt pan. The lovely picture, which has powdered sugar drifting down on the cake from a sieve above, is a fluted tube pan. I can't figure out how I possibly missed adding this particular cake pan to my collection, so I had to use the one I bought for the Golden Lemon Almond Cake.

It works very nicely for this cake too. It looked pretty just out of the cake pan, but even prettier with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top. If I'm not careful, I'll start sprinkling powdered sugar on everything.
Serving this whipped cream cake with more whipped cream does seem a little like taking coals to Newcastle, but it works.
This cake is like a pound cake, but it's much paler, almost white, because its fat content comes from cream rather than butter. The crumb is softer and more delicate than the heartier pound cake and, despite the fact that it's got more cream than you can shake a stick at, it tastes innocently light and tender. You could probably deceive yourself into thinking that it's a diet cake, and you could certainly eat two pieces with no trouble.

Because I made the pinecone cake for an office party, this cake was my actual Christmas cake. Often after a big dinner, no one wants to eat a rich dessert. But, as I said, everyone's plate was licked clean. They probably thought they wouldn't gain weight from eating this cake. They were wrong.


Sarah: "I love how buttery it is." [Me: "It doesn't have any butter in it. It has cream."] "I love how creamy it is."
Lisa: "It's fluffy!"
Jim: "Light, with good texture and flavor. It goes very well with whipped cream."
Dan: "It's good! Should I lift up my shirt and show my stomach so people can see how much I love to eat?"
[That last quote marked the end to any serious tasting panel comments.]