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!


faithy said...

Oh my! I'm sorry to see what happened to your cake! It looks like it is still not baked through. I noticed from my angel-food cake, the top of the cake will be completely flat & same level as the pan when it is completely cooked (noticed from the photo yours still rises above the pan).

*phew* At least you have a backup cake to bring over to your friend's place! :D

Matthew said...

Oh Marie, my heart sank when I saw the first photo, but how lucky to have a backup cake waiting in the wings! I hope you do get a chance to try it again sometime because the cake is really delicious!

Melinda said...

Marie, this is so sad and and so funny! Why are the flops always so endearing?
I love the action sequence of Jim to the rescue! He's a hero.

I have come to expect a 100% chance of a good turn out with Rose's cake recipes, 90% is other cake book recipe authors.

Is this your rosemary focaccia of heavenly cakes? Shame on Woody for the hex on the cake!

Nicola said...

Firstly, Woody just *drops* in to bake at your place? Amazing. Talk about having the inside track on this HCB bake along!!

Secondly, wow. I admit that my hand flew to my mouth to contain a shocked giggle as soon as my brain processed that first photo. I deny that it was schadenfreude, more like deeply felt empathy for when "things go hilariously wrong". Woody is totally to blame, if not for that 90% stat to unnerve you out and the chocolate cake waiting in the wings, I am sure you would have sailed through to oblivious success this week.

Thirdly, funny that no one seems to mind what cake you bring, so long as it is homemade!

Fourthly, love that Jim glowed under the unexpected compliment... things must get a bit rough for him at baking crisis moments! Watch out if he suggests a backup cake each week.

Loved your hilarious post as usual.

doughadear said...

How disappointing that your cake, that had come together so beautifully, should break apart at the end. I'm glad though that you had a back up cake and that it was delicious.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

melinda i had to LOL when i read your comment about the rosemary focaccia of cakes!

maire--i can just hear woody saying what he did and how he would have said it! first of all, the cake that fell apart was BEFORE the audience arrived--the DAY before when i was testing baking in the NYU ovens though i take full responsibility of pulling it early as woody hadn't thought it was done and he was right. that's when i learned the main secret mentioned above--the cake starts to go down to the level of the pan top when baked fully. well now we all know. get right back on the angel bicycle and make it again. what better use for all those egg whites. i just threw out all the ones from 2007 after which elliott confided that he loves egg white omelets. not to worry 2008, 2009, and already 2010 are in the wings.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

nicola! special kudos to you for your breeching the angel food nothingness gap so brilliantly!

by the way, did you all notice the incredible melting impossibly tender quality that the wondra gives to the cake's texture? the reason you don't have to sift is the fineness of the wondra and that wondra is actually partially 'cooked' so it integrates more readily into the meringue than other flours.

Lois B said...

Oh, Marie. I just couldn't believe my eyes. I'm sure that I will over-bake every angel food cake, just to be sure. I'm so glad you had a backup.

NancyB said...

Oh.....dear. So glad I didn't see this before making my first attempt at an angel food cake, and so glad that Woody wasn't in my kitchen letting me know the odds. <g>

Amanda said...

This post actually makes me feel good, because that's exactly what happened to me when I tried the recipe from RHC. And I've made dozens of angel food cakes...never happened to me before. Especially disgusting after using 2 vanilla beans in the cake. AND, I had placed the cake/bottle on the edge of the counter, so naturally it all collapsed onto the carpet. Good times. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Jenn said...

Oh Marie, I couldn't believe the picture when I saw it. What a horrible thing to happen! I feel sooo bad for you. Your post is hilarious though - I had to contain myself not to LOL at work.

anitsirK said...

Awww.. So sorry to see what happened to your cake! Hopefully you'll get to try this cake sometime soon. It really was delicious.

Hanaâ said...

Oh my goodness! I didn’t even know that could happen to Angel Food Cake. I have to admit though, my hand too flew to my mouth, a la Nicola, to contain my shocked giggle at work. I’m glad I didn’t know about the odds when I attempted my first AFC last summer (also a Rose recipe). Seeing some of the HCB bakers’ pictures really makes me want to make this cake. I have the egg whites but no time. I might skip next week’s Individual Pineapple Cakes and make this instead as I’m having friends over on Saturday. I should either make this on Friday or have a backup dessert if I bake it on Saturday :o) As for your friends not remembering the original dessert plan, I guess everything is forgiven and forgotten when you bring a chocolate dessert :o)

Matthew said...

Marie, I meant to add in my first post that I decided to join in again with you all and posted my set on the forums--and per Rose's comment above, the wondra is amazing in this cake, so glad you thought of it!

Sherrie said...

All I can say, Marie, is the failures are as important (or more so) than the successes -- and I share your pain. I am still working on perfecting the genoise! But it is a fabulous cake!

PAM said...

Sorry to see what happened to your cake. Loved your humorous post though.

Goody said...

You can always douse the broken pieces in custard and call it a trifle.

You know, I never knew there were so many uses for Wondra. I always keep a jar in the pantry for making sauces, but it never would have seemed an obvious choice for baking. I have some egg whites building up, I'll have to give that a try.

PS-I want you to know what that terrible, terrible, word verification just gave me:


I most certainly am not. I wish I were, but I'm not. Hrumph.

Vicki said...

Good grief, I had no idea this was possible, none at all. I had such a bad attitude making this cake, virtually daring the egg whites to deflate a la Salt Pinch Cake, that I think it was afraid to misbehave.
I thought if it did, I was going to rip it into pieces and layer it in a trifle bowl. I'll remember your cake if ever I attempt another angel food cake and have the trifle bowl ready for standby.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

First - LOL to you Goody - what a funny word verification!

Marie - my heart just sank when I saw your cake, and that poor dainty bottle of Riesling reminds me of movie scenes when an unsuspecting someone is caught in the mud puddle splash from a passing vehicle.

I hope you'll try the cake again.


Marie said...

Good to know about the cake dropping when it's done (kind of like a baby). Thanks for the hint.

It was a heart-sinking moment, all right.

You know me so well--that's exactly what I thought when the cake plopped off the wine bottle, that this is my new rosemary focaccia!

In fairness to Woody, he has been extremely helpful and would do even more to help if I didn't have the two-year-old "I want to do it myself!" attitude. But, really, why should I be fair?

I do love the idea of having an excellent backup cake that someone else has made.

I'm going to have to accumulate some more egg whites before I get back on the angel food cake bicycle. But I will. It took me a while to get up the nerve to try the infamous focaccia again, and now I can't imagine how it ever went wrong.

Marie said...

I think that was the real problem--my fear of overbaking cakes and having them be dry. Nothing is worse than a dry cake--unless it's a wet one.

I was really expecting him to tell me that I couldn't go wrong with this recipe, so it might have been doomed at the outset. Sometimes it's good not to have all the information.

Oh, that's even worse! At least I didn't have to clean up the carpet too. And I'll bet you didn't have a backup cake!

Sometimes work can use a little LOLing. I guess that depends on what you do though. If you worked at a funeral home, it might not be the best thing to burst into gales of laughter.

I think this is one of those cakes that has received unanimous approval ratings. Even my cake got eaten.

This cake might be a good candidate for the free choice cake--unless you've already got something in mind. Yes, and that would be a good motto for Hershey's or some other chocolate company--"Everything's forgiven with chocolate."

Should I add you to the list of Heavenly Bakers, or do you just want to post photos on the Forum?

I guess if everything turned out right the first time, there's be no need for practice, right? (And no opportunity to have Cake#1 in stock in the freezer)


The trifle idea is wonderful. (Rose and Woody--don't you think you should start perfecting a trifle made with this cake as the base?)
Love the word verification!

I should have glowered at the egg whites to keep them in line!

Yes! That's exactly what it brings to mind. (However, the Riesling bottle cleaned up quite nicely).

evil cake lady said...

Oh Marie, such a bummer! However, it is kinda funny. Thank goodness for Woody's backup cake, even though he was the reason you needed it in the first place!

evil cake lady said...

PS, I like your fancy-pants oven gloves! (Is that the normal name for them? I can't remember!)

Mendy said...


LOL! Oh, I'm so sorry. The same thing happened when I thought I would be clever and make a honey sponge cake. The honey was just too heavy...

I love your chocolate grating gadget though!

Unknown said...

Marie... I saw this at work in my reader and I was like "OPPS!"

And that is why I pass this week by... I'm terrified of Angel Food cakes.. all that "defining gravity" factor makes me woozy.

Plus, I did not have the eggs whites at hand like the others.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Woody said...

Marie and HCBers,
Thank you again Marie for your kindness in letting me use your kitchen, your mixer, your measuring spoons, your timer, your baking soda, and enjoying your great humor. (I did bring the rest.) I am glad that your friends and you liked the Bernachon.
For the HCBers, I live 10 minutes from Marie and Jim and check in with Marie to see if I can supply any special pans and equipment or a once only used ingredient that I may have some extra supply. We do have a sort of standing rule in that I do not offer advice unless Marie asks. I have not had the best of luck with angel food cakes, to where I can claim the 9 out of 10 results to my scorecard of making them. Especially, when you have the opposite problem, as in chatting with Rose so long when prepping cakes for the General Mills DVD that we both wondered what was burning in the kitchen. (as well as the GM kitchen staff.) After checking 3 ovens, I found my take on a Smores marshmellow that ignited while roasting over the campfire.
~~I have enough egg whites for you~~Marie.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

jennifer i thought your swirls were stunning until i read what you said about resembling going down the drain and then burst out laughing.

woody--that was the first black angel food cake i've ever seen (or hope to see)!--and a black angel is NOT a devil by any stretch.

Amélie said...

I love this post, because I recently messed up angel food cake myself (http://amelieschoice.blogspot.com/2010/01/fallen-angel-food-cake.html), but probably for different reasons. I've always been too chicken to actually invert it over a bottle, though - glad to see I wasn't being paranoid!

Woody said...

my scorecard has been better lately 2 for 2 with being sure the cake had started to lower in the pan before removing from it the oven(I did make it back to my house after baking in yours).
how have you been inverting your angel food cakes?

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Marie - now I can say I feel your pain, literally.



evil cake lady said...

Rose, yeah, initially I was a little proud of my swirls, until I looked down at it from above! I'm glad I made you laugh.

Hanaâ said...

Just curious. Who all used Wondra flour w/o any issues?

Matthew said...

Hanaâ, I've used wondra for 2 angel food cakes w/o any issues, but I also use it for lots of other things now such as waffles, genoise, pie crust, pop overs. I think it is great!

Marie said...

Yes--the fancy pants gloves to go with the fancy pants oven. I got the gloves for a present, but now that I have neoprene gloves, I'll never be without them.

It's a great little grater (no pun intended). I usually use it for hard cheese, but it occurred to me that it might work for chocolate, and it did.

You know that I love a story even more than I love cakes, so I'm sure that you're not surprised to end up as a semi-villain in the post. I know you can take it. I'm glad your average is climbing above 90%.

I don't think the bottle was the problem. I believe it would have sunk even worse if I'd inverted it on a rack (although I don't want to test to see if I could make it worse). I wonder what happened to yours? Poor thing.

Oh dear. That does look all too familiar.

anitsirK said...

Hanaâ, I used Robin Hood "Best for Blending", which I'm told is the same thing. I don't think we can get Wondra here in Canada. No troubles to speak of. I used it for the Almond Chiffon, too, if I remember correctly

Amélie said...

Woody: To be honest, I never bothered inverting them. And like I said, the first two times I made an angel food cake, it came out perfectly, so I'm not convinced that inverting is crucial. My cake collapsed last time, but I don't think inverting it would have saved it (it had started collapsing in the oven).

Deana Sidney said...

Since you have been my cake goddess forever... the photo made me laugh in a good way... even the gods have off days... such a charming post... delightful to have found you!

Marie said...

Thanks for stopping by--I love your photo and your blog name.

Shirley said...

Too bad about the cake! I wonder why it has to be suspended upside-down. I've made angel food cake before and that wasn't a requirement.

Marie said...

I think the idea is that by keeping all sides of the cake exposed to air, the cake doesn't get moist and sticky.

idalina gomes said...

OHHH thats funny....sorry but, if l were there i think l would pee my pants! Anyway good way of saving a cake ...hey if you ask me a cake is good even when its in the batter and not baked yet! Wonder what will happen to my cake this week end? opss hope that dostnt happen to me!!!

Love this group!!

Scratch Cook said...

Oh My, I wish I'd known of this blog earlier today. I decided to make an angel food cake to use up some freezer egg whites and the last of the Christmas candy canes. Needless to say... If I'd taken a photo, It would mirror the chocolate tweed - only pink and white!! Oh well, lesson learned.