Apr 9, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

I loved these last two flourless cakes we've made, but Jim will be relieved not to have any more "grainy" cakes for a while. In fairness to Jim, I should note that he's eaten both Passover cakes quite enthusiastically, even though he apparently doesn't think that ground nuts belong in a cake pan.
I think that everyone who made Sybil's Pecan Torte liked it. Mendy described it as "wonderful" and "luscious," and Raymond thought it was a "lovely dessert" that was "right up [his alley]." For a change, almost everyone's cake looked very similar--a round cake with swirled tawny-white whipped cream topping. Only one cupcake version this week: Jenn's. She made just six cupcakes (cutting the recipe in third), and decorated each cupcake with a candied pecan. Beautiful! After I ate the rest of my leftover pecans, I realized they would have been the perfect decoration, and I was right. Or, rather, Jenn was right.
Vicki,who thinks of "Fawlty Towers" instead of Greek mythology when she hears the name Sybil, found that the cake survived despite a burned bottom. The burned bottom fate also befell Jennifer, who has the same cake pan that I have; we have both resolved to get another springform pan. (Jennifer has also declared this to be a "healthy" cake, which made me feel virtuous for making it). Nancy actually made both Passover cakes in the same weekend, quickly becoming an expert on cakes made with ground nuts.
The FEATURED BAKER of the week award goes to Katya. I will confess that I wasn't quite sure about Katya when I first looked at her blog. I noted the picture of her spotless oven and compared it to my spotted oven, and I thought, "This woman has too much time on her hands if she cleans her oven every day." But then I read her profile, where she describes herself as someone to whom elegant grammar is more important than table manners, and I decided I'd forgive her the clean oven. Katya's cake was absolute perfection--exactly the way it was supposed to look. No holes or cracks in the center of her cake, and it was just the right height. It was also beautifully but simply decorated, with sprinklings of powdered sugar and chopped pecans. Katya, who works part-time at a bakery and who actually made this cake at the bakery, has the advantage of being able to offer up her cakes to see if they sell. This one was two-thirds gone by mid-afternoon, and the rest of it probably sold quickly thereafter, when the people who wanted to pick something up for dessert stopped by.
Katya liked the cake, but not as well as she liked the chocolate feather bed cake, which she had made a week earlier. The feather bed cake is on my list of Cakes I Fear Making, because it has to made in two batches, and the fragile cake layers have to somehow be stacked. I don't like the sounds of it at all.
Other cakes on the Cakes I Fear Making list:
Apple Caramel Charlotte
Saint-Honore Trifle
Zach's La Bomba
Holiday Pinecake Cake
Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Buttercream
I've already made some of the cakes on the list and survived, however, so I'm hoping I'll survive these.

Of course, I can talk casually about surviving cakes, because my little corner of the world hasn't been hit with floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. I got an email from a longtime reader of breadbasketcase and a person I consider a friend, although I've never met her. Her blog name is "Chris of R.I." and I always perk up when I see she's left a comment because they're always witty and warm. Chris of R.I. had a baby just a few months ago, and she sent me a picture of the baby, along with news about the terrible damage to her town caused by recent flooding. Chris asked me if I'd consider posting her description of what has happened, along with a request for donations to a local center that has worked tirelessly to help the people left without food and shelter.
Sometimes it's easier to understand the troubles facing people in crisis when you hear someone speak in an individual voice, instead of just seeing the pictures on CNN. After I read Chris's story, I clicked on the link for networkforgood, and made a donation. (Chris is right--it's as easy as buying a book on amazon.com). If you're so inclined, I know that the people of Westerly, Rhode Island, especially Chris of R.I. would appreciate it. Here's Chris's note:

Hi All

As I am sure most of you know, President Obama has declared all of Rhode Island as a major disaster area after unprecedented rainfall and flooding. And it is looking like my little town of Westerly may have gotten the worst of it. Parts of Westerly are fine, including our home; while other parts are still, literally, underwater. My neighborhood is bordered by the Pawcatuck River as it meanders to the sea, and from the bottom of our driveway, nearly a week after the rain has stopped, you can still see houses surrounded by swift moving water.

Other parts of Westerly that are still affected include those immediately surrounding Maria's school, and neighborhoods a little further away whose kids attend school with Maria. I visited Maria's school on Monday and spoke with the school secretary about trying to get help for Springbrook Elementary families and she listed 6 families off the top of her head that she knew were made immediately homeless. Left only with the clothes on their backs-style homeless. One first-grader in Maria's class was evacuated by boat. He hasn't been back to school yet.

The section of town that may be the worst of the worst is the North End of Westerly. This is a less affluent section of town and the densely populated neighborhood consists of apartment houses set closely together on small lots. I had heard as of Monday, 14 apartment buildings had been condemned in just the previous 48 hours. These numbers will only increase as the water slowly recedes and inspectors are able to, well, inspect.

I also visited the Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly on Monday. This organization provides clothing, social services and meals (800 a month!) to people in need of assistance. 75% of their clients are elderly, disabled or children. Their location on Industrial Ave. was underwater and they lost $8000 worth of food from their food banks and nearly all of their office equipment. Yet they were open Monday, with pumps shooting water out of a basement window, accepting and giving donations. I spoke with the Interim Director and she said their needs are immediate, urgent and increasing since they are only just beginning to hear of what the community needs.

Which brings me to the point of my email. It wasn't just to give you a local's view of the flooding! I have listed below links to collect donations for the Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly.

The first link is a secure link that will accept credit card or Paypal donations. It will take about a minute of your time and is as easy as buying something off of Amazon.

If you prefer to write them a check, I have included a link to their home page that has donation information.

If you would like to donate goods or services, I've also included a link to their Facebook page which seems to be updating frequently with what they are short of at the moment. Right now it is things like diapers, toilet paper and gently used mattresses.

You'll feel great about donating to a small local charity that has been there from the start and will be there long after the Red Cross Aid vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters and National Guard have gone. Please consider donating to this organization. This crisis is too big for our small town to handle on its own. That's where we're at folks.

Chris (Pirie) Martuscello

ps please feel free to forward this information

On-line Donation to Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly

Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly Homepage for Checks etc...

Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly Facebook Page for Updates and Immediate Needs

Returning again to the subject of cakes, next week's cake is the banana refrigerator cake with dreamy, creamy white chocolate frosting. Saira has asked to be guest host, and she will post directly on this blog site. This will therefore be a weekend off for me, although I will probably bake next week's cake so I can be a little ahead. That cake--the Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie--is one that I've been looking forward to since I first got the cookbook. How can you not want to make a Whoopie Pie? The cake following the Whoopie Pie will be the more circumspectly named Coffee Chiffonlets with Dulce de Leche Whipped Cream. This recipe calls for mini angel food cake pans. Yikes! I'd better get my hands on those. It also calls for homemade dulce de leche, which could be an adventure. (Please--do not heat the condensed milk in an unopened can--I don't want to read about any adventures that involve explosions). If you want to decorate as directed, you will also look for dark chocolate snowflakes.


Katya said...

Oh that is hilarious. Just to put everyone at ease, I'll be very honest and say that that photo was taken the day I bought the baking stone. It now looks like a dark Jackson Pollack. And it's ahead of a lot of my housekeeping.

Thanks, Marie, I'll take that little 'featured baker' frisson with me as I make the banana cake this morning.

Anonymous said...

Marie and Jennifer, when replacing your spring form pan, consider buying loose-bottom cheesecake pans instead. I think you'll like them much better--easier all around to clean, unmold, etc.

Jenn said...

Congrats Katya on being the featured baker!
Marie - I'm surprised none of the wedding cakes make it to the "fear list."
Now I feel bad about planning on skipping the whoppie pie. I think it calls for buttermilk, and I don't want to buy a whole bottle of buttermilk since most will go to waste. But maybe I should substitute with something else...

Anonymous said...

...although I guess they might not work for this particular cake because you need it to cool upside down.

evil cake lady said...

Congrats Katya!

Zach's La Bomba is on my feared list too.

Anon, thanks for you cake pan suggestion, but I've got an aluminum springform pan all picked out.

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for both your donation and posting my email to your blog. I am hopeful that by putting our crisis in front of more eyes we can raise some money for this great charity and help some of my neighbors who are hurting.

On another note (life always has other notes!), I just finished making and decorating a birthday cake for Maria (7 years old). She is happy, but I can tell you, I'm not posting a picture here! I'm sticking to bread!

A Grateful
Chris in RI

Hanaâ said...

Congratulations Katya, on a job well done!

I'm looking forward to the banana cake. I might bake two if I have enough bananas. One for a potluck at work next week and the other one I'll freeze for the week after; we're having a bake sale at work on the 19th, benefitting the Breast Cancer society.

Marie, ECL:
I use Wilton's Springform pan. They're light colored and I haven't had any issues with it. If you buy it at Michaels or JoAnn, you could use your 40% coupon. I think they're $10 each.

Monica said...

Congrats Katya!

And like Hanaa, I'm also looking forward to the banana cake... I know, I have mention before my thing with fruit and cakes, but I LOVE banana bread... so maybe this one will be sort of like a banana bread??? we will see.

Since I'm a HUGE dulce de Leche fan, I 'm actually looking forward to the Chiffonlets... plus, I have dulce de leche in my pantry... so one less step for moi! Oy.

Hanaâ said...

Oh, I forgot to mention a couple things about the Dulce de Leche (thanks Monica for bringing that up).
I agree with Marie. Don’t boil cans of sweetened condensed milk. There are alternatives:
• Buy a can of Dulce de Leche. I found it in the Ethnic Food Aisle at my grocery store in the Mexican Food section (made by La Lechera).
• Make your own in the oven: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2005/11/dulce_de_lechec.html.
• Make your own (3 other ways): http://gratefulprayerthankfulheart.blogspot.com/2010/03/dulce-de-leche-duos-twd.html

Good luck!

mlwolf2@comcast.net said...

The wedding cakes would be on the Panic List--if I intended to do one of them. Rose gave me a pass on the wedding cakes.

Thanks for the tip--I'll check out the cheesecake pans.

Chris in RI,
If Maria liked the cake, all is well. Just wait until they get old enough to critique your work!

Making the dulce de leche will be a first for me, so I'm going to just follow the recipe, but I'm intrigued by the idea of doing it in the oven.

Everyone loves the banana cake--and the frosting!

Mendy said...


Congrats Katya!

Too bad about the wedding cakes. I was looking forward to the challenge. Don't know if I'll have the guts to try them without joining cake bakers anonymous...

Anonymous said...

Seems like you could just bake a 9'' of each of the wedding cakes--get to try them without bothering with the tiering---although, maybe some of them are already earlier in the book in 9'' size.