Apr 5, 2010

Sybil's Pecan Torte with Coffee Cream - Passover Cake #2

I love the name "Sybil," a name I first heard in high school, when I was learning about the ancient Greeks. This Sybil was a weird prophetess, whose hair stood on end and whose breasts deflated when she was about to prophesy. That would make you pay attention, wouldn't it? Nowadays, people are more likely to think of the Joanne Woodward movie about the woman with 13 or so different personalities. The Sylbil of the pecan torte is Rose's "honorary cousin," and, I'm guessing, she is neither a prophet nor a person who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. She makes a nice cake, though.
It's always a good feeling to find the cake you're making on the Quick-and-Easy list, although that doesn't guarantee you won't have a problem. My problem here was getting the cake out of the pan. Although this pecan torte is easy enough to put together, I would take some points off the quick-and-easy scale because I found it a little difficult to work with. I'll see whether anyone else had this experience. If it was just me, I'll give the points back.
I toasted the pecans yesterday, so today all I had to do was process them with some sugar.
The most tedious part of the recipe is dividing seven eggs. I almost always break the yolk in at least one egg, so I have to first put the white in a small bowl to make sure it's untainted by the yolk before I add it to the mixing bowl.
When I was baking Christmas cookies this year, my friend Joanne astounded me by separating eggs in what I considered an extremely daredevilish way, by letting the whites just drop into the mixing bowl. I almost screamed in horror. "Joanne, what are you doing? If you break one egg yolk, you'll ruin the whole thing!" She gave me a puzzled look. "I never have," she said. I guess she's just a dainty egg-cracker.
The yolks are mixed for about five minutes, until they look like softened, whipped butter.
Then the whites are beaten until they look like beaten egg whites. Then everything is mixed together, and that's pretty much it.
My cake came out of the oven a little taller than the sides of the springform pan. I confess that I didn't weigh the eggs today, so I probably had a greater volume of egg whites than I should have. I'll also confess that, although I love to weigh other ingredients, I feel that an egg should be an egg, and there should be no more measuring involved.
Instead of immediately inverting the cake, as the recipe instructs, I had to leave it rightside up until it sank enough to turn it over. When it was time to take it out of the pan, I accidentally cut some of the edge away from the cake while I was using a knife to loosen the sides. Also, removing the parchment from the bottom was tricky, and I almost lost the cake during that process.
I let it sit while I made hot cross buns. I liked my ecumenical mix of Passover cake and Easter buns.
When the cake was completely cool, I made the coffee whipped cream. This was my first stab at stabilized whipped cream, with a little gelatin added, and there was nothing to it. The cream didn't turn gummy or lumpy, but it didn't weep either. Spreading it on top of the cake was a breeze; plus it covered up the hole where the instant-read theremometer had been.
It's nice to have this cake in reserve, should you ever be called upon to make a cake for Passover. It's not a cake that makes you feel like you're giving up something (i.e., flour); you're a long way from sacrificing flavor. The flavors are simple, yet intense; the textures are rich, yet light. It's a good cake for any holiday, or for no holiday, or no occasion, at all.

Doug: "This cake is a winner."
Jan: "It's a great dessert if you've already overeaten. It seems so nice and light."
Mary: "Way better than the lamb cakes my family used to serve at Easter."
Laurel: "Nice and light--but it has butter in it, doesn't it?"
Jim: "I like the flavors of the cake, and especially like the coffee flavor of the whipped cream. But it still seems too grainy to me."


evil cake lady said...

I have the same cake pan and
1. my cake also rose above the pan
2. there was cake stuck the sides of my pan too.
3. the bottom of my torte was burnt to a crisp. (you seemed to escape that fate)
4. let's blame it on the pan

I always break at least one yolk when separating eggs--stupid yolks.

Lovely cake and pretty photos! Good thing your cake didn't have multiple personalities.

Vicki said...

Great looking cake Marie and fantastic Hot Cross Buns. It's impossible to tell with the fluffy whipped cream the cake gave any difficulties at all. It's interesting people either like the texture of almonds or perceive them as "grainy". Nicola's discovery of purchased ground almonds might help minimize this, especially when no flour is added. But what really impressed me is what a great high school English teacher you would make! You'd have kids riveted to their seats.

Lois B said...

The cake and the buns look fantastic. :)

Jenn said...

Your cake looks great. Who knew that posting about Sybil's Pecan would have the word "breasts" in it? LOL. I always like the background story that you write about Marie.
I made mine as cupcakes this time.
Your hot cross buns looks good, do they have filling inside?

Melinda said...

Nice looking cake. I can't see anything wrong about it.
I am shocked though! I can't believe you don't weigh those eggs. That is almost a rule. You little closet rule breaker!

I will never serve a cake that could possibly be interpreted as 'grainy,' to your Jim. I can tell grainy is not what he likes to taste in a cake. He is SO fussy!

NancyB said...

I am normally a "break one egg at a time" gal, and don't break a yolk very often. But this time I broke a second egg into the bowl with a white already in it and, of course, the yolk went. Scrambled eggs for breakfast this week, I guess...

Monica said...

I need to come clean, I weight everything when it comes to baking, including the eggs. In this case, I was short on the yolks, hand to basically use "8", instead of the 7 called in the recipe, but then I was OVER on the whites.. so I lost about 1/2 of the last egg.

On another note, I want the hot cross buns recipe.

marie said...

Should we buy another pan? I would have been really very irritated if I'd burned this cake!

Jim claims he likes cakes with nuts in, but he likes it better when there are bigger pieces of nuts. He doesn't appreciate that I've just gotten better at grinding the nuts more evenly. I don't know if the kids would be riveted, but they'd sure snicker at the thought of the Sybil's deflating breasts.

Lois B.,
Thank you!

I know. You're gradually learning about the dark side of my personality. I love whipped cream--it covers up such a multitude of sins.
Jim would be far too polite to ever complain of graininess in anyone else's cake, but he's vowed to be completely truthful as a Tasting Panel member. Just remember that he thinks chopped nuts are "grainy." (And he is fussy).

Nancy B.,
Oh, too bad! All you need is one moment of over-confidence, and look what happens. It's not as big a sin as failing to weigh the eggs, though.

You don't have to come clean--you're the one who does what you're supposed to do!

Marie said...

Oh, the hot cross buns is from the Simply Recipes blog. It calls for currants, but I used a mixture of golden raisins and dried cherries instead.


Monica said...

skipping to Simply Recipes right now....


evil cake lady said...

marie, i think i am firing my pan! want me to pick one up for you, too?

Hanaâ said...

The cake looks so nice and tall from the side, you would never know about the middle part. I like how the whipped cream covers up everything :o) Btw, for some reason I expected the whipped cream to be a bit more “beige” from the coffee but maybe it doesn’t have enough coffee to color it that much. Glad it was a big hit. I still think Jim is funny with his “graininess” comment :o)

Nicola said...

I miss baking!

Your posts are making me pine for cake! Marie, your cake looks so amazing (though I am heeding Jim's graininess comments - would be great to find pecan meal, though think the possibility is v. remote!)

Waiting for the planets to realign before I can get back into the kitchen. Currently "Mars" is away and has taken both the camera and every single computer (besides my work one) and I can't quite bring myself to bake without photoing it...somehow that doesn't make it real. Plus it spares you all from reading a 12,000 word essay on my adventures.

Ahem. Think I am also missing the outlet of blogging!

Mendy said...


Great hight on your cake!

I also usually break at least one yolk into the egg whites. I wonder if your friend really waits until the eggs are at room temperature before breaking them, as it is much harder to separate them then...

Marie said...

Yes, let me know what kind you buy! Or maybe I should wait until the next time we use the springform pan, and we can compare results.

The whipped cream was actually a little darker in person than in the photo--a really pretty color. I love any recipe that has a whipped cream topping!

We miss you! I hope the alignment of the planets is coming up soon.

Now that you mention it, I believe she took the eggs right out of the refrigerator.