Jun 28, 2010

Génoise Rose

This is the plainest cake we've made so far. In fact, if there were a list of "plain and simple" cakes, this would top the list, and if you're a Frosting Person, rather than a Cake Person, this cake is not going to appeal to you. But it's a little like comparing a delicate violet to a big, gaudy tree peony. The violet is not going to blow you away, but it does have a certain charm of its own.
Speaking of lists, this could be on the Quick and Easy list. I know that génoise is supposed to be tricky, but if you follow Rose's directions, you won't go wrong.
It's all about beating the eggs. Joan pointed out a video on Rose's blog that recommends a full ten minutes of beating on high speed to get the eggs to the right volume. I've found that 5 is enough, and beating for longer than that doesn't get you any more volume, but you'll want to experiment for yourselves. The change from raw eggs to a lovely, billowy mixture is one of my favorite kitchen alchemies. I also love the way that spinach goes from something to almost nothing in 60 seconds. Not to mention the miracle of pate choux.
But back to the subject at hand.
The other secret is sifting the flour (and cornstarch). I must include this picture because Jim is always thrilled at the prospect of taking a picture of a flour-sifting event. He grabs his camera and shoots. I suppose that when we were married, some 43 years ago, I wouldn't have believed that his eyes would light up when he saw me reach for the flour sifter, but sometimes life takes such unexpected turns.
Then it's just a question of mixing the flour in with the egg mixture, and the clarified butter (or beurre noisette) into everything. If you're ever going to make beurre noisette, this is the time to do it. Unlike, say, the peanut butter financiers, which have other strong flavors--mostly peanut butter--this cake is primarily flavored by butter, and the slightly nutty flavor added by the browned butter is very helpful. (My daughter praised its slight almond flavor until I told her it had no almonds--she was just tasting the butter).
Going into the oven as batter....
And coming out as cake.
The only thing left to do is brush it with a syrup made from sugar, water, and Triple Sec (or orange juice). I brushed and brushed, and used only about half the syrup. I stopped because I was afraid the cake would get soggy, but I needn't have worried. It wasn't at all soggy, and more syrup would only have added to the flavor.
It still needed a little something, so I added a few raspberries--artfully placed, or so I hoped--to the platter.
And served it with a bit of whipped cream, because even though it may not need frosting, it didn't suffer from the addition of whipped cream.
I'll confess that I didn't bake this cake a day before serving. For a change, it wasn't because I didn't notice the "Plan Ahead" warning. It was just that we were away from town on Friday and Saturday, and I needed a cake for Sunday. Since we had leftovers, we both tried the cake again on Monday, and were surprised that it really did make a difference. It was both more flavorful and more tender the second time around. So follow the directions.
A close-up from Jim's new camera:

James: "Yummy."
Sarah: "It has a very delicate flavor. It's the perfect base for the fruit and cream."
Jim: "It seems a little unsubstantial on its own, but it's great with the berries and whipped cream."

Jun 23, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

The reactions to this cheesecake can pretty much be summed up by Julie, who said "Oh my goodness . . . I am totally in love with this cheesecake!"
Monica baked it just for Tom, who's crazy about both coconut and cheesecake, and who was, not surprisingly, crazy about this dessert. Monica is less crazy about either, but "loved the hint of the coconut taste, it's not overly sweet, its like a custard and cheesecake together which makes is super light."
Other people also commented about the texture--Nancy B, for example, liked the "very light texture," and thought it was "nicely flavored."
Lynnette described it as "moist and creamy (as I like it) and unmistakably coconut-y."
Even though Raymond generally prefers "cheesecakes to be made entirely with cream cheese" because he prefers that "dense texture," he praised this cheesecake as "not too cloying or rich but still is silky and decadent and there is no doubt you are eating cheesecake."
On ther other hand, Rachelino compared this version favorably to "the gargantuan triangular bricks of ultrafirm, dry, crumbly cheesecake often billed "New York Cheesecake" here in California."

A number of bakers reported enthusiastic comments from tasters.

Joan's husband told her, "This is as good a cheesecake as one would find anywhere!"
Vicki's husband, who doesn't like the texture of coconut, gave her his verdict: "These are too good to be believed!"
And one of Rachelino's tasters was more specific: he said it was the best cheesecake he'd had in 6 years!

But the best comment went to our FEATURED BAKER, Mendy/ He reported that "One of the fellows who I shared this with at work stated that it was the best cheesecake he had ever had and said: 'You should have a blog!'"
A good thing he does have a blog--otherwise, some of us would never suspect what kinds of gourmet goodies can emerge from a toaster oven. Nor would we know that Israeli vanilla wafers are different than American vanilla wafers.
In this case, what emerged was four mini cheesecakes (made two at a time in a water bath in said toaster oven) plus a half-dozen cheese/cupcakes. Mendy never seems to be fazed by mishaps. Add too much cream of coconut to the mix? No problem--just make some extra cupcakes. Run out of cheesecake crust? No problem--just use crumbled vanilla wafers; straight from the box, they add "a nice extra crunch."

Coming up next week: the Genoise Rose. A "moist and gossamer cornerstone of French baking." This can be made in the special rose tube pan.
If you don't want to make another NordicWare purchase, you can use any 10-inch tube pan.
Remember that this cake is best if it's made 24 hours or more before serving. I baked it the same day I served it, and then had it again the following night. There was a noticeable increase in flavor and tenderness on the second day, so heed Rose's advice.
After that, a cake I'm really looking forward to in this summer that's suddenly turned sultry--an ice cream cake (your choice of ice cream). This one has to be made at least eight hours before serving. Plan your baking carefully the next two weeks!

Jun 21, 2010

Coconut Cheesecake

To tell the truth, I wasn't really looking forward to making this cheesecake. Not that I dreaded it (it's on the Q&E list, after all), it just seemed a little boring, especially after the strawberry-chocolate cake. But I should have known that if Rose included a recipe for coconut cheesecake, it would be the best possible coconut cheesecake. Not having sampled all possibilities, I can't say it's the BEST, but I can say that I find myself dreaming about it mid-afternoon.
The recipe calls for eight egg yolks. For some reason, all the eggs I bought at our local farmer's market were double-yolked, but the 16 yolks from eight eggs was almost precisely 150 grams.
The coconut cookie crust doesn't require you to bake homemade coconut cookies (or it wouldn't be quick and easy, right?)--all you have to do is process vanilla wafers and coconut. Not odd, difficult-to-find coconut either; just plain Angel Flake.
I'm so happy since I bought my 9-inch silicone round pan, which stretches around my 9-inch springform pan to keep water from seeping in. No more leaky foil wraps for me!
Once the crust is ready, the making the cheesecake is easy-peasy. If you don't like dairy, this is not the dessert for you: a pound of cream cheese and two cups of sour cream.
Nice and creamy-and of course the addition of those 16 egg yolks give it a rich golden hue.

As I mentioned, I had a little trouble finding the cream of coconut. Then I read Jennifer's comment about all the chemicals in it, which caused me to look at the label again. Hmmm. It does have a few extra syllables, doesn't it? I'm a little taken aback by the idea of a "Family Pina Colada"--just omit the rum. Is there a point to that?
Anyway, Rose says to mix up the cream of coconut in the food processor. Because Rose told me to do it, I did, but I think that you could probably successfully whisk it, and not have to get the processor dirty again.
And that's it! All that's left is baking it. Oh, but first--pour hot water around the springform pan which you've placed in a roasting pan, or whatever you have that's big enough to hold the cheesecake. Note to self: buy yourself a roasting pan before making the next cheesecake!
The cake bakes for 45 minutes, cools in the oven for an hour, and then cools on a rack for another hour. You don't have to do anything during this time except listen for the timer's reminding ding.
There's a little crack on one side of the cheesecake, but it's going to be covered with toasted coconut, so I don't care. I see that my cheesecake is quite lopsided, which tells me that I didn't do a very good job of straightening the springform pan in the silicone pan. I'm not concerned. Some of my best friends are lopsided.
I'm sorry to admit that once again I missed the clearly marked "Plan Ahead" section. Therefore we ate the cheesecake the following day, and I took it in to work the day after that. The only thing left to do was to toast some coconut. I loved the crisp, honey-brown result.
Jim, despite his well-known aversion to coconut, loved this cheesecake, but the toasted coconut on top was too much for him, and he carefully scraped it off. I ate it. Jack Sprat and his wife had nothing on us.
This would be a perfect recipe for an Asian dinner of any kind--not authentic, maybe, but I think the flavors would be just right. If you don't want to wait until you make an Asian dinner, it would work with almost anything else.

     Sean: "This is the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. If someone had told me the cheesecake in the lunchroom was from a really famous restaurant, I’d have no trouble believing it."
     Ben"  "Really delicious--thanks for bringing it in."
     Jodie:  "Is this a Rose recipe?  Can I have it?"
     Jim:  "I love the cheesecake, but I could do without that stuff on top."
     Karen:  "This is a really delicious cheesecake.  I'm sure it's not really light, but it seems light, and the coconut flavor is definite, but subtle."

Jun 17, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

The strawberry cake with chocolate icing was a winner.  I'm still hoping that it will be my birthday cake next year. Raymond, our resident Francophile, had high praise for this classic American white cake, which reminded him of his mother's Silver White cake from the Betty Crocker cookbook. Lynnette also had high praise for the cake, calling it "just spot on for satisfying multiple levels of your inner most desires." Hmmm. That sounds a little like a blurb for an x-rated video. Mendy's blog begins with a nice tribute to Rose: "I do not usually like strawberry flavored things. This was one of those 'Rose Moments,' where you discover that the nominal can become extraordinary because of the personal touch of someone who has gone the extra mile to make it so." Joan loved this cake, although it caused her great anxiety, mostly because she was trying out a new oven thermometer and couldn't figure out whether her oven temperature was wrong or her new thermometer's temperature was wrong.
If you want to see what this cake looks like when it's NOT round and NOT covered with chocolate frosting, check out Saira's blog. Her version looks entirely different, but very good.
Surprisingly, if people had problems with this cake, it was more with the cake than with either the tricky mousseline or the sticky chocolate frosting--although Jenn had some of the problems with the frosting(s) that I anticipated having.   In fact, enough people had trouble with the cake crumbling that Rose had to write in to remind us to use something--like the bottom of a tart pan--to transport cakes from here to there.
One layer of Monica's cake (the one where she used her store-bought cake strip, as opposed to her homemade one that worked beautifully) "cracked! And not a small crack, but a total melt down crack... the cake was decomposing before my very eyes." Katya baked one layer that was "so tender that [it]broke, leaving a plate of cake bits that was gratefully consumed." Jennifer also had one cake layer that broke as she "was lifting it onto the cake, but once you smear it with buttercream and encase it in frosting, no one is the wiser, unless you are looking at the cake from the right angle and notice it is crooked." Jennifer's blog is proof that pictures DO lie--one of the shots of her cake shows it looking absolutely perfect, and then another shot--the truth-in-blogging shot--shows the cake with a very definite list to one side.  Julie had a little trouble with cake crumbles, too, but more than made up for that by making her own strawberry butter because she couldn't find any in her local stores.
On the other hand, Nicola's cake was so "robust" that it withstood a big bottle of balsamic vinegar falling on it, straight from her neatly organized pantry. And Vicki avoided the whole issue by making only one layer and using the rest of the batter for extra cupcakes.
Usually, for one--often irrational--reason or another, the person who will be named FEATURED BAKER jumps out at me while I'm reading the blogs. This week I had a very hard time deciding--the cakes all looked so beautiful and the stories were all so good. I was agonizing about the choice when I finally had to remind myself that this is not the Nobel Prize. And then it became clear to me that the FEATURED BAKER should be Nancy B.
If anyone deserves a prize, it's Nancy. First, her computer crashed last week and she couldn't bake the cupcakes. Then she went off on a business trip. Then she came back to her humid Georgia kitchen and decided that she not only had to make this week's cake, but also the cupcakes from last week (so she'd keep her record of having baked every single cake so far).
Remember how this mousseline isn't supposed to work in humid weather? Remember that Nancy B. lives in Georgia? Did she let that stop her? Are you tired of rhetorical questions?
No, she did not. With the help of with "large numbers of dirty bowls, beaters, thermometers, strainers (for the strawberry jam) and other utensils," she succeeded in making the mousseline. And she succeeded in making the chocolate frosting too--eventually--although she never did get it to a workable texture. And then she went on to bake the cupcakes. In case you're wondering how she turns out all this cake, she cuts the recipes in half when she makes two cakes. So she not only bakes like crazy, but she also has to do math.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in on the issue of dry chocolate cakes. After reading all the comments, I bought myself some new Italian cocoa, which is supposed to be higher in fat. And I vow to faithfully weigh my eggs. Jenn said that she thought the cupcakes were a bit dry, but not all chocolate cakes--the German chocolate cake base, for example, she thought was not dry at all. Jenn, you'll be happy to know that the base for the ice cream cake, coming up in a few weeks, is the German chocolate cake.
Next up: one of Rose's deservedly famous cheesecakes--this time a coconut version. I had some trouble finding cream of coconut. Google said to look in the drink mix aisle of your grocery store, because cream of coconut is used to make pina coladas. My grocery store and neighborhood liquor store only had pina colada mix, made with fake coconut flavoring. A trip to a bigger liquor store yielded this,
which is what you want.

Jun 14, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake

This is my new favorite cake. I've already started trying to talk Jim into baking it for my next birthday. "No way!" he said. "That's not on the Quick and Easy list. I saw how you sweated to make this cake. No, no no!" I think he's considering it.
Not only is this cake delicious, but I love it because the strawberry mousseline buttercream turned out perfectly! My last several adventures with buttercream have been misadventures, and I could see many possibilities for disaster in both of the frostings for this cake. Two frostings! And a cake that you slice in halves, stack, fill, and frost--SO many chances for things to go wrong.
But let's start with the cake. Jim did not see me sweating over the cake, which is actually pretty easy, especially if you have frozen egg whites. It makes me feel like a real baker to be able to reach in my freezer and pull out a plastic container of egg whites.
This white cake is no ordinary white cake--it's enhanced with melted white chocolate, which gives it a lovely je ne sais quoi. I had to use up all my odds and ends of white chocolate in order to get the requisite 8 ounces.
It also makes me feel like a real baker to have odds and ends of white chocolate in my freezer. I used to have normal things like frozen pizza in my freezer. Now I have eight or ten different chocolates, assorted nuts, lots of unsalted butter, and the aforementioned egg whites. I had to buy a new freezer for the normal things.
The dry ingredients and the butter. Don't worry--I remembered to attach the beater blade to the mixer itself. The batter is quite lovely and silky.
I weighed the batter going in to each cake pan so they'd be exactly the same.
And, of course, Rose was right--there was just enough batter left to make two cupcakes. You could also have made each layer just a smidge bigger, but then you wouldn't have had the cupcakes.
With the cakes out of the oven, it was time to try my bête noire--buttercream. Strawberry mousseline buttercream, to be precise. I wanted so badly to make a perfect buttercream. The buttercream gods have not been watching over me lately. And I noticed, while reading through the instructions for the fourth or fifth time, that it wasn't wise to try this particular mousseline in humid weather. I rummaged through some junk in the basement and found an old barometer. According to it, the kitchen's humidity was 52%.
My research told me that 52% is veering toward very high humidity, so, even though it wasn't hot, I turned on the air conditioning to squeeze some of the water out of the air. I did not want the buttercream to dissolve into a puddle, the way Faithy's does!
For whatever reason, everything fell into place today.
The sugar syrup cooked to the right temperature.

The egg whites turned into meringue, and there were no missteps while adding the sugar syrup. The meringue turned the already fluffy buttercream into a mixture that was airier than air.
The final addition of strawberry butter turned it into perfection.
I can't tell you how pleased I was with myself.
Not only did the mousseline look and taste wonderful, but it also spread on the cake like a dream. (I just noticed that my nail polish matches the frosting--I didn't plan that, honestly). I was beginning to think that everything was going to go perfectly. Apparently that is a thought you should not have.
So pleased was I with the mousseline that I forgot to fret about the possibility of the cake layers falling apart as I placed them on top of each other. Cake layer #3 did just that.
Jim must not have had the heart to take a picture of the broken pieces of the cake layer before I shoved them back together, using the mousseline as glue. But you can see that this layer is not intact.
The layer-of-crumbs also prevented the cake from being an even and upright pillar, turning it more into The Leaning Tower of Cake.
Frankly, it was a good thing the chocolate frosting wasn't hard to make because all of a sudden, I was very tired, and I had to will myself into doing the final frosting round. But as soon as I started pouring on the runny, sticky stuff, I was back on my game.
I'd already given up hope that the final cake would stand tall and elegant. It was too lumpy for elegance.
Still, there's something impressive about a four-layer cake. Even though this one wasn't going to win any prizes for beauty, it wasn't laughable.
And the different colors and textures make it downright impressive when you cut into it!
If I were grading this cake as a whole, I'd definitely give it an A. If I were grading the components, I'd give the cake an A (light, moist--a delicious "plain" cake); the mousseline an A+ (lick-the-beaters delicious); the chocolate frosting a B (interesting but not as good as ganache). I'm eager to see if everyone else liked it as much as I did.


Jim: "The cake itself is delicious. I love the contrast between the sweet, fluffy mousseline and the layer of plain preserves."
Ben: "This cake is awesome!"
Karen: "It's so pretty. I think it's one of the best you've made. Can I have seconds?"

Jun 9, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

As I was reading through your posts, it suddenly occurred to me that, although I assigned the cupcakes, I didn't assign any frosting. Because I check off any recipe that I've made, I assumed that you do too. And because there are two frostings that aren't attached to other recipes (the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream and the Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream), and I'd already used the Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream when I made the Yellow Butter Cupcakes way back last June, I naturally wanted to make the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream so I could cross it off. And I did. But I failed let you know that this is what I had in mind, and so you just did whatever you felt like doing. The result is that we have cupcakes that all look very different, although they're the same staunch little cupcakes underneath whatever it is that you put on them.
That ranged all the way from Mendy (nothing) to Saira, who made both strawberry AND vanilla mousselines, AND who dyed the frosting for one cupcake a deep teal blue, just for fun.
Monica and Lois used the same frosting recipe: an odd recipe made with flour, but they both swear by it, Monica going so far as to dub it "The Best Frosting I've Ever Tasted." Lynnette just whipped up a basic buttercream (no recipe), but she made no claims for it being the best ever.
Zerin really went whole hog! She not only made a chocolate ganache to drizzle over the chocolate cupcakes, but she also made the yellow butter cupcakes for those who "don't dig chocolate"(another cake to cross off her list!) and frosted them with pretty pink frosting.
Vicki went the minimalist route, simply dusting hers with powdered sugar. Lest you think she let herself off the hook too easily, she also "mixed up" an espresso buttercream with creme fraiche.
Several people used leftover frosting. Leftover frosting? This is not a concept I understand. Kristina had some leftover raspberry cloud cream in her freezer. Seriously. Kristina is the kind of person who rummages around in her freezer and finds something called raspberry cloud cream. Faithy had both leftover ganache and leftover dreamy creamy white frosting. Her refrigerator is as much a treasure trove as Kristina's freezer.
Raymond does get to cross off another recipe because he did the Chocolate Egg-White Buttercream, although he said the cupcakes were good enough that they didn't need frosting. And that comes from the "old cuss" who has "no patience" for individual cakes, whether they're called cakelets, baby cakes, or cupcakes.
Jenn almost got to cross something else off her list because she (almost) made the Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream. You can read all about her Buttercream Drama on her blog.

The hard-fought FEATURED BAKER contest was especially keen this week, and ended in a draw: Julie (Brand new to the Heavenly Cake Bakers) and Jennifer. Julie gets all kinds of credit for baking the cupcakes from the Transplant House (her husband is waiting for a liver transplant (and, in all seriousness, I wish you both well in that scary-sounding path)) after her husband was hospitalized with an infection. Julie, who sounds like an amazing woman, did not let the fact that she was in a strange kitchen stop her from making both the cupcakes and the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream. Julie piped "Thanks" on each cupcake, which she gave to the nurses, noting somewhat apologetically that she would ordinarily not use tube frosting from the grocery store to write "Thanks," but she hadn't brought her own piping equipment with her. Julie, you are a trouper, and I look forward to seeing what you produce in your own kitchen with your own piping bag.
Julie shares the Featured Baker award with Jennifer, aka Evil Cake Lady, for two reasons. The first is sprinkles. Specifically, sprinkles artistically strewn over just one side of the cupcake. The second is her great description of a serious jones for chocolate:
There comes a time in every girl's life when she really needs her chocolate fix. Like, when all she is thinking about is chocolate, and when she can get some chocolate, and what kind of chocolate, and in what form of delivery she wants her chocolate, and when this chocolate consumption can take place. You may think she is listening to you talk about your in-laws, or your back pain, or that she is hard at work, but really she is just running through all of her chocolate options and deciding which one she will take advantage of. You may be able to distract her for awhile, or satisfy her temporarily with some other delicious something, but it won't be long before the chocolate cravings begin again. She might try to settle for an easier, cheaper, and less delicious chocolate option, but oftentimes that will only make the chocolate cravings more insistent and cranky. A girl knows better--she has to have her chocolate, the kind she wants, the way she wants it, and RIGHT NOW.

Let's talk about dry cakes--or as some people have said, cakes that are "almost dry," or "just at the edge of dry." This is a fairly common observation, or even criticism, about Rose's chocolate cakes. In the case of these chocolate cupcakes, both Saira and Lois mentioned that the cupcakes seemed dry. Jenn thought they were dry when she made them last year, so she tried syruping them this time around. Mendy didn't think they were dry, but described an odd texture, sort of like hard-boiled egg yolks. Other people described them as "perfect" or "moist." What's the deal?
First, I'll say that I don't think the cakes are dry. My own theory--backed up by absolutely nothing--is that people have gotten accustomed to super-moist cakes from eating too many mix cakes with added pudding, so that a cake that is a normal cake consistency doesn't seem moist enough. But it doesn't make much difference what I think, and if people think the cakes are dry, then they're dry. You can't really say, "You're a moron; this cake is NOT DRY!"
Back in 2006, blogger Aaron said he thought the culprit was water--as much as two ounces--evaporating from the water-cocoa mix, and said it was solved when he wrapped the mixture with plastic wrap. Rose agreed.
Frankly, I don't see how two ounces could evaporate from the cocoa mixture unless you're mixing the water and the cocoa a week before you bake the cake, but it doesn't hurt to cover anything with plastic wrap if it's going to be sitting for a while. I noticed that Mendy added a little bit of extra water to the last chocolate cake he made, and the texture looked quite moist. Vicki also says she's started to take her cakes out of the oven just before she thinks they're done, and she thinks that's been helpful.
Overbaking is something that's also often named as a culprit, and Rose's recipes generally advise that they should not start to shrink away from the cake pans until after the cake is out of the oven. But, as Joan can attest, sometimes taking a cake's temperature can cause more problems than it solves. In the same vein, some people advise that if you use a cake tester, you should remove the cake from the oven when some crumbs are still sticking to the tester. If you wait until the tester is completely dry, chances are the cake will be as well. Obviously, using too much flour wouldn't make for a moist cake, but this shouldn't happen if you weigh the ingredients. I was getting lazy about weighing eggs, but I started doing it after Woody chastized me. I noticed that my organic, cage-free eggs have less yolk and more white than the "standard" egg. I wonder if this could have any affect on the dryness of the final product. It seems to me that I remember reading somewhere that too many egg whites could cause a cake to be dry.
I know that others have wondered about this issue--does anyone else have other ideas?

Well, anyway, the next cake isn't chocolate. It's a fabulous-looking four-layer (well--two layers sliced in half) white cake with a fabulous-looking strawberry mousseline and a fabulous-looking chocolate frosting. Can you tell that the picture of this cake just calls to me? If you can find American Spoon Food's strawberry butter in your grocery store, you won't have to strain strawberry preserves. Otherwise, you will. Unless you disobey orders.
After that, another cheesecake. And another Quick-and-Easy. I think the only thing that might cause problems here is the cream of coconut. The recipe warns: "not coconut cream"! I think that cream of coconut is the stuff you buy in the beverage aisle of your grocery store or at your liquor store--the stuff you use to make pina coladas. Coconut cream, on the other hand, is like coconut milk, only thicker, and it's not sweetened.

Jun 7, 2010

Chocolate Butter Cupcakes with Golden Neoclassic Buttercream

Being organized is sometimes a curse. As, for example, if you're having a party at your house and the piece de resistance will be chocolate cupcakes. But, rather than baking them the day of the party, you bake them the day before. And you make two, count them, two different buttercream frostings the night before. And they both turn out perfectly, leading you to believe that The Buttercream Curse has been lifted. And then, maybe a half-hour before people are supposed to start ringing your doorbell, you decide that the Golden Buttercream Frosting that looked so beautiful last night needs to be whipped into shape. And then it turns into a curdled mess. That is when being organized gets you nowhere. You are so bitter you think you might as well have just used supermarket frosting in a can. Frosting in a can! Yes, friends, I was contemplating frosting in a can. That is how low I went. And it's all because I rushed the buttercream.
But let's talk about happy things for a while before returning to the subject of frosting. Chocolate cupcakes are very happy things, and this recipe is so easy that it's even a cinch to double. All my cupcake pans were called into play.
A doubled recipe takes a lot of cocoa--I ran out of my usual Droste brand and used some Hershey's Natural. It's much lighter, and so my cupcakes were doubtless also lighter than if they'd been made with Droste. I can't imagine that they would have tasted any better.
Does that batter not look ultra-rich and creamy? How could cupcakes made from that batter be anything but delicious?
Just so they'd all be perfect, I weighed them out--50 grams per cake. Hmm. There appears to be a glass of wine in the background. I have no idea how that got there.
All the cupcakes came out of the oven looking good, even the ones in the silicone cups. I don't really trust silicone yet. I always think it's going to melt.
As I poured the Lyle's Golden Syrup in with the sugar, I wondered if this wasn't going to turn out to be a deceptive color--too dark ("golden") to look like vanilla.
Adding the single teaspoon of lemon to this very rich buttercream turns out to be pure genius--it's just sour enough to cut the sweetness of the frosting.
Cook the sugar, golden syrup, and lemon juice until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.
Pour the syrup in a glass measuring cup sprayed with cooking spray.
Beat the syrup into the egg yolks, and then gradualy beat in the butter and vanilla. It looked so smooth and beautiful when it was done.
It was cold, hard, and ugly when I took it out of the refrigerator the next day.
Oh, that was a sad time. Here is what the recipe says: "Bring to room temperature before using to prevent curdling and rebeat to restore the texture." It seemed like an hour would be enough to bring it to room temperature, but I can tell you that it wasn't. I rebeat it. That did not "restore the texture." Quite the opposite. I kept beating it. Then I tried the combination of beating it and swearing it at. That was about as successful as you'd think.
I had been planning to pipe on this beautiful frosting, but I ran out of time. (This is why I like it every time I read someone else saying that they ran out of time. It makes me feel better somehow to know I'm not alone).
So I ended up with one plate full of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting that was definitely sub-par in appearance, but above par in taste, even though people thought it was going to be a lemon frosting because of the color. And I had one plate of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting that was better-looking but not better-tasting. Like Jim, I preferred the taste of the Golden Neoclassic variety.
When I tasted these cupcakes, I'll admit to feeling a little resentful that I'd set myself this task of baking a different cake every week. Why couldn't I just make chocolate cupcakes every week? Why couldn't I alternate all 7 variations on the golden buttercream? I would perfect my buttercream technique. I would strew cupcakes wherever I went. People would call me "The Cupcake Lady." There would be mountains of cupcakes at my funeral. My dreams were making me so happy (except for the funeral dream--that was kind of a downer).
But it is not to be. Onward--to next week's Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake.

Jim: "I love the cupcakes. The frostings are both good, but the vanilla one is better."
Ngoc: "The cupcakes are amazing!"
Teddie: "The cupcake with vanilla frosting is a real gutbomb if it’s the only thing you have for dinner other than a handful of jelly beans."
Sara:  "This is the best cake I've ever had in my life!"