Aug 17, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

I'm afraid that my remark about doing penance with a chocolate cake scared some people off this week. As of this moment (Tuesday at 12:49 PM CST), only nine people have baked the cake. This is about half the number we had with the lemon meringue cake and the plum and blueberry upside down cake. (Katya kind of made up for that by baking the cake for the second time, and Jennifer made two different versions, so that enthusiasm made up for the relatively small numbers).
There were really only two basic decisions for this cake: 1) make the whole cake--which required two separate half-sheet cakes--or make a half-cake and 2) make the whipped ganache or just whipped cream. Most people opted for half a cake and chocolate ganache.
If you're really creative, however, you might do what Vicki did, and decorate the cake with grated white chocolate and garnish it with fresh blackberries. The blackberries gave it a lovely fresh look. If you really want to see cute, though, forget about looking at the cake and just take a gander at the picture of Vicki's granddaughter ensuring the quality of the ganache.
Monica did the half-cake and the chocolate ganache. Hers looks stunning, partly because she took the trouble to trim the cakes so they stacked neatly together and because she also took the trouble to make real chocolate curls, not just grated chocolate. It paid off in photogenecity. (I thought I'd just made that word up, but it's a real word and means just what I thought it should mean).
Nancy B also did a half-cake (in fact, she's the one who started the trend). I'm not sure how she does it--flying into town, baking a cake, then flying out again for another business trip (next week, it's Albuquerque)--but she does. She did her version of stabilized whipped cream and chocolate curls--which brought back memories of her grandmother's "zebra pie" (chocolate wafers and whipped cream).
Lois used the chocolate ganache. She compared the cake to a "very thin chocolate souffle," with a whipped ganache to "continue the light as air chocolate theme."
Jennifer decided against making either of the decisions, so she just made two cakes: one with the whipped chocolate ganache and one with the whipped cream. This decision, mind you, was made in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave in Portland. (Yes, a heat wave in Portland). "We all unanimously agreed the whipped cream variation looked more appealing as well as being more to our tastes."
This was Katya's second go-round for this cake, which she noted was perfect for Passover, and also gluten-free--a handy thing to have in your repertoire. This time, Katya decorated her cake with white nonpareils, giving it--in her opinion, at least--the look of a "cafeteria sheet cake." (Maybe in Brooklyn it looks like a cafeteria cake.  Where I come from, in northern Indiana, there were no cafeteria featherbed cakes).
Mendy was racing against the clock to finish this before the start of Sabbath, and ended up (again, in his words), with "chocolate sludge" and a cake that was a featherbed cookie. Tasted good, though. Check out Mendy's blog from time to time to see if his wife posts for his birthday. I'm hoping for another spousal birthday blog event!
Jenn also claimed to have a feather-less chocolate featherbed. In her case, it wasn't the clock that was her enemy, but the cacao content (her theory is that the high cacao content made her cake ultra-thin--it took six layers for her to get the desired height. Take a look at how she decorated the sides of the cake before you feel sorry for her, though--it looks fantastic.  I'll admit to piping envy.

This was another week when I had a very hard time deciding on the FEATURED BAKER. Such lovely cakes, and such dedicated bakers! Finally, after going from blog to blog, I realized that I was always giving extra time to Raymond. Not only were his step-by-step pictures perfectly illustrative, but his final product was so beautiful, with its piping (yes, I'll admit it, I'm jealous), and its sprinkle of almonds. I imagined walking in to Raymond's house and spotting that gorgeous cake, hoping that I'd be able to sample a slice. And, although Raymond claims to be the consummate "grumpy old man," I'm pretty sure he'd cut a piece for me. And that I'd love it.

Next week is the Marionberry Shortcake. For those of you with access to fresh marionberries in season, I apologize for missing the season. If I'd done research instead of just guessing, I'd have planned the cake for July. According to Rose, the thing about marionberries is that they freeze beautifully, so you can make this cake successfully with the frozen berries. If you opt for a different berry, or another fruit, you should use one of the fresh fruits that's available season now, unlike the marionberry, which must have about an eight-day season.
If you don't have the very cute little individual Mary Ann pans, you can use custard cups to make the baby shortcakes.
Coming up after that is the chocolate layer cake with caramel ganache. By then it will be the end of August. Perhaps the cool winds of autumn will make an appearance and this rich-sounding chocolate cake will sound wonderfully appetizing. If it's still hot where you live, turn on the A/C and eat up.


Vicki said...

Congrat's Raymond! It really was a lovely looking cake. Once again, I so appreciate your Sunday step by step posting. You really help out a novice baker.

evil cake lady said...

marionberries do have about an 8 day season, or so it seems! i also could have sworn being able to get fresh marions until august but perhaps this season was short? the sad part is i bought some fresh ones the last week they were available and they went bad before i could use them.

if any of you haven't had marionberries before, they are worth finding, frozen or not. they are amazingly juicy and complex for a cane berry.

and congratulations raymond! count me in for having piping envy.

Katya said...

I approached this cake with trepidation both times, but in retrospect, it's no more detailed than many of Rose's creations. Does this mean I've joined a cult or that the cake wasn't really that difficult?

And Marie, I didn't think it looked cafeteria-like inside, but it had that nice sheet cake finish.

Monica said...

Congratulations to Raymond! Like Marie, I too have pipe envy. And it’s totally deserved. Vicki, I to check out his Sunday post to get the “inside” track before I bake my cake.

Sadly (or not) I will pass the next cake on by, because I will be in mid air, and doubt the Continental flight attendants will lend me their in-flight oven. Aha! Look at me vacation humor already, can you tell I’m checking out folks?

Jenn said...

Congrats Raymond! I have piping envy too. His cake looks so grand (plastic plate or not). I usually baked on Saturday but Sunday morning I checked out his post as well :).

Marie - thanks for your nice words about my cake, you're so kind!

Julie (from Rose's forum) posted this comment about the higher cacao content on my blog:
"Jenn, using a higher % chocolate was very likely the cause of the "feather-less" quality. I learned that the hard way when I made the moist chocolate genoise with higher % choc: it fell, too.

In a recipe calling for 113g (4oz) of 60% chocolate, you can substitute 97 grams of 70% chocolate plus 16 grams of sugar."

That Julie is so amazing, I would love to have her baking knowledge.

Mendy said...


Congrats Raymond! You really gussied this one up good and proper.

I used strawberries instead of marion berries and was glad of the extra juice they make. I did not have to reduce the juice over heat.

As for the caramel ganache cake, I baked mine already also. Forget the cake! Just make the ganache and eat it with a spoon! :)

faithy said...

Congrats Raymond!

Wow Mendy, you are ahead of schedule! LOL! :) I think if i do snap out of my laziness mood and bake this weekend, i'll probably use strawberries too.

Jenn said...

Wow Mendy, way to go! You are on a baking frenzy huh?
In case I can't find frozen marionberry - I'll follow your lead and use strawberries. Thanks for the tip!

Since I like halving recipes, actually thought of making both the shortcake and the chocolate cake this weekend - so I can use 1 heavy cream bottle for both.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

though "on vacation" of course i can't resist peeking and am richly rewarded! those of you who dared have survived the featherbed! actually, for me, the hardest part was writing the instructions for the cake component.

come saturday i will be baking the peach galette for friends who are coming for the first time. one has become lactose intolerant so i will add extra butter to the peaches (clarified which removes the enemy milk solids) and then do my favorite lard crust with my home-rendered lard. i forgot to ask if they eat products but i draw the line at pie crust without either butter or lard--though there is the great goosefat

rose Beranbaum said...

i meant PORK products (or in this case maybe i should say bi-products).

though i usually prefer a butter crust for non-savory dishes there is no more flaky or tender crust than a lard one and made with the fat rendered from caul fat it is pure and delicious--not meaty in flavor. veal fat from around the kidneys called leaf lard would also work but i'm quite sure there would be a detectible flavor.