Jan 27, 2011

Last Cake, Next Cake

In Mark Bittman's farewell Minimalist column in Wednesday's NYT, he praised the virtues of cooking with others: "And I discovered that you never cook with someone else without learning something. In every case, there's a two-way transfer of knowledge. If they know less than you do, you grow from teaching. If more, of course, you grow from learning."

It's this "two-way transfer of knowledge" that I've grown to appreciate from this blog and the wonderful bloggers who have devoted their time and passion for baking to this project.

Of course, we all know and love how Rose manages to work in techniues and instructions in every recipe. When we follow a "Rose rrecipe," we don't just end up with a final project; we've taken a class on the subject.

And we teach each other. This week's blogs about the Tres Cafe Genoise are a perfect example.
Some people had problems with the whipped ganache in this recipe.

Monica, for example, "trash talked" the cake, and the cake trash talked Monica right back, forcing her to make the ganache five times until she got it right. "It probably would have been six, but it was eleven at night and I totally threw the white flag at the cake."

Not far behind was Lynnette, who took "three tries" for the ganache and still ddidn't think she got it "perfect," although she liked the way it tasted.

Jenn also put herself in the "third time's (almost) a charm" category. Her first attempt curdled, but she saved it (thanks to Rose's instructions), only to have it curdle again. The third time was perfect - until it threatened to curdle once more. But there was "no way" she was going for a fourth time.

also credited one of Rose's hints ("continue whipping ... just until very soft, floppy peaks form when the whisk is raised") with keeping her ganache in shape.

Mendy reported that his ganache was a little grainy, but he blamed that on his chocolate, which he thought was subpar. (No brand given--to protect the guilty?)

Nancy B. started out with a "lovely, smooth" ganache, but by the time she was ready to frost the cake, she had "an instantly grainy mess. At this point I wasn't putting more effort into it (hey, the ganache still tasted fine, and didn't have an objectionable mouth-feel), so I frosted away regardless."

Not only does Rose give helpful hints in her recipes, which are read and repeated by our bloggers, but along comes someone like Hanaa, who has perfected her own shortcut to the whipped ganache. (I know it works--at least for Hanaa--because I watched and tasted).

After Hanaa posted her 25-minute ganache pointers, Jennifer had a chance to try them out. The result? "A curdle-free whipped ganache, for the first time in my life. Thanks Hanaa!"

We traded hints and suggestions on more than ganache. Jenn suggested to Andrea, who resisted the Tres Cafe cake because she's cut out caffeine, that she give it a try using decaf coffee. (The very same Jenn, always helpful, also reminded Monica, who was making noises about moving to Minnesota from Florida, that it gets considerably colder in MN than in FL).

Surprisingly, we had a few people who baked this "tres" coffee cake when they don't even like coffee. Kristin put it as plainly as possible: "I just don't like coffee." And yet, she liked this cake. In fact, she "really enjoyed" it: "I guess if you put enough sugar and chocolate in anything I can probably be convinced to get on board!"
Jennifer doesn't like to drink coffee, but she does like its smell.

Now Raymond--well, he just liked everything about this cake: the beurre noisette, the vanilla, the coffee, the cake, the ganache. I think this week Raymond was one of of those who was transferring his knowledge outward.

Special appreciation to Maria, who made this cake after recovering from croup (I thought you only got that when you were under five years old!) and after saying goodbye to her beloved dog,Bruzer.

Our FEATURED BAKER this week is Lola. Her post was short, but sweet, and her picture of the cake, resting on colorful Mexican pottery (at least that's what I choose to believe it is), was an appetizing sight to behold. Good enough reason right there--but there's more. Lola just returned from a trip to Guanajuato and San Miguel Allende with some frostbitten friends from Toronto. She generously offered to share her "information on absolutely perfect B&Bs and restaurants in that area." If anyone is interested, just let her know.

Next up: the delightful Cradle Cake. It makes a very nice Holiday cake (any holiday will do). If you don't have a holiday, it makes a good non-holiday cake too. If anyone feels like tackling the mocha ganache again, one option for decorating the cake is to frost and swirl the cradle cake ewith the ganache. If that idea makes you scream in frustration, I would suggest the Drizzle Glaze option.

The following week we'll be doing Mud Turtle Cupcakes. I can't wait to try the combination of caramel, toasted pecans, and ganache.
Raymond, you'll be glad to know that after these cupcakes, we have only two selections from the Baby Cakes chapter left.


Debbie said...

So true about the two-way transfer of knowledge, I love baking with new people!

Hanaâ said...

Congratulations, Lola! I agree with your assessment: the cake looks fairly “plain” but it’s packed with flavor. Marie, thanks for the shout-out. I’m glad I was able to help. Nothing was more pleasing than reading Jennifer’s post about her first curdle-free whipped ganache :o)

Monica said...

I have to agree about the transfer of knowlege as well.. I'm proof, the amount of baking tips and tricks that I have learn in the year of baking along side with this group is tremendous and will always take with me and hopefully pay it forward - Thank you!

Congratulations Lola! And I'm totally going to ask her advice on Mexico... I been there, love it but never travel the center of Mexico (yet) and it's on my list. Good to know that I have sources!

evil cake lady said...

Congratulations Lola!

Hanaa, I'm so glad to have given you as much pleasure as my non-curdled whipped ganache gave me :) So again, big thanks!

I am feeling all warm and fuzzy about our group. Week after week I've learned so much and been amazed by everyone's talents and tenacity. Go HCB!

Jenn said...

Oh Marie, I think this is one of you best LCNC post. For me at least. I love how we all look out for each other.

Congrats Lola! Very true what you said about the cake packing a punch!

Lois B said...

Congrats, Lola! I'm wishing I'd had time to make this one.

Mendy said...


Congrats Lola! Looks great!

I used Liebers Semi-sweet chocolate. Cocoa content unspecified but I suspect it is somewhere in the 30's...

It was there, that's all.