Feb 3, 2011

Last Cake, Next Cake

Remember the old story about the blind (or blindfolded) men who all touch an elephant and then describe what they've just touched? The one who touches the leg says the elephant looks like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says it's like a rope. Then they have a violent disagreement about the elephant's looks until some wise person comes and straightens it out.

I felt like I was reading that story when I read through the blogs this week. The reactions were so different you'd hardly know that everyone baked the same cake Some people thought it was excruciatingly difficult to make; others thought it almost too easy. Some people loved the dacquoise; others thought it was too sweet. Some put it on their all-time favorites list; others were lukewarm about it. But it was the same cake. Chacun a son gout, right?

Hanaa was one of several people who had been hinting broadly that they wished I'd hurry up and schedule the cradle cake because they wanted to make it so badly. However, before she started making her own version, she heard about Monica's difficulties, and approached the cake with "caution," even cutting the recipe in half in case things didn't go well. But she ended up liking it "a lot. The dacquoise was crunchy and chewy at the same time (like a macaroon), and the cake is so soft and tender, it just melts in your mouth."

Monica's experience--the one that scared Hanaa--was described like this on her blog: "The whole middle of the cake was one hot mess. The whole thing had collapse on itself and I had a thousand little heart attacks in front of my oven. I took it out and for the longest time just stared at the ugly mess in front of me." Well, you can see how this would make both Hanaa and Monica nervous. (Monica's second attempt turned out to be quite successful.)

Unlike Hanaa and Monica, Raymond was not at all intrigued by the idea of the cake, and thought it looked like a "simple snack cake and nothing more." But he ended up giving it "high marks for ease of assembly" and "on the taste scale."  "It is richly flavored with butter and vanilla and the nut dacquoise adds a very nice chocolatey, nutty crunch to the exterior." He gave it low marks on the presentation scale, however. . He thought he had to slather it with leftover ganache to make it presentable.

But Jenn was so happy with the way her little heart-shaped cradle cakes looked that it "made her happy to look at them." She was less pleased with the taste, which she thought was "pretty good" but "too sweet."

The ever-cheerful Mendy thought "this fantastic cake was fun to eat and fun to make." He even wished he had made two!

Lois was in the group that thought the cake tasted good but wasn't very pretty. Although she thought the "flavor was wonderful," her heart sank when she saw how much the cake sank.

This cake tied Lola "in knots." Her first try was "a disaster," and her second was "not as big a disaster as the first," but it still sank in the middle. In fact, she decided that "although it tastes really good, I[she] really cannot gift this cake to unsuspecting neighbors." (My personal opinion is that the neighbors would have ben happy to have it.)

On the other hand, Gartblue really had no trouble with the execution of the cake, and thought "the dacquoise was superb, crunchy and sweet and much loved. The girls, literally stripped it naked of its cradle." But she wasn't as enamored with the cake, which "left an aftertaste" in her mouth, reminiscent of an overdose of baking powder.

Nancy disagreed: she described the cake part as a "nice moist buttermilk cake in the middle." In fact, she added the cake to her all-time favorite list but wasn't sure she'd ever make it again because "it was a lot of trouble to get that nice crunchy chocolate-pecan cradle."

No trouble for Kristina, who found that "it comes together super quickly once you have everything ready. I actually managed to make this after I got home from work and before my guests arrived on Friday evening."

Jennifer falls firmly in the category of big fans who had no trouble with the cake at all. Or, as she put it, "this week's Heavenly Cake is magical cake alchemy at its best. A tender, buttermilk yellow cake is baked inside a crispy, nutty dacquoise--something I would never have thought possible. Magic, I tell you!"

Our FEATURED BAKER this week is Andrea. She had not been looking forward to making the cradle cake, and wasn't sure what all the fuss was about, but found that it tasted "amazing." Once she got the cake out of the pan, she decided "it definitely needed something on top. I decided to go with the glaze because it was much quicker, and Daniel wanted some cake." In fact, it was a good thing she fed Daniel, because he thought it was the "best cake so far."
Not only did Andrea make a super-looking cake, but the good news is that she also found a new job! Congratulations, Andrea--glad you found a new job so quickly!

Next week, we're back to the Baby Cakes chapter, with Mud Turtle Cupcakes: chocolate, more chocolate, caramel, and pecans. I'm going to New Orleans this weekend, so I've already made my cupcakes, and they are fantastic. My caramel got overdone, and I'll be very curious to read the blogs to see how everyone else's turns out.

Following that, another cake from the Baby Cakes chapter! (Sorry Raymond--don't know how that happened). This Quail Egg Indulgence Cake is only big enough for two (a perfect Valentine's Day cake!) and calls for, as you might suspect, quail eggs.
As we say in Minnesota, "Well, that's different."


Hanaâ said...

Congratulations Andrea. Well-deserved. Your cake looked very pretty indeed :o) And congratulations again on the new job.

Hanaâ said...

Marie, you're sneaky. You switched the Free Choice and the Indulgence Cake around :o) And I agree about your "quail egg" comment. It *is* different :o)

Marie said...

I was hoping no one would notice.

evil cake lady said...

Congratulations Andrea on being featured blogger and finding a new job! I'm sure you've heard it enough by now, but I really loved your cross-hatch drizzle. It looked so perfect!

I have mentioned the turtle cupcakes to a few people and they are bouncing on their toes in anticipation. Marie, glad to hear the cupcakes should live up to their expectations. Have fun in New Orleans!

Monica said...

I notice too.. the switcharoo... but stayed quiet... figure it was a secret or something... AHA!

Congratulations to Andrea...

I'm going to skip this weekend, its' the little man birthday and he requested Almond cake, even after I told him that I had the ABC Chocolate pie or the turtle cakes (after I saw the sneaky switch from Marie on the list) he did not want to hear it, he wanted the Almond cake (the most simple cake in my whole list!) I'm going to surprise him by actually trying my and at decorating it with fondant and duplicating the invitations that I designed for him... so while you guys bake baby cakes I'm going to try my hand at complicated fondant decorating.

Marie.. have fun on your trip!!! At least you can leave the SNOW behind for a bit.

And please eat some nice beignets on my behalf!

Jenn said...

Andrea, congrats on being featured baker and on the new job.

Marie, I noticed too because I had already planned a cake for the free choice Valentine week. Also I had a copy of the schedule on my blog *grin*. That's okay though, I read the recipe for the quail cake and it's easier than the one I had planned LOL.

Andrea said...

Marie, thank you for choosing me as featured baker! I'm sure I will be making that cake again some day. And, it really is a relief to have found a job so quickly. Thanks!

Since we're looking ahead a couple weeks does anyone have any ideas on where to get quail eggs? I haven't tried looking for them yet, but it doesn't sound like your everyday grocery store ingredient.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

i loved all your postings! and good news (i think): next week's cake is one of my top favorites in the entire book. see if you agree. i know i will hear only the truth and that is very gratifying.

Jenn said...

Andrea, quail egg is usually available in asian grocery store.

Vicki said...

Congratulations Andrea! Your cake looked very professional.

Mendy said...


Congrats Andrea!