May 19, 2011

Last Cake

This two-year project has come to an end. It began on May 31, 2009, with the Spice Cake with Peanut Buttercream, and ended on May 15, 2011 with Zach's LaBomba. In that time, I made 90-plus cakes, and liked them all.  More importantly, I made some wonderful baking friends. I learned about your families, your quirks, and your aspirations (just as you learned about mine).  We've seen weddings, births, job changes, house hunts, and other life-changing experiences.   And every week, I got to read your blogs, and summarize your reactions to the cake of the week. Just like I'm going to do now.

Everyone liked this cake. More importantly, nobody complained about this cake. Remember all the whining about the Apple Charlotte? I do, because I was maybe the biggest whiner. But this cake--we took it in our stride. A two-day cake? No problem.

Lois, for example, thought that although "there were pages and pages of things to do," "there was nothing terribly complex in the methods used (no hot sugar flung about the kitchen)." See? This is how blase we've become: if there's no hot sugar flung about the kitchen, it's a candidate for the Q&E list.

Lola was so taken with the idea of this cake that she made it early--and she made it twice. She "prepared this several weeks ago for a dinner party. It was so exciting to make and serve that [she] made it again the next week for other guests."  Two days of baking, stirring, whisking, separating, beating, pureeing, straining - this translates into "exciting to make"? Yes, if it's a "glorious dessert" that's "such a star when it is completed."

Despite a weekend for Kristina that included a trip to the ER with her husband's torn calf muscle, and her own migraine, she "just didn’t feel right missing out on baking this one with the rest of [her] baking buddies." With all of her experience, Kristina also breezed through this one: "The first step was to make the cake base. This is a flourless chocolate cake, with egg yolks and whites beaten separately, each with sugar, melted chocolate is added to the yolks, then the whites (meringue, by now) are folded into the yolk/chocolate mixture. Doesn’t sound all that complicated, when you say it like that." "Delicious," says Katrina. She also wants to try an (even) easier variation: "....use this basic recipe, minus the bottom crust and top glaze, just as a mousse/pudding type dessert in custard cups or sundae glasses."

I wasn't the only person for whom La Bomba was Last Cake. Nancy B. also celebrated her cake graduation. (If you haven't checked out her post entitled "Rose's Heavenly Cakes--All of 'em!"), do it now. It will impress you with the scope of this project, and make you want your very own cake graduation. Nancy finished this cake with her usual aplomb. But I'm a little worried about her brother and his family who have served as the tasting panel for every cake--what are they going to do without their weekly fix?

Jenn may be the only one who actually used the recommended (and "very expensive") Valrhona Manjari chocolate, although she did have "issues" with it separating, with the "cocoa butter oozing out." Unfazed, she started over, and this time all was well--except for her camera running out of battery life. Verdict: "This is really good. Very rich and chocolate-y. It's a tad too rich for me and I can only eat a small piece - which is not necessarily a bad thing. Hubby loves it, he said it's really good." As you probably know, Jenn is going to be continuing the Heavenly Cake Bakers, doing the 21 or so cakes she's still missing. If you're missing some too, join in! You probably won't have the same 21 left to do, but she's building in lots of Free Choices, so you can finish your missing cakes too.

Jane, our ambitious blogger who's set herself the goal of finishing RHC in one year, made her La Bomba a few weeks ago, and has already made three or four more. No lazy one-cake-a-week schedule for her! It would be an understatement to say that she liked this cake, which she calls The Bomb: "I'm eating a slice of this cake (I need to be careful or it will be the whole cake) while I am writing this and I am getting goosebumps with every bite that I eat. One of my roommates and I just stared at each other and shook our heads and then stared at the cake. Totally speechless."

Poor Sarah. She took La Bomba to a pool party, where it totally outclassed "the Betty Crocker brownies and Costco pies that are standard pool party fare." It "tried to fit in," she swore, really it did, but "with the very first slice, everyone knew it was different." Will Sarah's neighbors continue to invite her and her hoity-toity cakes to the pool parties? Will someone sabotage her silicone? Stay tuned to her blog, which will continue, and see what further adventures await Sarah the Bear.

Jennifer, AKA Evil Cake Lady, has been with us from the beginning, and will continue along with Jenn's "Straggler's blog." Luckily for Jennifer, she was enough of a straggler to get the benefit of Zach's (yes, the Zach of "Zach's La Bomba") permission to use a hand mixer to mix the sabayon. Although she will not develop of one perfectly toned arm from hours of whisking, she did get the benefit of the quicker, easier sabayon. She also found a cup of black lacquer glaze in her freezer (how many people have spare pints of black lacquer glaze?), so her cake--with two major shortcuts--was almost Quick and Easy. And did she like it? "The dessert is indeed a showstopper and a perfect way to show your friends exactly how awesome your baking skills have become."

Indeed, we are all awesome. So universally awesome that I can't bring myself to pick a FEATURED BAKER this week. Instead, a heartfelt tribute to Rose: writer, teacher, mentor, friend. Baking from one of Rose's cookbooks is a little like taking piano lessons from oh, say, Mozart, with the added benefit that Rose is alive.

Although it's clear from her books that she's a way better baker than you'll ever be, it's not her goal to let you know that. She wants to teach you everything she knows so that you will become the best possible baker that you can be, given your talents and limitations. And when you stumble along, Rose/Mozart doesn't point out your stumbles. She applauds your accomplishments. In the end, you bake something--a whole lot of somethings if you cook your way through a cookbook--that you would have thought was way beyond your capacities. Thanks, Rose. I can't wait for the next cookbook.

Although I just titled this post "Last Cake," there will always be Next Cakes too. Most immediately, there is the Barcelona Brownie Bar, Jenn's pick for the May 23 baking project. I've made these several times after my original BBB post of October 12, 2009. I hope you make them too--they're wonderful, with or without the ganache. The following week, Jenn et al. are set to tackle the chocolate raspberry trifle. Oh, that is so good!

But even if you don't bake along in this project, or any other project, I assume if you're reading this you've got some interest in making cakes, especially RLB cakes, and that you'll have plenty of "Next Cakes" in store for you. Bon appetit and adieu!


Patricia @ ButterYum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Bravo to all - thank you for hosting this great blog, Marie! I enjoyed participating.

Vicki said...

Thank you Marie, so much for taking on this massive project of hosting Rose's Heavenly Cakes bake along. It has without a doubt been challenging and yet, more fun than I ever imagined baking along with everyone scattered around the world. You really made this project a delight with your weekly cake post and last cake/next cake roundup.

Last count I am up to 88. The La Bomba ingredients are sitting in wait. This week has been especially taxing and chaotic but that La Bomba is next up, whether it vexes me or not.

anitsirK said...

I just went and looked up the first couple of posts from the bake through. It's so nice to see just how many who started baking together in October 2009 are still baking together!

Katya said...

Thank you so much, Marie. I'll miss your round-ups and detailed photos (Jim's semi-silent presence). Thank you, Rose for your whole-hearted embrace of the project.

I spent more time than I should have today updating and compiling my cakes to bake list--for some reason I seem to have left out a lot of cheesecakes.

anitsirK said...

Ha! I just went back and looked at my first post for the bake-through -- the Barcelona brownie bars. Looking at the pictures, I can't believe how quickly I've gotten used to our 'new' kitchen, and I just can't even imagine living with what we had before.

Talk about life changes!

faithy said...

Ha?! It's the end already! I must have been absent for a while..LOL! So sad...i thought there was at least a few more to go.

It's my turn to move to a new kitchen...that's why i've been busy lately..:) When I'm all settled down with my new kitchen, i'll continue baking the rest..i hope! :D

Thank you Marie for hosting this bake-along..and i'm so glad to have met all of you! :) Will you be hosting anymore bake-along in future? Please remember to count me in ok?

Chavi said...

Congratulations on the completion of the bake-through! It's been a lot o fun following each week.

What's up next for you, Marie? Any more bake-through-the books for you??
I hope so...

Lois B said...

Thank you, Marie, for making all of this happen. I think of all of my fellow Heavenly Cake Bakers as friends.

Marie said...

Thanks. You're a great baker.

I didn't count up everyone's posts, but I thought you might be almost done! La Bomba is probably not something that either of us would have tackled without the help of the bake-allong, but I'm glad I did. Hope you will be too.

Thanks for checking the original group--I think it's fun that there are so many of us who stayed the course. Yes, I remember your kitchen renovation project--it didn't really keep you out of the picture for very long. You were determined to keep baking.

I hope you like cheesecakes! Even if you don't, I'm sure you can find someone who does, or you might find that you're a convert. If you do, you'll be in heaven. (I especially liked the ginger cheesecake).

Are you kidding? You'd always be on the list! I hope your renovation project goes smoothly, and that I'll be reading your cake blogs again soon.

I'll be baking more bread, for sure. I've missed that. Other than that, I've found that what comes next in your life is often a big surprise. Thanks for writing.

I love it that there's a group of bakers from all over the world.

Monica said...

Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!! Sniff, sniff! So sad!

We knew it was coming, but I guess we all think it's going to be a little bit longer. Holding out on not making La Bomba has been my "denial" card. But, like anything else, all good things come to an end. (And for the record, I'm making that big puppy on Jenn's next "FREE CHOICE".)

Like everyone had already said, congratulations on finishing them all! HUGE accomplishment, especially since we all know how life sometimes takes turns and holds us back from just being in the kitchen baking all day long. I know you did not want to name any FEATURE BAKER - But, I'm going to take some creative license and name YOU, Marie, our FEATURE BAKER this time around - you truly deserved this honour, for keeping our spirits up, challenging us and most of all champion us along the way.

And yes, totally sad that we will not meet up every week to check out everyone's cakes. I too have gathered so many friends from participating in the HCB and more importantly have learned so much from all of you. And you, Marie, thank you for being the captain of this ship; yes, Rose gave us the map, but you drove us along. I too would like a call back if you ever considered another bake-along with any new books from Rose.

I'm sure you will continue to visit us, and comment and I'm sure Jenn, my main chica, will pick up your baton and keep us all in check.

Nicola said...

I really am crying now.

Tears because I am so pleased for you Marie that you have finished the entire book - an amazing achievement.

Tears because I am at the mercy of these pregnancy hormones.

And tears because it is over. But I guess that just makes room for something new to grow in its place.

Congratulations again. Such an amazing achievement, by you, Jim, and your tasters. Though my guess is that the tasters didn't get nearly as much opportunity as you to swear through this journey.

I won't say goodbye...

Matthew said...

Thank you Marie for all of the wonderful weeks of delicious desserts and hearty laughs! I'll miss the weekly ritual of reading your posts. Congratulations on a job well done!

Sarah the bear said...

Marie, thank you so much for keeping us all in line on this project. Never before have I gotten my money's worth out of a cookbook quite like this--and I haven't even made every cake yet! Keep baking and stay in touch!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

I've had several comments on my blog referring to Marie's beautiful and clever commentary. So that you all know just how very much I agree and how very much I admire and value Marie on so many levels, I thought you might like to know that I've chosen her to write the foreword of the next book "Rose's Heavenly Baking" (and she has agreed, although with her usual modesty, at first reluctantly)!

Now I can join all of you who eagerly anticipate seeing the new upcoming recipes because I eagerly anticipate seeing what Marie will write in the foreword!

I hope you will all stay in close touch and I know I'll enjoy reading and seeing the results of those of you who continue on with the bake through.


evil cake lady said...

Marie, this post is so bittersweet that I haven't known what to say. Thank you so much for hosting what became our bake-through, for spending so much time each week reading all of our posts and summarizing them all (with links!). You're like the ribbon stage; your magical alchemy from non-cake baker to practically a pro has delighted all of us. Your positive attitude and mother henning kept us from giving up when cakes fell, caramel burned, and every bowl in the kitchen was dirty. After mastering bread and cake, pie dough can't be too far behind!

Congrats on writing Rose's next introduction!! You really are the featured baker of the year!

faithy said...

Congrats Marie, on writing Rose's next intro! :) I can't wait to get my hands on Rose's new book!! Soo exciting!! You know, every Monday i will check on everyone's posts..and now that this has ended, i feel a bit lost.. ( can see i'm checking this page again..and commenting again here..LOL!).. but at least Jen and rest is continuing with it, so there's the consolation for me. :) I have your bread blog on my google reader..:)

Hanaâ said...

Too bad I missed out on Zach’s La Bomba, the big finale cake. With a last-minute decision to squeeze in a weeklong trip to Morocco, there was no opportunity for me to make it.
I echo everyone’s comments and feelings regarding the ending of this wonderful baking journey. It was more than just baking with a bunch of people across the planet. All of us connected with each other on so many levels: friendships were born, a support network was created, cake baking and piping fears were pushed down. Of all the HCB-ers, I feel I am the luckiest because I had a chance to meet you, Jim, and Woody, and bake along with you in your kitchen. As the song goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”. I look forward to our next baking adventure together when we can all bake from “Rose’s Heavenly Baking” :o) Thanks again for all the hard work!

Mendy said...


Roses' Heavenly Baking, hu? Cool. Looking forward to trying out the recipes!

It is so nice that you are writing the forward!

Joan said...

Even though I have not been posting since January, I have read your brilliant commentaries; so witty and perspicacious [how's that for a word]. I will so miss you, and wish you the best.
I did see a new cake post from you the other day. I have begun to eye the kitchen and the tower of implements I have had in the storeroom since I got unable to use them. I am determined that now is the time to get some rhubarb.
Congrats on Rose's invitation. I know that will be wonderful.

joey said...

just blogwalking among cooking blog and stumble here.. great blog btw..

wow, u guys got a really big project, loved how you guys can come to a project with so many ppl involved :) said...

Hi Marie,

I have been linked to your blog for quite a while now but life has had other plans for me. Nevertheless, I have been 'seeing' my baking adventures through your blog -- your weekly baking and others as well. My heartiest congratulations to ou and everyone else who embarked on this project. My salute to one and all.

I hope to try and start a project like this on my own as soon as things are more stable on my end. Maybe I will let you once I can do so; who knows maybe I can start something like you did in this part of the world. (Malaysia). Anyway, once again congratulations.

Also looking forward to your foreword on Rose's next book as well as the book itself.


Mamun said...

I like your blog keep it up great work