Sunday, January 30, 2011

RHC: Cradle Cake

Cradle CakeCake-of-the-week is a sort of gimmick cake, and harks back to the 1953 Pillsbury Bake-Off where it was a "Senior Third Prize Winner". A yellow butter cake is baked in a "cradle" of dacquoise, or meringue with chopped nuts and chocolate in it. In the original incarnation it was baked in a tube pan: Rose reduced the recipe to fit in a loaf pan, and used a buttermilk cake for the filling. (This blog has both an adaptation and the original recipe, and the recipe for Rose's version is on Serious Eats.)

The interior cake is a quick-and-easy buttermilk cake, but by adding in the dacquoise I had a mess of a kitchen at the end. There was the food processor for chopping chocolate and pecans, the KitchenAid mixer bowl with wire whip for the meringue, plus the other mixer bowl with beater blade for the cake batter. Add the other things cooking in the kitchen on Friday (the weekly whole-wheat dried-cherry challah, Latin chicken, and curried cauliflower flatbread), and the place was a mess of equipment and ingredients all afternoon. I need to spread out my cooking so Friday isn't a marathon session

For the dacquoise, I didn't pre-chop the chocolate enough and the mixture got damp and clumpy when chopped with the nuts. When I stopped for fear of ending up with chocolate-pecan butter, some small chocolate chunks were still present. I ended up hand chopping those, then re-chilled the mixture before folding it in to the meringue.

Cradle Cake Cradle Cake Cradle Cake Cradle Cake

[dacquoise-lined pan, batter filling the center, cake coming out of the oven, and cake turned out of the pan]

My non-stick metal loaf pan was the right capacity (7 cups). I sprayed with Baker's Joy then lined the bottom with parchment--but I wonder if it might have done better without the parchment lining. The cake came out of pan quite easily, but when I peeled the parchment off the bottom the meringue was still damp, whereas the sides were crisp. I notice on the original recipe there's a note to be sure to not underbake, and I wonder if getting the meringue to dry out is the reason. On one side of my cake the dacquoise broke and had a gap--looking back at my photos I think I didn't get the cake batter filled in against the dacquoise.

Cradle CakeTasting results:

Nephew: the meringue tastes like a brownie, and the cake is moist and has good flavor.

Older niece: reminds me of a Milano cookie--needs to be eaten with milk, just like Milanos do.

Younger niece: I see where the Milano and brownie comments came from--the brownie idea is because of the crunch of the meringue with the chocolate (probably from the drizzle). This is one of my favorites of the cakes.

Sister-in-law: good, but not a favorite. The meringue might have contributed too much sweetness for me.

Me: very nice combination, with the chocolate from the dacquoise and the drizzle glaze, the little crunch from the dacquoise, and a nice moist buttermilk cake in the middle. This one is going high on my list of favorites, too. However, I'm not sure I'd ever repeat it, as it was a lot of trouble to get that nice crunchy chocolate-pecan cradle.


  1. Your cake looks great, missing piece or not.

  2. Nancy.. for next time "grate" the chocolate instead of using the food processor and replace the pecans with Almond flour and you get pretty much a flawless dacquoise and one less piece of equipment to use.

    I did not even bother with my big Kithen Aid mixer on this one.. I used my handheld, since I knew it was going to be a small cake.

    Like you, this one was one of my favorite cakes too.

  3. I love the sharp corners in your cake. Glad it was such a big hit. I loved it too. Especially the cake. It just melts in your mouth!

  4. Great review - I might have to make this one.