I was very glad that this week's cake-of-the-week for the Heavenly Cakes bake-along was on the quick-and-easy list. I attended my local filk convention this weekend, and so baking had to be either before or after that trip--I do go stay at the convention hotel even though it is in Atlanta, because filk convention activities run late into the evening. Or really, into the wee hours of the morning.
I think I started the cake about 2:30 Friday afternoon and still made it to the opening convention session shortly after it started at 7, including the time to pack, finish laundry, clean up the kitchen, photograph the cake, taste it myself, deliver it to the folks next door for them to taste later (with instructions to email comments to me), placate the cats made unhappy by the appearance of a suitcase, drive the 30 miles across town, and check in at the hotel. Add in the extras in the baking process of defrosting the frozen egg whites I'd forgotten to remove from the freezer, rescuing the ganache when it broke, and even digging out a pastry bag and star tip for at least a token amount of decorating, and you see that the actual cake-baking couldn't have taken very long!
(If I had known we'd have a winter storm in Atlanta Sunday night to Monday, keeping me home today, I could have reduced my Friday stress and baked today. Oh, well, I'm baking bread instead.)
The cake itself is a white cake (butter cake with egg whites only, no yolks), and is mixed with the usual method for RHC of blending the dry ingredients, adding the butter and some liquid (milk in this case), then adding the egg mixture in a couple of additions beating in between to create structure in the batter. Knowing my taste-test group and our usual reaction to Rose's butter cakes (a little on the dry side for our tastes), I did a half-recipe, baked in a 6" pan. I still used one of my Rose's (silicon) Cake Strips by clipping it with the ever-handy kitchen gadget of a binder clip to keep it tight around the pan. I've got sets of the Wilton cloth cake strips, but the silicon ones are so much easier to deal with if the cake pan is anywhere in the range that they fit.
My 6" pan was almost not big enough as it turned out, for this batter rose high during baking before subsiding a little to end up just completely filling the pan. It did end up with a very crisp edge around the top and a little bowing in the center of the edge of the cake, but a little trimming before applying the frosting took care of that.
The frosting is a milk-chocolate ganache, with some added butter and vanilla. After a search of several of my usual spots for superior chocolate, I was about to conclude that the higher-cacao milk chocolate called for wasn't going to be findable in this period of dark-chocolate mania. But Friday morning a quick stop at a smaller Whole Foods store turned up bars of "Endangered Species Chocolate" with a 48% cocoa content--even better than the 40-42% specified in the recipe. I was saved from having to mix the lower percent Ghirardelli I had in the pantry with some bittersweet.
For a change I actually followed the recipe's method of making the ganache--this time it was melt the chocolate in the microwave until almost melted, then stir until the melting was complete. Stir in warm cream until smooth....but my ganache broke despite care with the temperature. I rescued it by heating a couple of tablespoons of extra cream, adding a little chocolate, then adding some of the broken ganache. Stir, stir, stir, add this mixture to the rest of the ganache, and stir, stir, stir some more. Finally it all went smooth again. I used a small spatula instead of a whisk to incorporate the butter as the intent is not to add air to the ganache anyway. It was very hard to get all the little butter bits to blend in (and my butter was if anything too soft, so I don't know why), but most of them finally succumbed to being smashed against the side of my measuring cup I was using to make the ganache. I consoled myself by saying that a whisk would only have broken up the butter into even more little bits to stubbornly resist integration with the ganache. Don't tell me if there's some whisk magic that makes this wrong!
Once the butter and vanilla were incorporated, frosting went easily, if hurriedly at this point. I was worried that the ganache was too soft, but after a quick pause to finish my packing I came back to find it had set up almost too much. A stir softened it again, though, and frosting was completed with no more trouble.
Tasting results: I like this cake. The milk chocolate is a nice change, and the contrast with the white cake was nice. My brother agreed, liking the combination. However, the rest of the folks next door all felt the cake was dry (yeah, yeah, we always say that), though the ganache got praise. I certainly didn't think the cake was of the extra-moist type I really prefer, but eaten with the frosting I didn't find it unacceptably dry myself. Older niece said "not worth eating again because there are better options" (cake-of-the-week has spoiled these guys), younger niece agreed and noted that the cake part was "almost like white bread". Hmmm.....
Overall, a pretty good cake, but not in my list of ones to repeat. I may look for other opportunities for the milk-chocolate ganache, though.