Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catalán Salt Pinch Cake

Catalán Salt Pinch Cake(Second try--my blogging client ate my first post...)

The Catalán Salt Pinch Cake is different from my usual baking in a couple of ways. First, it's another sponge cake, a type I'd never baked before getting into the Heavenly Cakes bake-along. Second is the serving method--you pinch off pieces of the cake. Or that's the traditional way--a knife works, too.

Once again my cake didn't come out as it should have, and I'm at a loss to explain this one. Maybe I've got some sort of cake-curse going on. All seemed to go according to the directions, but when I started serving the cake I found a thin layer of compacted cake at the bottom. Dense and rubbery, it was darker than the rest of the cake and not very edible. Maybe like eating a tenderized linoleum tile...

This isn't a complicated cake but it does require a standing mixer or arms of steel. The first step is to grind toasted almonds in a food processor with some sugar until very fine--these replace part of the flour in the cake. Then it's over to the mixer to make a meringue, and fold in the ground almonds. Then comes the 'arms of steel' part--beating in 6 eggs, 2 tablespoons at a time and beating for 2 minutes after each addition. That takes about 25 minutes of constant beating. In goes some lemon zest, then the flour is folded in and the batter goes into a springform pan lined with parchment paper, and into the oven.

The cake baked up as it should, except for that dense layer at the bottom. Any ideas? The cake went in the oven promptly, the temperature was right (or at least the cake baked in the expected time), there were no raps on the counter to collapse part of the batter...I just don't know what might have happened.

Tasting results: not so hot. The texture is very light and fluffy, but that doesn't appeal so much to me or my taste-testers. The almond flavor was very subtle and the lemon was not discernible, even though the peel had seemed potent enough. And there's a sugary coating on the top of the cake that covers your hands if you serve using the pinch method. I think I'll write this one off as an interesting experiment, not to be repeated.

Catalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch CakeCatalán Salt Pinch Cake

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lemon Luxury Cake

A brief write-up, as I'm so late with my post. I did a half-size cake again in 6" pans, as I did for the Red Velvet and the Almond Shamah Chiffon. Several things went wrong, or at least not optimally--I'm having a string of this sort of thing and I'm not used to it. Generally my baking turns out as expected, with a few exceptions where I know I made a mistake. No so much lately, and I'm trying to figure out why.

One thing was a mistake I can pinpoint. I was moving back and forth between the frosting and the cake, trying to get the frosting done for its 'resting' time. I think I let the white chocolate for the cake get a little too cool, and when I added it to the mixing bowl I got white chocolate chunks (small ones) in the batter instead of an integrated mixture. I didn't see any way to fix this without causing further problems, so I went with it. I'll blame the resulting cake texture--a little coarse, and one layer sank a little--on that. This is very visible on the picture of the split layer.

The real unexplained problem is that as with the Almond Shamah, also made in the 6" pans, the sides snagged and tore as I ran a spatula around the cake before unmolding. Plenty of frosting covered up the mess, but clearly something's not right here. Maybe the too-long cake strips are keeping the sides of the layers from firming up enough? But the chocolate Red Velvet Cake was also baked in the 6" pans with these cake strips, and it came out fine. I do think I'll go buy a second heavy-weight pan, as my current pair are mismatched--one is a 'pro' series, the other the line Wilton sells at craft stores like Michaels. Ah, forced to make another trip to Cake Art! And maybe I need to cut off the extra length of a set of even-bake strips to fit these smaller pans.

I bought my lemon curd--I've made curd (lime) before for a lime-blueberry tart in the Pie & Pastry Bible and, as I was still trying to get caught back up after my 10 days at Disney World, I decided the jarred stuff was fine. The buttercream process went smoothly, though it stayed quite soft. Like others, I didn't see the point in the 'resting' period, and my frosting looked just the same at the end as at the beginning.

My tasters liked the cake, despite the problems. I couldn't get it quite to room temperature before we served it, so the interior frosting layer was too cold and came across almost as a chunk of white chocolate. The cake texture was not very smooth, as I said before, but the cake had a nice flavor and the texture was certainly not objectionable. I'll give this cake another try sometime, when next I have an occasion for a lemon cake.

Woody's Lemon Luxury CakeWoody's Lemon Luxury CakeWoody's Lemon Luxury CakeWoody's Lemon Luxury CakeWoody's Lemon Luxury Cake

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baby Chocolate Oblivions

Amazingly, despite all the years I've owned a copy of The Cake Bible, I never made Chocolate Oblivion. Another plus for the bake-along--it says "bake it now!". So, as I knew I was leaving on vacation Friday, I baked a half-recipe of the Baby Chocolate Oblivions on Tuesday, let them sit overnight, then went in search of taste-testers on Wednesday.

As I'm finishing my writing of this, and the posting, from Walt Disney World, it's gonna be brief. Luckily the recipe is simple. Melt butter and chocolate with a little bit of sugar, and stir til smooth. Beat eggs until tripled in volume. Fold the eggs into the chocolate, put in muffin cups (or custard cups), and bake in a water bath.

I had some problems getting a pan to sit upside down over the muffin pan for the period it was to bake covered, but the results were still fine. I also wasn't thorough enough about wiping the bottom of the pan with a warm cloth and had one cake stick a little, but the (eating) results were fine on that one, too.



Tasting results: While my tasting panel are mostly chocoholics, I think we're a little burned out on flourless chocolate cakes. Younger niece suggested trying to bake this in something the size of my mini-cheesecake pan, which I guess would be a third the size of the cakes from the muffin pan. Lots of comments on the density, which I'd interpret as "this is a little too much"--even though we served it with whipped cream and raspberries.

Nutritional info, calculated by my aged copy of MasterCook Mac: for 7 cakes in the half-recipe, each is 321 calories, 27.8 gr. fat, 2.3 gr. fiber, and 20.5 gr. carbs.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Cake with Golden Neoclassic Buttercream

IMG_2721 I decided the pumpkin cake pan was cute enough to justify a purchase, especially off eBay--not at list price. (As a side note, the pan is normally stocked at my local cake-decorating store, Cake Art--but a pumpkin cake make the cover of Southern Living recently, so Cake Art was sold out.) I did decide to substitute the simpler Golden Neoclassic Buttercream for the Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream with its three-stage recipe, and had difficulties.

But let me start with the cake. It's a spice cake with pumpkin for flavor and moisture, and walnuts. The spices are cinnamon and nutmeg, and the combination works wonderfully well. The cake was pretty easy to put together, especially using canned pumpkin--toast the walnuts, beat the liquid ingredients, then beat in the mixture of flour, spices, leavening agents, and the walnuts and the batter is done. It went into the double pumpkin pan and into the oven.

I had a moment of panic when I pressed gently on one of the cakes to see if it would spring back, and instead the crust broke and the cake appeared to be headed for collapse. But no, I just closed the oven door and kept baking, and it came out fine. A small crater was still visible, but the cake rose under it and finished baking.

I baked the cake Saturday and wrapped it in plastic wrap overnight. Sunday morning I started on the Great Buttercream Adventure (see link above), and then frosted the cake with the not-so-happy result. Take note: it's not easy to frost the valleys and ridges of a pumpkin-shaped cake with a smooth coat of frosting. Filling in the valleys is inevitable (or it sure was for me), and I kept finding the ridges when I smoothed a little too much and spotted cake under the frosting. It took a while to find a technique that started producing a smooth finish--I pulled up from the base in long strokes, up to the crown. Except I usually couldn't manage that in one stroke, leaving the frosting looking a little ragged. I think I might also have gotten a little closer to the ideal (that is, the picture in Heavenly Cakes) if I'd switched to a wider spatula for the last round of strokes, making the darker orange streaks.


On to the decorating....

A few nights ago, younger niece came over and we colored marzipan (the supermarket stuff in a tube) and made the pumpkin decorations. Niece started trying to color the stem with cocoa powder, but we just couldn't get a smooth color with it. When we added a little brown powdered coloring that solved the problem. We also made batches of green, orange, and red, then started trying to blend them to get a fall color effect, using the behind-the-scenes pictures Rose posted as a guide. It worked pretty well, though we're still clearly amateur class with this stuff.

The marzipan sat at room temp in a ziplock bag until today, and was not very stiffened--we reshaped leaves as we needed to complete the pumpkin. Funny how just adding the stem instantly transformed the 'round orange cake' into 'pumpkin'.


Appearance got raves all round.

Sister-in-law: that's a really lovely spice cake--the nutmeg really makes it pop.

Older niece: it's good. I like it. The walnuts make a nice crunch.

Younger niece: One of the best so far. (Along with the apple upside down cake, the Jancsi torta, and the brownies.) Moist. Frosting is too buttery.

Nephew: Really good. (He was very impressed with the pumpkin shape, too.)

General reaction from co-workers: This is really good!

Me: the too-buttery frosting is bothering me more and more, and I wish I'd cut back on the butter to try to compensate for the loss of sugar syrup. The golden syrup does give the frosting a great flavor, though. Next time I think I'll try this cake unfrosted--it's moist, tastes good, and really doesn't need frosting. One co-worker, when we discussed the frosting disaster, suggested that it would be very good with an orange cream-cheese frosting or glaze.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Golden Neoclassic Buttercream

It's my first attempt at a real buttercream, all previous ones having been of "American buttercream"--butter (or shortening) + powdered sugar variety. Short on time and ambition this weekend, I decided not to attempt the 3-stage Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream, and turned to the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream recipe, with plans to add the orange juice concentrate and zest that the Burnt Orange etc., etc. called for. The Neoclassic has an orange variation listed, but I lack the orange oil to do that one.

I have beaten egg yolks until light-colored, brought a mixture of superfine sugar, golden syrup, and orange juice (instead of lemon) to a boil, and tried to beat the hot syrup into the eggs. No, I didn't cook the eggs, which would have been one possible problem. <g> No, despite turning off the beater before pouring in syrup, I have syrup in a thin layer over the mixing bowl. There are a few lumps of syrup on the beater, and probably some in the beaten mixture. Scraping down the bowl without adding more cooled syrup clumps to the egg mixture is....challenging. I'm letting it cool before adding the butter, and contemplating whether I should try to transfer the eggy part to a clean bowl, then wash the beater before trying to proceed. Fishing out the blobs of syrup that are already in the egg mixture is probably not going to happen.


(later) I decided not to transfer to a clean bowl, because when it cooled the egg mixture stiffened a lot. Scraping it out probably would have brought more little syrup globs with it. I beat in the butter, added vanilla, OJ concentrate, and orange zest, and went with it. I picked a few globs out as I was mixing in the food coloring and frosting the cake, and I'm sure more will be apparent when we eat it. This being my first real buttercream, I'm not sure what the result should have been. What I've got has a nice flavor, but is, well, buttery. The consistency is like softened butter as well.