Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bake your cake and eat it too!

Apologies are in order, folks.  While I did bake a cake and it was highly successful and delicious, I did not capture any of it on film.  Does this make me a crappy blogger?  Maybe.  But let me explain.

This cake that I made last night?  It was a simple recipe, really.  But the instructions were a bit intense.  I am not a naturally gifted baker, and I appreciate specific tips and suggestions.  I appreciate that they will result in a superior result.

If I had to summarize the process, I would say that it was a bit... painstaking.  Seriously.  I had to mix or "cream" the butter for two minutes.  No biggie.  Then I had to add the three cups of sugar, half a cup at a time, beating the mixture for a full minute between additions.  Oh, and I had to scrape down the sides of the bowl in between as well.

After that, I had to add each of the five eggs, one at a time, again beating for a full minute in between additions.

If you're doing the math, you should realize that this means that total mixing time is now up to 11 minutes, not counting the extra time needed to add new ingredients, scrape down the bowl and break the eggs.

Next, I had to whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Then?  You guessed it, I had to add it in separate amounts, alternating with sour cream, until it was all "incorporated."  Finally, I got to add the flavor extracts.  Her final instruction was to let the whole thing mix on high for two minutes.

The purpose behind this mixing was to incorporate air into the batter.  Not too much, but enough to make the cake rise up "proudly" in the 10-inch tube pan.  Said pan had been "prepared" using a disk of parchment paper on the bottom and copious amounts of Pam baking spray. 

Let me take a side moment to mention that I was extremely nervous about using the tube pan.  Any time I have used a "molded" pan in the past, my results have been mixed.  Oh, the cake turns out fine, but the de-panning process usually is disastrous, with chunks of cake coming out separately resulting in a heap of large crumbs.

In between all this mixing, adding and preparation, I didn't even think to grab a camera.  Even if I had, it would hardly have been beautiful.  I suppose I could have captured a shot of Lena who followed me like a shadow and pawed at my leg incessantly despite my numerous attempts to engage her with toys and treats.  Now that I think about it, this is the first time that I have done any serious baking since Lena came to live with me (in February), so her confusion is not that surprising.

Once I had finished the batter and poured it into the pan (being sure to let it "lava" itself around), I put it in the oven for 90 minutes.  That's right - 90 minutes.  Sounds unheard of in baking, right?  If the instructions had not been so adamantly clear, I may have doubted it, but I put my trust in the written word and resolutely left my cake to bake undisturbed for an hour and a half. 

Turns out, 90 minutes was perfect.  After 23 minutes cooling in the pan, during which time an alarming sound of deflation nearly caused me to jump through the roof (it sounded alarmingly like a ghost), I followed the detailed instructions for de-panning.  Guess what?  It worked.  Truly, this was the most amazing part of the experience for me. 

Once it was finally cool, I put it in my cake-save.  Then, I decided that I should probably try a tiny piece, just to be sure it didn't taste like chalk.  I was suitably impressed. 

So this morning, me and my cake-save marched into the office to try out the recipe on my favorite guinea pigs:  my coworkers.

The verdict was unanimous:  yum.  Everyone was pleased that I was returning to the world of experimental baking.  Perhaps I will keep it up, although I have no intention of making it a weekly routine.  I like to keep them guessing, and if I set up expectations, they will only be more disappointed when I decide I have to quit for lack of time, energy or funds for ingredients.

Now, if I was your average food/cooking blog writer, I would not only have shared pictures, I would now share the recipe.  But alas, you are to be disappointed.  Not that it is a complicated or proprietary recipe, it's just that I feel that the author, Melissa Gray, did such a good job with her instructions that I feel it would be unfair to deprive you of her words. 

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