Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Josh and the Gingerbread

My wonderful friend from college, Josh, came to visit. That in itself was enough reason for a cake. But wait, there was more: Karen’s friend Nancy had decided that she wanted to do some sort of a Christmas craft project with the kids (Alden, Samantha, Melba and Holly). She would take the kids for the afternoon, do the craft (it’s still a mystery, as we have been told to wait until Christmas to open whatever it is!), and then the grown-ups would come back and we’d all have supper together. Needless to say, I volunteered a cake for that. Trying to decide what kind of cake to make, I asked Karen, who suggested gingerbread. Off I went, on my little cake recipe finding research project.

One of the defining features of gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese frosting and candied pistachios is that it calls for STOUT (beer, that is…).

Intriguing, eh? Karen was pretty excited when I told her about the stout. And, let me tell you, the stout made for a pretty exciting cake-making experience.

One of the first things that you are supposed to do in this recipe is combine the beer and molasses (to be precise, this is what the recipe says: “Bring stout and molasses to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda.”). Well, I heated the molasses and stout as directed, then took it off the burner and added the baking soda – again, as directed. I want to be very clear here that I was following the directions exactly as they were written (see prior entry on bundt cakes and the icing of…).

When I did this, I got the most intense chemical explosion/reaction. Totally out of control. I had even read most of the reviews for this cake, but not one mentioned this type of result, so, I guess I have to accept that it is just me, though I’m really not sure what that even means here.

I waited the requisite hour the directions advised (to let the frothing volcano cool, I suppose), and then decided to measure what I had left. I was worried that I might have lost a significant amount of liquid, and that this would negatively affect my proportions of wet to dry ingredients and that the cake in the end might be compromised. I guessed that if all had gone well, I should have had about 2 cups liquid (from the 1 cup of molasses and the 1 cup of beer); in fact, I had about 1¾ cups liquid. So, I tossed in a bit more of the remaining stout, to get my liquids up to nearly 2 cups (I didn’t add up to the full two cups, worrying that might be too much (I mean, hell, maybe this whole explosion piece and subsequent liquid loss was part of the plan, and they just forgot to mention it in the recipe), I was also nervous about adding too much beer, since I was now adding raw beer, so to speak, and who knew what that might do to the cake.

After that, things proceeded more smoothly, and I managed to get the whole thing mixed up and in the oven without further incident.

I got the cake put together and transported over to Nancy’s house (remember, kids and craft project over at Nancy’s house). Reviews on the actual cake were mixed. Ray was cagey, and said something slightly ominous like “weird cake.” Karen and Alden both seemed to like it (I need to add, at this point, that this is another of those cream cheese frosting cakes – and that tends to guarantee that Alden will like it, at least the frosting part). Not sure about the others.

I think Josh was my biggest fan for this one, really. He came home one night (he was in town visiting his sister; so he’d hang out with her during the day and early evening and then arrive back at our house in time for a little late night dessert.) One night he came back and, as we were talking, I noticed him glancing around the kitchen, beginning to look a little worried. Finally he said, “so, I guess the cake is all gone…” Lucky for him, it wasn’t; we had only put it away in the cupboard to clear the counter. Josh was just delighted and happily polished off a few pieces.

One final note: the candied pistachios that decorate the top of the cake were absolutely delicious (though they really only stay crunchy the first day…).

One more final note: I started writing this entry a few days ago. Now, we’ve opened the craft project present I referred to at the beginning, a lovely Christmas elf, pictured below. Thanks, Nancy, for doing such a nice thing with the kids.

1 comment:

Spgonahan said...

I never told you, that I was impressed that after this stuff came bubbling out of the saucepan and nearly taking over the kitchen, that you didn't give up, but instead adjusted the quantities and turned out a criditable cake.