Monday, March 12, 2007

Cakes of Dubious Appearance

David had a birthday a while back, about a month ago now, in fact (still behind on the cake blog writing…). Of course his devoted wife Karen made him a cake, with lovely daughter Samantha’s help. But, I found I couldn’t resist the opportunity to also make a cake. So, this is a two for the price of one entry.

This was during my bad spell, in terms of altitude problems (I am not actually sure I am out of this bad spell. Of late, I have been making cookies, or, cakes that I’ve had success with in the past. My avoidance of new cakes is not because I am afraid of failure, or fallen or dubious looking cakes; I want to assure you of that. I am just avoiding new cake-making until I get caught up on the cake-writing.)

Karen outdid herself with a Betty Crocker/Duncan Hines type deal: funfetti cake. Not exactly sure what the industry title actually is. She did, however, decide that homemade frosting was in order. Well, that is where, in her opinion, things went south.

For some reason, her homemade chocolate frosting just did not come out looking all that great. Evidence above...

Me, I went for another Jeanne Lemlin cake, Lemon Almond Cake. While I think it tasted okay (though nowhere near as good as the funfetti cake – I am a total sucker for cake mix cake…. What is up with that?), it looks bad bad bad. New pan – a 9 inch springform pan, which I purchased specially for this occasion. Having never baked a regular cake (meaning not a cheesecake) in a springform pan, and having not baked this cake before, I have no basis for comparison. I cannot really tell what is “normal” for a pan like this (in terms of rising) and what might be the ill effects of the altitude (in terms of sinking).

Here is a question/problem. A few cakes I have made recently have called for “finely ground” nuts – almonds in this case. So you throw a bunch of nuts in the food processor and push the button. What I cannot quite figure out is what is the just right consistency. One cookbook does note not to over-grind, or you’ll get nut butter. But, how do you know what the right amount of processing is? And, could my lack of awareness of when to stop pushing the button be another contributor to my final (fallen) cake results?

While many challenges and ideas for future “research” have emerged from this cake baking effort, none is so compelling as the challenge Karen set me: make a homemade funfetti cake. Her hypothesis is that what makes a funfetti cake a funfetti cake is just the tossing in of a handful of colored jimmies (sprinkles, if you will). But, she is not totally sure. So, she wants me to make a homemade cake and experiment with jimmies, to see if she is right.

This is just the kind of challenge I am up for.

Right now, I am toying with two possibilities, in terms of the cake: one – some sort of a yellow cake, maybe Nigella’s Victoria Sponge; alternately, some sort of a white cake, maybe Dorie’s Celebration Cake. If I pick the celebration cake, I'll also be taking on another challenge I’ve got hanging over me, one set for me by Alden: my first four layer cake.

Stay tuned….