Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Cakes of Summer: Part 1

I think there were two themes to the summer, in terms of cakes: chocolate and blueberries.

Is there any surprise here?

Chocolate: need I say more?

Blueberries: it’s Maine, after all.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the chocolate.

There’s an annual extended family 4th of July party, and my cousin Jean Louise has a traditional chocolate cake that she always brings. But, I knew she would be absent this year, so I decided to go out on a limb and bring a different chocolate cake (in the end, turned out JL’s mom brought the cake anyway, but, I suppose you could argue that two chocolate cakes is better than one).

I wanted to make the same chocolate cake I had made for Alden’s birthday. Apparently I never wrote a post about it here, so, here;’s the short version. I made it twice, one for the family, with slightly disastrous results, both in terms of the cake and the frosting. The cake batter was way too much for the recommended pans, and we had some slight containment issues. Meanwhile, I experimented with a chocolate ganache type frosting, part whipped and part not (cannot now remember why I did this), and again, containment issues were a bit of a problem.

But, I thought the cake itself was so very yummy, and I wanted to give it another shot. So, for Alden’s birthday celebration with friends, I did it again. Bigger cake pans and the traditional cream cheese frosting. Total success.

When I decided I’d bring a chocolate cake to the 4th, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Alas, the Martha Stewart cookbook I had used was home, and we were in Hancock Point. After a fair amount of web searching, I was able to find what I thought was the recipe. Bravely, I tried it. (remember also, this is going on in the library kitchen, where the previous summer I pretty much shied away from baking, because the conditions are so primitive. Not this year).

The cake was a success, and made an almost immediate second appearance, for supper at the big house with the Edinburgh Thompsons.
And then, and I’m going to have to make a looooooonnnnggg story short here, there were the wedding cupcakes. Matt and Nika were getting married in August, and over time, and much agonizing and discussion (on everyone’s parts), it became apparent that getting their hands on a proper wedding cake was going to be a challenge. Enter Clarissa. I offered to make wedding cupcakes, knowing that I had a solid recipe to work with (and also knowing that there was no way I was going to try to transport a cake 11 hours, from HP to 31 Mile Lake, crossing the U.S./Canadian border along the way. Cupcakes somehow seemed more manageable, on many fronts…)

And so I made the recipe another three or four times, in order to turn out the number of cupcakes we determined we’d need to feed the wedding crows (which, luckily, was not all that big a crowd…).

I don’t think I’ve made this cake since then. But, if I needed a chocolate cake, this would be the one, it’s that good. My point being, it’s replaced the old favorite chocolate cake recipe…

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum

I certainly like a nice cold beer, and, a glass of decent wine is a very fine thing; apparently, many say, it’s even got some health benefits. But, beyond the beer and the wine, I am not much of a liquor drinker. As a result, there is a particular genre of cakes that I have long been eschewing.

Cakes with alcohol. I am pretty sure that this is the first. Whether it’s because I’m not much of a liquor drinker (or a liqueur drinker), or whether it is "just because…" I am just not a big fan of alcohol-soaked desserts. Or, even lightly flavored with alcohol desserts. Just not something that appeals to me. I am thinking back through all the cakes I have made in the last few years, and trying to make sure that this really is the first cake with alcohol.

I’m thinking that beer doesn’t count. Right? ‘Cause there was that cake with the beer.

Anyway, I’m still with the Dorie Greenspan cookbook, but, beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a LOT of cakes I have not made in the book. But, a bunch of those are cheesecakes and another bunch are pretty seriously fancied-up tart-y desserts. So, when I look through the more regular cake sections, I am seeing a lot of cakes I have already made.

I kept skipping over Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes, because of that rum-drenched part. Rum-drenched. Alcohol soaked. Yuck. But, like I said, beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit. So, I kept coming back to that one. It also fulfills another on-going quest of mine: looking for the perfect pound cake. Ray seems to have a bit of a thing for pound cake, so I periodically try to make one, and am usually disappointed in one way or another. I think pound cake is hard to do well. I actually think I made one a mere few months back. Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me remember for sure, or, remember the occasion or the eaters. Clearly, that cake was not memorable.

This cake, however, this cake was memorable. While making it, I kept thinking, there is a good possibility I will not be able to even eat this (which is okay by me, cake-making is altruistic, you see), because the rum might just be too much. It had a few tablespoons of rum in the batter; then, while the cake was cooking, you made a rum/sugar/water sauce, which got brushed all over the cake when it came out of the oven. Seemed like a lot of rum to me, though I think it probably was pretty reasonable.

In the end, I’ll say this, the rum did not ruin the cake. In fact, I think it made it the perfect texture and moistness (and I think dryness is a perennial problem in pound cakes). If you could taste the rum at all, it was just in the most subtle way. Even the kids thought it was delicious.
Note: used my trusty Bartlett's Quotations to look up the "yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum". I'm sure plenty of people know where it's from. But, not me. It's Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest -
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest -
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Once Upon A Time...

... I baked a lot of cakes. Still do in fact.

Sometimes the cakes were chocolate.

Sometimes they weren't.

Sometimes I had helpers.

Sometimes I wrote about the cakes I baked. Though, as you can see from the date of the last entry here, it's been a while.

Wanting to try to get back in the habit of writing about the cakes. And, as the semester draws to a close, and my time opens up a bit, I think I have a chance at actually doing it. Some of the cakes I never wrote about stick with me, and I come back to them in my mind, composing posts about them as I wander through my days.

This one is called Devil's Food White-Out Cake. It's from the Dorie Greenspan book. In fact, if you click on that link, you'll see that it is actually the cover recipe.

I made this cake for a spring/graduation party, about a full year ago now, at my friend Jennie Whitcomb's house. I think the cake looks wicked fancy. In truth, it was pretty simple to make: two layers of chocolate cake, cut horizontally to make four. One of the now half layers crumbled to make the crumbles to sprinkle all over. Filled and topped with simple old whipped cream. Yum.

So, coming up: some of my recent cakes, as well as some from the more distant past.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cake in the Morning

Samantha and kids were here for the weekend; so, there’s an excuse to make a cake. After perusing various cookbooks and the current Bon Appetits, I settled on Cranberry-Maple Pudding Cake.

I kept meaning to make the cake all weekend, but it was busy with them here. They really like (need?) to get up and GO, those Goodwins. So, off we went, skiing at Titcomb both days (Saturday and Sunday). By the time we got home, I was exhausted and it was pretty much time to start drinking the wine and feeding the hungry. All efforts at cake-baking were out the window.

The last morning they were here, though, I did manage to get it together and I made the cake. I had sort of given myself permission to have it be cake for the morning – not just because I couldn’t get it together to make it at any other time, but also because the recipe noted that it was “great for dessert or breakfast.”

Furthermore, we have been having a lot of talk about “cake in the morning.” What I really mean is that Milo often talks about “cake in the morning.” This comes of all our reading of Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (which I have always called Mickey in the Night Kitchen – a line from the actual text). So it seemed fitting to actually produce cake in the morning for him.

It was pretty yummy. Though with a full CUP of maple syrup, probably on the pricey side. And, I have to say, all the maple syrup was not all that noticeable. In fact, the fruit part (where the maple syrup was) was still pretty damn TART. Then there was the crumbly cake part, with secret ingredient: cornmeal. Kind of like cornbread, only way better, especially since I am not a big cornbread fan.

I’ll talk more about this cake and its construction in a subsequent post. I promise.

Kira kept talking about how she liked the crumbly part. I think she really meant it (I think she is a big cornbread fan), but I think it was also code for: "I don’t much like the fruit [cranberry] part."

A word about the cranberries: this cake spelled the end of a GIANT bag of cranberries I bought way back in November. In fact, I think I still have two cakes, made with cranberries from this giant bag, that I need to document here. And, the cranberry sauce I contributed to the Thanksgiving feast also came out of that bag. Can it really be that I got three cakes and one cranberry sauce from one bag? Maybe….

At any rate, while the cranberries were not organic, they were local, from Ricker Hill Farm (site of our fall apple-picking adventure). So, not perfect, but, pretty darn low carbon footprint.

Also, really good excuse for eating whipped cream for breakfast.