Daring Bakers: I Brake for Cake

slice-cake.jpg
Breakfast Cake: It does a body good.

So I’m officially a Daring Baker! I mean, I’d like to think that I’ve been a daring baker for some time, but now I get to say it with a capital D, capital B.

I’m grateful to this month’s challenge for deflating my culinary hubris further than it already has been. Because I fully admit that when I saw the recipe – Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake – I rolled my eyes a little. I joined the Daring Bakers to be more oven-ly challenged, and layer cakes, far from being intimidating, are the dessert that I’m most known for in the modest circles* in which I move. So it stands to reason that I would royally fuck up a basic white cake recipe and continue the debacle by mauling the components during construction, resulting in a hastily-assembled cake with 3 layers instead of 4 that I finished at roughly 1am.

So thanks, March 2008 challenge, for helping me feel like an idiot. Note to April’s recipe: I feel that I’ve built quite enough character, fuck you very much, so let’s go easy on me.

*Between 6 and 8 inches in diameter. I don’t really like people.

batter.jpg
Who needs kids when you’ve got a Professional 600?

I do love any excuse to use the standing mixer, especially now that I’ve upgraded from the Artisan to the Professional 600; I could stand there and raise and lower the bowl all the live long day. I mean, I don’t, because I’m crazy enough as it is. But I could, that’s all I’m saying.

On it’s face, this is a basic white cake recipe made with cake flour, whole eggs, butter, sugar and milk. Also, it includes one tablespoon of baking powder, which someone could make the TOTALLY HONEST MISTAKE of reading as one teaspoon if one were frazzled because s/he were baking late at night and had promised to bring in a cake for a cocktail party with the Board of Directors the next day. And someone would then have to make a WHOLE ‘NOTHER CAKE. Not that anyone is bitter.

Note that if one did make that mistake, one would produce a totally flat cake of approximately 3/4 inches in height. However, said cake would still be tasty and have a fine, meltingly soft crumb. FURTHERMORE, although one might be making a second cake, one might still do well to hang on to the baking powder-less layers, which might be called in to pinch hit if one were to accidentally destroy one of the good layers later on.

You know, if these things were to happen to one.

curd.jpg
Curd. Kind of a gross word, n’est-ce pas?

The standard recipe called for a lemon-scented cake with lemon buttercream, but this month’s hostess gave us free reign with flavoring as long as we used the basic cake and frosting recipes. I decided to go with a plain white cake with a drop of lime oil, filled with mango-lime curd and buttercream with a bit of the curd beaten in.

I’m on a bit of a curd kick, and am working to find out how many different liquids can be made into curd; mango-lime is my current favorite. I love the meditative process of stirring the eggs, juice and sugar, watching them slowly transform into a smooth, viscous delight. To this version, I added a soupcon of gelatin to ensure that the final product would be thick enough to hold up in the cake and not ooze out the sides; normally I don’t trust things made with gelatin*, but I wanted a little insurance here.

*Gelatin killed my uncle.**

** Kidding! I’m kidding!***

***It was guar gum.

frosting.jpg
“WHISK BIG. WHISK BEAT EGG…WHISK SO LONELY.”

Dorie’s buttercream is pretty much identical to my favorite easy buttercream with only slight variations in method (she mixes her butter in a stick at a time, I do mine in smaller chunks). So much more foolproof than a traditional buttercream with the egg yolks and the sugar syrup and the greased mixing cups and the pouring and the scalding yourself with sugary napalm and the crying and cursing. This simple egg white, butter and sugar recipe – heat the egg and sugar together, beat into a meringue, gradually mix in the butter – comes together perfectly every time in about 10 minutes.

For this cake, I beat in about 1/3 of a cup of the curd to subtly echo the fruit flavors. The buttercream took on a gorgeous pale ivory color (normally, it’s white white white), and the tart flavors in the curd cut the sweetness just enough.

whole-cake.jpg
Which layer is missing the baking powder? No prizes for right answers, just the satisfaction of a correct answer.

I thought I would try to use my handy-dandy new cake leveler to cut the layers, because I can be pretty dangerous with a giant serrated knife. Naturally, I fucked it up and ended up cutting two extremely shallow, flimsy, unusable layers off my two good cakes, so I made an executive decision to make a three-layer cake with the good remains and one of the failure cakes. But no one needs to know this stuff. Except the whole internet.

Funnily enough, the cake never came out at the party for which it was so lovingly made because of some last-minute caterers who donated a crazy pro bono spread. So it stayed in the office fridge and was summarily devoured by myself and all my colleagues for breakfast the next day.

If you need a good white cake recipe, this is the one. When you actually read the instructions, you get lovely, fluffy cake that holds together perfectly when being sliced and served and then dissolves delicately on the tongue. The cake’s innards had perfect stripes of white cake, bright marigold curd and soft cream frosting. The buttercream is a great texture, even right out of the fridge (although I’d recommend letting it sit out for half an hour or so before serving). The curd has a fresh, bright flavor and brilliant color, and the small amount mixed into the buttercream cuts the cloying sweetness that usually causes me to scrape all the frosting off my cake. My office polished the whole thing off before lunchtime.

My name is Michelle, I’m daring, and I bake. Poorly.

Want the recipe? 

0 thoughts on “Daring Bakers: I Brake for Cake

  1. What is it with you all people baking cakes and shit. Don’t you have jobs?

    I want to rub your cake all over my face. That isn’t even a euphemism.

  2. BE: it tasted fricking awesome.

    linda: it ended up being just the right thing: frosting that didn’t produce cavities on contact.

    mrs. L: hooray for midnight baking! also for breakfast cake.

    viv: here’s the challenge

    jerry: okay, it wasn’t that good; i don’t want anyone to die. tho now that i think about it, it was really tasty…

    heather: hello pot, please allow me to introduce myself; they call me “the kettle”.

    lisa: and we should be, if you also enjoy those things.

    gretchen: thanks! it is totally yum, you should give it a try.

    susan: thanks! now i feel like one of the cool kids; i’ve gotta go put up the DB logo!

    katie: well done.

    mary: thanks! and we did eat some of the leftover curd with a spoon ’round here – and it was goood!

  3. yours is the third version i’ve seen tonight
    you crazy daring bakers, you
    i gotta try this recipe at some point when i feel like kicking my ego in the ass

    what’s the april challenge and how does one find out such things?

  4. Welcome to the DB, imo, you did awesome. You made a cake. I on the other hand, didn’t make this cake- I failed miserably. Thanks for the good read, it did make me chuckle and feel slightly better.

  5. Great job on the cake…at least your dog didn’t eat yours???!!! I love the look of the curd against the white. I might try this version when I make it again!

  6. I made lemon curd this weekend…and was successful (thanks to you.) To celebrate – and inspired by you – I ate the lemon bars for breakfast!!

  7. seriously, you really need a content warning on your blog. certainly not because of any expletives you might use, but because it’s rather dangerous to read your blog before one has had breakfast. i mean, really!

    it’s really nice to know that there are more ways of making “curd” than with lemons, though i suppose lemon curd with fresh lemons would beat the pants off my mom’s which i think was made with commercial lemon pie mix. anyway, her’s sucked donkey dicks.

    i’ll be reading your new blog entries aloud, like a bedtime story, to my husband. you’re like nigella…except not english…and not on tv…and more potty mouthed…but otherwise just like her. :D

  8. You are so funny! I loved reading your blog…and I love the mango lime curd! Your cake looks great. I wouldn’t have a problem eating it for breakfast, and neither would anyone else in my office!

  9. if theres a cake in the fridge … i surely have some for breakfast … what better way to start your day that a sugar rush !!!
    specially if the cake looks as lovely as yours :)

  10. claudia: if i told you, i’d have to kill you.

    tartelette: i feel like one of the “in” kids now.

    pixie & danny: glad i could produce a laugh.

    catherine: it will be yours one day. oh yes, it will be yours.

    FE: thanks!

    judy: if my dogs didn’t eat it it wasn’t for lack of trying, i can tell you that.

    jodi: congrats! was adam suitably impressed?

    deborah: so, so true.

    naomi: hey, you’re a grown-up, you can read what you want. i’m not sure if it’s flatting or creepy to have someone read my stuff as a bedtime story. i guess i’ll go with flattering.

    l*joy: don’t cry – go make some for yourself!

    honeyB: glad you like it here – welcome!

    kate: aw shucks, thanks.

  11. If it tastes good, who cares how it looks?

    You have to serve it so that no one sees that the cake is a mess. I did this with the delicious, but hideous chocolate-peanut crunch cake I made for my mother-in-law’s birthday. I turned off the lights, lit a couple of birthday candles, and as soon as she blew them out, I scurried back to the kitchen and cut up the slices. No one knew a whole side of the cake was lopsided and unfrosted!

    BTW, I *heart* the Daring Bakers. mwah! Anyone who does these challenges is just awesome in my book.

  12. claudia: well, i am fucking hilarious.

    courtney: glad to be in the club. how much longer til i get to learn the secret handshake?

    rachel: so join already!

    kimberlyblue: it is! make it yourself and see!

    ivonne: gracias. i’m glad you like it here – don’t be a stranger.

    sheltie: thanks, and welcome!

  13. Wow! I wish I had a slice of that! It looks so yummy. Next time I make this, I’ll use curd on it. Oh–welcome to the Daring Bakers!!!!!!

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