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.
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. 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.
“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.
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.