"Hey, I can do that!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scratch It: Pound Cake

"Perfect Pound Cake"
from Cake Bible

This is my second cake from Cake Bible, and I'm a bit disappointed.  I've made a couple different pound cakes from scratch before and this is my least favorite.  The recipe describes this cake as "melt-in-your-mouth" texture.  It reminded me of melt-away cookies, the variety made with powdered sugar and cornstarch.  In my opinion ... pound cake should not be like that.  In addition to that, hubby and I really didn't think it tasted good either.

What I liked about this recipe was that it was the batch size was intended for a loaf pan.  In this testing phase of mine, it's nice to not have to use up so many ingredients.  It had been so long since I had used my loaf pan, I wondered if I even had one at all.  Sure enough, a dusty but undamaged non-stick pan was in the back of one of my kitchen's cabinets.

The cake baked up well and was easily cut with a serrated knife.  Like other pound cakes, the crust parts are somewhat yummier.  I did not grease my pan, like the recipe suggested.  Instead I did my usual of cutting out parchment paper for the bottom.  The cake actually pulled away from the sides all on its own.  I'm not sure if that was due to the non-stick pan or the recipe.

I'm convinced I did not screw up this recipe, I just don't like it.  I'll have to try out some other recipes I have for pound cake.  The one I got from my petit fours class, I recall, tasted good and contained cream cheese.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Scratch It: Chiffon Cake

Chiffon Cake

Everyone once in a while, hubby and I manage to catch a little bit of America's Test Kitchen on PBS.  We always enjoy watching what they make and hear their explanations of their experiments and discoveries.  The episode called "Retro Desserts" that featured Banana Pudding and Chiffon Cake definitely caught our eyes.  I've never had chiffon cake before, but the recipe describes it like so: "Chiffon cake should have the airy height of angel food cake with the richness of pound cake."  Color me intrigued!  

I made sure to buy fresh baking powder so it would not be a repeat mistake of my last scratch cake.  While separating the eggs, I managed to get some drops of yolk into the bowl ... gingerly, I fished them out using the egg shell halves, but figured the cream of tartar and the sugar added would help stabilize things as I whipped the snot out of them.  Everything went just fine.

This recipe required the purchase of an angel food cake pan.  America's Test Kitchen recommended the pan by Chicago Metallic, which I got from amazon.com for $15.56.  The pan worked great!  When first making the recipe, I thought no way was there enough batter to fill this pan.  Afterward I began folding and folding in the whipped egg whites and was soon glad I had chosen my biggest bowl to work in!  I made sure not to under or over-mix the batter ... incorporating all the egg whites but without losing much volume.

The cake is just slightly over-baked, but only noticeable at the crust. You can see how it's just a bit dark.  After some research online, I concluded the best way to cut it was with a serrated knife.  I like how tight the crumb looked ... the cake was very consistent throughout the interior, which meant that I was successful at incorporating all of the whipped egg whites.

I'm very pleased with how this cake turned out.  It was spongy yet delicate, rich but not heavy.  No topping required!  Tonight even my daughter asked for seconds ... and she normally does NOT eat cake (just the icing).  I was quite complimented by that!  This seems like a great spring-time cake, especially with Easter coming up.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scratch It: All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake

"All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake"
from Cake Bible

My first attempt at scratch baking is the Cake Bible's All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake.  I'm pretty convinced I screwed this one up.  The recipe called for baking powder, but I accidentally started off with baking soda.  I managed to recover a lot of the soda off of my dry ingredients, but still ... that was definitely not going to help.  Also, I'm not quite sure how old my baking powder was.  It hadn't expired, but I think it was approaching a year old. 

Besides the baking powder incident, the batter seemed very thick to me.  The recipe warned about over-mixing, and I could swear I didn't.  I tried to follow directions, but it's not like I had a stop watch on me to make sure I was mixing for exactly 20 seconds after step X, Y, and Z.

The cakes seemed to bake up nicely and on time.  I cut off the top to see what was under the hood and was not very pleased.  I was hoping for a tight, delicate crumb ... but I got something bordering on dense and with some big holes.

Waste not, want not.  I used the left-over egg whites from the recipe to make coffee-flavored Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the filling and icing. 

This is what I call the poor man's petal effect.  Instead of using a spatula to smear each icing blog, I just dragged my tip down into it and stroked the icing away.

Things I like about the petal effect technique are:
  1. It requires about the same amount of icing that you would normally use as a crumb + finish coat for a cake.
  2. It is fast to do, especially if you do it my lazy way.
  3. It looks a heck of a lot better than me trying to get perfectly smooth sides, corners, and top.

This is definitely going to be my go-to, no-stress cake finishing technique.

The taste was fine, but like I said earlier, the texture was not ideal.  If someone could show me a picture of how it is supposed to look, I could be more sure.  I'll give this cake another try later.

My co-workers didn't seem to mind eating it all up!

Baking itch? "Scratch" it!

Baking itch?
"Scratch" it!

I think after each annual Austin cake show I participate in, I'm allowed to be a little turned off of cake decorating afterward.  This year I'd really like to practice baking cakes from scratch.  Now that I'm officially on maternity leave (no baby yet, but at least off of work), I'm already getting bored and got that "itch" to bake.  Must ... eat ... cake ... the baby demands it!  I'm jumping on the scratch cake bandwagon for a couple of reasons.  

For Christmas my brother bought me Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible, which I've seen a lot of cakers swear by.  Is it wrong for the only bible in my nightstand to be the Cake Bible?  It's got a lot of great scientific information and explanations of methodologies, which appeals to the geek side of me.

On CakeCentral.com, I've have heard talk that Duncan Hines has reduced their cake mix sizes from 18.25 oz down to 16.5 oz, which is the same size as the Betty Crocker mixes.  I usually buy Duncan Hines for all my cakes, but if the store is out, I'll get Betty Crocker.  I've noticed with the BC mixes that I'm always one cupcake shy of 2 dozen!  I never had that problem with DH.  I figured this was a good sign that I shouldn't rely so heavily on box mixes.  They're not sturdy enough for my liking when decorating them with fondant.  By the time I'm done slicing the cake, it's all a crumby mess.

Last but not least, the recent Austin cake show/competition had King Arthur Flour sponsor the tasting competition portion.  The winners got great prizes, and I ended up getting a free box of King Arthur cake flour from the leftover sponsorship materials.  Hopefully they'll be back next year, and I'll be ready for them!

Expect my next few posts to be about my Adventures in Scratch Baking!

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