Baking From My Home to Yours: Cakes
December 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the Cakes chapter of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.
A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.
The All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake was pretty good with a light, airy and delicate crumb, very moist but somewhat mild in flavor. I added about 3-3 1/2 ounces of chopped semi-sweet chocolate that I had on hand. The chocolate went really well with the pumpkin, nuts and cranberries. If I make this cake again I would definitely add the chocolate again. I would probably also increase the amount of spices to give the flavor a little bit more oomph.
I did make the optional maple glaze but made the mistake of glazing the cake before it was completely cooled. Not a smart move. The glaze was totally absorbed by the cake.
I also made the Cranberry Upside Downer cake. I did make a couple modifications with this cake. I used a 10" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom rather than an 8" cake tin. I also lightly sprayed the tart pan with pan release and rubbed it into the flutes to ensure that it would come out. The removable bottom allows some of the butter/sugar from the fruit topping to seep out so I wrapped the tart pan in foil. The cranberry/nut topping mixture plus the cake batter fit perfectly into the tart pan. The recipe gives options to use either walnuts or pecans in the fruit topping, I used pecans, and to use either vanilla or almond extract in the batter, I used vanilla. Since the tart pan was larger and shallower than the pan called for in the recipe I reduced the cooking time from 40-45 minutes to 30 minutes, which was exactly right.
The recipe called for glazing the cake with melted red current jelly, which I didn't happen to have. I did, however, have some seedles red raspberry jelly which I melted down and used instead. I figured if Cran*Raspberry was good enough for Ocean Spray, I could do it to. When done, my Cranberry Upside Down tart looked almost identical to the photo in the book.
I took the cake to a meeting for dessert. I thought it was good, the other people at the meeting through it was great. All of them had at least 2 pieces and one guy even had 3. I took one piece home for my mother who thought it was fantastic. I probably would have liked it better with a little ice cream or whipped cream. The cake was extremely tender
Neither of these cakes are fancy, upscale cakes, but they were both really quite good. Both recipes were ridiculously easy to make and would be good choices for a beginning baker.
Swedish visiting cake (p. 197)
Simple and easy. Let's say you want to have a little cake, perhaps for tea, with an almond taste. This is it -- tasty and simple.
I used a 9" round cake pan that I buttered and floured since I don't have a cast iron skillet, as Dorie recommends. I've made an almond torte with ground up blanched almonds. This is easier to make spur of the moment. I recommend it!
Cinammon Chocolate Squares
This was a winner. I didn't use the instant coffee/espressor for the middle crumb layer. I was going to, but it turns out, instant coffee does go bad (and boy, was it icky). Anyway, the cake was fast and easy. While it was baking, I was able to also whip up the brown sugar bundt cake (will report on that tomorrow, after I've had a taste).
I used an 8" square pan with parchment on the bottom. I forgot to butter the sides of the dish, but it didn't matter. The cake slid right out. I used 70% Sharfenberger dark chocolate bars, both for the middle as well as the chocolate glaze.
C and I were working in separate rooms, eating the cake. I just heard a "wow" and then silence. I can't wait to try it again, but this time, with the instant coffee powder.
Brown Sugar Bundt Cake
This was also very good. Through no fault of the recipes, I think this can be even better.
My subs: I used 2.5 cups of flour, the almond extract, the pears and 1/2 walnuts. I subbed the walnuts in for the prunes/raisins/dried fruit option. I did not use ground nuts because I didn't feel like getting the food processor out.
I used 2 bosc pears that were still on the hard side. And, my pieces were bigger than the 1/4 inch dice. I think the cake would have been better if my pears were riper, in smaller pieces and if I added about 1/4 cup more nuts.
The blog recipe states to let the cake rest for 10 minutes and then to dump it out. I did so but should have waited an additional 10. I just put the broken pieces back on the cake.
The cake was incredibly moist but it did not taste like caramel (from the blog writer). Funny, even though this is under the cake portion of the book, to me, this is breakfast food. I think it is a very versatile cake that has a lot of possibilities. And, I liked how I could keep my dislikes out of the cake (raisins, ick) and sub in things that I prefer, i.e. nuts.
Devil's Food White-Out Cake
I made this for a friend's birthday dinner. It looked quite spectacular even though I made a few mistakes. I baked the cakes in a 9 inch pan instead of 8 inch pan. So they were very flat. Thankfully my sloppy measuring also resulted in one cake being taller than the other which I could turn into 2 layers. On the smaller cakes i just sliced off enough to even out with the other layers, but still had enough "crumbs" for decoration. I found the icing directions to be very confusing and it only made sense after I read her clarification on eGullet's thread. This was my first attempt at a layer cake and was very pleased with the results.