17 August 2006

Year of Cake: Fun With Double Boilers

Dad's been complaining it's too hard for him to think up cake ideas all on his own, so I let him borrow two cookbooks to help him along. They came back to me full of bookmarks and little notes on preferred variations. His selections are rather interesting in their diversity -- everything from "Lemon Coconut Layer Cake" to (four layer!) "Pecan Cake with Tangerine Cream Frosting" to a brandy soaked fruitcake (aged for two months, no less) -- but not especially complicated and my worries involve ingredient procurement more than possible technical problems.

I'm looking forward to the fruitcake. Like the Battenburg, it's one of those things I've wanted to try, but haven't had sufficient reason to. I'm going to get my fruits from the King Arthur catalog as I'm generally pleased with their products and the brandy will be whatever Dad loves best. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, here.

August's selections was "Sponge Cake with Fruit and Cream" from Mary Wilkinson's Desserts: Mouthwatering Recipes for Delectable Dishes (pages 172-173, Anness Publishing: 1997) and it was as it sounds. Split sponge cake filled with sweetened whipped cream and berries then topped with more cream and berries. Strawberries are starting to look a bit crap again (out of season) so I used raspberries, instead, with good results.


The cake recipe called for filling a saucepan with hot water set over low heat then putting the eggs in a heat proof bowl which nested inside the pan without touching the water and (using an electric hand mixer) beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together until the mixture was very thick. I don't have an electric hand mixer, so had to whisk it and I'm pretty sure the cake batter never quite reached the right consistency. I mean, it tasted just fine in the end, but the layers seemed much thinner than those in the photo -- not enough aeration, I guess.

I'm also guessing that I could have substituted any old cake batter recipe with just as good results. Any cake filled with fruit and cream is bound to taste good. Mmmm. A chocolate sponge with cream and raspberries ... that would be good ... or lemon with blackberries ....

Next month: "Lemon Coconut Layer Cake" also from Mary Wilkinson's Desserts: Mouthwatering Recipes for Delectable Dishes (Anness Publishing: 1997).

14 August 2006

Flutterbys

Yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary. Yes, seventh. That's wool/copper or desk sets, if you believe in that sort of thing. Which we don't. Which is why we ended up with no gifts and a lot of butterfly pictures.

We drove up to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory on Sunday and ooo-ed and ahhhed over all the flutterbys.



04 August 2006

Roll Me Up

This week? So not the best week of my life. But, hey, what can you do? Everything seems out of sorts and I feel as if I have no control over anything and this turns me into Super Bitch and then I feel bad for bitching at people whose only sin, after all, is being in the same universe as me this week and so I look for ways to make up for my bitchiness or, at least, work through my bitchiness and so ...

I baked my mom a cake. Yes. It sounds completely stupid, but it made me feel better. It's hard to feel cranky and scared and lost when my hands are busy. It's horrible to admit, but that dreadful substitute teacher we had in fourth grade was on the right track. I don't believe busy hands are necessarily happy hands, but they are certainly distracted hands. Some days, distraction is all I can hope for.

Anyway, let's talk about cake. I made the "Angel Food Roll" from Aimee's Adventures and it came out pretty damned well. I used raspberry yogurt and French vanilla pudding with just a couple drops of red food coloring to give the filling a nice blush color. I've always been intimidated by jelly rolls ... it's the whole rolling without cracking shtick that bothers me. My luck, it would break at every turn. Well, the trick is to follow the directions. Do what the recipe tells you to do and it comes out fine.

Yes, I know the whole roll is full of nothing but preservatives and chemical flavorings and other nutritional no-nos, but I can only make my mother fruit salad so many times before we all start flinching at the merest glimpse of the crystal compote. Anyway, you need to understand my mother's own dessert run heavily toward sugar-free Jell-o/Cool Whip combinations -- this was going to be right up her alley.

And it was. Happily, my mother liked the roll so much she ate two slices and kept the leftovers.

My bitchiness level? Subsiding.