I'll confess that when I do one of the baking projects, I try to predict what will cause problems for the other bakers. Of course, if things go well for me, I assume they'll go well for everyone else, so the Cratered Coffee Crisps came as a surprise. If I have trouble, I assume (hope?) that at least a few other people will have the same problem. I realize this is not a Dalai Lama-approved attitude, but I never claimed to be perfect.
So when I finished baking the wonderful Chocolate Cuddle Cake, my predictions were that: 1) some people would have trouble with the cake (when we were doing Heavenly Cakes, there were always problems with chiffon cakes); 2) some people would have problems with the paraphernalia--the rose nail, the parchment strips, the pan itself; 3) some would not do well with the ganache--I couldn't be the only one whose ganache turned to cement, could I?; 4) everyone would love the whipped cream; and 5) people would want to know what the heck a cuddle cake is.
So how did I do as a prognosticator?
As to the chiffon cake, I had to go all the way down to Kim's blog to find a problem with it. (Why is Kim almost at the bottom? Because Blogger rather stupidly alphabetizes blogs starting with "The" (like The Finer Cookie) as if they start with T, not with F). Poor Kim's failed cake occurred because she not only ignored Rose's instructions not to grease the bottom of the pan, she willfully ignored them, as in, "I was convinced it was an error." When her cake came out of the oven, she immediately spotted her error: "The hot cake didn't have anything to hang onto as it cooled. Damn." I thought it was pretty clever to realize the error, and not just to have a conniption. But Take 2 went fine.
In the "pan, parchment, nail" department, there were a few mishaps, but none were serious. No one had a problem with the pan because over half the bakers used something other than the required pan. Square pans, angel food cake pans, six-inch layer cake pans...you name it, someone tried it. Sometimes I wonder whether Rose and Woody read our posts and say, "Can't these people follow directions?" or whether (I hope) they say, "Aren't these people clever?"
Nor were there many problems with the rose nail. Vicki, understandably a bit flustered after her first cake splattered on the kitchen floor, simply forgot to use it, but with no bad results. Kristina lost her flower nail, and forgot to set her timer because she was single-mindedly searching her entire kitchen for the nail, but she found it almost immediately after she put the cake in the oven and that reminded her that she hadn't set the timer. Not much real drama there, just a great result.
Nancy had trouble removing some of the parchment strips, but no harm done, since the sides were ultimately covered in ganache. Jenn forgot to use her parchment pieces, and therefore, she claimed, her cake turned out to be embarrassingly small. Really, only on Alpha Bakers would someone post an absolutely gorgeous photo of a mouth-watering cake and pronounce herself "ashamed."
I was totally wrong with my prediction about the ganache causing problems. I finally found someone who had a little difficulty with the ganache. Alice said her "only complaint" was that the ganache was "very firm when it cooled so it was less like frosting and more like...." (I really thought she was going to say cement, but she didn't) "more like a chocolate truffle topping." I'm not sure this is a problem. Cement is a problem..
Jen had no problems with the ganache. In fact, she didn't even bother to make it since she had a bowl of Midnight Ganache in her freezer. (I think that Jen has a magic freezer--she's always reaching into it and pulling out things like Midnight Ganache--it could be that she's sold her soul to the devil, but at least she got something for it). And she also got a whipped cream that turned out beautifully even though she didn't bother to stabilize it. Like Jen, Jill had no problems with this cake, even though she also bent the rules: she used the wrong size pan; she added salt to the caramel; she minimized the use of whipped cream, filling the top with caramel instead of caramel whipped cream. But everything went swimmingly! What is the going price for a soul anyway?
Hanaa also had no difficulties with the ganache, but I can't give her full credit because she didn't make it. Her husband doesn't like chocolate that's overpowering, and this chiffon cake, sans dark chocolate ganache, made him happy. Also Miss I-Never-Met-a-Recipe-I-Couldn't-Change Hanaa baked it in a tube pan, layered it, and filled it with an easier caramel whipped cream of her own making (she even included the recipe for those who want to make a quicker caramel made with agave nectar) She swears by it, and I happen to know that State Fair Winner Hanaa has excellent taste in baked things.
Although there were very few of the problems I predicted, there were a few unexpected ones. Vicki's was probably the worst--her cake just slipped out of her hands on its way into the oven, making a huge and unsalvageable mess. Did she let this mishap stop her? She did not, and the next one worked like a charm.
But the biggest problems came with the heralded caramel whipped cream. Mendy had a couple of strikes against him--first, he was using his trusty toaster oven, which, although it's turned out some remarkable desserts, does have its limitations. Second, he was baking this cake while he was fasting (at least we know his soul is still intact), and, perhaps distracted by the wonderful aromas of chocolate making their way to his hungry brain, he had a little "mishap" with the whipped cream, which settled into a consistency not very much like whipped cream Always cheerful, Mendy said the cream was still the "star of the show."
I don't know what was with the New Yorkers this week, but Katya also messed up her whipped cream. As she put it bluntly, "it looked like vomit." Actually when I looked at Mendy's, I thought it also looked like vomit, but I was too polite to say so. Although since I'm saying it now, I guess I can't claim to be too polite to mention it. Katya and Mendy also dealt with their whipped cream issues with Brooklyn savoir faire: they added some extra cream, did more whipping, and served it up.
Rosa's cream also curdled, but she didn't picture it, which was just as well. She recovered nicely, however, by casually whipping up some mousseline with mocha butter cream and topping it with some leftover caramel. And by the way, what is up with all this leftover caramel? If I make caramel, I carefully recover every kilogram and eat it up on the spot. If I'm feeling generous, I share it with Jim, or with JJ, who's crazy about caramel. There should be no such phrase as "leftover caramel." Leftover oatmeal, maybe, but not leftover caramel.
Monica had no intention of baking this cake, but was lured back into the fold by promises of "epic" whipped cream. Guess what? Hers curdled too. After cursing the cream in three languages, she sighed a deep sigh, added more cream, and called it a sauce.
Faithy's whipped cream also started to curdle, but she was able to bring it back to "90%" whipped cream consistency. And she loved it--"it is soo YUMMY!" She liked it so much she decided she'd put caramel in her next buttercream, and make the cuddle cake in two layers next time so she could use even more whipped cream.
Jenn didn't struggle with the whipped cream once she got the caramel right, but, ever the perfectionist, she ended up making the caramel three times--THREE TIMES--before she was satisfied with it.
Despite the various whipped cream mishaps, I was right that people thought it was wonderful. I can't give myself many points about that prediction, because it IS wonderful. In fact, I would be highly suspicious of any person who didn't like it because such a person would doubtless have additional serious character flaws. Glori called it the "most flavorful" she's ever tasted. Nancy's sister-in-law pleaded with her for a promise to make the whipped cream on its own sometime. "Absolutely not," Nancy said sternly. Then, remembering the taste of the whipped cream, she relented, "Well, maybe for a special occasion." Any occasion will do, says Jen (Evil Cake Lady)--"it's so amazing, you should make it even if you don't make the rest of the cake." Michele liked everything about the cake, but concluded that the "caramel whipped cream is by far the best part of this already stellar dessert."
Lois was a little bit of a late bloomer when posting her cake, but she took advantage of her knowledge about the raves the whipped cream was getting, so she made hers into a two-layer cake, frosted and filled with said wonderful whipped cream. (Eat your heart out, Faithy). Because hers was a mini-post (only two hundred words) and because she had no difficulty, her blog was really memorable more for her casual aside about eating vegan Buffalo wings than about baking the cake. Caramel whipped cream sounds thrilling. Vegan buffalo wings sound disgusting.
And, as I predicted, there were a questions about the name--Glori is still asking herself why it's called a cuddle cake. Patricia said her only question about the cake was about the name: the cake itself was just about perfect, but "cuddle" does not do "this elegant cake justice. Maybe chocolate cloud or chocolate embrace would be more appropriate?"
Katya was the only one who thought the name was perfectly fine. She says she "comes from a family that has a tendency to lie in a heap, frequently while watching A League of Their Own, so "cuddle" connotes happiness, security, and love. When you put it that way, a "cuddle cake" sounds pretty good.
Raymond didn't really object to the name, but didn't think it was quite sufficient. He said, "I have really been struggling for words to describe the cuddle cake and this morning, after eating probably my 10th piece before heading to the gym to work it all off, it finally came to me. This cake is as light as a feather and as soft as a whisper." I love the idea of rhapsodizing about a cake while you're at the gym--it shows you have your priorities right.
What I didn't predict is that this turned out to be a magnificent birthday cake for two of our members: Glori and Jenn. Who could wish for a better birthday cake? The only thing that would make it better is if someone else made it for them. Happy birthday, Glori and Jenn! Michele also made it as a birthday cake, for her friend's daughter's 21st birthday. Lucky girl--I hope she appreciated it.
Speaking of birthdays, be sure to let us know what treat you end up baking for your own birthday!
No special tools, pans, or procedures needed for our next project: the Black and Blueberry Pie, or Pate Bruisée.
We make up for the relative simplicity of this recipe with the following one: the Golden Orange Panettone with Chocolate Sauce. Panettone is usually made in a disposable paper mold, but the 6"' by 4" doesn't seem to be a standard size. I bought it on amazon,com, and it's now out of stock, but Rose also gives the option of using a 6" by 6" souffle mold or coffee can. You can also use a somewhat smaller paper mold and adjust the amount of dough you put in the mold. I ordered some "fine quality" candied orange peel from Amazon; I tasted it and thought it was much better than the supermarket variety, which is way too soft. I got Boyajian orange oil from Sur La Table. Rose's original recipe called for Fiori di Sicilia, which I bought when I made my first (and only) panettone. I didn't notice a bitter aftertaste then, so I doubt I would now, but I bought the new stuff anyway.
And do start reading the recipe! It doesn't look especially difficult, but there are a number of stages, so the whole thing takes about a week from start to finish.
After that, a simple cookie recipe again: but be sure to measure the ginger instead of weighing it. 3 teaspoons is not the same as 3 grams!