Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Midweek Roundup: Cranberry Bogs Forever

Photo by Kristina

This was a simple cake, both in easy of preparation and in its basic ingredients.  In fact, it reminded Anna, who called it "simply delicious," of the "Busy Day" cake made by farm women in the 1930's.  I had never heard of this Busy Day cake, and I suspect I came closer to living in the 30's than Anna did.  My link is to a recipe from the Orangette blog, which is in turn from the famed Edna Lewis, author of Taste of Country Cooking.  

Jenn thought it the "easiest recipe so far from TBB," and as for "quick," it took her only one hour and 55 minutes to make it, including oven time.  If Jenn had a criticism it was that it was almost not sweet enough, with the tartness from both lemon and cranberries.  But Glori thought it was "easier than most things we've baked, but not necessarily quick," although she added, "Maybe I'm just a slow baker."  Somehow I doubt that.

It was Raymond who really stopped me in my tracks when he said it was "easy enough to put together when unexpected company arrives."  This really makes me want to stop by Raymond's house.  If someone stops by my house unexpectedly, I probably would give them the old fish-eye.  Maybe I'd offer them a cup of coffee, preferably cold and bitter, but what I would not do is whip up a dessert for them.  Raymond is clearly more hospitable than I am.

Whether you're a fast baker or a slow baker, this is never going to be classified as quick and easy in your mind if you end up making it two, or even three times.  Faithy's first attempt burned, so "in the dustbin" it went.  The second time, no burnt berries.  But Faithy "would have liked it more if it had more cake."  She wasn't the only one to say that, but it's hard to tell whether the proportions were off or whether the cake was so good, it just seemed like more would be a good idea.

Orin's third cake was "a winner."  Her first two cakes had both burned bottoms.  She changed flours and thermometers, but only when she removed the baking stone did it come together correctly.  And with the baking stone gone, she waxed euphoric:  "I took my first bite and it was light, fresh and moist" with a "wonderful sweetness from the raspberry combined with tartness from the cranberry."

From the large pool of those who did not have to bake it more than once, there was still some concern about the darkness of the fruit.

When Glori took off the parchment, her "heart sank.  It was SO DARK."  She liked it better the second day, but because it turned out so dark, she said she'd probably only bake it again to test her theory that the baking stone was the Prince of Darkness.

Catherine claimed that her picture looked "a bit more like roadkill" than the cake pictured in The Baking Bible, although the "tart lemony berry caramel flavour" probably tasted nothing like roadkill in reality, although it's probably true that none of us have tasted roadkill, and I'm not sure I want to find out about it if you did.  Catherine can be forgiven for not wanting her cake to look nasty since she purchased $22.95 of frozen cranberries to make it.  (Apparently frozen cranberries are hard to find in Australia).

When I saw the pictures of the dollops of meringue in the posts of the people who made that instead of the whipped cream option, I had to rethink my bias against meringue.  Orin's "meringue had an elegant and silken texture ...," which was "a perfect match to the cake.  Anna said her meringue reminded her of "iridescent pearl," yet it was so easy to make.

Jen went so far as to say she "might like the meringue better than the cake itself,"  which is saying something because this butter sour cream is her very favorite.  But she thought she might have "gone too far" in her substitutions when she subbed goat's milk yogurt for sour cream, because the cake turned out  "mushy and flat" and not like her old standby butter sour cream cake.  And although
Kim thought her cake looked like "smashed berry jam" when it came out of the oven (which is at least better than roadkill), her meringue, made with raspberry puree instead of seedless preserves, turned out a pretty birthday-party pink!  Maybe catch-up week will call for a upside-down cake with the meringue variation.

Several people, including Nancy, opted for the rhubarb variation with strawberry whipped cream.  In an interesting twist, she stabilized her whipped cream with cream cheese, which probably made it taste a little like creme fraiche.  Although Nancy swore that the effect of her cake was "rustic," she got plenty of complements, including a friend of her sister's who asked how much Nancy would charge to make one for her.  Being willing to part with your money is about the highest possible compliment.

Milagritos also made rhubarb variation, which looks beautiful, even though she has yet to taste it.  She said she made it in a "hangry state" (a mix of hunger and anger that causes you to do silly things., like not reading directions or failing to heed warnings.  Her cake is in the freezer, waiting to be unveiled (and tasted) on Easter.  You have to let us know how the hangry cake turned out!

Vicki didn't really want to try the cake with cranberries--in March "Cranberries belong in the cold autumn and winter months.  Or so I thought."  But it turned out to be so good that "some of us" couldn't even wait for the topping--and then "had to have another piece for comparison."  And Vicki's Italian meringue looked absolutely sumptuous, by the way; although she was doubtful, it turned out to be easier to make than she thought it would be.

But, as Raymond pointed out, the cake would be a "perfect base for many fruit toppings," so if enough of us drop in on him, maybe he'll come up with all possible variations.

Kristina certainly didn't think cranberries would do it for her husband, Jayy, who is not a "squishy fruit" fan, and cranberries are at the bottom of his list, although Kristina thought they were probably tied with rhubarb for last.  Yet, on tasting the cake, Jay said, "This is really good.  Can you keep it at home for us?"  Which goes to show that men are unpredictable.  Or that upside-down cake is good.

Joan not only made a beautiful cake, but also used beautiful utensils.  She had a lovely old (but scrubbed and polished) copper tarte tatin pan, a little smaller than the 9-inch cake pan, and so not fitting standard cake strips.  But the result still looked gorgeous.  After all, such old-fashioned recipes were not originally made with silicone strips or KitchenAids.  But isn't it nice to have them?

Congratulations again to Rose and Woody for winning the best baking cookbook award from the IACP.  And thanks especially for thinking of us Alpha Bakers in what must have been the first seconds knew you had won and gave your "Titan" acceptance fan.  We are some of your biggest fans, and we also appreciate how you go out of your way to make us feel that we add to your success.  I can't imagine anyone else who would take all the time you do to answer questions, encourage, and attempt to stave off disasters.


  1. Marie, you write your round up so quickly and like effortless! I thought I wasn't going to see your round up till later the week. Congrats to Rose & Woody!!

    1. Neither quick nor effortless, I'm afraid--I usually spend the better part of a day doing a roundup. But I'm glad to hear it looks like it's effortless!

    2. Because I think if it is me, I would take a month to write...and still have nothing to write about. I'm really bad at writing..most of the time I really cannot express well in writing and full of grammatical mistakes :p So I admire how you summarises so beautifully and perfectly all the time :)

  2. oh this was so delicious a roundup! i should be asleep at this hour but had to read each and every word. and thank you especially for your beautifully eloquent ending of appreciation. yes--i wanted to post immediately to our page and couldn't figure out how to get to it from the iphone so i sent the message to you to share. i feared it looked tacky to be emailing and texting while other awards were being announced! of course the first person i texted was Elliott who rarely has his phone on and didn't even see it til the next morning, but then he was so sure we would win based on something i had said that neither of us could remember and certainly hadn't convinced me! also, i have to say that winning didn't feel like just us who had won but all of us. we all participated especially you Marie who wrote the most amazing of forewords.

    1. Congratulations, Rose! I'm so pleased for you. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the process! It's been both enlightening and a truly unique experience.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Terrific roundup, Marie! I can't get my blog program to work for some reason but hope to get my post online shortly. Really love this recipe!

  4. Ii can empathize with you Michele, I hope you can avoid the horror I went through with it. x

  5. I think I might drop in on you one day, Marie, if only to find out what a fish-eye is. Don't worry I'll bring cake.