I'm very proud of myself for making this cake. I think that baking through Rose's cookbooks has made me a fairly good baker, but I'm pretty much at the bottom of the barrel when I have to decorate or make something that looks beautiful. But I really like the way this looks. True, I did nothing more than follow directions, so I guess I have to give Rose credit for figuring out how to make the layers turn out so pretty, but when I read this recipe, I envisioned a number of steps that could have disastrous results, so I want to give myself some credit too. Thank you.
Many months ago, when I made the Chocolate Cuddle Cake with Woody, I pulled out my 9-inch by 3-inch, never-used, cake pan with a removable bottom. I asked Woody if I could use this instead of the springform pan. He said no, that would never work. When someone tells me "no," I usually revert to my two-year-old self, so I knew it was inevitable that I try it anyway. It worked beautifully!
Unfortunately, just when I was feeling so pleased with myself for proving Woody wrong, I read the rest of the recipe again, and realized I was going to have to use the springform pan when I put on the layers of buttercream, so all I'd accomplished was to dirty two pans instead of just one.
The cake layer is quite simple to make, and it was fun to beat in the egg yolks one at a time. What can I say? I'm easily amused.
The tea-and-lemon syrup is easy too. Sadly, no vodka in mine, even though a few months ago Jim bought a bottle of Kirkland vodka in a two-gallon size (it's gigantic!) because I thought JJ might have a piece of cake, and his mother won't let me give him alcohol. She's not a free-range parent.
The cake seemed alarmingly soggy after I brushed the syrup on, and all I could do is hope that its resting period would take care of that. It did.
Actually, the pastry cream was pretty easy too. Cornstarch is mixed with milk. Jim loves to take pictures of whisks in motion.
I love the soft yellow color the milk gets when egg yolks are added to milk. There should be a Benjamin Moore color called Creme Anglaise.
The pastry cream looked so smooth that I was tempted to skip the straining step, but the sieve was already set up, and it was pretty late in the day to start worrying about extra dishes, I went ahead. Yes, there were little pieces of cooked egg that were left in the strainer, so I was glad I did. Now a long period of letting the pastry cream cool, so I could prepare the nuts, cocoa, chocolate, and raisins.
I recently discovered the technique of toasting nuts in the microwave. I've always felt guilty about heating up the oven just for nuts, and so I was excited to learn about this. No heating up the kitchen, no burned bits. It took me four one-minute intervals, stirring after each minute, for the nuts to look and smell roasted.
There is no denying the amount of butter in the buttercream. You can fool yourself into believing that the pastry cream is somewhat healthy (eggs and milk--like breakfast food), but these three big hunks of butter are hard to ignore.
Adding the pastry cream makes the butter look fluffier and less like giant slabs of fat. I ended up beating this for a very long time before it started looking smooth.
The cocoa-walnut layer of buttercream went on easily. I tasted the buttercream and thought it was delicious--like a crunchy chocolate mousse. It could be dessert all by itself.
Then the chocolate-raisin buttercream layer. I thought about omitting the raisins because I thought there were already plenty of flavors. But then Rose's Golden Rule #2 nagged at me, so I "made the recipe the way it is indicated." I think my mind's palate was right, though. They weren't bad, but every bite I had with a raisin in it seemed a little surprising, like "what's a raisin doing in this nice cake?" And I don't even hate raisins.
My cake was not as photogenic once I cut into it because I didn't use a sharp enough knife for the first cut, and Jim didn't get a picture of the second cut, after I cleaned up all the crumbs and stray raisiny goop. I think that was because he started to eat his slice, and he wias concentrating on that. He said it was "good." Then he said it was "very good." He liked the cake itself and he liked all the different textures. Definitely better than the C+ he gave the poor dattelkonfekt.
I thought the cake would be dry (even though it looked soggy), but it wasn't. It wasn't soggy either. The black tea flavor was subtle against the bolder chocolate flavors, but still discernible and interesting. Despite the 3/4 pound of butter, the buttercream--even with two layers--had a light texture and somehow even managed to taste light. I'm taking the cake to book club tonight, and am curious to see what their verdict is. If it's good, I'll make it again--but only for a crowd. I can't have a cake this tempting hanging around my house asking to be eaten.