Thursday, July 16, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "I felt as though I tasted molasses for the first time."

Photo by Kim
The Finer Cookie

This week was all about molasses.  If you like the taste of plain, unadulterated molasses, you loved these little gems.  If you didn't, well, you didn't.  As Kim said, "My first reaction to them was they were odd, as the flavour was intense, and maybe they were too moist, or greasy, or I don't know what.  But after a few days, ... I realized that I was developing a palate for these tiny punch-you-in-the face cakes.   I mean that it took me a few days to give up my preconceived notions of what molasses should taste like, and accept their simplicity."

Or, as our grandson JJ said, "This is kind of good, but it's kind of weird."  

A lot of people fell in the "kind of good" category--or even in the "I loved them" department.

Rachel appreciated that they were "much easier" [than the cheesecake] and "yummy to boot."  She also liked their simplicity, which made them high on the "child friendliness scale."  No complaints from her husband either, especially when she frosted them with leftover Dreamy, Creamy icing. Why didn't I think of that?

In a great leap of faith, Mendy doubled the recipe, making some as cakelets and some in a bigger, mini-bundt cake size.  He preferred the small bundt cakes to the cakelets, describing them as "delicious and tangy," but said he wouldn't use the crumbs again as the kids didn't like them.  We bakers are always having to please spouses and children.  It's a challenge.

Jen gave these cakelets an unqualified yes:  "these were a huge hit at our house."  At first she wasn't happy with the "cakelet" part of the recipe, thinking she'd never use mini-muffin pans.  But then she remembered she had a toddler (I'll bet she never forgot), and decided that a mini-muffin pan was just what she needed after all.  Jen recommends the non-stick variety so you don't have to spray them first.  "Super moist, incredibly flavorful, the Molasses Crumb Cakelets are a winner."

Joan's "yes" was actually a "yes but."  She called the cakelets "enchanting," but her only quibble was they seemed a little oily and underdone.  But she wants to make them again, using a lighter molasses, taking their temp, and skipping the pre-spray.  Oh, you must check out the picture of Joan's gargantuan mini-muffin pan (a contradiction in terms, I know, but one pan makes 48 muffins!).

Katya also gave these a favorable review, but her blog is in a class by itself:  part travelogue, part love song to San Francisco, part ode to Tartine's "storied morning bun," and part appreciation of the "frugal, spicy face of Northeast austerity and hospitality" exemplified by the Molasses Crumb Cakelet, which is "really really good."  "Richness isn't only in effort or butterfat."

Now for the people who belonged to the "kind of weird" group.

While everyone appreciated the ease of putting them together, some people just couldn't get past the dark, strong molasses.  In Catherine's words, "I was tempted to title this post 'blergh.'"  Her problem was the "overpoweringly strong molasses taste," although she thought perhaps the molasses she had bought was too dark and strong.  She'd like to try them with golden syrup, or even treacle.  (Now treacle does sound scary to me).

Faithy also fell into the category of "too much molasses for me."  (Faithy does love gingerbread cookies, made with molasses, but not gingerbread cake, also made with molasses.)  When she saw that the recipe contained neither butter nor eggs, she had her suspicions that she wasn't going to be crazy about them.  And, although she thought they improved with age, she wasn't (crazy about them, that is).  But they did make her crave "our Chinese mini steamed colored rice cake ... eaten with shredded coconut and orange sugar."  Now that does sound odd, but there's no accounting for taste.

There were numerous suggestions about how to make them even better.  

Jeniffer, for example, had these ideas:  "I would freeze the topping mix to be added to oat fruit crumble topping and dip the tops of the small cakes into dark chocolate instead.  Citrus zest and spices could also be added to the cake batter for a change or nuts/chocolate chips/dried fruit would also work."  But she plans to keep them in her repertoire because "you can't have enough quick pantry recipes."

Milagritos not only had some great ideas, she tried them all out--in Take 2.  Her first try was following the recipe, but her husband said he hated molasses.  Milagritos pointed out, very reasonably I thought, that these were molasses cakes.  Still, he stubbornly persisted.  So for her second version, she made a loaf cake, using coconut oil instead of canola oil, substituting honey for half the molasses, and reducing the sugar by nearly half.   Even molasses-hating husband loved this result, although, of course, they could no longer fairly be called "molasses cakelets" but could be called a molasses-honey loaf.

Vicki also had a Take 2.  She forgot to withhold the part of the mixture used to make crumbs, so her first batch was crumbless.  She figured that omission accounted for the texture, which seemed a little gummy.  She made a few other changes in Take 2 as well--substituting some Lyle's Golden Syrup (Rose has created a bunch of golden syrup super-fans) and using coconut spray dusted with cocoa to keep the outsides of the cakes from becoming too oily.  She loved the addition to her vegan repertoire, but thought the next time she made them she'd add cinnamon or cardamom or vanilla.

If you've been following Tony's blog for the months we've been doing this, it won't surprise you to hear that he is among the doctorers to this recipe.  He used 2/3 golden syrup to 1/3 molasses and a mixture of white and brown sugar.  He also added Tony's Special Spice Mix, which he didn't specify, but the photo reveals that it contains allspice, mace, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom.

Our newest baker, Aimee, summed them up like this:  "a short, easily procured ingredient list makes tiny and tasty dairy and egg-free cakes."  Her suggestion for next time was to substitute honey for part of the molasses, add some warm spices, and serve them with goat cheese as part of a Thanksgiving appetizer plate.  Aimee, wait until you try the pepparkakors, which have just such a suggestion for turning a sweet into a savory.

Some people even had reservations about taking them to the office, the usual repository for an overabundance of baked goods.  Kristina must have apologized for taking them to an office barbecue because "they went over really well" and everyone told her she had "undersold them."  She thought maybe the crumbs could be improved by using butter instead of oil, but, whatever she thought of them, they disappeared at work.

Jenn was not looking forward to these because of the molasses, and a tasting verified her misgivings.  "It tasted like straight up molasses, which is not really surprising considering that is the name of the cake and the mean ingredient."  She didn't send them to her husband's office because she didn't want to serve something she didn't like to others.  Great photos, though!

Coming up:  Kourambiethes--as hard to spell and harder to pronounce than dattelkonfekt, but so delicious!  I've made them several times and I think they're my favorite cookie so far.  I can't guarantee that you'll love them, but I can guarantee that I will.

There's a plan-ahead component with the clarified butter.  Other than that, they go together pretty quickly.  Rose explains in the Ingredients section that 454 grams of butter (1 pound) should yield 390 grams of clarified butter.  She also says that clarified butter should be about 75% of the weight of the original amount, so that, by my unreliable math, would be only about 340.5 grams, it looks like there could be a pretty big margin of error.  I plan to aim for 390 grams, but won't be upset if I have less than that.  


  1. yeah this already are gone in our house....probably missed my post...have a great weekend!

    1. Sorry, Orin! And I went through the list twice! I like your Christmas in July motif.

  2. Congrats Kim, that's a great photo. Thanks for the round up, Marie. I'm looking forward to the biscuits.

  3. Great round up, so interesting to hear/read everyones different experience with molasses and I love Kim's cake stand! ----- Jeniffer

  4. Fun roundup - multi ideas about these little guys.

  5. I would like to know what kind of butter Rose and Woody used to test the Kourambiethes? I am planning to use Land o' Lakes but there is some discussion about butter and I am wondering --

  6. Such a great picture and beautiful cake stand. We definitely are a group with distinctive taste preferences!