Jun 29, 2009

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

OMG! If I were 13 years old, that is how I would begin a description of this dessert, which is so impressive and delicious that it's sure to wow a crowd.
My last two bosses have both retired, and so our office had a party for the two of them. Like most public defender low-budget functions, this was a potluck, and, because some excellent lawyers are also excellent cooks, we had a good spread. Based on people's reactions to this trifle, I think I can safely say that it was one of the standouts in a crowded field, although I must give a shoutout to Ngoc's Vietnamese roast pork, Jodie's S'Mores cheesecake, and Sara's macaroons.

There are five components to this cake:
1. Raspberry syrup
2. Chocolate genoise
3. Creme Anglaise
4. Raspberries and Preserves
5. Raspberry Cream Topping
The syrup, the fruit, and the cream are all easy. The genoise and the creme anglaise are not difficult, although they are time-consuming, and, at one point on Thursday night, while I was straining the creme anglaise and working up quite a sweat running around the kitchen, I said, "If this is on the quick and easy list, I'm going to shoot myself." It's not.

You can make the syrup, which just involves sugar, water, a liqueur (framboise or Chambord), ahead of time, and refrigerate it. This is good because it 1) commits you to making the trifle and 2) makes you think that you're further along the road than you really are.
The second part is making the genoise. I made a genoise once, about 20 years ago. It was awful--about one-inch tall, leaden, and flavorless. I saw no reason to repeat that mistake because I have nothing against baking powder. I considered baking another kind of chocolate cake because no one would know what it was supposed to be like, but I knew I would be compelled to confess when writing about it, so I decided to forge ahead. I don't know what I did wrong 20 years ago (I didn't have a KitchenAid for one thing), but this genoise was light and flavorful.
The chocolate has to be melted and cooled, so I did that before I started on step #3, the creme anglaise.

The creme anglaise is lovely and rich, with more egg yolks (12) and more cream (2 cups plus a cup of milk) than most versions. As you probably know, creme anglaise can curdle if you overheat it, but it's okay if you don't let it get quite to the boiling point.

Those are vanilla bean pods left in the creme to add more flavor. I tried Evil Cake Lady's method of using fingernails instead of a knife to get the seeds out of the pod, but most of them stayed attached to my fingernails, so I added some vanilla extract to make sure the custard had enough of a vanilla punch. The creme anglaise had to cool for two hours before I could assemble the trifle, so I moved back to the cake.

I do like the transformation of the eggs after they've been heated and then beaten to within an inch of their lives.
The flour is folded in, and then the chocolate.

I wasn't very careful about folding in the flour, which became very obvious after the cakes were split--there were still a lot of white specks of flour. Rose advises plunging your hand into the batter and squeezing the little globules of flour specks, but that sounded too disgusting so I didn't do it. It didn't matter for the trifle, but I'll do it when I make this genoise again for another recipe.

The layers looked handsome coming out of the oven, and I removed them from the pan, and then inverted them again without mishap.
After I let the cakes cool, washed the raspberries, split the cakes, and spread raspberry preserves on each cake half, I was ready for the fun part--the layering.
If I did this again, I think I'd invest in a straight-sided trifle bowl. Mine is bigger at the top than at the bottom, so I had to cut one layer into a smaller circle, and, by the time I got to the top of the bowl, the cake was smaller than thw bowl and didn't come right up to the edge.

This is just one reason that my trifle did not look as spectacular as the one pictured in the book. Also, I'm kind of a klutz. Also, this is not my day job. The other problem--appearance-wise--is that the top two layers fell apart when I tried to pick them up and put them in the bowl. With the preserves spread on top of the cake halves, they became moister and more fragile. If they had not been destined for a trifle bowl and a lot of whipped cream, which covers a multitude of sins, I would have cried when the first layer fell apart. Then I would have cried harder when the next layer fell apart. Jim says I would have sworn and thrown something across the kitchen, but I think that would be immature.
Just before going to the party, I added the whipped cream, which was flavored, sweetened, and colored with more seedless raspberry preserves and a bit more framboise.

It's so pretty! Why has no one ever thought of this before? Or, at least, why haven't I thought of it?

I didn't have a tasting panel because it was a party, and also because I'd had a few glasses of wine and one of Teddie's signature cocktails, so I forgot. I can tell you that the comments were not only complimentary, they were ecstatic. Sara said, "Marie, this is good." I thanked her. She said, "No, Marie, I mean this is REALLY, REALLY good." Ngoc said it was bursts of flavor that melted in her mouth. I had tried each individual component separately and liked all of them, but then I love chocolate and raspberries together, I love custard, and I love whipping cream. I was afraid that the whole might be less than the sum of the parts, but it wasn't. All the individual flavors stood out, but they enhanced each other as well. This is definitely a dessert that's worth the time it takes to make it.

Jun 22, 2009

Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust

Every month, at the end of book club, we decide what food we'll bring to next month's meeting. We love to read, but, let's face it, we really love to eat. I immediately grabbed the dessert course, but said that it would have to be cake. No one objected. I wanted to make something from the Mostly Flourless Cakes and Cheesecakes section, and finally settled on the ginger cheesecake.

Of course, this being a Rose Levy Beranbaum concoction, it is a ginger cheesecake unlike any other. It's not made with powdered ginger--it's made with squeezed fresh ginger juice. How do you juice a ginger, you ask? You just grate lots and lots of it, and then squeeze it dry.

It takes a big honking piece of gingerroot to yield three tablespoons of ginger juice, but it's kind of fun to squeeze it out by hand. I put the squeezed-dry ginger in my compost pile, where I'm sure it will add an exotic touch to the compost.
I might as well admit right now that I took a shortcut in this recipe. You can either buy a little package of gingersnaps to make the crust, or you can make your own gingerbread cookies. If you opt for the homemade cookies, you can make tiny gingebread people and press them against the side of the cheesecake for decoration. The picture showing the gingerbread girls and boys looks cunning, I'll admit, but I had to make this cheesecake after work Monday night in order to have it for book club on Tuesday. I had the choice of forgoing the cookies or forgoing sleep. I bought the little package of gingersnaps.
I did not, however, take a shortcut with the cardamom. The recipe suggests cardamom as an optional flavoring that adds an "aromatic floral quality." Not ground cardamom, though. That would be too easy. For this cheesecake, you "remove the husk and fibers from about 6 cardamom pods."

I didn't even know that cardamom came in pods. After you remove the husk and fibers, you have little brown things that look sort of like mouse turds, but I tried not to think about that. And after you grind it, it smells a lot like powdered cardamom. If you were to take another shortcut in this recipe and not actually grind the cardamom, it would probably not cause the world to come to an end.
You absolutely could not substitute anything for the fresh ginger, however. When I tasted the batter, I couldn't believe how delicious it was. I really didn't want to bother to bake it, although I did, because taking a big bowl of cheesecake batter to book club does not seem comme il faut.
The batter goes into a springform pan on which the gingersnap crust has been patted out.

The pan then goes into a hot water bath.

I wish I had been more scrupulous about wrapping the spring-form pan with foil, because there was a little seepage into the cheesecake, and the crust was not quite the consistency I would have liked. But the hot water bath seems to work wonders in preventing the Grand Canyon look that cheesecakes sometimes get.
The cake came out of the oven looking beautiful, and would have remained so if I had not tried to remove the cheesecake from the pan's bottom onto a plate. As I was sliding it ever so carefully (I thought), it sort of broke in two. Undaunted, I shoved the two pieces together and covered the tell-tale crack with a design made from slices of preserved ginger. I thought this was rather clever of me, although it would not have fooled Sherlock Holmes.

Okay, so it wouldn't have fooled a two-year-old. But it just shows that you can often rescue something if you don't insist on perfection. Even if the appearance of this cheesecake wasn't perfect, the texture was nearly so. Although it seems ridiculous to say that something with a pound of cream cheese, 3 cups of sour cream, and 3 eggs can be light, this tasted light and surprisingly refreshing. And the fresh ginger taste was even better in the baked cheesecake than it was in the batter. My dear friend Mary, who is having radiation therapy for a benign tumor of the salivary gland, is at the point of therapy where everything tastes like sawdust. I was happy that she perked up at the cheesecake and said it actually tasted good. I agreed.


Sally: "The ginger taste is subtle, not overwhelming, like ginger sometimes is. Very delicious."

Fran: "Creamy texture--it's firm, but still creamy."

Laurel: "Light and fluffy"

Mary: "Very soothing for someone undergoing radiation therapy."

Jun 15, 2009

Financiers au Chocolat

These are translated as "chocolate ingots." But literally, they are chocolate bankers. If we were naming something for bankers now, it wouldn't be rich, sweet, delightful little cakes. Or if we did name them for bankers, we'd probably call them "chocolate parasites." Apologies to any bankers out there; I'm sure it's not your fault we stood at the precipice of economic disaster.

I learned some new techniques with this recipe--how to make beurre noisette, which is a very brown butter that means, I'm pretty sure, hazelnut butter. Named for the color? The flavor? I'm not sure. It takes a long time--I mean a LONG time--but eventually it does what it's supposed to do. I also learned how to make caramelized cacao nibs. (In the process, I learned that you can't walk into any 7-11 store and find cacao nibs). I also used my silicone financier pan for the very first time.

And I used my new pastry bag to get the financier batter into the financier molds.
I've always had my doubts about silicone bakeware. It's so flimsy and plastic-y looking, like it will melt in the oven for sure. But everyone is using them now, and I had to think that if they melted in ovens, I'd have heard about it.
I was working sporadically on these financiers most of the day. At one point, Jim said, "I guess this isn't one of the 'quick and easy' recipes, is it?" I said, "I guess not. Ha, ha." Then I looked at the list. Dear readers, I will leave it to you to decide whether this fits your definition of quick and easy. I can tell you that it makes me think that the "long and hard" recipes are going to be a slog.
The first step was roasting the almonds. Well, that's no big deal. The second step is making the brown butter, or, more fancily, beurre noisette. This is one of those miracle recipes. You follow the directions--stir constantly over low heat--and nothing seems to be happening.

Then, suddenly, after about 20 minutes of stirring, the milk solids on the bottom of the pan, do, indeed, turn a dark brown, and the remaining brown butter is strained out, leaving the solids behind.

The brown butter itself tastes so delicious that it almost seems a shame to cover it up with the rest of the ingredients, like flour and cocoa, when it would be so good as a simple sauce. Rose suggests making a big batch of it because it keeps for months in the refrigerator and years in the freezer, but I didn't listen.
The next step is making caramelized cacao nibs, which requires, naturally, cacao nibs. I tried my friendly neighborhood Kowalski's, where the very helpful man looked extremely doubtful when I asked him where the cacao nibs might be. I finally found them at Kitchen Window, which has both packaged Schaarfen-Berger and a less expensive French nib in bulk. Right out of the package, the cacao nibs taste pretty bitter, but caramelizing them enhances the chocolate flavor while decreasing the bitterness. This step was actually pretty easy, although anything that's caramelized always strikes fear into my heart because things can go wrong so quickly and dramatically.

Nothing went wrong, and I was left with far more caramelized cacao nibs than I needed for this recipe, but I expect I will find a use for them. Perhaps I will just eat them out of hand.

Making the batter is simple--just a matter of mixing egg whites and sugar, and then adding a flour/almond/cornstarch mix which you've already pulverized in the blender, and then slowly adding the beurre noisette. Filling the financier pan called for the debut performance of my new pastry bag/tube.

Using the tube makes it much easier to fill the pan, but it's time-consuming to fill the tube, so it kind of evens out. I'll have to admit I really liked the way the little indentations filled so neatly and evenly.
My financier pan must be tinier than the standard, however, because, although the recipe is supposed to make only 15 financiers, I filled up my 20-cup pan, then over-filled them, and still had enough batter left to fill a Pyrex custard cup to make a large financier-muffin. I would have thought that a financier mold would be a standard size, but I guess I would be wrong.

I almost forgot the last step--to sprinkle the caramelized cacao nibs on top. These are listed as optional, but they really are not. Almost everyone who tasted these commented about the delicious, crunchy topping. It's really what makes these little bites of chocolate stand out.

These are not knock-your-socks-off chocolatey, like the Chocolate Oblivion cake, for example. The strongest chocolate flavor comes from the cacao nibs rather than the cocoa in the batter. Their texture is light and almost airy, not dense, as you might expect. It has subtle layers of flavor--I first tasted chocolate, then nuts, then butter. If you like chocolate and almonds, as reader ButterYum does, these may be for you.
Jim didn't rave about them at first. He liked them, but he thought they weren't chocolatey enough and not big enough. But then he ate a second one, as well as the big muffin-shaped one; after his third, he seemed more enthusiastic.
As for the "quick and easy" listing, I guess I could go for the "easy" part. Nothing was really difficult--it was just new. Now that I've made beurre noisette once, it wouldn't intimidate me to make it a second time. And the caramelized cacao nibs were much easier than making actual caramel. But I don't think I can really endorse the "quick" label--unless you already have beurre noisette and caramelized cacao nibs in your freezer. I personally don't know of a single person who considers either of these items a staple, but, if you do, you could whip them up in no time. And that could make you a very popular person indeed.


Sara: "Surprisingly light tasting for having so much butter in them--a good summery chocolate dessert. And I love the cacao nibs."

Karen: "Wonderfully chocolatey--possibly the answer to a chocolate-lover's craving for just a bit of chocolate."

Laurel: "Perfectly executed little loaves and wonderfully crunchy topping. But the cake's taste was flat--maybe it needed a little more salt?"

Susan: "Just the right size for snacking--love the cacao nibs! Perfect for tea."

Jun 10, 2009

Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream

Heavenly Cakes is divided into five main sections: Butter and Oil Cakes; Sponge Cakes, Mostly Flourless Cakes and Cheesecakes, Baby Cakes, and Wedding Cakes. The three recipes I've tried so far have all been from the first section, so it seemed time for me to branch out a bit. I went to the Baby Cakes chapter. And, by the way, there is a handy page toward the back of the book that lists 32 Quick-and-Easy recipes. It may not come as a total surprise to you that most of the cakes I've tried so far have been of the quick-and-easy variety. Although, as I've mentioned before, it's all relative. Not so quick and easy if you're comparing to a box cake or to the infamous microwave cake in a mug.
These cupcakes are also from the Quick and Easy list, and so what, I say. They are, in my completely objective opinion, the most delicious cupcakes I've ever tasted, and, although the frosting is not piped on, or mile-high, or decorated with cute little thingies, it's better than the frosting on the cupcakes sold in adorable little bakeries and coffee shops.

Let me put in a little plug here for measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume. I always liked cooking better than baking because I thought measuring was a nuisance. You're supposed to be precise when you bake, but you never know whether you're supposed to measure sifted flour or measure the flour first, then sift it. And how can you be exact about two tablespoons of honey when half the honey stays in the spoon. I resisted a scale because it seemed too ... foreign, maybe, or too scientific. I love it now. The recipe says 200 grams? I can give you 200 grams, not 199, and not 201.

And, when it's time to put batter in the cupcake tins, I can figure out exactly what 50 grams of batter looks like in the muffin tin:

The batter for these cupcakes is put together the same way as the other butter cakes I've made: dry ingredients mixed together, then softened butter mixed into the dry ingredients; finally, two additions of combined wet ingredients (e.g., eggs, vanilla, sour cream, milk). It's a simple basic procedure that yields--at least so far--a lovely, tender, moist cake.

The frosting almost did me in, though. It wasn't so much that it was hard to make--more that it kept threatening to turn into a disaster. First, my egg whites didn't want to whip. (I think it's easier to beat egg whites in a hand-held mixer than in the stand mixer with the whisk beater, at least when it's only two egg whites). The real trauma came when I was mixing the already whipped butter into the beaten eggs. It was more butter than the poor little egg whites wanted to absorb. The mixture curdled into an unsightly mess. Jim didn't catch the curdling with his camera because he didn't know what it was. I think he may have run out of the kitchen in response to my string of curses. Fortunately, Rose tells you what to do if the frosting starts to curdle, although she could perhaps have been a bit more reassuring. "Do not panic!" for example, or "All is not lost!" And, even though I panicked, all was not lost.

It turned into a smooth, glisteny chocolate mass. And no problem to frost these little babies, either. The frosting went on easily, and was quite malleable. If I were a better decorator, I could have turned out something that looked like the $5 cupcakes you can buy. Even though they're not that pretty, these cupcakes have a $10 taste.

Everyone raved about the cupcakes. There was enthusiasm, though not as much, about the frosting. I'll tell you that there is no point in giving this frosting to people who aren't wild about dark chocolate. It had 5 ounces - which is a LOT of chocolate - of ScharfenBurger 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate. Although the icing looks innocent, it carries a powerful, deep chocolate punch. Most people who ate these cupcakes thought it was a bit much. Me, I thought it was amazing. I have vowed to eat only one piece of cake that I make, but I have to tell you that when I finished my cupcake, I wanted another one. And then when I looked at them before I went to bed, I really wanted another one. Someday I may sit down and eat five or six. But not yet. That way lies madness. Or at least fatness.


Leila: "The cupcake has a good texture--I love the crunchy top. I'm not a big chocolate fan, but the frosting is good: very rich, but light."

Karen: "The cake is moist, light, and very good. Dark chocolate is not my favorite, and it seemed to overwhelm the cupcake."

Joe: "The cupcake's crunchy top was a very nice touch. It's one of the best I've ever eaten--light and fluffy. The chocolate was a surprise. I wasn't expecting the dark chocolate taste. It was good."

Jun 9, 2009

Black Chocolate Party Cake

This is my first chocolate cake from Heavenly Cakes, although I think there must be a few dozen different chocolate recipes. I love chocolate, but I've noticed that if I have four desserts to choose from, the chocolate one is almost never my first choice. Not because I hate chocolate--how sad would that be?--but because it's likely to be the least interesting offering. Given the same four desserts, Jim is likely to choose the chocolate one, so I think this was his favorite cake so far.

Like the first two choices, this one is also easy. Although I guess easy is relative. As I sat down to write this post, I got an email from an old friend of mine, who told me that her latest food discovery is a three-minute chocolate cake you make in a mug in the microwave. "It's making the rounds on the net," she said. I googled cake & microwave & mug, and, sure enough, I found about 179,000 references to this fabulous cake. Compared to cake-in-a-mug, the black chocolate party cake requires the skills of a French pastry chef.
The first thing you do is roast some walnuts for seven minutes and then rub the walnut skins off with a dish towel.

This is where my faith in Rose comes in. My palate is not so refined that I could tell whether the walnuts had been toasted or not, had been skinned or not, and had been in the oven for 7 minutes, or 8 minutes or 9 minutes. But I believe that Rose can tell, and so I will follow where she leads. So far, anyway. At some point, I'll have to decide whether to follow her into quail egg territory, but we're not there yet.
After the walnuts have been toasted, skinned, and ground, the cake is pretty much a cinch. You mix sour cream, cocoa, and eggs until they look like "slightly lumpy muffin batter."

Then the rest of the batter is mixed up, and the cocoa mixture is added to the batter, and it all goes into a bundt pan.
Did you know that the bundt pan was devised by Nordic Ware for a Minneapolis chapter of the Hadassah Society? And that more bundt cakes are used in Minneapolis than in any other city in the world? Well, actually I made up that last part, but the Nordic Ware/Hadassah factoid is true. And you can't go to a potluck in Minnesota without seeing a few bundt cakes on the dessert table.
But you don't find that many bundt cakes that have been saturated with cocoa syrup, which is what makes this cake incredibly moist and delicious. This is the cake as it comes out of the oven.

Here is the top of the cake after the cocoa syrup has been brushed over it.

You then invert the cake on several pieces of plastic wrap and brush on the rest of the syrup, lifting up the wrap and pressing it against the cake so that all the little drips soak into the cake.

I ate mine with a scoop of coffee ice cream, and that was good, but it didn't really need anything.

Rose says you could serve it with "squiggles of caramel ganache," although that might be gilding the lily. Most of the people who ate this cake just took a slice and ate it unadorned.


Karen: "Wonderful texture, wonderful taste."

Jim: "It's good. Make it again. Don't take it all to work."

Teddie: "Your cake is delicious!"

Doug: [who found a piece of cake left on his doorstep] "That cake is wonderful. When I came home and saw it, I thought, 'there is a God.'"
Betty: "I love the nuts--it was like biting into a big candy bar!"

Jun 8, 2009

Torta des las Tres Leches

There was some period when you couldn't shake a stick without hitting a tres leches cake. I'll admit I always thought this was a trendy, over-rated dessert, but I wanted to try Rose's take on it. This version is ultra-moist, but not soggy. It's also pretty.

This cake wasn't on the list of super-easy cakes, but it definitely wasn't hard, although you have to remember to allow enough time for it to be in the refrigerator, soaking, for at least 8 hours, and there are some breathless moments when you invert the milk-soaked cake onto the serving platter, but, all in all, nothing to worry about.
This technique was new to me, although it may well be standard for sponge cakes. Six eggs, along with some sugar, vanilla, and flour, are whisked over simmering water until they're heated.

The warm egg mixture gets beaten for five minutes in the KitchenAid. I assume it would be possible to make this cake without a stand mixer, but you'd have to have muscles and stamina to do it. Since I have neither, I rely on my KitchenAid. After 5 minutes, it turns into a very thick, pale yellow batter, and you feel that you've just performed a bit of kitchen alchemy.

While the cake is baking, you have plenty of time to mix up the tres leches mixture (or tres leches y crema, because Rose also adds whipping cream). Here's where I have to confess that I made a mistake that caused me a lot of consternation. The directions are clear enough--cook the whole milk and skim milk until they're reduced by half, and then add the condensed milk and cream. But I was speed-reading, and so I started cooking all the milks, plus the cream, until I realized what I'd done.
I seriously thought about dumping the whole mess and starting over, but that seemed so incredibly wasteful. I just calculated how many cups of liquid I'd have if I did it right, and cooked the mixture down until I ended up with about 4 1/2 cups of mixed milk. The leche mixture I ended up with was probably thinner than it should have been, but it didn't seem to cause any significant harm. However, when you make this cake yourself, as you should, you can do it right and feel superior.
The cake turned out to be high, light, and goldenly handsome:

It gets a little putzy here, because you have to shave off the top of the cake, put strips of plastic wrap in the cake pan (after you've washed it), and put the cake back in the pan.

Then you keep adding the milk mixture, and adding it, and adding it, until it comes up to the top of the cake pan. Here's where it goes in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

This is kind of nice because by the time it's ready to serve, it's been done for hours, and all that's left to do is whip the cream. First, of course, you have to take this cake that's been soaking in over a quart of liquid and turn it over on a plate. Just close your eyes and hope for the best.

You can see from the dribbles on the counter that it wasn't a flawless undertaking, but it was good enough.

I thought it would look very plain and white, but it was quite attractive.

And unbelievably moist, but not at all wet or soppy. The cake was firm enough to stand up to and absorb all the liquid, and it retained the texture of cake that was light as air. The comments about this cake were uniformly enthusiastic.


Karen: "Very special, very elegant--I've never had a cake like it. Unusually fresh-tasting."

Doug: "Best tres leches cake I've ever had--the ones at restaurants usually aren't worth the money.:

Ngoc: "Divine!"

Mary: "Better than similar cakes I had in Costa Rica."

Jun 1, 2009

She Loves Me Cake

I wanted my second cake to be the "She Loves Me" cake because it's so adorable. But in order to do this, I had to get a special daisy cake pan. (Jim is remembering how I went crazy making bread-baking purchases when I started the bread project; he's seeing the same gleam in my eye now.) But it hadn't arrived by 3:00 Saturday afternoon, sending me back to Heavenly Cakes for Plan B. At 3:45, however, the postman brought me the pan, allowing me to return to the original plan. I don't much care for Plan Bs (Plans B?), to tell the truth.

You can really see the color of the batter changing when you add the egg mixture to the first part of the batter because of the five egg yolks. I'm so glad that "they" - the people who make pronouncements about what is good for you and what will kill you - have taken eggs out of the second category and put it back in the first one. Even butter is not as evil as it once was. If you stretch it, perhaps that you could say this cake is practically like breakfast: butter, eggs, and flour.

I got two offset spatulas for Mother's Day. I never knew that what my life was missing was an offset spatula. It's very slick for smoothing the top of batter. I understand that it also works quite well for icing a cake, but I haven't tried that yet.

The top of the cake looks good. By next week, I should have my wire cake tester so I won't have to use a lowly toothpick to test the cake's doneness. The toothpick seemed to work just fine, although I suppose the wire cake tester is the greener option. We may be cutting down old-growth forests to make toothpicks for all I know. I read that our desire for ultra-soft toilet paper is responsible for decimating such forests in Canada. If that doesn't make you feel guilty, I don't know what will.

This cake is all about the daisy design, so I was, of course, quite worried that it would come out of the pan in chunks and not as one whole cake, even though I'd sprayed the pan with Baker's Secret to within an inch of its life. But all was well.

I told you it was very adorable.

The color picture in the book shows these daisies decorated very cunningly, with royal icing and lemon curd. I have made royal icing in my lifetime, but it's a pain. But I had some lemon curd, and I bought a little tube of white icing. I started to do an outline of a daisy. It looked kind of wobbly. Fortunately, Sarah was here and she took over.

I thought I had chosen the flowers to be outlined randomly; when I looked at the pictures, though, I saw that there was no randomness about it. They are in a vee, like Canada geese flying overhead. The lemon curd in the center looked so sweet, but it started sinking into the cake almost immediately. I tried to dab it up and start over, until both Jim and Sarah yelled at me and told me I was going to ruin the whole thing. So I stopped.

I invited eight neighbors over for an impromptu cake party. I told Jim he had to cut the cake, and he willingly took over. He told me to be sure to tell people that it was very easy to cut. The pieces can be cut in half and filled with lemon curd and blueberries or fruit and whipped cream, but I didn't want to tempt fate by trying to slice all the pieces in half, so I served strawberries and whipped cream on the side.

I was very pleased with this cake. It's a lovely "plain" cake that's full of flavor on its own and would combine well with fruit or chocolate or almost anything.


Betty: "It has a nice, crunchy outside--this is a heavenly cake."

Sarah: "This is the kind of cake I've always pictured English kids having at tea."

Laurel: "It's fluffy and light inside, with a good buttery flavor."