Friday, January 28, 2011

TWD: Nutty Chocolatey Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

This week's Tuesday with Dorie selection of Nutty, Chocolatly, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake (page 182 of Baking From my home to yours) was made by Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort.



I've always had trouble with swirly Bundt cakes, so I took to heart all the suggestions made by the bakers who finished on time (unlike me). I buttered and floured the hell out of my non-stick Bundt. I carefully kept the swirly stuff away for the edge of the pan. Several people had a problem with the second swirl layer separating from the main body of the cake when the cake was removed from the pan, so again I followed their recommendations and completely covered the final swirl with batter.

[ Oops, I forgot picture of beautiful batter and swirly center, so you'll have to use your baking imagination. ]

Some of the TWD bakers also reported that the cake was cooked before the suggested 60 minutes, but somehow I missed that one. I was reading the news paper waiting for my oven timer to go off (it still had five minutes to go), when I smelled something burning!!!! I yanked that sucker out of the oven, but the damage was done. Sigh... I over-baked again.



To makeup for my blunder I whipped up a little ganache and poured it all over the top of the cake, and as an added touch I sprinkled mini chocolate chips on top. Nothing covers up mistakes like chocolate.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TWD: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

This week's Tuesday with Dorie pick was made by Betsy of A Cup of Sweetness. And what did that amazingly psychic woman select? Why my all-time favorite Dorie recipe: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Yum.

I want to be buried with one of these muffins.



Their aroma was refreshing, their taste: tangy yet sweet. The only complaint my family had with regards to these muffins was ...

"MORE ICING, PLEASE".

"Lots more icing, PLEASE."

Well at least they're polite.




Monday, January 10, 2011

White Cake Taste Test

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A few members on Cake Central recently kicked off a Great Scratch Off - White Cake Taste Test. Yeah, White Cake! I’ve been on the hunt for the "perfect" white cake recipe so I joined the fun. Eight recipes were selected for the comparison (see list below). I would have liked to try them all, but I was pressed for time so I selected four to sample: one made with shortening, one with buttermilk, one with just butter, and one with sour cream.



Here are links to the eight recipes that Cake Central selected for the comparison:

  1. King Arthur Flour - Tender While Cake recipe - I would have liked to try this recipe. It is the standard "butter" recipe, but it also give the option of using vanilla yogurt or whole milk. I've always wondered how yogurt would impact the taste/texture of a cake, but I didn't have any King Arthur Flour so I had to scratch this one from my "to bake" list.


  2. Rebecca Sutterby's - White Velvet Cake recipe - Buttermilk recipe with vanilla bean paste. I didn't have any vanilla bean paste, so this one got scratched also.


  3. Cook Book Maniac's adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum's: The Cake Bible - White Velvet Cake recipe - This is a butter recipe which also uses heavy cream. Sounds delicious, rich, and oh-so-fattening. I really wanted to include this one and make a five layer cake, but I was confused by some of Cook Book Maniac's instructions. In particular the instruction of cook at 175 degrees (no mention of Celsius or Fahrenheit) and only use one 9x2" pan. I could make the assumption that the temperature was Celsius, but the one pan had me stumped. Seemed like too much batter for one pan. I also had a run-in last year with the Rose Levy Beranbaum's folks when I included her Red Velvet Cake in one of my taste test. I didn't want a repeat of that drama, so I dropped this cake from my lineup.


  4. Cook's Illustrated - White Layer Cake recipe - This is a Butter recipe with lots of egg whites. I included this recipe in my taste test. Here is what the finished cake looked like:


  5. Elisa Strauss The Confetti Cakes - Vanilla Cake recipe (note: scroll down through this long post.  The recipe is near the bottom of  Post #1)  - This is another Butter recipe with lots of egg whites very similar to the Cook's Illustrated recipe.


  6. K8Memphis' version of Sylvia Weinstock's yellow cake from  Sylvia Weinstock's Sensational Cakes  - Sylvia's famous Sour Cream Yellow Cake recipe was modified (reduced the egg yolks) by K8 to make the baked cake look less yellow. Here is what it looked like.


  7. GroupRecipes' Delicate White Cake recipe - This is a Shortening based recipe with no butter. Here is what it looked like. Very snowy isn't it? No butter in the batter makes the cake very white.


  8. Rebecca Rather's from the book The Pastry Queen - White on White Buttermilk Cake recipe - Lots of butter and buttermilk in this recipe. Not intended for anyone worried about their cholesterol.


So here are all the cakes stacked and waiting to get iced.



For this taste test I had 11 lab rats (oops, I mean family members). They were told to evaluate just the cake and not the cake/icing combination. Each taster was given a slice of cake and I interview each and made notes of their comments. They were asked to rank the cakes from 1-4. #1 being their favorite and #4 being their least favorite.

And based on the ranking of my lab rats,

The WINNER of my White Cake Taste Test IS ...........

************************************************************************
With an overall score of 1.6 .............

************************************************************************
The pure BUTTER recipe from Cook's Illustrated White Layer Cake recipe


Yeah, Three Cheers for Cook's Illustrated White Layer Cake !!!!
************************************************************************
The score board is as follows (note: the lower the number the better the score):

#1 - First Place went to Cook's Illustrated Butter cake with a score of 1.6,
#2 - Second Place went to Rebecca Rather's (The Pastry Queen) Buttermilk cake with a score of 2.4,
#3 - Third Place went to Group Recipes' Shortening cake with a score of 2.5,
#4 - Fourth Place went to K8Memphis' Sour Cream Cake with a score of 3.4



Under the guidelines of the Cake Central Great Scratch Off - White Cake Taste Test the
Judging Criteria included:
1. Flavor
2. Texture/Crumb
3. Moistness
3. Ease of Recipe
4. Cost of Recipe
5. Ability to convert into cupcakes

So here are my remarks on each cake:


* The Sour Cream Cake (left most cake in picture, 4th Place Winner) K8Memphis'  version of Sylvia Weinstock's Yellow Cake from the book Sylvia Weinstock's Sensational Cakes 
  1. Flavor - Nice flavor when eating, but leaves a strong after-taste in your mouth. Most of the lab rats described the cake as having a strong, unidentifiable flavor.
  2. Texture/Crumb - Very dense but you can still see the crumb.
  3. Moistness - Very moist almost to the point of wetness.


* The Butter Cake (second from left in picture, 1st Place Winner) Cook's Illustrated White Layer Cake recipe
  1. Flavor - Rich, buttery flavor. Very nice smell.
  2. Texture/Crumb - Medium crumb. Not as fluffy as the shortening cake but not as dense as the buttermilk or sour cream cakes. Crumbs visible when you cut into the cake. Nice, fluffy, moist feel in mouth.
  3. Moistness - Perfect moistness. Not dry and not too wet looking or tasting.


* The ButterMilk Cake (third from left in picture, 2nd Place Winner) Rebecca Rather's (The Pastry Queen book) White on White Buttermilk Cake recipe
  1. Flavor - Great flavor, rich and complex.
  2. Texture/Crumb - Dense, but you can still see some crumbs.
  3. Moistness - Very moist, a little wet looking, compacts in your mouth when you eat it.
  4. Other Notes: Best flavor but did not like the texture as much as the shortening or butter cake. Cake was very rich and overpowered the normal vanilla buttercream icing. Tasted much better when paired with a rich, chocolate icing. Also did not work well as cupcakes: lots of collapsing and shrinkage.




* The Shortening Cake (right most cake in picture, 3rd Place Winner) Delicate White Cake recipe
  1. Flavor - Sugary flavor, not enough extracts. Would add more vanilla and also some butter extract.
  2. Texture/Crumb - Light, airy, fluffy. Loose crumb, lots of little crumb holes.
  3. Moistness - A little dry. If more moisture (and butter flavor) could be added to the cake it would be perfect.
  4. Other Note: Not enough batter, layer not thick enough. Baked for the suggested 20 minutes but next time I would only bake for 18 minutes.

So did this taste test help me to find that "perfect" white cake recipe? Well to be honest, No.

I loved the flavor of the Buttermilk cake, the texture of the Butter cake and the light, airiness of the Shortening cake. If only I could smash all the cakes together, I would have the perfect White Cake recipe.

Hummmm....

I wonder if I could start with the Shortening recipe, use buttermilk instead of milk, double the vanilla, add some almond and butter extracts..... I wonder what it would taste like? Any thoughts, any opinion?

Hummmmm......







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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snowman Face Cake

I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I’ve been baking a lot, but I just can’t find the time to sit down and post a few words and pictures. Same old excuses: new computer software at work, beaucoup overtime, people yelling, systems crashing, stress up to my eyeballs, yada yada, yada.

But today turned out to be a good sit at home day. The New Orleans Saints lost the first round of the playoffs (no Super Bowl for them this year), it is raining cats and dogs outside, and it is cold, very, very cold. Wow, it must be 40 degrees outside, burrrr, frigid (well at least for New Orleans).

So here is my first post of 2011. I had planed on making an elaborate, multi-tiered cake for our Christmas day gathering, but of course I ran out of time. At the last minute I whipped up a box cake mix and slapped on some icing.



It came out really cute and best of all it only took about 20 minutes to decorate. It actually took longer to color the icing than it did to pipe the cute little snowman face. Go figure. Many thanks to jdbhoward on Cake Central from whom I borrowed/stole the idea from. Thanks, jdbhoward.