Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Cake – first attempt

I should have mentioned in the first post on this subject that lately, that is, in recent years, the very thought of my making a scratch cake is laughable. My experience is rife with failure. Ever the optimist, however, and hungry for cake I proceeded today undeterred, feeling more energetic after a long holiday weekend and a short day at work. The taste of moist white cake was on my tongue, and I was as confident as any chef extraordinaire. So in keeping with the idea that blog-life is not real-life I became very organized.
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I never lay out my ingredients, never use little bowls, and I’m never meticulous about any of it. I never read the recipe all the way through. I start at the ingredients and usually stop there. Normally – my normal, that is – I miss an ingredient or mis-measure an ingredient. I’ve gotten used to that aspect of my cooking. Nothing ever goes as planned. Maybe I became an improviser in self-defense. No, more likely that word is just a subconscious euphemism for bungler.  Besides, you can’t really improvise if you don’t know the right way a thing is to be done, can you? I’ve never felt quite adequate about the right way of doing things, but that photo of the ingredients is impressive, don’t you think? Things were going well at this point.
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Anyway, back to the cake. Last week I acquired the ingredients, and how convenient that the flour box had a recipe on the back. Not just any recipe but a tender white cake recipe! However, I was pretty wacked out when I read the directions. I’d never seen a cake recipe that combined dry ingredients with the butter. Apparently, the “paste method” is lesser known than the “creaming method”. While waiting for the butter and eggs to come to room temperature, I went online to check for any helpful hints and pointers. There was one mention that this cake flour is pre-sifted - triple sifted, in fact, and that additional sifting could effect the structure of the cake. Did you notice the lovely peak in my flour - and the sifter in the photo? Grrrr. Moving on. I only made one ingredient substitution. The regular granulated, non-superfine sugar was not according to Hoyle and was apparently why I never achieved the paste. Which apparently sabotaged the cake’s structure. And probably led to the decidedly unlight and unfluffy batter. I smartly had doubts that things were still going well.
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Online reviewers of this recipe (5 stars) reported the inability to pour the batter into the pans, needing instead to scoop its light fluffy-ness. My batter, however, poured easily … like a thick, flour paste. Ah, ha, I did achieve the paste stage! How wonderful for me. Having been as obedient as I’ve ever been with a recipe, I broke with the instructions and used a ten-inch silicone pan, figuring it would cook similarly to the 9x13 pan. Ha! Wrong! I set the timer for 28 minutes and then reset for ten minutes at least three times and then one minute at least ten times. This produced a cake with an undone center and the surface and sound of a hollow bamboo cane. The taste was bland. The texture was sort of moist and crumbly ... and sort of not. The weight was hefty. Who knew that baked flour paste bakes up like a brick? (I went into DH’s den to weigh it on the postal scale. Four pounds ten ounces including the platter. DH said, “You’re not going to mail that, are you?”, inferring we couldn’t afford it.
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It came out of the pan very nicely probably due to its tonnage, but I did actually Pam and flour the pan. The crust was nice. I think it will be good toasted with butter. DH suggested jam. I think perhaps armadillo bait.

Dare I make a trip to the bank and try again? It might be cheaper to buy the $22 Betty Cake. That’s a single iced layer, mind you.


  1. Don't give up! The more you cook/bake the better at it you will become, and more than less of the recipes will come out wonderful.


  2. Thanks for the encouragement, FlowerLady. I cut a slice of cake to take for lunch this morning and then cut a sliver to taste. It wasn't bad, fairly moist and tender but more like pound cake than layer cake. I don't care for the almond flavor. It's too strong. Next time I'll leave it out.

  3. It does help to lay out the ingredients, doesn't it? I don't always do that but as I gain more experience, I do. I've not tried to make one of these but it looks good.

  4. I can't remember the last time I tried to make a cake from scratch. The last time I tried to make cookies they didn't do well - something about "creaming" the butter and flour together I didn't do right. But I can make a great dump cake!

  5. Oh too funny...cake baking, and I made an apple pie in my cast iron fry pan today. It must be the weather. With all the rain this week, I have been driven inside to bake!!

  6. I spent years destroying cakes until I figured out how to bake from scratch. Besides gardening, I'm a pretty serious baker. King Arthur has wonderful recipes but I've never tried this one. By baking the batter in a springform pan instead of two smaller pans, the batter was too heavy and didn't have enough leaving agent to lift so much mass.

    I bake with Domino sugar, which is just normal sugar but very fine. Creating 'paste' usually requires several minutes of beating. I would definitely try again and not give up!!

  7. Dear Sherry, Your cake may not have turned out so well, but your posting about it is brilliant! I am still laughing at your husband's comment. Don't give up -- I've had much worse results, but would not be brave enough to post about them. P. x

  8. That was too funny! I almost never bake so I would be a total dismal failure if I tried it - your cake actually looks very impressive to me.

  9. Having just fallen down a hillside, I needed something to amuse me. You've succeeded beautifully, Sherry, and I have to say your cake looks darn good too!