Monday, March 1, 2010

Heavenly Cake Bakers

The wheel has spun again...
Time has gone by, dreams have risen and fallen, kitchen scales have balanced out the sands of life...and I have joined another baking group. For those of you keeping score, this is the fourth, although I regret to say that I didn't stick with the Daring Bakers long. I think this had to do with the regulated irregularity of it--once a month was too infrequent to get into. I could do the BBA challenge because it was entirely self-regulated, but having to get something on time just once a month didn't leave enough margin of error. I haven't quite finished the BBA challenge (the hurdle of two very poorly peer-reviewed breads is putting a damper on my final sprint), but I plan to, and then I plan to focus, and stick closely to Tuesdays with Dorie till the end.

At least, that was the plan until a friend's generosity landed me with a brand new, very special book--Cake Master Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Heavenly Cakes. A little glitzier and less endearingly geeky than her classic Cake Bible, Heavenly Cakes is a coffee-table style cookbook, aimed maybe a bit more at the ambitious non-professional, while retaining standards rigorous enough for anyone, pro or no. Whatever it is, I've been lugging it from room to room like a favorite stuffed animal.

A baking group is like a correspondence course--a slow mastery of technique in the privacy of one's own home, but in a blogging baking group, you get to share results and thoughts with all your classmates. I am lucky to have been allowed into the distinguished classmate company of the Heavenly Cake Bakers of Heavenly Cake Place. Might as well learn from the best, and Rose is the acknowledged expert on all things cake. This time, though, there's a bit of a twist, as Lily has agreed to allow me to make some of the cakes at the bakery, and put them in the case as one of a kind specials. As I hover in that pleasing void between amateur and professional baker, I think this is a very exciting step.
I started baking from the book the day that I received it, and so have already covered some of the older recipes that the group worked on before I joined, including the Golden Lemon Almond Cake (I added crystalized ginger, and ground my almonds with the skin still on for a slightly more rustic presentation, and the English Gingerbread Cake (with Lemon Butter Sauce)...and a version of the Southern (Manhattan) Coconut Cake on page 23, although the birthday girl preferred the classic seven minute icing to the Silk Meringue Buttercream Rose recommends.
This week, I entered the formal baking schedule with a 'Purim' cake, Rose's signature Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake. I actually made this cake twice, because the first one broke coming out of the bundt pan (it's a tender, delicate cake, although reasonably easy to maneuver), and I was too proud to join a group without a perfect picture. Both times, though, the cake was superlative, and went a long way toward reconciling even Matt, who usually maintains that 'lemon conquers sweetness,' to lemon in dessert. This is about as Jewish a cake as you can get--only apple cake comes close, and so I feel less sad about having skipped my annual hamentaschen making than I could. While the cake style and flavors might be generally Jewish, though, the perfection of this version is all Rose. Tart, moist, crunchy, syrupy, and almost cottony, it is definitely the Platonic Ideal of lemon poppy cake.
One interesting baking note: the butter cakes in this book all use Rose's signature ingredient mixing sequence, which eschews creaming butter and sugar in favor of blending them right into the dry ingredients, then slowly moistening with the remaining elements. So far, so good, and it makes an easier job for my arthritic mixer.

So far, I've stayed pretty much in the bundt and unfrosted areas of the book, but all that changes next week, when the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze arrives to keep me on my semi-pro toes. Welcome to 'Mondays with Rosie,' as it were.


Vicki said...

Oh my gosh I'm laughing with your little war effort lady filling the
"there's a hole in this cake" bundt!
Welcome to the HCB group. Never a dull moment!

anitsirK said...

I have that same Rosie the riveter on my desk at work. :) I've also got the lunch box.

Welcome to the group!

Virginia Taylors said...

Rosie- I am rolling on the floor!! Your posts are so fun to read. I hope you will enjoy the HCB group. I have been following Tuesday with Dorie and feeling guilty for reading two groups-now that I know you did 4..I do not feel so bad.