Monday, September 13, 2010

Heavenly Cake Bakers: High Wire Tweed Angel Food Cake

Life gets in the way. I sat down this morning to write a post about angel food cake, surely the lightest and fluffiest of topics. Along the way, a few things intervened, including a health insurance crisis, the resulting flurry of income calculation and making of physical appointments, and a general discussion of the terrors of freelancing and health care. Life is uncertain right now, the future is murky, and the career is complicated. Many wonderful opportunities are presenting themselves, to me and to those I love, but the last few months have been hard for a lot of us, juggling priorities and dreams and growing domestic urges, and seeking the holy grail of the job with benefits, then doubting whether we want it at all.

In such an uncertain climate (see what I did there, that nod to climate change?), it's unsurprising that I and many others turn to the stove for comfort. My cousin Michelle, already an excellent cook, has suddenly emerged as another obsessive baker, driven by employment worries and the the allure of precise measurements, detailed instructions, and instant-gratification achievement. From the far shore of that madness, head over heels in cake and sourdough, I flash her the welcome salute, the recognition of one madman to another. I lob the ritual doughnut at her head. She's already made a beef pot pie I'm dying to try, and I don't even cook beef.

I stay in some nights. I make light and fluffy angel food cake.
Angel food cake is one of those fun food substances that is all texture, like marshmallows, cotton candy, or pop rocks, all but the latter of which it strongly resembles. Looks like cotton, squishes into candy, tastes sweeter than should be allowed, and uses up a large egg white overrun from Rosh Hashanah challahs. Also, it allowed me to do this:
If a photo of a cake resting upside down on a wine bottle doesn't make your day, well, we have different kinds of days. Angel food cake's most endearing and terrifying characteristic is that, to avoid falling, it must cool upside down and up in the air. Angel food cake: the daring dessert on the flying trapeze.
I'm devoutly grateful that I didn't read Marie's terrifying roundup of her tweed cake disaster until the cake was already flying high. In the end, it didn't fall, although I think I could have baked it for a minute or two longer, as it was a bit damp. I halved the recipe, so it didn't rise over the pan as Rose intimates it might, but it reached a satisfying height. Rose also casually mentioned a slicing trick that blew my mind--instead of pressing down with a knife, which flattens the cake, she suggested separating slices using two forks back to back. This isn't the neatest technique (at least not yet), but it gives me great pleasure by a: working, and b: reminding me of english muffins with their fork split. Things that remind me of english muffins make me smile.
Those tiny flecks are grated chocolate, which didn't really make their presence known in the cake. They can't be tasted. Next time I'll put in more, and probably frost with the chocolate-flecked whipped cream pictured in the book. But you can't buy cream in my neighborhood, which I have to admit is very much for the best.


Vicki said...

Health insurance has to be one of the biggest headache producers of all time. How I long for the the pre-HMO days of long ago. Your angel food cake looks great. I remember that cake as the one with chocolate chips being pelted at it!

evil cake lady said...

well written post katya, and great looking cake.

Desserts Divine said...

Very well written post! Chin up we're all in there with you. The cake looks great too!

Lois B said...

This was the first cake I baked with the group, even though it was not the first post, and I loved it.

Thinking about you and your struggle.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

My attempt at this cake was a disaster too, but alas, the kiddie winkles enjoyed it anyway.