But no, it is a cake. Under its fancy veneer, it is actually quite a humble and homebody cake. Just because a girl wears two layers of buttercream doesn't mean she's stuck-up. Also, doesn't she have a right to some honest pride when she's a righteous sponge soaked in a tea and rum syrup, topped with two smooth and creamy and eggy layers of pastry cream buttercream, one filled with cocoa and walnuts, the other with raisins and chocolate?
The Polish Princess, or the Ambassador as it is apparently known in Poland, is a bakery cake--the kind you ogle in the pastry case that often doesn't punch its weight in taste outside the cage. This lady, however, holds up, especially at room temperature, where all the layers soften into a creamy blend.
The creation of the Princess happened over a few days, in slow stages. First, the sponge was baked and syrup-ed. The syrup, in Polish fashion, was meant to be a strong tea steeped spiked with vodka. Having no vodka, I used rum, which was delicious if not culturally appropriate. According to the recipe headnote, the cake was developed after the fall of the USSR, when new quality ingredients came to Poland, so perhaps it's just an appropriate cultural cross-pollination.
Then came the buttercream--one recipe divided at the end for flavorings. It starts with a goopy pastry cream, into which a LOT of butter is blended. I mean a LOT--about three sticks worth. Because I was making the recipe in stages, I had some trouble with the buttercream--it broke badly and became a cottage cheese looking wet mess. I waited for everything to come to a warm room temperature, added a few more tablespoons of butter, and came out at last with a creamy fluff.
The Princess had a warm reception at work, as I made sure she was served at a cool room temperature, the spongy buttercream was a great success. One of our young shelvers (who have just been temporarily almost laid off due to budget constraints--call your city councilors!) told me it was a brand new cake experience for him--he had never eaten anything like it.
The last few weeks have been stressful. Some of the stress is personal, a result of something very wonderful that I have the privilege to do, that is none the less...stressful. Also, a few mountains have been falling and a few cities have been burning, and that's not without its impact too, however far away it may be. Many of my friends seem to be finding themselves in a slightly ragged place as we straggle into spring. The reasons vary, from the personal to the professional, from life to love to happiness to sadness, but regardless, most of us need a heavy dose of cake and flowers and soup.
Last Sunday I had a few dear ones over and made this soup--quick and simple and rich, a basic potato soup raised up with prosciutto and saffron and garlicky ground almonds, from my new cookbook, Food52 Genius Recipes. More from this cookbook soon. I'm going through my cookbook back catalogue and trying not to buy many more, but this one was a printed version of about half the recipes I have already bookmarked and printed out, and it seemed prudent to pick up the bound version.