January 27, 2008

The Cake Bible vs. The Good Book

I attempted the White Lilac Nostalgia Cake from The Cake Bible. As a result I had to Google such things as "rescuing buttercream" and "cocoa butter substitutions," so you can probably imagine how it went.

White Lilac Nostalgia Cake (sans lilacs)

The White Lilac Nostalgia uses four recipes from The Cake Bible: White Velvet Butter Cake, Raspberry Mousseline, Crème Ivoire Deluxe, and Crystallized Lilacs. The white cake was pretty standard. The mousseline was quite an undertaking, though. It was similar to the coconut buttercream I use for the Chocolate Blackout Cake, but it uses egg whites instead of yolks. The frosting curdled and separated upon mixing. I thought that the butter must be too warm, so I stuck the mixing bowl in the fridge. Chilling didn't help the problem. I finally decided that the frosting wasn't too warm but was in fact too cold. I have a reputation for not turning on the heater at my house, and my kitchen was probably 60º. I soaked a dish towel in hot water and wrapped it around the mixing bowl. After a few minutes, the frosting had warmed up and whipped up smoothly. I pureed some raspberries, strained the seeds, and added it to the frosting. I didn't think the raspberry flavor was strong enough, so I added more puree. The Crème Ivoire Deluxe recipe called for 1½ pounds of white chocolate, cocoa butter, clarified butter, and safflower oil. I didn't find cocoa butter at United, so I added butter. This frosting was easy to whip up, but spreading it smoothly was difficult. The last step was adding crystallized flowers. Lilacs are as hard to get around here as cocoa butter is, so I used some pansies from one of those edible flower packages. I had this brilliant idea to put the flowers in the oven on low heat to dry them, being short on time. That didn't work out so well. They got pretty crispy.

White Lilac Nostalgia Cake (sans lilacs)I have these unfortunately high expectations, and when I spend this long on a cake recipe, it'd better wow me in both the presentation and taste categories. I thought this one scored pretty high on presentation points. I wasn't very happy with the taste, though. The raspberry frosting had a bizarre consistency and wimpy flavor, and the white chocolate was thick and didn't melt in the mouth as quickly as it might have. I could go on with further analysis, but the funny thing was that the cake was markedly better the second day. The cake absorbed moisture from the mousseline, and that improved the frosting's texture significantly.

I found a blog devoted to working through The Cake Bible recipe by recipe. They have a write-up of their White Lilac Nostalgia here. My frosting looks neon pink compared to their pastel pink frosting, and I didn't even add the food coloring Beranbaum's recipe called for. May I say, too, that when I'm out of school, I would love to blog my way through a cookbook. That is, if I don't have my own cooking show by then, right, Katie?

It seemed like this cake recipe took some extra pains that really weren't necessary. I always look to The Good Book, or The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, first for recipes. ATK is good about explaining why they use certain ingredients or follow a certain process. I've almost always had good results with their recipes. Compared to other cookbooks, you could say it's fussy, but I'd say precise and meticulous. One thing I sorely miss in The Cake Bible is the step-by-step, "look for this" type of instructions. I'm a beginner who needs thorough explanation.

On a better note, today for lunch we had Reubens, and I thought they were fantastic. I should have taken a picture, but I was in a hurry to stuff my face.

No comments: