Sunday, May 11, 2008

Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Sunday, May 11, 2008
A few weeks ago, I saw that Melinda,Pink Nest and Evil Cake Lady started their own internet baking club. I horned in on it, and begged them to let me join their projects, even though they baked a fancy cake with caramel and peanut topping that looked really hard. They said I could join, but they had already planned May's project, which was another cake that also looked quite hard. I told them they could always make fun of me if my cake turned out to be really lame.
Melinda named their group the Lazy Bakers' No Rules Club. My daughter Sarah came over for Mother's Day today, and I told her about the group. She said, "But Mom, you love rules!" It's true. But once a month, surely, I could be a no-rules kind of gal.
May's project is from Baking from My House to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. This devil's food cake requires baking a cake (naturally) and then slicing the layers in half. (Help!) You also make a marshmallow-like frosting (Help again!), ice the whole thing, and then artfully glom on cake crumbs. The picture (it's the cover picture on the cookbook) is quite beautiful. (If you want to make this cake and don't want to buy the book, you can google the name of the cake and get lots of hits, most of which include the recipe).

I tried to match the picture with my level of expertise at cake baking and decorating, and I couldn't. But I decided to slog ahead.
I had to buy some eight-inch cake pans. At Target, they were all out of eight-inchers, so I went to Williams-Sonoma instead. Maybe the shelves at Target had been emptied by people who went first to Williams-Sonoma and were appalled by the $18.50 price tag for the deluxe gold pan. That is $18.50 per cake pan. The lovely woman at W-S assured me that these pans would last me the rest of my life. That better be a good long time, I grumbled under my breath.

I decided to do everything exactly as directed. Normally, I would just spritz some Baker's Joy on the cake pans. But the recipe said to butter the pans, flour them, and then line with parchment. And so I did. Often when a recipe says to sift the flour, baking soda, etc., I ignore it. But today I sifted. Cake recipes that specify adding the dry ingredients in three installments, separated by two additions of milk, seem a little silly to me. But I obeyed. (Sarah pointed out that I was being a little rule-bound considering this was a No-Rules Club. I said I wished I was a little better at the no-rules thing, but maybe I'd improve as I went along).

I was hoping that the layers would be nice and thick so that cutting them in half wouldn't be so scary. But they weren't. And it was really, really scary. I remembered an old trick about putting toothpicks along the middle of the cake layer to guide the knife. If I hadn't done that, God knows what I would have ended up with, but I did manage to cut both layers more or less in half.

If the cake wasn't scary enough, there was still the frosting to contend with. Frosting that required a candy thermometer, boiling sugar, beating egg whites at the same time the sugar is boiling, and pouring the hot sugar-water into the beaten egg whites. I told Sarah that I had a bad, bad feeling. She said, "What are you worried about?" I said, "Everything. It's all going to be bad." She told me again that I was lacking the devil-may-care spirit implicit in the Lazy Bakers' No-Rules Club.

I'll admit the frosting turned out to be quite pretty. It has a whole tablespoon of vanilla in it; at first I thought it was too much, but it married well with the chocolatey, chocolatey cake (cocoa powder, melted bittersweet chocolate, and miniature chocolate chips). And, although I am not a good icer, the frosting was pretty easy to handle.

When the whole cake was frosted, I still had one layer to crumble, and throw on the sides. I was feeling a little giddy by now, and I really did want to throw the crumbs, but I just kind of patted them instead.

Three layers of chocolate cake, filled and frosted with airy, fluffy frosting--my Mother's Day present to myself.

We all had a piece mid-afternoon. Actually, Jim had two, which is how I know he liked it. I restrained myself, but the rest has to go in to work, or I'll be in serious trouble.


Melinda said...

Welcome! You are officially a No Rules, Lazy Baker member! But there are no rules or as my husband would say...there is no spoon. (His favourite 'The Matrix' movie line to sputter if he can work it into the conversation.)
Your cake looks beautiful. It probably was those expensive gold pans. (Man,those WERE pricey!)
I will be baking mine this coming weekend...if I can get myself in gear. But I may not. See? This is the lazy baker attitude you need to adopt.
I don't suppose you'd be a lawyer if you didn't love a good set of defined rules to argue over.
Next bake, I will make some hard rules to follow, just for you.
I hope my cake turns out half as nice as yours did.

evil cake lady said...

BBC! Your cake looks excellent! Hooray!! I'm with Melinda, I hope my cake turns out half as nice. Since your gold pans are so fancy-pantsy and long lasting they might become family heirlooms. Your great-grandchildren can point to this blog post as the origin of the family cake pans.

I'm probably going to bake it the last weekend in May, so check in while you're down under!

jini said...

good lord.....fancy pantsy golden ruby-doozy pans in the fancy pantsy oven, but what a gorgemous cake came from it all. good work.

Anonymous said...

As Melinda has invited me to join the club, so to speak, I am so glad to see your account of making the cake, I just hope I can do it as well as you have.
Yours looks very, very good! I will probably do mine next week sometime, I must read the recipe very carefully first and make sure I've got the right tins!

breadbasketcase said...

You know, I think if you're really a lazy baker, you use a cake mix. I'm not so sure you are lazy at all. But thanks for the promise of a nice set of rules, just for me! I think you may actually find this cake fun to make, if you don't obsess about slicing the layers in half.

Wow, do I love the idea of my future great grandchildren handling the slightly dented cake pans and saying, "Tell me again how Granny used to bake cakes in these and say bad words when she couldn't get them out of the pans."
I hope this cake turns out to be a lovely birthday cake for you!

Good lord indeed. Are you speaking English? Gorgemous? Thank you, I think.

So glad that you joined the club. How do you feel about rules? I can't wait to see all the rest of the pictures!

Marty said...

Love the pans ! As a bread/pizza baker I'm always on the lookout for STUFF. The tools are important. Wanna see my stone, peel, mixer, scale, thermometer, etc.. They're not interested, but I am. It's not magic. Gotta have the proper tools. Great cake.

breadbasketcase said...

I love stuff too. And I do like the pans, even though they were crazy expensive. They're nice and tall, and heavy, and they're nonstick, although they don't have the peel-off Teflon coating that gets in your food. I have to say, though, that my mother and grandmother made some great food with really crappy equipment.

Marty said...

A very interesting point. With all my stuff I have yet to make something that I think equals my mother's or grandmother's. How many times I watched, but did not learn. However, I will keep trying. Perhaps they will both smack me in the head from above and say "zuccone" (thickhead). Ok, let's get cooking and have some fun.

Anonymous said...

The cake looked great! BTW: Have you ever tried dental floss (or thin fishing line) to split thin cake layers? My Gran used to have two big old wooden spoons with deep circular notches in the handle at various heights. Tie the floss/line around at the notch which matches the height you want, place a spoon on it's end on each side of the cake with the line tight and gently draw through the cake (sometimes you need to use a tiny gentle sawing motion. Works best on cakes without fruit, peel, carrot etc which can catch and tear.

Rachael in Houston said...

I just spent quite some time reading through a lot of your posts and enjoying them immensely! I am on a bread baking mission this year, albeit a smaller one (following one bread/pastry recipe a week) and have mastered my fear of yeast breads. I'll be sticking around here and reading!

breadbasketcase said...

The dental floss technique sounds way beyond my ability! Your gran must have been quite a baker.

That's an ambitious goal! I'm trying to get enough nerve to try to make Danish pastry, so let me know if you ever try that.