Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Cake

Mixing together the yolk and egg whites

Chocolate Rum Frosting

Baking is a messy science.  Improvising is tricky and risky.  So once upon a time, I used to order special birthday cakes.  I was lucky to always live close to some fine bakeries.  Birthdays involve enough planning and ordering the cake implied that there was just one less thing to do-nothing to bake, mix or decorate.  Bakery cakes always look perfect and I didn’t have to spend hours doing it.  Although I thought most cakes were a bit too sweet for my taste (European tortes/cakes tend to be less sweet), it was always a hit with kids and family.  

Then the whole food allergy, EoE show hit.  Not too long ago, I had to make birthday cakes free of the top allergens (meaning no eggs, no gluten/flour, and no dairy or soy for the frosting).  This was challenging, but a few birthdays I managed to make two cakes (one for the kid party and one for the family/friends party) in one day and still have a good time.   There is a way to make good tasty cakes without those allergens.  People avoid those ingredients for others reasons as well (vegans – no eggs…and yes, I made some really good cakes without eggs).

Life has gotten simpler since then, I can now use dairy, soy, gluten/wheat and eggs for baking cakes.  So why don’t I go back to ordering them?  Quite a few reasons:

The cakes/tortes I make at home are:

  •        healthier (use better and fresher ingredients)
  •       tastier (I control how much of what to add, for example, a teaspoon or so of quality rum in chocolate frosting is outstanding)
  •        less sweet (my usual complaint about most bakery purchased cakes)
  • ·     customizable

And of course, most bakeries are not free of nuts and tree nuts-so while I may not be ordering a walnut cake; there may be traces of walnuts in the cake I ordered (baking is a messy process).   But I’ve seen cakes from both sides now, and I think a home made cake just feels more personal.  Of course having a choice is the best, but if I did have a choice, 90% of the time I would chose to bake a home made cake for loved ones birthdays (or holidays).  The other 10% would be if I travelled during one of these events.

Since I don’t like heavy, fatty sugary cakes, this one is my favorite (and is a version of the cakes my mother made).  To start with, it requires a dozen eggs, separated, and two mixing bowls, and both mixing attachments (one for whites and one for yolk).  I use free range cage free eggs-yes, they taste better (I know farm fresh tastes even better). There are simpler recipes, but this cake, in my opinion, is the lightest, tastiest and showcases the frosting very well (especially a mocha or rum chocolate frosting).

Yolks beaten separately
Add caption

12 eggs separated (free range organic-the fresher the better)
1 cup sugar (granulated)
1 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 lemon rind and 2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp organic vanilla
fold together

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat egg yolks well, about 4 to 6 minutes.
Add sugar and continue beating well, another 4 to 6 minutes.

Sift together the flour and the baking powder. Gradually add dry ingredients to the and lemon juice and rind to the yolk/wet mix.

In another bowl, with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites to medium peaks
Fold into yolk batter.
Butter (or soy butter) and flour 3 (9-inch) cake rounds. Place a parchment paper circle in the bottom of each cake round (fastest way is to draw a circle around a trifold of parchment paper, cut and separate).
Pour the batter into the prepared cake rounds
Gently tap the cake pans to remove air bubbles
bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool cakes completely

When ready to frost, gently remove from pans (use a knife to gently separate).  To prevent cake from sticking the cake plate, I sprinkle the doily with powder sugar.

Frost with a favorite home made frosting (can be made dairy free, see my creamy mocha recipe).  This time I made  a chocolate rum frosting.  I typically double the frosting recipe since decorating (even elementary version) takes extra frosting.

Note:  There are many techniques for separating eggs.  My mother used to crack the egg and pass the yolk back and forth between the half shells.  I’ve seen some on the Food Network use their hands to separate it (catch yolk with hand).  Whatever technique you use, it’s important not to get any yolk into the white.
rum chocolate frosting

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