Sunday, 20 May 2012

Kat vs How to Eat: Fancy cake!

international cake
With very few ingredients, this isn’t the kind of cake I’d normally make as my eyes are always seduced by long exotic lists of ingredients but this process is helping me go back-to basics (John Major would be proud) and helping me learn that with quality ingredients you don’t need an abundance of components to make something mouth-watering. Also, it doesn’t have chocolate in, so frankly how is it ever meant to measure up?

After a brief delay as I procure a brioche tin from The Oracle I get cracking. Literally (if you forgive the pun). Containing 6 eggs and no flour or butter it’s not your usual kind of sponge. It also has 250g of almonds in, 200g of caster sugar and the zest of one lemon. That is all. To get air into the cake and allow for the lack of baking powder you need to first separate all the yolks and whites and then whip the whites up to firm peaks. If there is one thing I hate it is separating eggs, especially as Nigella makes me do it with my hands. I thought I had hit upon a genius business idea that would surely see me crowned Alan Sugar’s next Apprentice (a girl can dream) and go about reinventing the wheel, designing in my head a contraption to do this messy business for you. That is before discovering I could buy one on Amazon for the princely sum of £2.96. Back to the drawing board (I still think my Teapuccino idea might make me my millions – you heard it here first).

I beat together the yolks and sugar, fold in the almonds and lemon zest and then fold in one spoon of egg white to the mixture to help loosen it up, before folding in the rest with a metal spoon. I pop it in the oven at 160C for an hour and wait as sorcery takes hold and the cake with no raising agent rises – some kind of black magic is surely afoot as it does indeed come out the over noticeably higher than when it went in.

After the skinning disaster last week with my Victoria Sponge I was very excited to whack out my new cooling rack (simple things please simple minds) to avoid peeling the top layer off the sponge. I needn’t have worried however as the tin (non-stick), of which I had buttered every crevice, decided giving me back the cake was the last thing on its mind. Gravity, jumping up and down, praying, surprise attack and wishful thinking failed me and with the aid of a teeny plastic spatula three quarters of the cake plopped out on to a plate. As you can see this left me with a somewhat sad looking specimen.
I am quickly learning that trickery and illusion play their part in the kitchen, as long as people think you meant to do something they’re fine with it. Unfortunately my self-deprecating side opens my mouth for me and spurts out “it’s not meant to be like that” to anyone who gives it the slightest praise; along with “it needed 5 minutes less in the oven, “the oven was too hot” and my favourite “I ate the top” – which went no way to explaining what happened and just made me look a bit greedy.

The premise is that the cake is a fancy shape and will therefore dazzle and excite people used to the more common-or-garden round bog standard offering. I’ll confess now I totally dismissed this folly and thought Nigella had lost the plot, but how wrong I was. Crowned with a generous helping of strawberries to cover up its baldness, I present ‘fancy cake’ to the world and am amazed at the reaction it receives.
Om nom nom nom
Admittedly it is moist, tangy, light and totally takes my tastebuds by surprise but it does seem to be the non-cylindrical nature of the thing that is drawing all the attention. Now I’ve brought a fair few cakes into work in my time but to my total surprise at least two people told me it was the nicest one I’d ever made and plenty of others heaped praise on it/me. I felt so conflicted – no chocolate, nicest yet, does not compute. I take a bite however and I have to agree it tastes fabulous and if I can ever sort out the tin situation may well make my ultimate cake wall of fame.

Kitchen wisdom gained:
·        In cakes, as in life, learn to smile graciously and say nothing when people say nice things to you.

·         Butter a brioche tin. Then flour it. Then apply greaseproof paper to the bottom. Grease again. Repeat. With any luck it might give you your cake back, maybe.

·         Less really is more.
Domestic Goddess score out of 10: 9 – it would have been full marks had I not scalped the poor cake, but extra marks to me for covering up so well.

Final score: Nigella 1 – Kat 1 – everyone’s a winner!

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to press the little 'g +1' sign just below. I’m not totally au fait with these things but I think it helps other lost kitchen souls find their way here.

1 comment:

tom said...

I have a theory that the beauty of an item of confection is proportional to its surface area - thus the appeal of spun sugar. Perhaps your cake, with its many-folded sides, is subject to this rule, and by its very crinkly nature is very beautiful.