To back track a little, I've always really loved baking. My grandmother was a fabulous baker, and taught me early that there was nothing as joyful as baking a treat to brighten someones day. Towards the end of my pregnancy there was a running joke that my husband and I were on the cake diet. It involved eating cake, every day, sometimes twice a day, and if you didn't think that worked for you it was just because you hadn't given it long enough to pan out. So it was hardly surprising that after Sybil was born I felt compelled to up my game in the cake department. I started perusing fancy cake cookbooks, looking for ones that would be good standbys for birthdays and lazy Saturdays with my little girl. Granted, it was premature, she was only a few weeks old, but I was already imagining us baking together, covering the kitchen in cookie dough and flour and driving her dad crazy.
I started simple, a few months after first getting the book, and made the Chocolate Nutella Mousse from the Chocolate Nutella Pave recipe. It was amazing, and I liked that she broke apart the recipe so there were simple ways to tackle it a bit at a time. I made it while my dad was visiting, over the course of one of then 2 month old Sybil's naps. Totally do-able.
|obviously her picture, not mine!|
Then there was a large break where I became so sleep deprived no amount of convincing could make me attempt her more complex recipes, until the hubbies birthday/fathers day event started looming. In May I handed him the cookbook with the task of picking something delicious for me to treat him with. He picked two recipes, a Black Pepper and Black Cherry Marble Cheesecake, and a Walnut Coffee-Cream Torte. We ended up going with the Torte as the Cheesecake used an enormous amount of goat cheese and I really didn't want to go bankrupt baking it.
|much messier, obviously my picture!|
The Torte was divine. It was also insanely decedent, with nearly 2.5 dozen eggs, more than a pound of butter and a pound of walnuts, plus vanilla bean paste. It actually has two kinds of butter cream, a coffee butter cream and a chocolate coffee butter cream with a coffee simple syrup on the cakes as well. It took 3 or 4 hours to bake and assemble it all, but was well worth it. We were glad we hadn't invited anyone over to celebrate (awkward birthday day, fathers day) since it meant we had the cake all to ourselves.
|clearly not my picture.|
For Sybil's birthday I really wanted a coloured cake. She was turning one and I figured I should be as simple and visual as possible. Bullock-Prado's rainbow cake was ridiculously complex, so I went with Raspberricupcake.com's Purple Ombre Sprinkle Cake. It was a simple vanilla layer cake with jam and salted butter cream and it was beautiful. However, the Sprinkles were a B*tch to put on and took some insane amount of time (possibly 1.5hrs? I was watching t.v. and cursing out the blogger for not mentioning how awful that part was). That being said the cake was a tremendous hit with both guests and the wee one and it was both awesomely delicious and gorgeous. Though you'll notice less sprinkles on my cake since it was looking dire for the cakes survival if I continued trying to get them to stick to the icing.
mmmmmmm pretty cake.
Finally it was my mom's turn. It was her 60th birthday and I had to somehow top her 50th (when we payed an extraordinary amount of money on a substandard meal at Sassafraz in Yorkville so she could feel like a movie star. She's very into that sort of thing) without spending so much. I made Weber's Cajun Bourbon Beef Tenderloin (outstandingly delicious), parsley butter lobster tails, and baby king oyster mushrooms and paired it with this yummy french sparkling wine. Sadly Sybil had a bed time melt-down and the eating of was not luxurious, so no pictures!
For her cake, I also handed her Bake it like you Mean it, and like Ryan, she picked two recipes. One that was diabolically hard and had about a million elements to it the Caramel Macadamia Carousel and the second a Truffle Caramel Fig Cake. Before I talk about this cake, let me quote you a bit from the recipe:
If you are still stumped as to whether I mean truffle as in mushroom or truffle as in chocolate confection, let me assure you: I am referring to the fungus. But give this unique cake a chance, and you'll experience it's surprising harmony for yourself.It seemed very weird, but my mom was into it, and Bullock-Prado was emphatic it was tasty, sooooo, I invested in an 18$ bottle of truffle oil, a case of figs and all the usual over the top butter and egg allotments that seem to be standard in one of these cakes.
The figs were cut up and mixed into the cake batter as well as sliced and used to hold in the carmel sauce between the 3 layers of cake. So far, so good. Bullock-Prado called for 3 tablespoons of truffle oil in the batter, and I hadn't really thought about it, until the woman in the specialty store I bought it in commented that it was A LOT of truffle oil. The minute I opened the bottle I knew this wasn't going to work for me. The fug of the oil was not something I would ever call delectable and certainly would never have reason to think it would be good in something sweet. But I kept the faith and soldiered on thinking, 'the smell will die off in baking surely'. And then 'well I'm sure the figs and carmel sauce will even out the flavour', and later 'GOD how am I ever going to get that smell out of my cake tupperware?!'. My mom tried to convince me that she thought it was good, likely out of feelings of guilt, but she didn't finish her piece either the first or the second night, saying she was 'too full', which is something I'm pretty sure I've never heard her say about one of my cakes before.
All in all it was an expensive cake fail, and also one that now makes my stomach turn when I think of truffle oil. I feel like this cake needed to come with a strong warning that it was a particular taste. Or, you know, not have made the cut for the cookbook at all. One or the other.
Alas, they can't all be winners, or it just wouldn't be baking, would it?
Bake it like you mean it, by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, January 1st, 2013
Buy Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out on Amazon