Just to be clear, my wife did offer to make a birthday cake for me. But, in the interest of checking another recipe off for The Project, I insisted on making my own birthday cake.
In retrospect, I should have let my wife make a cake for me, because she would have made this cake from a Hershey's ad -- an excellent cake that I dream about between birthdays. This recipe, on the other hand, made a pretty disappointing birthday cake.
There's nothing unusual about this recipe. Like many other cake recipes, it starts with creaming butter and sugar, and then beating in some eggs and vanilla. Finally, the milk, flour, baking powder and salt are added gradually. I found the finished product to be dry and cotton-y. And I'm not the only one. Teena thought it was dry, too. (Melissa used the batter as a base for a peach cake. The addition of fruit probably helped with the dryness.) The Book says that this recipe takes only ten minutes more than a boxed cake mix and is "spectacularly better," and it promises that this cake will be "the cornerstone of every cake baker's repertoire." Sorry, but I respectfully disagree.
I haven't written this cake recipe off just yet, however. I'll try it again someday when I make the Seven-Minute Frosting. This time, though, I made the Chocolate Ganache Frosting, and it was a disappointment, too. The recipe is very simple. It's just three-quarters of a pound of chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used a big block of fancy chocolate from Whole Foods) and one cup of heavy cream. Bring the cream to a simmer, pour it over the chopped chocolate and whisk it until smooth. The frosting tastes great (how can you go wrong with chocolate and cream?), but it was very thick, which made spreading a challenge. And then it hardened to a solid shell. The cake wasn't as much frosted as it was encased in chocolate.
Next year, I'll let my wife make my birthday cake. But if my birthday cake was a disappointment, my birthday presents were all that I could have hoped and dreamed for. My wife bought me a selection of items from my Kitchen Wishlist, including an OXO digital kitchen scale and the Oxford Companion to Food. The best present, however, is my new Clear Solutions Jumbo Cookbook Holder. This cookbook holder is highly rated by America's Test Kitchen, and it's going to make my life a lot easier as I continue to work on The Project. The Book is so large that it won't fit in my old cookbook holder, and laying the book down on the counter takes up too much space in my too-tiny kitchen. The Clear Solutions Cookbook Holder is adjustable, so that it can accommodate The Book or a single issue of Gourmet with ease. The large, clear page shield gives an unobstructed view of two pages at a time, and it folds down to allow you to turn the page easily. This thing gets the Gourmet All The Way seal of approval!
Date Cooked: October 19, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
2 years ago