Let me tell you a story about cake. Not just any cake, but a decorated cake. A decorate cake known as the Apple Wine Cake, or, “It’s the first recipe in the chapter and I can finally use up that leftover almond paste.”
I felt some regret over only getting to two of last month’s recipes, but taking a look at this month’s chapter assuaged most of that. The first recipe called for, “One recipe of almond sponge cake,” the almond sponge cake being one of the confections from the prior chapter I did not make. So it looks like this month gives me a chance to play catch up on last month, which is awesome.
I’m a reasonably intelligent individual and by now I’ve figured out that most recipes in this book take more than a single day to make if I want to get anything else done that day. So I decide that on Friday I’ll do the actual sponge cake making bit, then designate Saturday as the day everything gets assembled and the cake actually gets served. That means making custard, poaching fruit, and whipping cream for frosting; it shouldn’t be all that hard. So, Friday afternoon I set to work. I’ve got a date with a buddy and an Agricola board scheduled for six, but that’s three hours away. I should be golden.
Do you know what last Friday was? Hot and humid, that’s what. Do you know what else it was? Do you know what hte synonym for “hot and humid while making sponge cake,” is? Bitch. Or, more accurately, heinous bitch. It should take roughly five minutes for my yolks to beat up to fluffly, creamy wonders. It took twenty five. Don’t talk to me about how long it took to get the egg whites to soft peaks, before I could add the sugar, nevermind that we still had stiff peaks to reach from there. There was cussing. And then there was plaintive staring at the bowl and begging. And then there was post-poning my board-game-fix. This cake and I, we did not start off on good terms.
Here’s the point where I came to an important conclusion about the cookbook that launched this madness: it’s crap. Oh sure, The Professional Pastry Chef is full of all sorts of tasty looking recipes, and the beginnings of chapters have very nice discourses on technique and whatnot. You may even recall me writing off problems with earlier recipes as, “Well, an actual professional would probably know what the recipe is talking about, so this is my fault for cooking out of my league.” Screw that. This cookbook was either not kitchen tested, not proofread, or for some reason the same batch of batter, in the same size and style of cooking pan, in an oven at the same temperature, cooks 32% faster if it’s destined to be an apple wine cake than if it’s being made for its own sake. Color me skeptical. And annoyed.
The cake actually came out very nice, despite the eternity it took for the eggs whip up correctly. This is good, as otherwise I might have done violence to the cookbook. And so it was, my Friday plans severely amputated, I walked away until the next day.
Any morning that starts with peeling apples and throwing them into a pot of wine with some raisins is a fun one, right? Right? Maybe it’s more fun if you like wine…
Things the recipe did wrong here:
- The amount of poaching liquid called for did not actually cover the fruit
- Two inch wedges is a bad, bad idea. That’s way too thick. Half inch wedges would have been better.
Things I did wrong here:
- Substitute Riesling with Chardonnay and about 2TB of sugar. Or possibly the mistake was making a wine cake when I don’t really know much about wine.
This recipe also called for making a 10 inch short dough round as the bottom layer of the cake. This initially struck me as a weird step that was going to throw off the cake. It wound up being the best idea of the whole thing.
The part of this cake that was most exciting to me was the layer of custard. It called for more of the Calvados I bought for the apple tart, so yay, using up more awkward ingredients I have lying around. Also, the cream-to-egg ratio was heavily cream favored, which is how I like my custards. While that got to work beating, I started assembling the cake.
There were two options for how to assemble this cake. The long printed version involved topping it with jelly rolls. It also would have left me with half an almond sponge cake lying around. I made the executive decision to skip the jelly rolls and take the route that used the whole almond cake. And then I made the less clever decision of following the recipe’s guidelines for how to assemble the cake. So you get a very thin layer of almond cake, and a layer of fruit with two-inch apple wedges. Then all the custard goes on top of the fruit and the final two layers go on top of that with nothing in between them. Because that’s logical.
Oh, and there’s the issue of apparently the spring form pan I thought was ten inches, and the silicone pan I thought was ten inches, are not both ten inches. So my short dough round is too big. Between the cookbook and me, this cake is destined for greatness. By which I mean adventure. By which I mean utter disaster.
Aluminum foil and a stapler. This worked perfectly. I think that was karma settling up after screwing me on the eggs.
2.5 cups of cream to 2 egg yolks, by the way, is fortified whipped cream, not a custard. I don’t care what the Professional Pastry Chef says. That was a two inch layer of whipped cream it slapped into the middle of that cake.
This is the home stretch. Just the frosting! Yay!
The original recipe would have resulted in two cakes. I halved it. Except at the frosting stage, because I didn’t see anybody objecting to having too much whipped cream for the cake. This means I should have had twice as much frosting as I needed, right? Right?
Yeah, I went back and made more. I should have made even more, but I was crabby. Crumbs happened. Up close, the final cake was not very pretty, even after I arranged the apples and raisins. From a distance, and on camera though?
I call that pretty.
The fruit was not good. The pieces were too big, and way too boozy. The latter may be a matter of personal taste – despite me suggesting people eat around the fruit, about half the plates have been getting eaten clean. The rest of the cake though, is fairly tasty. Not tasty enough to ever, ever make this beast again, but tasty enough to justify the once, if only for the learning experience.
Also, that cake is huge. HUGE.