I like good food and good wine!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Cake Disaster & A Lesson Learned

I've written about cake before, but I've never written about a recipe gone wrong, and face it, we've all had one or two. I was in the mood for a cake today. It's a little cool out and having the oven on sounded nice, so what will it be? I'll warn you, I'm cleaning out the pantry . . . I know there are going to be substitutions. I feel like a fairly dense cake, pound cake maybe. There is a chill in the air . . . something with some spice tones might be nice . . . wait, I've got real maple syrup . . . pecans . . . and some of those Kraft caramels . . . Ok, I've got a vision – Maple Pound Cake with Caramel Pecan Glaze! My mouth begins to water, this sounds good!

Substitutions . . .
  • The recipe I'm using as a base calls for sugar, water and maple "extract" (?), NOT Grade B Maple Syrup . . . so ok, I substitute the syrup for the water and leave out the sugar and the nasty extract.
  • The recipe uses cream cheese, I've got Greek Yogurt
  • The recipe says use a 12-cup Bundt pan; I want to use a loaf pan.
Here is my first mistake:
Pouring the mix into the loaf pan, I'm thinking this is probably too much batter. Before I start even thinking of scraping the batter off the sides, the loaf pan is filled to about 1" from the top. I'm thinking this cake will rise . . . that should be enough. But there is all this batter, and I'm wondering what am I going to do with it? So . . . mistake . . . I add it to the loaf pan, and now batter is only 1/2 inch from the top. Fingers crossed, into the oven it goes.

In just a few minutes I can hear the batter hitting the bottom of the oven. I grab a sheet pan, and slide it in on the bottom rack to catch most of the overflow.

Here is the second error:
Timer rings. Cake has been in the oven 42 minutes and the recipe says 42-47. The top of the cake jiggles when I slide the rack out. No need to test. I slide it back in and set the timer for an additional 5 minutes. Timer rings. Cake still jiggles. I pull the cookie sheet out and add 5 more minutes to the timer for the loaf. Timer rings, the edges are getting a bit brown, definitely less jiggle, set timer for 3 more minutes. Meanwhile, I've tasted the "cookies" from the sheet pan. YUMM! Just the flavor I'm after! I'm feeling optimistic, when I pull the cake out of the oven after 55 minutes.

I let the cake cool 6-7 minutes. then cut around the edges. Because the cake overflowed on all four sides, I'm cutting through a crust that formed on the edges of the pan. I let it cool 5 more minutes, but when I return to turn it out of the pan, I can see that the center has fallen. Drat! I flip the pan and the contents drop neatly onto the rack, but it looks like pudding on the bottom, not at all what I'm looking for. This was not pretty at all . . . should I just throw it away?

No way! Not while I've got an ounce of imagination left. That cookie sheet is going to do double duty. I flipped the fallen-pudding-bottom-cake back onto the cookie sheet, gooey-side-up. and put it back into the oven set at 325ยบ. I didn't even worry about preheating, after all, the gunk on the sheet was just getting cooler by the second.

Oh wait, I have not told you about the caramel pecan glaze, which isn't really a glaze at all since I'd deviously designed the glaze to cook on the bottom of the cake. Before I put the batter in the pan I carefully laid down a layer of pecan halves, and then put 8 chucks of caramel candy on top of that. I poured the batter in pretty carefully so I was confident the "glaze" would stay on the bottom, so when I filled the cake out of the pan, the glaze would be on top. Well, when I fist flipped the cake, there was little evidence of the pecans or the caramel except for a few on the ends. I'm assuming they sank into the goo when I turned the "cake" over.

So anyway, after about 25 more minutes in the over. I decided to check this thing out again. Once this twice baked cake cooled, I tried it. First an end piece where the crust was a little biscotti-like, but good. Then a center slice, still good . . . so, I'm happy, I saved the day. Sometimes things don't turn out to look the way we think they should, but that doesn't mean they can't be salvaged. Still, I hope next time I bake a cake, it comes out looking like a cake.

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