Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Rest of the Story

Yesterday I posted a story about baking a buttermilk pound cake from scratch. What you didn't realize is that the story was actually a comedy or a tragedy, depending upon your point of view.

The tale was heavily edited. By me. On purpose. With a fat red pencil and a permanent black marker. Why, you ask? Because the story didn't have a happy ending and I wanted to bring you back today so that we could learn some lessons.

First of all, here's the cake as it came (or in this case) didn't come out of the cake mold.


I've baked this cake many times during the two years I've owned this pan and this is the first time the cake has refused to release from the pan. There was no magical forest of buttermilk cake and snowy powdered sugar, there was just a spectacular failure.

The true story is worthy of a sitcom episode. Since the writers are on strike they have plenty of time to troll the internet for future story ideas and I expect a call anytime soon for the rights to the tale.

I'm sure I've mentioned the fact that my beautiful and hefty Kitchen Aid mixer decided to go on strike just before the holidays. That meant that I had to break out some vintage equipment for the job. Yes, it's a Brady Bunch harvest gold handheld Sunbeam mixer. I think it was a wedding gift.


It still works and besides I can't get rid of it because it matches this:


With strains of the 70's Show theme song playing in the background I begin beating the butter and sugar. About the time I'm adding flour to the mixture the Sunbeam begins to chatter loudly....and then quits. I frantically eject the beaters thinking that perhaps they were loose. I push the beaters back in and fiddle with the speed button. The Sunbeam springs back to life emitting a slight odor of burning rubber. I press on, thankful I don't have to bust out the really low tech device.


With the batter at the right consistency I spread the mixture into the very well sprayed pan and pop it in the oven and return to my studio to finish some aprons. Some time later I return to check on the cake's progress. The oven is OFF. I kid you not, the oven was OFF! I paid extra for this stove to get a feature called "Sunday Mode" which means if you forget to turn your oven off it shuts down automatically after a certain amount of time, two hours I think. This was under an hour. I have no explanation.

At this point I have no idea how long the oven has been shut down or how long the cake still needs to bake. I turn the oven back on and monitor the progress with a cake tester. At some point it seems done.

Ten minutes later the battle begins in earnest. I flip the heavy pan onto a crystal cake plate and slowly lift one of the edges....nothing. I tuck a sharp knife along the edge, loosening the cake from the side of the pan. Nothing. I become a little more aggressive with the edge cutting technique. Nothing.

As I'm pounding the pan down on the cake plate it occurs to me that this could have disastrous consequences and I switch to a sturdy ironstone plate. Pan and plate are bouncing wildly on the countertop as my temper rises. During one of it's acrobatic jumps it flies across the counter and cracks the coffee carafe.


A frantic call to a friend who's a chemical engineer reveals that in most probability the loss of heat during the baking cycle has created the problem. The cake molecules were dancing wildly in the heat, too busy to glom onto the side of the pan. But remove the heat and all bets are off.

I decide at this point to just go for it, cutting and slamming until the cake mess descends from it's $30 designer tomb.

At this point there's a decision to be made. I could certainly bake another cake, the pristine, gorgeous variety that I fashioned in your mind's eye yesterday. But something occurred to me. This is real life. This stuff happens. And what if this happened hours before your dinner guests were arriving? One thing my old friend and supreme hostess Annie always told me, be prepared!

Annie was a wonderful mentor who banished my fear of giving a dinner party. Preparation and problem solving were everything in her eyes. And so.....a challenge was born.


It's hours before your dinner party for eight people. The table is set and prep work is done. You've taken the morning to work on your dessert, buttermilk pound cake to be served with brandy and freshly whipped cream. It comes out of the pan a total disaster, delicious but unpresentable.

Using only the items available in your pantry or fridge, design a dessert to wow your guests, turning disaster into triumph. In addition whatever ingredients you possess I will allow you to use two ingredient in my fridge for your creation - 2 pints of heavy whipping cream and 1 jar of raspberry preserves. I've pulled out some individual size glass dishes for serving purposes.


And a retro coffee pot to make coffee for the guests, since the cake pan took out the glass carafe.

You will have till midnight on Saturday to design a dessert. The challenge will be judged by my friend who trained as a pastry chef. The winner will receive one of my retro-inspired half aprons. I will concoct your recipe and photograph for all to see.

CLARIFICATION: You are to use the above pictured ugly but delicious pound cake as one of the ingredients for your dessert recipe. Cube it, blend it, whatever you decide to do. Then combine it with other ingredients to make a nice presentation.

E-mail your recipe to me at:

Good luck to all of you. Now get cracking!

P.S. I promise to bake the perfect cake sometime in the future.

Tomorrow we'll have a little bit more about lessons and a peek at a fellow bloggers' magazine spread.


diane said...


Choux paste:
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup water
1/4 salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs
In 2 qt.saucepan over medium heat, heat butter, water and salt until mixture boils. Remove from heat. Add flour all at once stirring vigorously with wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and leaves side of pan. Preheat oven to 375F. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth. Cool slightly.
Spoon 3/4 cup of mixture into pastry bag fitted with 1/8" round tube. Onto greased cookie sheet, pipe 36 "question marks" for swans' necks, making a small dollop at the top for each "head". Spoon remaining mixture into pastry bag. Using 1/2" tube, pipe 36 1 1/2" by 1" teardrops for swans' bodies, about 1 inch apart. Bake 10 minutes until swans' necks are golden; remove and cool on rack. Continue baking bodies 20 to 25 minutes longer until golden. Cool on rack.

Vanilla Filling:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
2 T flour
4 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream(from Suzs'frig,lol)

In 3 qt saucepan, mix sugar, gelatin and flour. In small bowl,whisk egg yolks and milk until well mixed; stir into gelatin mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick and coats a spoon well.About ten minutes(do not boil).Remove from heat and add vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until mixture is cold but not set;about 45 minutes. In small bowl with your Harvest Gold, burning rubber smelling mixer, lol,at medium speed beat heavy cream until soft peaks; fold into custard.

"Build and they will come."

Cut off top 1/3 of swans' bodies;set aside. Spoon filling into pastry bag with large fluted tube. Pipe some filling into bottom body pieces. Cut top pieces of swans' bodies (that were set aside) lengthwise in half; set into filling for "wings". Place necks into filling. *Chill swans.

*If you would like eclair swans instead of cream puff swans, cover swans with chocolate glaze and then chill.

Semisweet chocolate glaze:
2 squares semisweet chocolate(or chip equivalent)
2 t butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 T milk

In 1 qt saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate and butter, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle on swans.

Caution: Inevitably your finger will end up in the chocolate glaze for taste testing purposes.Wipe finger on paper towel instead of new, spiffy apron. ;o)

All kidding aside, this recipe only takes about an hour or an hour and a half from start to finish since you can make the filling while your pastry is cooking and cooling. They really do make a nice presentation and are delicious. With or without the chocolate. Because they are on the small size, some will want more than one so it's nice to have extras at the table. In addition and because they're are so many, this is also a great dessert to take to a special occasion that you are obligated to bring dessert.
Makes 36, 104 cals. each.

diane said...

Sorry,lol. I didn't see the clarification prior to submitting my recipe. No matter! Because I hope you make this recipe one day and take pics! It's a fun one!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Oh I've had this happen more often than I like to think about. I always turn it into a layered trifle...some of my best compliments on dessert have come of failed cakes. I'll have to see if I can come up with an actual recipe to send along so that I may try for one of your beautiful aprons, which, btw, I never did see on your Etsy shop. Does that mean that someone scooped it? :>

Suzanne said...

Oh Diane, I will do just that. Swans it will be one day next week! Although I will say I detest working with gelatine...don't know why but I think it's related to yet another spectacular disaster.

Vee - I love trifle! I've just this moment finished posting one of my aprons on Etsy. A couple more to follow tomorrow. (If I ever get off the computer long enough to sew) BTW, I loved your post today. So much to think about.

Ginnie said...

Oh, my, I really laughed at your line about it flying across the counter and cracking the carafe. Ah, it's good to have a sense of humor!

Here's my submission, a variation on a recipe given to my mom by a lovely woman from Scotland.


One delicious but bedraggled-looking pound cake from your friend Suzanne.
1 cup whipping cream, also from your friend Suzanne.
1/8 tsp. unflavored gelatin
3 to 4 oz. shredded, sweetened coconut
2 10-oz packages frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cube the pound cake into 1 inch cubes; spread on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated oven for - I can only guess at the time - 10 minutes? – until lightly toasted. Allow to cool.

Whip one cup of Suzanne's heavy cream with 1/8 tsp. of unflavored gelatin until stiff peaks form.

Transfer the cooled, toasted cubes of cake to a 9 x 13 ungreased cake pan; top with the whipped cream. Sprinkle the coconut over the whipped cream and press down very lightly.

Refrigerate until ready to serve (longer is better).

Portion into Suzanne's individual glass dishes and serve with the raspberries spooned over the top.

Suzanne said...

Ginnie - thanks for the submission!

The only way to survive in this house is with a sense of humor.