Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Let them eat cake!

From my dusty archives...

Howdy from Cowtown, y'all! My cooking karma here, despite working for a catering company, is going down the tubes, so any updates for the next little while will be stuff from earlier on in the summer, which may have appeared in my first food blog or livejournal (though an exception or two might wriggle its way in). Such is life.

I don't care HOW hot summer is; I cannot live without my cake! That's how I've found myself slaving over hot ovens with less-than-miraculous results in the merry months of early summer.

My first foray into fancy cake-ing was going to be an angel food cake. I had wanted to make one for my grandmother's birthday, but I didn't have enough egg whites on hand that day, so I made her a chocolate cake instead, which was enjoyed by all.

So, the next day, off I went to the supermarket, returning triumphantly with two cartons of egg whites in hand. I got to work rather excitedly on a lovely day in May, around noon (I asked Mom, who is an awesome baker, a few questions while she was home for her lunch break, I admit). I used Alton Brown’s recipe, because I love Alton Brown and his show Good Eats, and it’s much less stuffy than the Joy of Cooking. I used almond flavouring, which made the cake smell totally divine, but came off a little too strong, since I think I used too much. I recall chatting with my dear wifey Anne while my cake was cooling on the dining room table. Unfortunately, the method of using a funnel to keep the top the cake from touching the table was in vain, since my beautiful cake collapsed and was unsalvageable as a whole cake.

This was a rather sad experience for me, and I now know better than to let a cake that hot be tipped upside down. But all was not lost! Thankfully, trifle is fairly easy to make and the perfect use for angel food cake.

Then along came June. For the first bit of the month I was employed, but then I was offered a job in Calgary. In my haste to relocate, it was determined that a party was necessary for not just my going away, but for my father’s birthday and my uncle Dale’s surprise visit.

In my family, parties tend to involve my mother serving a meal to a large group of people, and this was no exception. I volunteered to make my father a birthday cake, as I’d found a very tempting chocolate cheesecake recipe in Nigella Lawson’s fabulous cookbook “Feast”. This was my first time attempting a cheesecake, but I don’t think I did too shabbily. Unfortunately my uncle “helping” me with making a white chocolate glaze ended with us cooking a lot of the white chocolate, which explains the odd white smear on top of the cheesecake. I assure you, it tasted lovely, especially with some fruit salad on the side.

Angel Food Cake (From Alton Brown’s Good Eats)

1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.

Cook's Note: Since they're easier to separate use the freshest eggs you can get.

Oh, and my soundtrack of choice for this post? Cake, of course!