Monday, March 30, 2015

New cake drawn....baking commences tomorrow!

It's Monday, and we are out of sweets! The last of the Peanut Butter Cookies were eaten, so I don't feel bad about drawing our 2nd cake recipe out.

My daughter ate the last of the cookies, so she got the honor? of picking the next cake recipe for this blog.  When she pulled it, to be honest, she wanted to put it back.  You see she really doesn't like coconut, and yes folks, our next cake comes direct to us from page 74 in our book Up Close on Cakes: Coconut Cake.

This cake says it serves 10 - 12 and uses a 9 inch springform pan (good, that's the size I have).

The Cake recipe is:
1/2 Cup (4 oz/125g) Butter
1 Cup (8 oz/250g) Sugar
2 Eggs
2/3 C (1 oz/30g) flaked (desiccated) coconut
1 1/2 Cups (6 oz/185g) self-rising flour (sifted)
1 Cup (8floz/250ml) sour cream
1/2 Cup (3 floz/90ml) cream

For the icing:
2 Cups (3 1/2 oz/ 100g) shredded coconut
2 Egg Whites
1/2 Cup (3 oz/90g) Confectioner's (Icing) sugar, sifted
1 drop red food coloring (optional) now come my thoughts about these ingredients; First and foremost everything is better with butter.  That said, and moving forward I see 2 different types of coconut here.  I have the shreded coconut, and will likely just use that instead of flaked.  As for the Cream, I will use heavy cream, just because I have it.

As for the icing, everything looks good to go, with one exception.  The red food coloring.  Yes I know that it's optional.  And I am opting out of using it.  Red food coloring, for that matter any type of food coloring has no place in any kitchen I cook in.  Too many of the chemicals that are used that are purportedly safe for human consumption just aren't; safe that is.  The literature is out there, I won't beat you over the head with it.  I started this, to show cakes don't have to come from box mixes.    That we can make things for ourselves, and make them better.  No, there will be no Red Food Coloring, though I may use some beet juice which I know to be edible, and will color anything, including my jeans red.  Don't ask.  It was an unfortunate canning mishap.

So all in all, a straight forward cake.  I do like the Sour Cream addition as this cake should be moister than the last one.

So here is the rest of the recipe, as per usual, the Book bring is in Italics and my comments aren't.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C/Gas 4) Butter up the 9 inch springform pan and line the base with parchment or wax paper Okay, if I butter it all up, why the parchment.  I think I may be living on the edge here, but I'm gonna skip that part (the parchment) simply because I'm out. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time; beating well after each addition.  Stir in the Coconut, flour, Sour Cream and Cream in installments or a little at a time.  Basically, you want this to incorporate into the batter.  So a little bit of each, then repeat until it's all gone. Mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour our until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. 1 after the last cake, I will set my timer for 20 minutes and start checking.  I know that sounds demanding, but the last cake read bake for 50 minutes, and was done at  about 35 in my oven.  Better safe than eating a brick I always say. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, combine the Coconut and Jeff Whites in a bowl mixing well.  Add the sugar in batches, stirring well after each addition. If desired, red food coloring may be added to the icing. So, they want pink coconut....hmm not me, I'll keep mine white, just the way Mother Nature made it. Nope I won't even use beet juice!  Keeping it real and pure here. Cover the to of the cake with icing and serve.

So tomorrow we bake.  Music choice...Coconut, come on man...something from the islands.  And when we talk about islands and music, it must be Bob Marley!  The crazy thing about Marley, not many of his songs were release on 45 rpm.  And those that were released were done so long after the full album had gone gold or platinum (so they knew what the hits were.)  Now that isn't the crazy part.  The song Could You Be Loved, is a good tune, but the b-side; well none other than No Woman No Cry.  One of the greatest Marley tunes ever.  Not sure how they blew that one, but safe to say, I will be listening to Mr. Marley, with probable Jimmy Buffett thrown in for good measure.

Heres to baking!
Night all

Saturday, March 28, 2015

No new cake today...just a question

So, I know this blog was supposed to be about cakes.  Specifically about cakes from the book Close up on Cakes.  but seriously, who just wants to bake cakes.  I mean I Have been baking bread for years. And Yes, I still listen to music, mostly picked due to B-sides when I bake bread.

But now, my wife and daughter have gotten me into Pinterest.  Or as I call it, Crack for Crafty folk.

Now don't get me wrong.  It has been a great source of inspiration for me in other parts of my life, Like the woodworking I do.  Great inspiration.  but lately, my daughter has been posting Macaroons...Lemon, Raspberry, Irish Cream....oh, did I mention I love Macaroons?

A little share here.  On vacation one year, we went to St. Martins, and traveled to the French side of the island.  We passed by, and eventually stopped at this bakery.  Well, we did the typical one of everything, and two of the things we like.  What we ended up with was way too many macaroons!  And we were eating them for the rest of the trip!

Now, I am questioning, should I limit this blog to just the cakes, or should I branch out some.

As I write this out, I am coming to a conclusion. I can still bake the bread, and branch out into macaroons, I just won't write about them on this blog.  At least until I finish with the cakes.

BTW, Monday I will draw for the next Cake!

Happy Baking all!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baking Day, the first of many to come

To set the tone:
This is a photo of the Date Cake from the Book, page 39 (the cake recipe is on page 38.)  So, this is what we were shooting for.

Now I have to admit; when we were going through the book the first time, I wasn't thrilled with this recipe.  Sort of like, it would never cross my mind to make something like this.  But as I was getting ready to bake, I found myself getting anxious, kind of like being a little kid at Christmas.  Not sure if it was for the cake, the blog, or fear of falling flat on my face.

I realized right after my first two cups of coffee, that I needed to accomplish a few things before baking.  First was clean the oven, something had spilled over and I didn't need a burnt smoke flavor to this cake!  Second, was to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes. Another admission, I absolutely abhor cooking or baking in a dirty kitchen.  

Once the dishes were done, kitchen clean, I realized that the oven still had a couple of hours on the self clean cycle.  So to kill time, and my pent up energy, I went to the gym and got in a decent workout, and seriously, only thought about cake about a zillion times.

By the time I got home, the oven was done, and I was able to start the baking process.

This is the chopped dates, walnuts and brown sugar.  Tip with chopping dates, keep washing the knife off with hot tap water, this removes the sugars from the knife and makes for easier chopping!

So with David Bowie playing in the background...and no, Panic in Detroit didn't Start us off; it was Changes from 1972 (Andy Warhol was the b-side and no that wasn't one of my favorites....) I chopped the dates, then the walnuts, packed and dumped the brown sugar, melted and poured in the butter, then the eggs and milk.  I then made up the self rising flour.  It was 1 1/2 cup flour total (3/4 C AP, and 3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry flour) so I added 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.  Stir to combine.  Prior to this, I had buttered my 8 inch pan, and cut a circle of parchment paper for the bottom.
Prepped pan, and batter ready to go in.  This was a dense batter, and needed some coaxing out of the bowl.  Once it was all in, I shook and knocked on the pan to distribute the batter.

Now the oven had been pre-heated to 350F, with the rack in the center of the oven.  The recipe called for baking for 50 minutes.  Out of habit, I set a timer for 30 minutes just to see where it was (as every oven is different!)  At 30 minutes, the toothpick was still wet.  I set the time for another 10 minutes. 

10 minutes later, the toothpick came out clean.  I tried two more spots, all clean so the cake came out of the oven at 40 minutes.  So let this be a lesson for anyone playing along.
Yep, the top cracked some.  This could be cleared up with a water bath on the rack below, but as this cake is to be frosted, the cracks won't matter.

I ran a knife around the sides, with no sticking.  Waited 10 minutes (as this pan doesn't hold heat at all) and put a cooling rack on top and flipped the cake.  Another cooling rack was employed on the bottom and again flipped, now the cake was resting on a cooling rack right side up.  It came out perfectly.

The cake came out, not to David Bowie nor any of his alter egos...but rather Credence Clearwater Revival, and a classic B-Side Born on the Bayou (I think Cajun food is in order this week) which was the flip side to Proud Mary in 1969!

While the cake cooled, and I chilled to CCR I started in on the frosting, Pretty easy, Cream cheese, Powdered Sugar and butter.  It was a bit stiff at first, but persistent mixing got it to spreadable.  Now the recipe makes more icing than I like.  I have never been a frosting or icing fan, so I didn't use it all.  In the end, I used about 2/3 of it.  Topped the cake off with Walnut halves.  So shoot back to the first picture from the book, then come back to see what I made:
Basic technique here, dump a bunch of icing on with the spatula, then use the offset spatula to spread it and remove any excess.  The Lazy Susan below aids in frosting a cake, as it spins!

Temptation did not get the best of me.  We had dinner, then made some tea and cut a slice to try....
Not sure if you can zoom in, but the nuts, and dates are clearly visible, and the structure is tight.  The cake is dense, though to be fair, in looking at the book, their slice appears dense as well.

Taste wise, it's on the dry side.  That could be due to inconsistent cooking times, using the middle rack, or it could be that this is dense, slightly dry cake.  My wife loved it 5 stars she said, as she had a second slice.  To be fair, she likes dry cakes.  I too had a second small slice, as the flavor is subtle.  The Dates and Walnuts really shine in this cake.  It isn't too sweet, and the dates lend a moisture to the cake in places.  My Father and Aunt tried this cake as well, and all agreed, though a bit dry, a wonderful cake, pleasing to the palate, and one to keep to make again.  When I have other taste testers, I will update this if anything else comes up.

Now the cake is 8 inches and about 1 1/2 inches high.  It cuts 8 nice healthy slices, 16 if you are watching your waistline like me :) So how will it keep?  Not sure, if it lasts that long, I will update that info, when next we draw a cake for baking.  But the way this one tastes, I'm not betting on it being around long enough to test longevity and freshness.

All in all, an easy cake to back, and decorate.  Tasteful, but possibly dry just by nature.  Now I made this to the recipe.  My normal inclination is to play with the ingredients, like cutting sugar, or substituting fats, this recipe after making it verbatim the first time (another good tip) and I wouldn't change a thing.  Well except to do the first watch at 30, and second at 35 (at least on my oven!)

Anyone playing along, now or the future, Please feel free to comment any of your own findings, I'd love to hear from you!

Parting shot:

Longevity Update:  So the cake only lasted until today.  The last of the Taste Testers have checked in.  The consensus; The texture is like a scone, and the dates and frosting lend to a moistness the cake lacks.  It was very subtle in taste, but all liked it enough to want to bake it again.

The next cake will be drawn next week.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Drumroll Please.....

And the winner is.....wait for it....Date Cake!

So my darling wife got home from work, and it was time to draw from the box of cake names; to refresh the memory see the photo below

The slips of paper were all mixed up, and she drew out the name Date Cake (on page 38) for those of you who may have the book and want to play along with me.  If you want to play, but don't have the book, the night before I make the cake, I will give the recipe here which will be in italics my own commentary will not be in italics.

So without further ado, here is the subject of our conversation here.

Cake Batter
1 Cup (5 oz/155g) Chopped Dates
1/3 Cup (1 1/2 oz/45g) Chopped Walnuts
1/2 Cup (3 oz/90g) Brown Sugar (packed firm)
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup (4 oz/125g) Butter, melted
2 tsp. Light Corn Syrup
3/4 Cup (3 oz/90g) Self-rising Flour
3/4 Cup (3 1/2 oz/100g) Whole Wheat Self-rising Flour
1/4 Cup (2 fluid oz / 60ml) milk

4oz (125g) Cream Cheese
6 tsp. (1 oz/30g) Butter
1 Cup (6 oz/185g) Confectioners (powdered) Sugar
Walnut halves for decoration

First of all, before I get into the actual preparation of the cake here....I know some of you like myself may be scratching their heads about the measurements presented from the book.  Cups is standard US measurements, ounces is weight, and grams is metric conversion used all over the world except for the US, Burma and Liberia....and I know from cooking, that 1 Cup is equal to 8 oz.  And 8 oz is equal to 226.8g.  So why the discrepancies?

According to some professional bakers I know of, one should always use metric when measuring for baking.  It's the most accurate. But in this recipe, take for example the Brown Sugar (packed) it calls for 1/2 cup (3oz/90g) which doesn't make sense.  1/2 Cup of packed brown sugar weighs 1.5 oz or 45g according to  Now this is easy to test, and I did.  I took a 1/2 Cup measuring cup, firmly packed brown sugar into it to the rim, leveled it off, and weighed it.  Using a bowl on my scale, I hit the tare function which discounted the weight of the bowl.  So the sugar weighed 110g or 3 1/2 oz.

What's the old saying, don't believe everything you read....especially on the internet!

Perhaps this recipe isn't that far off.  A bit here and there in grams, but if I follow the Cups or Grams,  it should come out fine.

Now, I looked through my pantry, and see I have everything here except for the Self-Rising Flours!  Hating to buy anything I can make myself, a quick search of the aforementioned internet shows 1 Cup All Purpose Flour + 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder and 1/4 tsp Salt.  Seems straight forward enough.  Though I did see that when making your own Whole Wheat Self-rising Flour, use Whole Wheat Pastry Flour instead of All-Purpose.  Luckily, I have all that here at home.  No trip to the grocery store for this cake!

Okay, now for the directions on how to make this cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C/Gas 4) close enough, I remember from math classes, that 350 F is 176.7 C, but 180 is more likely to show up on an oven so 180C it is.

Butter up an 8 inch (20 cm) springform cake pan and line with parchment or waxed paper.  
Houston, we have a problem....I don't have an 8 inch spring form pan!  Mine is 9 inches, and yes, size does matter here.  Using a 9 inch pan will make for a thinner or flatter cake and could impact cooking times as it will be less dense.  I also don't want to try changing up the recipe to add ingredients to make up for the larger spring form pan.  So I will use an 8 inch cake pan, not spring form seeing as how I'm going to parchment the bottom anyways, I'll just add a parchment ring around the edge.
Back to the action then....
In a large bowl, combine all the cake ingredients and mix until combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center mass comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the pan. Whoops!  Not using a spring form pan here (if you are; follow the instructions) as I'm not, I will cool the cake on a wire rack for 30 - 45 minutes before trying to remove from the pan.
For the icing: Combine all icing ingredients and mix until smooth.  Spread over the top of the cooled cake (I'm guessing here, but I'm going to let this cool completely.  Not just the 10 or 30 minutes for removal of the sides, what we're talking about here is like 2 - 3 hours for it to cool completely) and then decorate with the walnuts.

All in all, a pretty straight forward cake, just sorting out the details makes it go smoother in the end.  So now that I have a game plan, know I have all the ingredients...tomorrow I bake!  As for the music.  Hmmm with dates, I'm thinking David Bowie /Aladdin Sane.  The song Panic in Detroit (a favorite of mine) was the B-side to Knock on Wood in 1974....tell me truthfully, who remembers that song?

So until tomorrow, when I will bake the cake, taste test the cake, and report on the whole process.

Night all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What I'm about here....

So where to start....well at the beginning of course.

Me, I'm a cook; well former chef.  And I have long maintained that cooking is art.  Baking is Science.  I really couldn't get into strict measurements, and if you've ever used too much or not enough of say flour in your cookies, you may have noticed they don't come out as planned.  Whereas, this really isn't that much of an issue in cooking.  I could attribute this to being sloppy, lazy, or as anyone who knew me early on, will attest; Science is not my strong suit....hence why I don't work for NASA, but worked in kitchens.

Now, I just cook at home.  But my daughter has a passion for baking.and is really good at it.  So when we go on the hunt for lost treasures (at our local thrift stores) we are always on the search for pans, baking utensils and baking reference books.  Her Current passion is Cupcakes. So while searching the bookshelf for finds, I found nothing on cupcakes.  My wife on the other hand, asked if I had seen the book on cakes?  Silly me, if you have a recipe of a cake, you can make cupcakes just as easily from the same recipe, just bake it in different pans!  When we opened the book my wife was holding, our eyes were drawn to the wonderful photos of cakes inside, each more tempting the next.  By the 4th or 5th photo, I was ready to eat the book itself!

So as we left the store, book in hand, my wife inquired, "would you make me some of these" To which I replied, "perhaps it would be better if our daughter did."   To which, she responded, "did you ever see Julie and Julia?" Of course said I, "but what does that have to do with cake?"  Much more than I imagined then.  The rest of the conversation in a nutshell centered on stepping outside our normal bounds, trying new things, growth.  I have a few other blogs, where I talk about some of my passions.  Growing Veg, raising chickens, getting healthier etc.  So she challenged me to write a blog about this book, the cakes we bake from it, how they taste, how easy or hard they are to make etc.  Now she didn't say "I double dog dare you" or anything like it, but I am almost always up for a challenge.  But I would do this my way, or no way.

The ground rules:

One cake every two to three weeks (as we can't eat that much that fast.  Some times we will do more than others, but I will do  two cakes a month (or this would take forever!)

I will bake the cakes just as described, no letting my penchant for fiddling with recipes take over.

I will post honest reviews of the recipes.  I have seen some of the recipes from the book on other websites, but have not checked them out. So I will not have any particular bias towards a cake in question.

Today, that's it for the rules, that isn't to say that I won't add more, it's my blog, so I get to say.

As for the title of this blog.  When I was a youngster, I bough 45's and usually ended up liking the B sides better than the song I bought the 45 for!  The B-sides were always another song, not really played on the radio much, so in a way it allowed you to see if you liked the artist, more than just the song.  I am a cook, that's my A-side.  Baking that's my B-side.  And yes, I have baked a bit, and find that I always listen to music when I bake.  Hence this blog is B-sides while baking.

Now the book in question; Close Up on Cakes edited by Suzie Smith.

Now there are over 80 recipes in here, and I wanted a way to make baking them random. My wife wanted me to do them in order (like in Julie and Julia) but I felt, and feel, I don't want to make 5 Chocolate Cakes in a row ugh.... so to randomize this process.  I cut up small pieces of paper, and wrote down the name of the cakes and the page number.  folded up the little pieces of paper and threw them in an old cigar box.  We will draw one slip of paper, and whatever cake comes up, will bake it.

Now, just to eat up the Carrot Cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting my daughter made up for a birthday party on Friday....

I must say, in writing out all those little slips, a few recipes really caught my eye, and made me want to scrap this whole idea and get to baking....but temptation is fueling to anticipation which is better than any sauce or syrup you can apply.  So I will have to wait, until the fickle finger of fate prompts me to draw out that recipe from the box.

I plan to bake the first of these cakes sometime mid week, and will update this blog when each is baked, and the first slice eaten.