Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Problem with Cakes

Dear Elise,
I have lost my baking confidence and I blame it on unreliable ovens. That and the altitude. Also, there may be a reverse magnetic field around me.
Despite the limited white sugar, white flour guidelines, I have been doing a bit of baking. I baked a lemon cake for Ab. You know that cake that everyone in the family, except me, loves? The one that calls for whole cups of lemon zest, the one that usually has more than a few knuckle shards in it bc of all that hateful zesting? But Ab wanted it and I was visiting her, and bc she is nursing, she can't have chocolate so really, what's left?
I baked the cake and tested it and it seemed that the tester came out clean and I took it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes and then turned it out onto a plate to cool, whereupon, it fell into pieces and raw batter ran out and puddled all over the counter. Well, I popped it back in the pan, salvaged as much raw batter as I could scrape off the counter, and put it back in the oven for another half hour. Naturally when I tried to turn it out of the pan again, it came out in pieces. For this cake, other than making it unsightly, that's not a bad development bc you have so many more cracks and crags to catch and absorb the glaze, which is really the only tasty part of that wretched cake.

Because of that debacle, I am now nervous about under-baking and I don't trust the time that recipes recommend and I don't trust my oven temp because as everyone knows, reverse magnetic fields wreak havoc with electric ovens and the whole thing is fraught. So last Sunday I had a few people for dinner, otherwise known as an excuse to bake. I wanted to do something with all the lovely local peaches we get this time of year. And I wasn't up to making a pie crust and I wanted something sweeter and softer than a crisp. I considered Mrs. Bently's peach cake since you have been raving about it, but you also recommend doubling it and I didn't have enough eggs. So I went with Dorie Greenspan's Summery Peach Upside Downer.
This is the summer version of the Cranberry Upside Downer. We worked with the cranberry version quite a bit, if you recall. The peach one needs some work too. Part of the problem was my under-baking anxiety. To compensate, I over-baked it. But it is also a lackluster cake. Not as warm and sweet and soft as I wanted. I served it with whipped cream and no one complained. But next time I think I'll make a pound cake and use that over the peaches, flavored with the barest intimation of almond. As everyone knows, almond is an antidote to reverse magnetic fields.
love, Marg

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