From the moment on December 23, when I saw this cake was chosen, I had a bad attitude. Absolutely no offense meant to Mary Ann, of Meet Me in the Kitchen (one of my favorite bloggers and one of my favorite blogs!), who chose the recipe. It's a cool-sounding recipe and we're going to bake it anyway at some point, since we're baking the entire book! But I was cranky about this cake.
I just couldn't get my head around a plan for this cake. My holiday baking commitments were filled by other recipes. The finished product pretty much needs to be eaten the day it is assembled, and it can't be frozen. I couldn't find an occasion to serve the thing.
My springform pans were not the right size. This recipe calls for an 8" pan that's 3" deep. I didn't want to buy a new pan for a recipe that I knew - given its hefty quantities of cream, eggs, and cream cheese - that I would probably not make very often, if ever again.
And I didn't want to make a mini, because if I were going to bake this recipe, darn it, I wanted the full effect. But I couldn't see the two of us eating the whole cake. And, nope, there still wasn't an occasion on the horizon for this cake.
Plus, this recipe wasn't the easiest thing ever. It has four different elements that are made separately. Then the cake is carved up, hollowed out, brushed, coated, filled, covered and topped. And, there's no picture of this creation in the book.
Why, yes, I'd love some cheese with all that whine!
This cake was going to take awhile to make, and then it needed to be eaten right away. This was not something I could make and also prepare a dinner for guests. Not if I wanted to keep my sanity. Nope, I needed to bring it somewhere, as my sole contribution to an event.
Then I remembered the invite I'd received to our bi-monthly neighborhood supper club. A perfect occasion. But when I called the hostess of the event, she told me that there were already three desserts coming, and could I bring a side dish instead?
Rats! Back to whining.
I've never missed a recipe since I joined TWD in July, and this wasn't going to be my first. By now I was up to last week. Ultimately I decided to bake this for a friend who needed to be cheered. I had just a few hours to pull the cake together, and it needed to be gluten free for her. From the ingredient list it seemed like a decent plan at the time. This cake seemed to be all about the eggs, with just a bit of flour, so I thought I'd try it, using Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour mix.
Using some volume calculations (yes, more math) I found that my large silicone loaf pan was the approximate size as the pan the recipe specifies - and it was more than 3" deep. I thought that would be a cute shape to hide a surprise filling, the silicone pan would release the cake so I wouldn't need a springform, and the cake would make great slices. (Visualize success)
And it was then that I read the cake's actual directions. And saw that Dorie refers to the eggs as "divas". But I forged ahead.
Making the actual cake part was fascinating. I've never made a genoise (this type of spongy cake) or used this technique before. So I stirred the eggs and sugar in a bowl that sat in a skillet of simmering water. Sugar dissolved, eggs warmed, no problem.
Beating the egg mixture was also pretty cool; I found I needed to use speed #6 on my KA mixer. The volume increased, but I'm not sure I ever really got the exact kind of "ribbons". Overall, so far so good. The divas seemed to be cooperating.
All light and fluffy. Now to sift in the flour and pour in melted butter while coddling the diva eggs. The flour seemed to sink, but I tried to gently coax the divas to play nice. The batter tasted grainy - which is the problem I noticed Bob's gf flour the only other time I used it . But it had a good flavor, so I determined to remain optimistic.
While the cake baked, I whipped up the filling (ha ha, that's a pun!), and prepared my berries. I used a combination of blackberries and strawberries.
But although the cake did rise at bit, it fell and sank as it baked. Given its rectangular shape, it was truly a brick. No, it was more like a paving stone - the tallest part probably wasn't even an inch. There was no way I could make the Berry Surprise with such a flat cake.
This was made in a loaf pan, not a sheet pan!
So on to Plan B:
In the book Dorie waxes eloquent about the cake's whipped cream filling, and how you could just eat it with a spoon. So I'd make a spoon dessert from this recipe. It looked like I could salvage a bit of the cake and use it as a layer for trifle.
When I cut into the cake I could see huge pockets of dry flour that had never gotten incorporated. The center was so compressed it looked like it had been stepped on. I was actually too disheartened by the sight to document it photographically.
But I was able to salvage enough edge bits of cake to layer the bottom of a 7" glass bowl. These were tough and rubbery, but they were at least spongy. Then I spooned on a layer of the filling, spread a layer of berries, then another generous layer of filling. I never even made two elements of the recipe (the syrup and the topping)
Amazingly, this turned out to be pretty good. My celiac friend was ecstatic to have a delicious dessert that she could eat. I went back for seconds myself, and then left her with the remainder.
The filling was nowhere near sweet enough. 1T of sugar didn't make much of a dent sweetening 6 0z of cream cheese and a ton of cream. I'd add more sugar and some vanilla next time. I don't think this was the right cake to experiment with gluten free substitutions. Those diva eggs needed just the right support from their flour, I guess.
Although I'd like to master this technique - eventually - it will be a looooong time before I'm ready to tackle this cake again. But until then I know how to make a lovely trifle!