Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Botched Effort

A couple of weeks ago, I went a little insane and bought a bunch of citrus fruit from the dented and dinged rack in the back of the grocery store. What can I say? It had been cold, and I apparently was fearing the onset of scurvy. I ended up browsing cookbooks and was drawn to lemony and orangy cakes. Despite having made two orange chiffon cakes (both pretty good) and a lemon poppyseed citrus pound cake (disappointing), I still have citrus fruit to use up. Yesterday, I remembered the Orange Bundt Cake from the February/March 2007 issue of Cook’s Country and decided to give it a go. At the very least, it would allow me to make use of two or three oranges and a lemon.

The ingredients went together just fine. In this cake, the technique veers from the traditional creaming of butter and sugar; instead, the slightly softened butter is mixed in to the dry ingredients. Then all the wet ingredients are added at one time, and the batter is mixed for a couple of minutes.

My first twinge of concern was with the final amount of batter. Although the recipe called for a 12-cup Bundt pan, the amount of batter looked better suited to a smaller Bundt. (Less batter baked in a bigger-volume pan equals a short, unimpressive pound cake.) Since I trust CC, I went with the 12-cup pan (after all, it was already buttered and floured, too). I set the timer for 45 minutes, the lower end of the recommended baking time, and popped the pan in the oven.

The next twinge of concern occurred when I checked the cake 10 minutes before timer was set to go off. The cake was done baking in 35 minutes. I attributed that to the smaller volume of batter in the bigger pan. The CC recipe then recommends an in-pan cooling time of 20 minutes. Normally, I go with 10 minutes before removing a cake from a pan, but again, I trust CC and went with their recipe.

After 20 minutes of cooling, the cake was set. I put a cooling rack over the top of the pan and quickly flipped the pan over. For a second, I waited for that gentle, reassuring whoosh as the cake slips from the interior of the pan and slides to the cooling rack. Huh. No whoosh. Not reassuring. I tapped the pan gently. No whoosh. Not good.

I flipped the pan over again and confirmed that the cake hadn’t budged a millimeter. So I got out my thinnest, narrowest plastic spatula and gently loosened the cake as best I could, cringing the two times that I created sizable cracks in the cake. Then I put the cooling rack back over the pan and tried again to get the cake out.

This time, the cake dropped. It also left strips and pieces fused to the Bundt pan. Since this cake gets a double-glazing (one brushing of glaze while it’s hot, then a thicker glaze as an icing), I used some of the glaze I’d already prepared to reassemble the mangled cake. (We can rebuilt it. We have the technology.) Then I glazed the outside of the cake, let it cool, and then coated it with the thicker glaze.

Over my years of baking, I’ve learned that if something goes wrong with a baked good, it probably can be saved. The two extremes -- burned baked goods and severely undercooked baked goods -- have no hope, but in almost every other case, there’s usually at least something edible. I imagine that the Orange Bundt Cake is going to be tasty, if enormously unattractive. And at least I didn’t have to scramble to make a batch of pastry cream to turn the cake into the base for a trifle.


EricG said...

I'm about 50/50 with getting cakes out of pans without ripping part of it off, so I'm a firm believer that most cake can be saved! Ha!

ryan said...

I'm really surprised the recipe didn't work out. I wonder what the issue is. The technique is interesting, too.

Chris H. said...

I also was surprised that this cake didn't work too well. I tried another recipe last night and will post about that tonight, as soon as I take pictures of the new cake.

Chris H. said...

One other comment I'd add about the CC cake is that I suspect 20 minutes is too long for it to cool in the pan. I'm pretty sure that's why it stuck so badly.

Obscure Reference said...

We have the technology... is this a six million dollar cake? :^p Keep 'em coming.