I can admit, without boasting, that I haven't had too many outright baking disasters. Well, OK - this weekend I tried to make microwave pralines (following this Harold McGee-recommended recipe) and nearly opened up a portal to hell in the process. Top tip: make sure to check the wattage requirements for any microwave recipe. Anyway, what usually happens is this: I get an overwhelming desire to make a certain kind of cake. I make it. The end result doesn't quite live up to what I had fancies for in my mind's eye (my mind's stomach?).
Recently, this happened twice. First, on the urgings of the boyfriend, I decided to make a cake that epitomised the flavour combination of ginger and chocolate. I had a grand cake in mind: a chocolate genoise soaked in ginger syrup, sandwiched with crystalized ginger studded cream and then coated in dark chocolate ganache. A somewhat complicated cake, to be sure, yet nothing really went wrong with it - not as such. And yet in the end my lovingly imagined creation looked like a giant chocolate twinkie: the ganache was too thick and overpowering and the cream not gingery enough. It was happily eaten by its recipients anyway, but the true essence gingery chocolatey vision remains unattained. I'll be trying again this week.
In the second instance, after stumbling across - not literally - some of those lovely short-lived Seville oranges in my local supermarket I developed an instant urge to make a syrupy orange pound cake. But what I always forget about "drizzle" cakes is that the syrup recommendations in the recipe are inevitably too scarce for my liking. The "drizzle" is meant to be just that: a light moist overcoat, not a complete soaking. So, like my choco-ginger Twinkie, this simple cake got a do-over as well: this time with double the syrup.
This is an amazing keeper cake, best enjoyed slivered off in thin slices and washed down with tea on lazy Sunday afternoons. Adding the zest to the syrup rather than the cake itself meant that lovely bright flecks of the orange skin covered the outside of it, which I really loved.
- 200g cake flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 200g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs
For the syrup:
- 3/4 cup of freshly squeezed Seville orange juice, plus zest from the oranges
- 3/4 cup sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and grease and flour a loaf pan. This recipe follows the Rose Levy Beranbaum method for mixing cream cakes, so combine the sugar, flour and baking powder in a mixer bowl and mix on low for 30 seconds to aerate.
2. Add the butter and beat at medium speed for 1 minute until the dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition just until combined.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, checking the cake for doneness after 40.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by combining the orange juice, zest and sugar in a small pan and heating until all the sugar is dissolved.
6. When the cakes comes out of the oven, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before gently removing it from the pan and pricking it all over with a fork. Drizzle the syrup slowly over and under the cake, getting a bit messy in the process. Wrap the cake in parchment paper or foil and enjoy with something like a lovely cup of Earl Gray.