I just completed my second baking challenge from Grandma Rose’s Book of Sinfully Delicious Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Cheesecakes, Cake Rolls and Pastries by Rose Naftalin. I purchased this cookbook in 1978, when I lived on Portland, Oregon.
Following the successful and tasty Nut Rolls, I decided to try one of Rose’s cakes. When I frequented the bakery, the cakes at Rose’s were multi layered and tall! I decided to tackle a smaller recipe, rather than one that called for ten eggs and 2 cups of sugar. I baked Grandma’s Favorite Quick Cake with Chocolate Icing.
I learned a lot about baking in this adventure. Perhaps you can benefit from my experience. As you can see by this photo, the cake looks perfect! However, there were issues. The cake layers truly turned out beautifully when baked. All three layers pulled away perfectly from the pan’s edge and turned easily onto the cooling racks. The issue with this cake is that the taste was quite bland! I used good quality butter and vanilla bean paste, but it wasn’t enough. Strangely, the cake seemed to need more salt. Salt enhances the flavor of the other ingredients. I used Kosher salt, versus table salt, which may have been the culprit. I learned that because Kosher salt is courser than table salt, the cake actually got less “salt” in the ½ teaspoon called for, because salt won’t pack as densely in the measure.
Next, I tackled the icing. Okay, this was a perfectionistic baker’s disaster! More lessons learned. The icing recipe was written in three simple sentences: combine, then cook to 238 degrees (softball stage), and add the two remaining ingredients. As I said in the Nut Rolls, the directions in this cookbook are scant. No exception here. Sparing you the arduous details, the upshot was two-fold: upon cooling the mixture in the refrigerator, the icing became rock hard. With my friend’s help and advice, we added LOTS of heavy cream to soften the mixture and then beat it on high for a very long time. It was passable as cake frosting; I proceeded to ice the layers. However, the final product was grainy and lacked a rich chocolatey flavor. Apparently, the sugar didn’t mix evenly. This could have been due to uneven heat or not stirring the mixture properly. After dissolving, the sugar must have rebound back together and got crunchy (Thank you to Pete Coulter for this analysis).
All in all, I’m glad I did it…I learned a lot, and in the end, enjoyed the feel of cutting into this freshly baked cake with a sharp knife, and pulling out an artful cake slice, as seen below. #cakes