Cakes The Book

153. Golden Cake with Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting p.725

The recipe

This cake and its frosting are separate recipes, so I’ll only be tackling the cake in this post. That’s fine by me. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’m not really a frosting person. For me, the icing is just getting in the way of the cake. There are icings I like more (buttercream) and icings I like less (glacé, royal icing, penuche), but they’re never the part of the cake I look forward to, and they can often detract from an otherwise lovely dessert. Thankfully there are enough people who feel exactly the opposite way that a my-icing-for-your-cake trade can sometimes be arranged.

I have very little pastry experience, and my dessert terminology is a little vague. Are the terms frosting and icing interchangable? or do they refer to distinct classes of cake topping? Wikipedia redirects a search for frosting to their icing page, and their dictionary definitions don’t appear to be too different. If any of you know if there’s a difference, please enlighten me.

Even if the frosting doesn’t do much for me tastewise, I do appreciate it’s structural role. A giant layer cake would be nothing without it, and I do love a layer cake. They’re the quintessential birthday cake, big enough to serve a crowd, and they look great with candles stuck in the top. A stacked cake like this can make an occasion. Beyond just admiring it when it comes out, watching the host try to serve it is a spectator sport. Will the first piece come out neatly? Will the layers stay together? Can your host flop a slice onto a serving plate with anything approaching grace? Your aunt is watching her weight, just how thin a slice is it possible to cut? We didn’t put any candles on this particular cake, but it didn’t taste quite right without the little bits of wax melted into the top.

The main difference between this cake and a standard yellow cake is the addition of sour cream. You start by sifting together the dry ingredients, flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt, in a bowl. You then cream the butter and sugar in another, followed by eggs beaten in one at a time, and the vanilla. It’s nice of The Book to provide hand mixer instructions, but the Kitchenaid is sitting there on the counter, and there was no way I wasn’t going to use it. The flour mixture then goes in with alternating additions of sour cream. The batter is divided into two round cake pans, baked, and cooled. When it’s time to assemble the cake, you cut off the rounded top of at least one of the cakes, and then divide each of the cakes into halves. They’re then stacked with icing between the layers, and covered with the rest of the icing.

I was quite pleased with the cake part of this cake, I’ll get to the icing next time, but the cake itself was lovely. Sour cream does good things for baked goods, it keeps them exceptionally moist, and adds just a bit of a tang to counter all the sweetness. It was a fairly dense cake with a soft springy texture. It’s a good choice for a big stacked cake like this, it was easy to cut and serve, and stood up to some rough treatment during icing.

If I was looking for a birthday cake for a casual gathering, I’d happily make this again. It’s a bit of a workhorse of a cake, solid, and reliable. Because I’m not all that competent in the pastry department, those are attributes that really appeal to me. I’m working my way up to precious little confections, but even after I’ve mastered them, I’ll keep coming back to crowd pleasing cakes like this.

The Project

I Forgot My Own Birthday

Happy Birthday Gourmet Project!

On Thursday March 6th The Gourmet Project had its first birthday, and I forgot to mark the occasion.

I’ve been having a wonderful time cooking, photographing, and writing the blog and I’ve been thrilled with the steady growth in readership over the past year. My first month out the site had 142 unique visitors, while last month 4575 of you came by. I’ve really enjoyed interacting with all of you in the comments, and I’ve been especially pleased to hear back from those of you who’ve tried some of the recipes.

A Birthday is a good time for a little state of the blog update. With 149 recipes written-up I’ve maintained a pace of 2.8 recipes / week, and completed 11.5% of the project. At this rate I’ll be finished on Dec 1st 2015. All in all I don’t think I’m doing too badly. I still have a serious backlog of recipes to plow through, and it’s growing rather than shrinking. I’ve grown to appreciate the time between cooking and writing which allows me to mull the recipes over. But, in my ideal world, I’d only leave a couple of weeks lag, the present 3 months is too much.

Over the year the blog itself has been upgraded with features like categories, tagging, comment management, sharing on social networks, statistics, and progress tracking, which hopefully make the site a lot more useful. We’re looking into adding new features in the next little while. I’m planning on making my trek through the book more seasonal and thematic in the coming year, and focusing on some of those chapters that I’ve been neglecting.

It’s been a great year, and I hope you’ll join me for eight more.

* The lovely birthday cake photo is courtesy of Pinkcakebox’s excellent CC licensed photostream on flickr