Sunday, March 30, 2008

When the sum of the parts is not tastier

Until very recently, I'd bake a cake every weekend - that was how dedicated I was to feeding my sweet tooth. So, of course, I welcomed this challenge to bake an actual cake, especially after the several intervening months of making non-cakes.

The strange thing about this cake is, all of the parts were beautiful, but became less appealing upon assembly. I would have loved to have eaten the cake by itself, sans frills; the white buttercream was heavenly to look and work with; my raspberry jam was an excellent version which I would've loved to have on hot buttered toast. But when assembled, I just didn't like it so much.

I mean, look at how light and silken the buttercream is, and how fine the crumb turned out on the cake.

I asked myself why I didn't like the assembled cake, and came up a few possible explanations:

- I just don't like raspberry jam on cake, and I didn't know that. While I was careful to spread the merest whisper of raspberry jam on the layers, I was nonetheless extremely assiduous in doing so, ensuring that every inch out to the edges was covered. As such, no bite offered a respite from the raspberry flavour.

- I used up all the buttercream on the cake, and frankly, this was just too much cream for me. I started to feel a little nauseous even while spreading it on. Even if I could've done things differently, I imagined all the DBBs in the world making this cake, and couldn't bear the thought of deviating from the instructions. I ended up with a half-inch of icing on the cake, with more in between. (I realised, however, that it was the perfect amount of icing for ensuring a good cloak over the naked cake.)

Maybe there's something psychologically irksome about making a super-creamy cake yourself, than if you were to consume only one slice of super-creamy cake in a restaurant.

- In spite of its name, I didn't have a party to bring this cake to, and don't know that I would. Last time I made a cake for a party, it was an Italian recipe that used much less fat, and which incorporated heaps of fruit. That was a hit. It sat alongside a store-bought creamy cake which hardly anyone touched. The compliments I had on the cake were uniformly along the lines of, "it's not too sweet at all", "it's healthy", "it tastes different, and healthy!". I guess this is a sign of the times.

However, I enjoyed a couple of slices of it after it was all done. I enjoyed it in the obligatory manner that you would a festival food, like a red-dyed egg when a baby turns one month old (in the Chinese tradition), or a mulled wine at Christmas.

My overall assessment, however, is an overwhelmingly positive one. The base recipe is so fundamentally good, and such a pleasure to work with, that it can stand being deconstructed and reinterpreted in other contexts. And I'm definitely going to do that.