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.


Ben said...

I went with strawberries for this cake. In mind it just tasted better when I read the recipe. But you are right, sometimes the combination of two delicious flavors is not tastier. We learn and that's what the DBs is about, right?


L Vanel said...

A pretty cake even if you weren't thrilled with the flavor combinations. I think the best thing about a cake like this is that you can go ahead and switch out your favorite flavors. It is a versatile cake in the end.

Lesley said...

I wouldn't mind just eating the cake alone myself, it was so good! I found the buttercream a bit too heavy for my tastes...

Anne said...

I agree with you, the cake is delicius as it is minus all the other components :)

well done!

Yenping said...

Yes, I could've switched to my favourite flavours, like you guys did; but being the natural tweaker of recipes that I am, I was especially intent on doing things to a T. :D The cake itself was good, wasn't it!

marias23 said...

I do agree with you about the whole buttercream bit but hey, look at your base cakes! They look totally awesome!

Claire said...

Great job! Hope you find the next challenge more enjoyed all around. I think the buttercream was just a bit much...whipped cream was great.

Gabi said...

You are right- sometimes the components indivually are better than their combination. Your cake turned out lovely though :)

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