Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Degrees of Failure

I can't decide how I feel about recipes which don't work well the first time. In some ways a spectacular failure is easy to deal with, as I can just forget about the recipe. Despite saying this, I often try a recipe twice, in case I made a mistake first time - that's how I found out that Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Gingerbread recipe does work (goodness knows what I did the first time!).

More difficult to deal with are the recipes which almost work; then I have to decide whether it's worth spending time on getting it right. This is especially true with a recipe I've only tried because it's a way of using up a 'leftover' ingredient. Would I really want to make this cake again? Is it good enough to buy that ingredient specifically for the cake? Is it outstanding compared to similar recipes which I have used more successfully?

This whipped cream cake, from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Berenbaum, is a case in point. I only tried it because I had a carton of double cream at it's use-by date, and nothing else to do with it. I'm far too much of a penny-pincher to throw this sort of thing away. The cake was almost there, but there was a layer of denser mixture at the bottom of the cake, as if it hadn't cooked evenly, or had started to separate during cooking. It also sank quite dramatically as it cooled.

So then the questions start; was it because I was only making 2/3 of the mixture? Or because I baked it in a regular pan, rather than a tube pan? Or because I used orange blossom water and orange zest as flavouring, instead of vanilla, which seemed to react with the eggs? Or was it just because the cream was old?

I feel it's worth pursuing this recipe a bit further, as the cake had a really good texture - a fine, close crumb which was moist, but still light, and which suited the delicate flavouring used. Next time though, I will have to follow the recipe exactly before I start making alterations.

I almost managed to disguise the sunken top of this cake with a small amount of chocolate glaze, made by melting 90g plain chocolate with 45g butter and a heaped teaspoon of golden syrup. This went well with the orange flavour of the cake.


Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said...

Suelle, I share your pain - is it worth trying again? Should I go buy ingredients specifically for this? How many times before I give it up? :)

Whenever we have leftover cream past its expiry date we stick it in the food processor with the whisk attachment and churn it into unsalted butter. In fact, sometimes we deliberately age cream for that purpose. Since I've learnt to do that, I've not thrown out a single expired carton! :)

Choclette said...

Suelle, you have such patience. I'm often not happy with my cakes - too dry, sunken, peculiar texture but as I find it impossible to just follow a recipe, I guess I only have myself to blame. But I think the cake looks good and you said it had a good texture - is it really a failure?

Suelle said...

Making butter is a great idea, Celia, although I don't have a food processor and wouldn't like the effort of making it manually!

Well, Choclette, it's edible and a good flavour, so in that respect it's not a failure, but I'm fairly sure it shouldn't have had that strange layer just above the base which looks different to the rest of the cake.

Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said...

Suelle, it's just as easy using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment! In case it's of use, I've blogged about it a few times - some photos here.

Cheers, Celia

Foodycat said...

I never throw out cream, but I am trying to think of what I do with it! I made spag carb this week but that doesn't happen often.

The recipes that irritate me are the ones that have worked and all of a sudden stop. I used to make a brilliant chocolate mud cake, but the last 3 times the recipe has been a disaster.