Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cheesecake Blocks Rock!

Oops, a little late with the posting this month! I swear they were done on time. My second challenge for April is to do my own post, so here goes....
My sister Meagan joined Daring Bakers this month, and I actually went up to visit her hundreds of miles away earlier this month, but we didn't have a chance to do the challenge together. She made her cheesecakes pops before I did and had a bit of trouble, so I was a little worried about mine. As you can see in her post, despite the trouble, her pops turned out just fine -- and so did mine. I used 3/5 of the recipe and baked my cheesecake in a 9 inch loaf pan. It came out in a nice block, so I decided to make things a bit easier for myself and just cut the block into bite-sized rectangles.

I dipped my blocks Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate - delicious! I also added some sprinkles for fun. I couldn't find sucker sticks at the two places I tried to buy them, so I had to resort to toothpicks. The toothpicks weren't too cute, so I took them out and ended up with little bites instead of pops.

I gave away a few to some friends last weekend and received an e-mail with the topic: I LOVE CHEESECAKES BITES! I guess they were a hit. I saved the rest in the freezer to bring to work on Friday for my birthday treat. I can't wait!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Excuses, excuses..

Well, it's that great time again. A time I love and look forward to every month. Posting date (a day late). Alas, this month was just to much for me. As some of you know, I started Culinary School (pastry of course) this month and to be honest, it's kicking my butt. I love it, I'm having so much fun but it's so tiring, up at 5am home at 5pm. And the things we make are just amazing, I have no more room for anything in my fridge! I want to make these, I will make these, I love cheesecake, hubbs loves cheesecake. I'm going to try this weekend, hubbs is off hunting turkeys (bleh) so I'll be alone with my kitchen, until then my dear bakers! I will post when I make them. Until then, I will live through each and every one of you. Your pops are amazing!



Popping out

When I first found out about this month’s challenge, I was ecstatic! I love cheesecake, I love chocolate, and I love bite-size things, so I was thrilled. I was also excited that it was something that I could make for Passover with minor adaptations. Had it been bread, I may not have been able to participate. I did a bit of research and took advantage of the fabulous DAB knowledge about going gluten-free and decided to sub out the flour with half the amount of corn starch. The making of the cheesecake went out without a hitch. I used a 9-inch springform pan (all I had), triple-covered with aluminum foil to prevent water leakage. Here it is during baking. Not sure if the bumps are bubbles or lumps in the batter…

I checked it after 45 minutes of baking and it was still fully liquid. Having read the comments on the forum about baking times and having some previous cheesecake experience, I let it keep baking until it look set. I’m not exactly sure how long that was, but I’d guess it was about 80 minutes. I wasn’t surprised it took that long because a) my oven runs a bit on the cool side, b) I used a smaller pan so it had more depth, and c) I probably let the oven cool down from too much time with the door open (between pictures and putting in the water for the water bath). I took the cheesecake out, let it cool and set it to chill. When I went to make the pops, I noticed that it had developed a thick skin (potentially from slight overbaking) but looked and tasted very creamy. I rolled the balls by hand, which was a messy and sticky endeavor but lots of fun. Here are the balls before getting the lollipop sticks.

Once they were frozen and ready for dipping. I slowly melted the chocolate in the microwave (my method of choice when I don’t care about tempering) and mixed in some hazelnut oil just to thin it out. I had a feeling that with the frozen balls, the chocolate would harden immediately and create too thick a shell. I probably should have added more oil, since it gave the chocolate a nice nutty undertone and it would have been better if it had been a bit thinner. I dipped the balls as quickly as I could, shaking of the excess as much as possible, and then dipped them in candy sprinkles. I had grand plans to do some with white chocolate decorations, but I ran out of time.

The Verdict:

How did they turn out? They were delicious and a big hit at our Seder (Passover dinner), (along with some Chocolate-Covered Matzah Crunch, aka Matzah Crack, the most addictive and delicious Passover treat, pictured below). My only issue was that they were a bit hard to eat. When they were fully frozen, they lost their creaminess and were a bit insipid. When they defrosted a bit, they tasted great but the sticks just popped out of the balls, defeating the whole “pop” point. Also, the balls were a bit bigger than one bite so taking a bite would make the other half fall off the stick, so people had to hold the other half in their hands… not ideal hand-held food. Overall, though, I loved them and would definitely make them again, albeit smaller. They are delicious and have a great wow factor. Thanks to Elle and Deborah for the wonderful recipe and to all the DBers for the help and wonderful inspiration for the future.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I didn't think Cheesecake could get any better...

but, I was wrong. I was so excited when I read the challenge for this month. I have made cheesecakes before but I like how you can make this recipe your own with the toppings and decorations - such a cute idea. This was a simple recipe and I have to say that it is the best tasting cheesecake that I have ever made. So smooth, so delicious.
My only major issue was that it was really wobbly in the middle when I took it out of the oven. I figured it would act right once it got refrigerated over night. Unfortunately, I was wrong on that point. When I started cutting toward the middle it was still quite loose and I got frustrated and almost gave up. That's when my sous chef (Mom!) stepped in and started to cut all around the edges where it was holding up a bit better. We decided to save the middle gush for eating with fresh strawberries. Not a bad idea at all. I got enough to make a decent showing for all my DB homeys:
I decided to use a mixture of semi-sweet, milk chocolate AND peanut butter chocolate chips for the dip and to garnish with graham crackers. On a few of them I sprinkled some pink sugar.

Not too shabby except for a couple losers on the end that couldn't stand up straight:

Here are some close-ups:

Verdict: SUCCESS!

Thanks for the challenge, ladies. I had fun!

My First Daring Baker Challenge!

I had hoped to have this ready a few days earlier, but house hunting has been taking up most of our time here. This was my first Daring Bakers challenge. I have spent the last several months admiring several different bloggers' monthly creations and decided it was time to join. It took me a couple of days to complete this challenge. I had never made a cheesecake before, but I hoped it wouldn't be too hard. It was fun getting to use my new mixer - one of many new kitchen toys from our wedding registry. The cheesecake took a bit longer than the recipe said but turned out just fine with a golden brown top and cracked in only a few places. I left it in the fridge for a day or two.

The next step seemed more challenging. I really wasn't sure how big two ounces would turn out. I decided to use an ice cream scoop that was approximately two ounces. It was definitely a messy endeavor, but I finally got them scooped out. I think the cheesecake balls could have been much smaller, but I didn't really have time to experiment. After leaving them in the freezer for overnight, I was ready for the final step. I used a Pyrex bowl on top of a saucepan to melt the chocolate. It was a little difficult dipping the cheesecake balls and covering most of them with chocolate. After that I used nonpareils and other chocolate sprinkles to decorate them. (I had been hoping to document this all with photographs, but our camera has decided to hide somewhere in our apartment.)

After all of this effort, the cheesecake pops sat in the fridge for another day or so. I had been letting some friends know that I had something interesting for them to try, so everyone was eagerly awaiting the results. The overwhelming feeling was that these were simply delicious. Rich, but delicious. We did have some trouble with the pops starting to fall off of the lollipop sticks, but that could probably be prevented with smaller cheesecake balls.

I'm looking forward to the next challenge. I'm hoping to have my own blog up and running before too long, but we'll have to wait and see.

-Jennifer E

A Photo Essay in the Making of Cheesecake Pops!

1-DB-0408-Prepping for challenge!
Prepping for the challenge!

Cheesecake in water bath

3-DB-0408-Forming the Balls
Forming the balls

4-DB-0408-Naked Cheesecake Pops
Naked cheesecake pops

5-DB-0408-Prepping for Decorating
Prepping for decorating

6-DB-0408-Melting Chocolate
Melting the chocolate

7-DB-0408-Daughter Helps Out
Daughter helping out

8-DB-0408-Chilling Out
Chilling out!


I made the cheesecake pops with my 18 year old daughter and we had a great time. We made the cheesecake the day before without any problems and had a blast decorating them the next day. We finished 2 trays of them and had some of the softer center of the cheesecake left so I used it as a filling for a lemon strawberry bundt cake that I had made the day before. The cheesecake pops were cute and delicious and we kept them in the freezer for a cool, frozen treat. This was a true challenge as it is not something that I normally would have made. I thank you for this opportunity to participate and look forward to the next challenge.

- Natashya

Daring Bakers First Challenge

This challenge was my first Daring Bakers Challenge. I'm excited to be participating and I really enjoyed this month's Challenge - looking forward to many more!


The anticipation of the finished product is what motivated me for this challenge. I have made a cheesecake or two before, but many years ago. I didn't find the challenge daunting, but I knew it would still be challenging to me - I seem to always manage to misread directions. However, I am happy to say that my challenge turned out successfully.

I have used a water bath before to make a delicious flour-less chocolate cake, so being familiar with one of the techniques ahead of time was settling.

I wanted to make the pops for a baby shower I was hosting for one of my coworkers. The shower was on Friday, so that left limited preparation time. I was up at 6 am Thursday making the cheesecake. Being up at 6 am period is difficult for me - and to be required to bake something at that time was quite interesting. All went well - except when the cake had been in the oven for 45 minutes and still looked soupy! I started to freak out because I was worried I had done something wrong. I was ready to scrap it, when I called my mom - and we decided it wouldn't hurt to leave it in and see what had happened. I wished I had read some of the Daring Bakers blog earlier to see that others were having this problem!

The cheesecake turned out wonderfully, after about 1 hr 15 minutes in the oven - and was extremely tasty! I'm saving this recipe for sure!

Meagan (1)

I used a cookie scoop to form the pops - froze for a few hours, then dipped in melted milk chocolate wafers. I then rolled the pops in some candy coating. I was very impressed to see all the different coatings that others used. Next time, I will definitely experiment.

Meagan (2)

I did plan to drizzle pink chocolate over the coated pops - but I had trouble melting it. I didn't add the shortening - and that possibly was what caused the pink wafers from not melting.

Looking forward to next month's challenge!

- Meagan

April 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge- Cheesecake Pops

With warmer weather finally making its way into Maine, I was hoping this month’s challenge wouldn’t tempt my sweet tooth too much, as I have been trying to cut back on sweets lately. This hope came true since I am one of the rare individuals who isn’t a big fan of cheesecake. These treats would not go to waste though because between my family and my book club meeting this week I knew I would have plenty of people to polish them off!

This was my first time making cheesecake and working with a water bath. Everything went well while I was making the cake. Although, I nearly poured too much water into the roasting pan and flooded my cake, but I manage to get the right amount eventually.


I had to bake the cake a bit longer than the recipe said in order for it to be golden and firm. I was a little nervous since I don’t really know what a good cheesecake should look like!

SaraTibbetts (1)

After it was cool I scooped out 40 balls and put them back into the freezer. I snagged a sample of the cheesecake before I refroze it and, I must say it was pretty tasty in my, not so expert opinion! :)

After the pops were frozen I went to work melting the chocolate. As I was dipping the pops I was worried I would not have enough chocolate. In the end, I had chocolate leftover so I could have dipped them a little deeper. I decorated with some colorful sprinkles. Back in the freezer to chill and await the review of my cheesecake connoisseur husband to arrive home!

SaraTibbetts (2)
SaraTibbetts (3)

The final review of everyone who tasted these was that they were cute, fun and delicious! Once again, thanks for the fun and for helping me expand my baking resume! Until next time!

- Sarah

New Kids on the Blog had a bunch of hits….

How sad is it that I can only use that line once?........not only that but it totally dates me. Oh the memories……those were some good times eh? Anyway, onto the challenge! As this was my first challenge I spent a lot of time mentally preparing. I'm sure you all can relate to the anticipation as one waits for the email detailing our task. There was a little fear, a little anxiety and a lot of excitement. And then the day arrived……oh, as I read the email I could hardly contain myself and I got more excited as I read. Then I read the part about decorations and flavors and colors and I almost passed out. Me who has no imagination couldn't think past the recipe. I put off making the challenge as I thought out of sight out of mind would work well…..and when it didn't I started praying. And then it happened…"creativity started licking at my brain." Oh what a joyous thing that was. While it is not out of this world creativity, it is definitely out of MY world creativity.

I decided that since the recipe was large I wanted to make a couple flavors. Who doesn't love variety? I had a very hard time not eating the first step……I'm talking VERY. Doesn't it look fantastic!!!!


Once I started adding eggs it got a lot easier to not taste it. My tongue doesn't like raw egg taste........no matter how beautiful it looks. What a difference eggs make in consistency eh?

AmberOtt (1)

After everything was mixed I separated the batter into 4 parts and then flavored to my hearts content. On the left is the Chai flavored one…I added ¼ tsp of chai spice to the batter. The middle is Lemon and I added zest…for visual appeal and ¼ tsp of Lemon extract. The right one is cinnamon flavored….and yes I know it's not so white any more, but who knew cinnamon was such a strong color? I added ¼ tsp of cinnamon. YUMMY!!!! I didn't take a picture of the fourth one because it was just plain old cheesecake.

AmberOtt (2)

I did have a few problems. The time for cooking took longer than I had anticipated, and even though they cooked for an hour or more I don't think it was enough time. When it came time to make the balls it was not an easy task….after making a couple of them I realized it was not for me and I just free formed them. It was just too soft to roll into balls without ending up with half of it on my hands. The only other minor problem was trying to adhere toppings to the dipped pops. The chocolate and candy coatings dried so quickly I could barely get any stuff to stick. When it came down to it, the toppings didn't add a whole lot more to the treat and they were just as good in a simple dip.

AmberOtt (3)

After coming up with the flavors for the cheesecake I tried to do complimentary toppings. For lemon, I dipped them in white chocolate and then sprinkled shortbread crumbs on top. Everyone who tasted it, thought it was a perfect combination of flavor and cheesecake. It was pretty tasty. For the Chai, I dipped in chocolate and left it as is. I wanted the chai to be the main focus. Who doesn't love Chai?.......apparently everyone does as I have none left. For the cinnamon, I thought too grand in my design. I dipped in caramel and topped with graham cracker crumbs and dried apple. What a mistake. The caramel was too thick and the apple didn't adhere because the caramel solidified too fast. I barely got crumbs to stick. After it sat in the fridge for a while some caramel melted off (weird I know) and it was perfect. It was my favorite flavor combination. Everyone loved the flavor combination, but felt the caramel overshadowed the cheesecake. Understandable....All in all I'd say they were a success and they look great!

AmberOtt (4)

This is definitely a keeper of a recipe and I will definitely use it as many times as possible to impress everyone I know. Can't wait to see what's on the table for next month!.......or should I say "in the oven"?


More is More

Without an occasion to celebrate this month and no dinner party planned, I have to admit that I procrastinated a bit with April's DB challenge. That's not to say that I don't love cheesecake. I often make cheesecake as I find it's one of those desserts that even the most picky dessert eater will like and it looks impressive without having to put much effort into it. The benefit of my late start was that I was armed with the experience of those early DBers who found that a cooking time of 35-45 minutes didn't fully cook the cheesecake base. This is just one of the reasons I love being part of this group - getting the benefit of everyone's experiences, be they good or bad. I haven't had a challenge yet where I haven't learned something; either a new technique, a new flavour combination or just how to relax and enjoy the baking experience.
I decided to make a half recipe and used an 8" square glass dish in the water bath. I cooked the batter for 50 minutes. The cheesecake came out set, there was no cracking on the top and it had a lovely creamy colour. I refrigerated the pan overnight and then formed the balls the next morning.
My friends will tell you that I tend to be an everything at right angles, clean lines kind of person. I don't usually gravitate towards dessert presentations that are more rustic in appearance (unless the rustic presentation looks like it was carefully planned to be that way - totally against the rustic philosophy!!!) So I was a little out of my comfort zone when I started to form the cheesecake balls and they weren't coming together in the perfectly symmetrical, smooth round balls that I envisioned in my mind. My hands became coated with cheesecake and the balls were a little "squatter" than the look I wanted. I ended up freezing the cheesecake and using cooking spray on my hands so that the process was less messy and I had more time to get the desired shape. But since they still weren't as smooth as I wanted I decided to cut loose and go with the "more is more" philosophy. Inspired by those chocolate coated apples that you see at the mall covered in inches of candy toppings, I decided to dip the pops in chocolate and then roll them in cookie crumbs and then drizzled on more chocolate.
Well the pops were a big hit at my moms' group. The presentation was whimsical and the size perfect for those who might feel guilty about eating a whole piece of cheesecake. Would I make them again? I'm not sure to be honest. At the rolling stage I was definitely thinking no - it was just too much work for something that wasn't too impressive. The cheesecake wasn't as firm as I like and they didn't weather well for too long out of the fridge - it's not one of those desserts that you can have out for a long period of time while people talk and snack. But the coating process was fun and it was an unexpected way to have cheesecake. In the end, I think I'll stick with a tried and true classic cheesecake but I'm glad I had the experience of making the pops. Thanks Deborah and Elle for challenging me to try a presentation that I would have never done on my own!
Well the pops were a big hit at my moms' group. The presentation was whimsical and the size perfect for those who might feel guilty about eating a whole piece of cheesecake. Would I make them again? I'm not sure to be honest. At the rolling stage I was definitely thinking no - it was just too much work for something that wasn't too impressive. The cheesecake wasn't as firm as I like and they didn't weather well for too long out of the fridge - it's not one of those desserts that you can have out for a long period of time while people talk and snack. But the coating process was fun and it was an unexpected way to have cheesecake. In the end, I think I'll stick with a tried and true classic cheesecake but I'm glad I had the experience of making the pops. Thanks Deborah and Elle for challenging me to try a presentation that I would have never done on my own!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Late...but better than never?

Sorry - I encountered some posting difficulty earlier this week!  
I have just completed my first challenge!  I prepared Dorie's Perfect Party Cake for just the occasion - a work party!  I followed the recipe to the letter, although I made it a two-layer rather than four.  I LOVED the cake and will definitely make it again and again.  I think that in future I will top with a lighter icing / topping, even a glaze, as the buttercream was a little too rich for my tastebuds.  However, it was met with rave reviews by all who tasted :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tale of the cursed cake

I have to confess that when I read about this month’s challenge, I wasn’t super excited. My husband is not a cake person at all and, I have to admit, there are MANY things I enjoy more than plain, white, spongy cake. I would always choose dense and rich over light and fluffy. Also, work on my dissertation has really increased all of a sudden (or at least it has to if I’m going to graduate in the near future) and my husband was going to be in Japan for 10 days, so I nearly sat this one out. With nobody to eat the cake and too busy for a party, it seemed like a waste of ingredients. Nonetheless, I spotted a jar of Blenheim apricot jam (from the Hi-Rise bakery in Cambridge, MA… mmm!) and needed an excuse to buy it. I decided to be Daring and bake a cake just because. I had the ingredients on hand anyway (including my brand new beautiful jam!) so, on a break from writing on a Saturday afternoon, I got started on my Lemon-Apricot Perfect Party Cake.

I think my original bad attitude cursed this cake from the start… When I went to print the recipe, I realized that my printer was almost out of ink so the print-out was nearly illegible, requiring me to hand write all the parts that had printed as totally blank. I set out to mix the dry and then the wet ingredients (no issues there, except I used a carton of 100% egg whites, which looked way more liquid and watery than regular egg whites, which kind of freaked me out). I went on to mix the lemon and sugar, only to realize that I didn’t have enough sugar. Off I went to the corner store for sugar. I continued to mix the zest and sugar, and then the butter, and then started adding the other ingredients when, all of a sudden, my mixer goes crazy! It starts going faster and faster, splattering the mixture everywhere, and then shuts off. I briefly freak out, then unplug the mixer, then plug it back in and try again. I put it on the lowest possible setting and the same thing happens: slow, then faster and faster and then off! By this point, I had gone too far to quit, so I finished making the cake by repeatedly turning the mixer on and quickly off to minimize splattering. I poured the batter (which looked fine and tasted amazing) into the pans and put them in the oven. I used a similar on-off procedure to make the buttercream, although I had to make a screen with plastic wrap to shield me from the flying butter. I unfortunately don’t have pictures of this because my husband took both of our cameras on his trip!

By some sort of miracle, the buttercream actually came together eventually, despite the jerky on-off beating. I went to check on the cakes, and they had risen fine (unlike some of the issues other DBers had) but they baked on a slant! My apartment, you see, is in a house that is settling and therefore is not level. This, however, had never happened to me before. I can’t quite explain how a liquid batter ended up rising only on one side! I took the layers out of the oven and tried to put them on the cooling rack, only to notice that the pans were too close to a bag of sliced bread, which melted onto the hot pans! I tried to move them and burnt my wrist. You can see why I think my cake is cursed!

By this point, I was frankly too tired and annoyed to care much about decorating the cake. I let the layers cool, and cut them in half as best I could (pretending that they are not slanted). In the back of my mind, I remembered all the “Ace of Cakes” episodes and Epicurious clips on how to level cakes and cut the sides to make them smooth, how to crumb-coat and then frost a cake, etc. but totally disregarded all that knowledge and just slapped the buttercream on the cake, trying to make it look faintly cake-like (round with straight sides). I also decided to put some dried apricots in between the layers with the (delicious, makes-it-all-worth-it) apricot jam. The end result was, to tell you the truth, not very pretty. I decided to use slivered almonds to give the illusion of actual sides, which worked OK. With the almonds, the cake didn’t look monstrous anymore!

The final chapter of the cursed cake saga occurred when I decided to take the cake to work to share with my colleagues. I put it in a cake-carrier and put it in my car, safely drove it to work, and I went to take it out of the car, the top of the carrier came off and off went the cake all over the passenger seat and floor mat. Almonds, apricots, buttercream, all smeared on the upholstery and mat! Thankfully, I had cut a piece to take a picture, so at least I got to eat that. When I got home, I scraped all the frosting off the cake and tried to figure out whether it was salvageable… but it wasn’t. It ended up in the trash. SO SAD!

Lessons learned:

1) Lessons from TV and the internet don’t magically translate into fantastic cake decorating abilities

2) Using egg whites from a carton may seem freaky but works just fine

3) Any cake-bearing container should be closed and secured before taking it out of the car!

The Verdict:

After all the disasters (burnt wrist, messed up mixer, buttercream-smeared car), the cake was… ok. I have to maintain my opinion about plain white fluffy cake. Not my favorite. The apricot jam was not nearly enough to salvage the cake and I should definitely have added more to make the cake more apricot-y… or perhaps I shouldn’t have added any of the fantastic jam, as the cake ended up in the trash! :o( The lemon buttercream was delicious, but it took some getting used to the fact that it is basically all butter. Overall, I don’t think I’ll make it again.

PS: As soon as my husband came home, the mixer magically fixed itself. I guess it had been missing him as much as I had (though he never uses it).

What do I do with all of these yolks?

I was disappointed with my cake as it turned out a bit dry and overdone in 30 minutes. I had followed the recipe exactly: the batter was of thick pouring consistency, not at all dry. Looking back, it seems my organic eggs were rather small which could have contributed to a dry crumb rather than a moist soft cake.

My other concern was about the egg yolks. I had no idea how to use up all the remaining egg yolks. Also, as I am not a fan of butter cream icing, I quartered the recipe for the butter cream and prepared enough to experiment with. Next time, I think I will try using cream instead.

• Though I had used a 9' pan, the cake still formed a dome. However, no cracks
had formed.


• The crumb looks dry rather than soft and moist.


• The frosting turned out well, but personally, I found it to be too sweet.

Next time I will use cream with less sugar for the frosting.


I will definitely try to prepare this recipe again, but I with a few adjustments. Hopefully, it will turn out better the next time around. Also, if anyone has an idea on how to use up the yolks please let me know. Are there any desserts in which I can use these yolks?

Looking forward to the next challenge, the nutty baker.

Frustration, failure and several kitchen fires: Not a good start to my DB career

I’ll preface this tale by saying, in my own defence, that I’m a good cook in general, and a good baker in particular, and what follows is not a typical day in my kitchen!

I had doubts about this recipe from the start. I’ve always had it drummed into me that beating a cake too vigorously, whether by hand or machine, will whack all the air out of it so that doesn’t rise properly – so I was a bit alarmed to read in the instructions that the cake was meant to be made entirely by machine.

My second dilemma was over the cake flour. We don’t have anything labelled simply ‘cake’ flour in Australia. You can get plain flour (with no raising agent; what is called all-purpose flour in the US) or self-raising flour. However, as the ingredients also included 1 tablespoon baking powder, I assumed that it was plain flour that was meant.

That little problem solved, I began, shelving my worries about the mixing-by-machine aspect and being dutiful to the DB ‘do exactly what the recipe tells you’ ethos. This approach had to be modified somewhat pretty early on, when I added first the flour and later the liquid while still beating on medium speed, as per the instructions, and ended up wearing a fine film of both. Apart from that, the cake seemed to be coming together well, although the lemon essence worried me a bit, with its distinct dishwashing-liquid aroma. I made the cake in two springform tins of the specified size, although one had a loose clip so I improvised a bit by tying some string around the tin to keep the thing together.

While the cake was cooking, I made the buttercream, which I’ve never made before. I decided to make only a half-quantity, as I wanted to fill the cake with whipped cream and only use the buttercream for the frosting. I’ve always been put off making buttercream — that whisking over hot water business seems like too much of a faff — but it was surprisingly easy and the result was very smooth, of good consistency and tangily lemony. Although the texture was a bit waxen for my liking, I was chuffed with the general result, and feeling pretty pleased with the whole process — until I took the cakes out of the oven, only to find that they had not risen AT ALL. Consternation! Although cooked according to the skewer test, they were soggy and dense, and they stuck to the tins, and were generally pretty unappetising-looking:


It was at this time that I realised I had accidentally used self-raising flour, not plain, PLUS baking powder; this inadvertent generosity with the leavening agents might, I reasoned, have been the problem. So — annoyed but not entirely daunted — I decided to make the cake over again. I had to chop up some fridge-hard butter and put it on a plate out on the balcony to soften, hoping that no native parrots would fly down to explore it, as they tend to do whenever I set foot out there with anything edible. This time I omitted the lemon zest, as I had couldn’t be bothered going to the shops to buy more lemons.

Apart from that little hitch, the second cakes were much quicker to make than the first. While they cooked, and I sieved the raspberry jam — a rather tedious process — I smelled burning. I ignored it for a while, thinking it was the beetroots that I was roasting in the oven at the same time; but then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed there was a small fire in the oven. I’d forgotten to tie up the dodgy springform tin, and the batter was leaking out of the bottom and falling onto the electric element, where it was now alight. Panicking a bit by now, I combatted it with the aid of a wet dishcloth held in a pair of tongs, then removed the tin, tied it up, put it on a pizza tray and back in the oven. Two more fires promptly ensued, each harder to put out than the previous one, followed by a kitchen full of acrid smoke.

By this time I was wishing I had never heard of the Daring Bakers (or, as I was beginning to think of them, the Dastardly Bakers) and that Dorrie Greenspan had been an aeronautical engineer or something else way outside my area of interest. Could anything else go wrong?, I wondered.

Well, yes — the second batch of cakes came out of the oven just as flat as the first, and equally icky inside:


I had now wasted several hours and ten expensive free-range eggs on this cake, and was fed up with the whole thing. I was expecting four friends to come over and help sample the merchandise in about half an hour, so I officially threw in the towel and rang one of them to ask her to buy something from the local bakery, as otherwise we’d go hungry. It’s a pretty crappy bakery, but hey, anything was going to be better than what was currently coming out of my kitchen!

This is what we ended up eating:


I asked my friends for their comments on the DB cake.

In response to Dorrie Greenspan’s claim that this is a ‘snow white cake’ one said, ‘Snow white? It’s more like one of the seven dwarves!’

Other comments:

‘A little doughy — and very flat! The best thing about it is the smell — a perfect cake for a breatharian.’

‘Crispy on the outside, eggy and damp on the inside. Disconcerting.’

‘A very flat, dull-tasting cake.’

‘Heavy, wet texture, sweet buttery flavour, yellow colour, flat appearance.’ This friend — not normally a conspiracy theorist — wondered if there was a deliberate mistake in the recipe to make for more interesting blogging, her reasoning being that it would be pretty boring reading about a whole bunch of perfect cakes.

She also suggested that the recipe be renamed The Perfect Party Pancake.

However, they all thought that the buttercream was acceptable, and we had a good laugh at my expense, so the day wasn’t a complete disaster.

At least now I know how to make buttercream. Now all I need is a use for all those spare egg yolks.

- Janine