Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The (Park Slope) Miracle Cake

If New York is a collection of neighborhoods, then each neighborhood is a collection of blocks -- each with its own traditions.  One of ours (on Park Slope's 11th Street) is an annual summer party in a neighbor's garden, where the alcohol flows freely and the food is a potluck affair.  This year, I was going to contribute Sure Thing Cake (but upon closer reading of the vintage recipe card, I realized it lacked enough butter to make it a "sure thing"), so I opted for Miracle Cake with ("chewy chocolaty") Miracle Frosting.  Not sure if it's a true miracle, but it's a delicious easy-to-make cake and one that proves that good fences cakes make good neighbors.

This confectionery miracle calls for cutting the butter into the flour, a technique more common in pie crust than cake.  It's easy to do with cold butter and a food processor (or a pastry blender or two knives, if you want to do it old-school). When it's "fine as corn meal," add the rest of the ingredients, mix and put into an 8 x 8 inch pan that you've greased and floured.

The batter is quite thick; it's best to spread it around with a knife before baking.

Pull it from the oven when a cake tester comes out clean and begin the frosting immediately.

The miracle frosting is a broiled frosting, with butter, brown sugar, cocoa, nuts and "top" milk (which I took to mean cream, but since I didn't have any, I used half-and-half).

Mix all the frosting ingredients together and spread on the cake.

Put the frosted cake in the broiler until the frosting bubbles.

Let it cool, then cut.

Recipe card below.  I used unsalted butter for the shortening, and greased and floured the cake pan for easy release.  I also never sift the flour, as that tradition dates from a time when flour was less pure and it had to be sifted to remove impurities like insects.

The 11th Street garden party.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Scotch Teas - The Original Granola Bar?

In all my years of baking, I've never come across a simpler or quicker baked good than Scotch Teas.  They literally took less than five minutes to prepare.  Plus, they are really, really good, putting to rest the misconception that scratch baking is always time-consuming and the broader notion that an excellent result requires a substantial time-and-effort investment.

At 11 p.m. Tuesday night, I suddenly realized that the meeting I wanted to bake something for was happening at 10 a.m. the next morning.  A quick shuffle through my recipe cards yielded this gem -- these are reminiscent of granola bars, though when it was written in the 1940s, these snacks did not exist.

So, if you have five minutes (plus 25 for baking), begin by melting the butter and sugar in a saucepan.

Stir in the oats, salt and baking powder and combine.

Put the mixture in a greased baking pan. This is the most challenging part.  Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly.  Pop it into the oven.

And voila! Homemade granola bars.  Let it cool and cut it into bars.  Next time, I'll line the pan with parchment, with the paper overlapping the sides to be used as a sling to remove the entire confection from the pan.

Some production notes:
I used butter, not margarine, and regular (not quick cooking) oats.  Be sure to pack the brown sugar.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bruce Bogtrotter's Cake

Poor Bruce Bogtrotter, the schoolboy in Roald Dahl's book Matilda who was forced by the evil headmistress to eat a ginormous chocolate cake after getting caught stealing just a sliver. As his classmates cheered him on, Bruce finally finished -- but it was so painful, you just know that he would never eat chocolate cake for the rest of his life.

I read the book, saw the movie and last week was lucky enough to see Matilda's latest incarnation as a Broadway musical (excellent!), and so without further ado I bring you Bruce Bogtrotter's cake, even though it's not from a handwritten recipe card but from the 1994 book Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, a cookbook featuring recipes from all of his books.  Every recipe I've tried in it is fantastic; this cake is no exception. (Just don't eat it in a single sitting.)

This dense nearly flourless chocolate cake is easy to make, slices beautifully and would make Ms. Trunchbull (the headmistress) proud.

Start by melting the chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water.

Add the butter and blend until smooth.

After the rest of the ingredients are added (eggs, sugar and flour) pour into a prepared nine-inch pan.

It should look like this when it's done.

After a few minutes, it will "fall" a bit.  But don't worry, it's supposed to.  Just be sure to flip it over before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, begin making the frosting by melting chocolate and heavy cream.  When it's well combined, remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

The unfrosted cake, below.

Place some parchment (or newspaper) beneath the cake to catch the excess chocolate frosting.  It's best applied by spooning it on, and smoothing it out, if necessary, with an offset spatula.

Below is a scan of the page in Revolting Recipes, illustrated by Quentin Blake.  This recipe, and the others, were developed by Josie Fison, the Dahl family's private chef.

Bruce Bogtrotter's Cake
Serves 1 to 8!
(from Matilda)

8 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup plus two tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs separated, yolks lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper, and grease and flour the pan (including the paper)
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set atop a saucepan of simmering water.  Mix in butter and stir until melted.
Transfer to a large bowl and add the sugar, flour and lightly beaten egg yolks.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold half of the whites into the chocolate mixture, blending thoroughly, then fold in remaining whites.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes.  There will be a thin crust on top of the cake, and if tested with a toothpick the inside will appear undercooked. Don't worry; the cake will get firmer as it cools. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.  While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.

8 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate
8 ounces heavy cream

Melt the chocolate with the cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over lowest heat, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is fully melted and blended with the cream. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
When the cake is cool enough to handle, remove it from the pan.  Flip the cake upside down before frosting.
Carefully pour the frosting, with a spoon, over the cake. Smooth out with a spatula.