I’m back! Did you miss me, my sad, lonely, long-neglected, barely-clinging-to-life blog? Because I’ve missed you dearly. The thing is, not only have I not posted anything for (gulp) more than a year, but I’ve hardly baked anything over that period. A coffee cake here, a batch of cookies there, yes but I really haven’t been baking with anywhere near the kind of regularity that I would like. But it’s a new year, and I really, truly, sincerely want to bake – and post – more often. So I’m going to give it an honest try, friends. In that spirit, let’s hit the freakin’ road.
reviving the cookbooks and making the cakes
Because I’ve been baking almost never, my cookbook shelf has felt very lonely. But a few days ago, I dusted the old books off and started poring through them. Did I want to start with something simple, like a coffee cake? Or maybe a batch of cookies? Or some kind of pudding or custard, in the spirit of winter? No on all counts, I decided; I chose instead to do something a little more ambitious. I received Julie Richardson’s lovely Vintage Cakes for Christmas this year, and, while flipping through it, my eyes landed on the recipe for this Butterscotch Cream Roll-Up Cake. Essentially, the roll-up is a chiffon cake (typically used for jelly rolls and the like) that is cut into pieces and wrapped into a spiral, with the pieces held together with butterscotch frosting. It looked lovely, and unusual, and delicious. And ambitious. All of those things added up to a sell for me. I got started right away.
The first step is to make the butterscotch sauce that gets mixed with cream to make the filling and, eventually, dribbled on slices of cake. Incidentally, did you know that butterscotch sauce contains both butter AND scotch (i.e., whiskey)? Because I didn’t, and it was a revelation (and yet someone thought it would be a great idea to admit me to law school; it’s a funny world). At any rate, it’s delicious. First, you get out a saucepan and cook butter and brown sugar until they gets taffy-ish and smell heavenly. Then, mix in some cream and boil at medium-high heat until the color darkens and the sauce starts to smell ever so slightly like burnt sugar. Then, you remove the sauce from the heat, wait for it to cool a few minutes, and mix in a bit of scotch, vanilla, and salt. Then the sauce goes into the refrigerator to cool completely while you make the cake and the frosting.
The cake is pretty straightforward: sift together the dry ingredients except a bit of the sugar. Then, you’re supposed to mix egg yolks, oil, water, and vanilla together. Here, though, I ran into a little bit of an oops: the recipe calls for six egg whites and four egg yolks. But I, being rusty at this whole “following baking directions” thing, accidentally used six egg yolks. Yes, that is 50% more egg yolk than the recipe calls for. But I have to say, the cake was, I think, the better for it. The crumb was a bit more moist than a typical chiffon; still light, but almost a bit pudding-like in its consistency. So, if you’re not afraid of egg yolks, I would suggest using all six, like I did. Or maybe five? I don’t know; give it a try, and tell me your thoughts and feelings.
Anyway, after mixing the yolks, you mix the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture, whip six egg whites and some sugar to stiff, shiny peaks, then fold the yolk mixture and whites together. Then you distribute the batter onto a jelly roll pan. After the cakes are done, while they’re cooling, you make the frosting by mixing most of the butterscotch sauce with some heavy cream. Then comes the really fun part: first, you cut the cake into slices with a serrated knife. You spread about half of the frosting over the slices, then start piecing them together like a little puzzle. Then you frost the outsides, and voilà! A beautiful cake to impress your friends, intimidate your enemies, and attract new lovers (or, you know, just to eat).
After the cake chilled in the refrigerator for a bit to firm up, Kenan and I took it over to Chris and Jodi’s house for an evening of watching Treme (which I love, unreservedly and unabashedly) and eating cake. And the cake was, if I do say so myself, loverly: light, almost ethereal, and sweet but not toothache-inducing. It definitely felt good to be back in the game.