Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thirteen Cakes

Cake Spread
With anything else, 13 would be unlucky.  Somehow with cakes, 13 makes a party.

This year Pavel turned 50.  It occurred to me that I should be sure to throw him a nice party.  Mainly because he deserves it.  But also because precedent has taught me it’s in my best interest.

When Pavel turned 40 we had a big dinner party—choucroute garnie for 30—to celebrate.  Two years later, he returned the favor by taking me to Venice and Rome to celebrate my 40th.  I’m pretty quick on the uptake, hence the 13 cakes.  My 50th is in two years, and there are many places I’d love to travel to.

Actually, I really baked 19 cakes--14 different types.  Francesca pointed out that I’d probably baked more cakes in two days than I did in all of last year.

Two of the cakes didn’t make it to the table.  They were called Nutella Swirl Pound Cakes, but mine ended up more like Nutella Quagmire Pound Cakes.  The Nutella sank to the bottom.  The result tasted okay, but wasn’t that pretty to look at.  The cakes went into my freezer for a desperate day.

But Flo Braker’s Meyer Lemon Chiffon from The Baker's Dozen Cookbook turned out wonderfully.   I feel a familial bond with this cake—my mother is sometimes credited with helping popularize the Meyer lemon; my mother-in-law often provides me with bags of the lemons from her backyard tree.

Fran Chiffon

Too bad the first Meyer Lemon Chiffon Cake I baked didn’t feel a bond with the side of the cake pan! You know that neat trick for cooling Angel Food and Chiffon Cakes?  The one where you invert the tube pan onto a wine bottle, and the cake miraculously never falls out?

Fallen Chiffon
Turns out that’s not quite true—sometimes gravity does win.  But it wasn’t a horrible problem.  If I’d only had to bake that one chiffon cake, this disaster would have ruined my day.  But since I was in production mode (I baked 17 cakes in two days), it was mainly amusing.  And a nice snack.

One other important fact.  Pavel likes stripes.  So much that my sister-in-law dubbed blue-and-white striped patterns ‘pavelflage’.  So of course we had one striped cake:

Striped Almond Torte

Well, two.  Almond Tortes, from my mother’s cookbook, Chez Panisse Desserts.  My father did the stencil and sugar work.

Striped Heart Almond Torte

And the rest of the line-up:

The actual birthday cakes (you know, with layers and icing and candles):

Devils Food with Boiled Brown Sugar Coffee Icing

Loni Kuhn’s Devil’s Food cake from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.  This one iced with coffee-brown sugar 7-minute icing, and decorated with gold leaf.

Fran Lane Cake

Edna Lewis' Lane Cake from The Gift of Southern Cooking.  This is one of my favorites.  You can make it far ahead (I baked it 4 days before the party), in fact, you should—this allows the bourbon-rich filling and icing to settle into the white cake.

Fran Devils Food Gold Leaf

The rest of the cakes were a collection of Bundts and loaves, chosen largely for how well they kept (I didn’t want to bake on the actual birthday).

Aunt Maggies Boiled Raisin Cake

Aunt Maggie’s Boiled Raisin Cake, from Gourmet magazine.  Another good keeper—supposedly up to 2 weeks.  We were still eating this one, quite happily, 9 days after it was baked.  It’s made by boiling together butter, brown sugar, coffee, raisins, and candied orange peel.  After that cools, you add the flour etc. and bake.  Delicious.

Two cakes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours.  Banana Bundt with Lemon Icing…

Banana Bundt with Lemon Icing
…and Chocolate Gingerbread:

Chocolate Gingerbread

Bourbon Soaked Pound Cake
Another favorite of mine, Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake. But I used Bourbon. A lot.

A trio of pound cakes: Citrus Pound Cake and Cardamom Vanilla (both from Gourmet), and the very traditional Mace Cake, from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.

Citrus Pound Cake Mace Pound Cake
Citrus and Mace Pound Cakes

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
A couple of jelly rolls, made with a plain sponge cake spread with red currant jelly.

Red Currant Jelly Roll
Jelly Roll
The shadowy interior of the jelly roll.

Last, but not least, Flo Braker’s Heavenly Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Rum Glaze from The Baker's Dozen Cookbook. I couldn't resist adding a little coffee to the glaze, so I guess that was Mocha Rum Glaze.

Hazelnut Cake

It's possible I overdid things.  We were eating cake for breakfast for a few days (not that anyone complained).  For Pavel's birthday it seemed like a good idea to err on the side of plenty: plenty of cake, plenty of champagne (we have a few boxes stowed in our basement), and plenty of stripes.  And maybe it will put him in a good frame of mind for planning my 50th birthday.


Kathleen Bauer said...

A feat of Olympic proportions, my dear! And so incredibly tasty…the Lane cake was a triumph. I only wish I'd been able to sample each one!

Joanna said...

That simple banana Bundt was the standout cake for me.

Not that I'd have kicked any of them out of bed...

You are inspiring.

Giovanna said...

Thanks; you're too nice.

After a week of nibbling leftover cake, I'd say that the boiled raisin was the one I always wanted in the morning or afternoon with tea. The Lane cake was my late afternoon/evening favorite, tied (okay, a little above) with the devil's food.

But I noticed I happily ate whichever came my way. Though, Joanna, I probably would have kicked them out of bed--I hate eating in bed. The crumbs!

Charles Shere said...

Chocolate gingerbread! Hey! I didn't get any of that!

Joanna said...

Fortunately, I am partial to very moist cakes,which are crumb-free and make great bed mates.

Trina said...

Wow, this is amazing! And just so that we would not feel inadequate, you share with us the funny pic of the crumbled cake. Still, you DO know how to throw a party!

Giovanna said...

Thanks, Trina. And I'm glad I didn't contribute to anyone's sense of inadequacy. I should have also posted close-ups of the Devil's food cake, where the frosting mysteriously disapppeared in spots. And in some places disappeared, not so mysteriously, when I kept knocking the cake with my hand.

Oh well...nobody's perfect!

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