Thursday, November 1, 2012

Two cakes, or three?

We had another blood drive to go to today, and I generally provide a bit of baking to make sure no one goes over to donate on an empty belly. This time we had a number of new donors from one of our other sites, so I  figured it would be best to do a cake for them, as well as one for us.

I started with a fruity citrus cake, (p71) one of those recipes that's based on an Edmonds cake mix. You're supposed to use Madeira cake mix, but I don't think they make it anymore, so I substituted plain buttercake mix instead.

As you'd imagine with a cake mix, this one doesn't take long to throw together, You put the cake mix in a mixer with eggs, water and butter, mix for a couple of minutes, then fold through lemon zest and raisins. Pour into a cake tin and get it in the oven. Easy.

I'd reduced the temperature on my overly hot oven, which seemed quite successful, since the cake cooked exactly to the given baking time. It was looking pretty good, too - though when I opened the springform tin (after leaving it to sit for a ten minutes) the cake stuck to the sides around the bottom and the edge got all broken and raggedy.

Never mind: time to move on to the next cake, a wholemeal chocolate cake (p53). The description 'wholemeal' never makes any recipe sound particularly appealing, but I was willing to suspend judgment until I'd actually tried a piece.

The method for this one begins in an unusual way: you start by dissolving cocoa in boiling water, which results in a thick brown paste. Then, while that's cooling, you do the usual 'cream butter and sugar' thing, add the cocoa paste and beat in eggs one at a time. Finally, sift in dry ingredients, fold in a bit of milk and spoon into a cake tin.

When this cake came out of the oven, I was pretty disappointed with it. It had hardly risen at all, and promised to be hard enough to bounce once it had cooled down. Glancing over the recipe, I realised I had only put in one teaspoon of baking powder, when the recipe said three. I don't think I'd even consulted the recipe at the time - one teaspoon is just the usual amount.

With a sigh, I decided I'd better have another go at this recipe. I went through all the above steps again, though when it came to folding through the flour, I wondered why it seemed to be a much drier mix than before. Once again I glanced at the recipe, and once again I realised I'm a total idiot. The recipe asked for 3/4 cup each of plain and wholemeal flour. I'd put in a full cup of each, once again defaulting to a standard amount.

Well, it was too late to fix it now, and while the third time might have been the charm, I'd run out of eggs and motivation to try again. I sloshed a little extra milk in to moisten up the mix, and crossed my fingers.

This version at least rose higher than the first one. It was still pretty firm though. Well, I set it on a rack to cool. I decided I couldn't stick one site with the crappy over-floured wholemeal cake, and have the other side eating the nice (if slightly crumbled) citrus cake. I decided to cut each cake into slices and arrange them on plates so each site got a share of each cake. This was better done in the morning to prevent the slices drying out overnight, so I covered the cakes and left them for the morning.

This morning, I was lying in bed, sleepily telling myself I better get up the first time the alarm goes off, instead of snoozing it, since I had these cakes to cut up. I knew the alarm would be going off soon, but eventually I rolled over to see exactly how far away that dreaded moment was. My alarm is usually set to go off at 6.10am, and I start work at 7.30am. When I looked at the clock, it took a few moments to grasp that it was showing 7.20am.


I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, and ran into the kitchen. Despite my lateness, I still couldn't bring myself just to take one cake to each site, so I quickly cut them up and arranged the slices on platters. I had to laugh when I cut into the fruity citrus cake - all the raisins had sunk to the bottom.

In the end, I managed to get to work only ten minutes late, which I think is quite impressive. I did find myself sampling the cakes fairly early on, as I hadn't had any breakfast - never a good idea on blood drive day!

Though I'd warned everyone that the wholemeal cake was likely to be fairly unpalatable, it was softer than I expected, and tasted alright, considering. Of course, it was a little bit dry and not particularly chocolatey. When I got home I had a taste of the first version of this cake, which, while squat and firm, was more chocolatey, less dry, and the addition of wholemeal was less noticeable. In hindsight, I should have used this one. Given the good points of each, I suspect this recipe would actually be pretty nice if you did it right.

The fruity citrus cake had the soft, moist texture of a 'cake from a box'. I've been quite scathing about cake mixes during this challenge, but I will admit that they produce a reliably decent cake. On the other hand, trying to add stuff to the mix, as in this recipe and others in the 'baking with Edmonds' section, doesn't always work. The lemon zest was a very pleasant addition, but since the raisins were sitting in a slightly scorched layer on the bottom of the cake, that part didn't work very well.

In summary, both cakes (or, I should say all three cakes) were a bit of a hash. Never mind, they got eaten!


  1. Thank goodness for your website! I just made the wholemeal chocolate cake and made two mistakes... I was so mad at myself until I read that you made mistakes with it too because it does have a couple of unusual methods in it. You've restored my faith in myself!
    Now, off to buy a cake from the supermarket in time for my daughter's pre-school birthday celebration...

  2. Haha glad to hear I'm not the only person capable of misreading a recipe! I'm sure the supermarket cake was a perfectly good alternative :)


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