Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is Pretty Important?

I've never made a bundt cake before in my life. I don't even own a bundt pan. However, whenever I see a recipe for a bundt cake, they look so pretty and delicious that I get sad about not owning a bundt pan. When I saw a recipe for Orange Chocolate Chunk Bundt Cake on eat me, delicious, I complained to Mike about my lack of a bundt pan, and he said that he had one--problem solved! So when it was his mom's birthday, we thought it would be a good time to try out this recipe. The picture looked so pretty, with ganache dripping down the side, and it just seemed like the perfect idea. We got some oranges and chocolate chips and made sure we had everything we needed.

I haven't zested anything for years. Last time I did, it was to make key lime pie (which I really want to do again, perhaps when it feels more like summer) and I don't think I've ever zested oranges. We got huge oranges, though, and ended up with enough zest after only two of them.

We now have a basic progression of cake. First the batter goes into the pan (making the batter wasn't all that interesting).

Then the pan goes into the oven. And then it comes out of the oven, and sits and cools for a long time so that it doesn't fall apart.

And then the cake falls apart anyway when we try to remove it from the pan.

I don't get it. Mike buttered and floured the pan, which he's usually very good at, and he even thought he did so in excess this time. And, with a normal cake, you can sorta stick a knife around the edges and a spatula of some sort under it and get it out and piece it together so it looks slightly reasonable, and it'll look okay anyway because you're frosting the thing. But with all the curves and weird edges in a bundt pan, we had to pry slowly and basically ended up crumbling half of what was stuck in the pan. And, let's be honest, I'm female and it's my boyfriend's mom's birthday and I suggest making a cake and it falls apart and I flip out. I'm not entirely sure how much Mike noticed that I was flipping out, because he managed to keep his cool and attempt to piece the cake together correctly (it was like one of those weird 3D puzzles but missing some pieces). There was a little ring of 'not done' on the bottom of the cake, and I'd say maybe that's why it fell apart, but that's not the part that fell apart at all. And we could have kept it in the oven longer to fix that, but perhaps it fell apart because the rest of it was overdone and really we should have looked at the positioning in the oven before we started, but you'd think that it having been on the top rack would mean the top (well, bottom) would be the part that came out overdone, right? And I probably stopped making any sense a while ago but the point is I'm really, really glad the recipe for the ganache made way more than originally pictured and we were able to cover the whole thing and it still tasted delicious. And looked, if nothing else, acceptable.

I don't go for pretty when I bake. It's not really the point. It's wonderful when it happens, but I'm usually in a rush and don't have time to care if the pie crust cracks when I put it on top of everything else, so I just hope it cracks in an artistic way instead of a messy, ugly way. And I guess it's the same with cakes--if I can get the thing to stick together, isn't it enough that it tastes good? I mean, if I were at a bakery and wanted a cake and there was one that looked really pretty and another one that had sorta fallen apart or they'd screwed up the food coloring in the frosting or something, well, the second one would probably be discounted and still taste exactly the same, so I'd get that. What do you think? Is pretty important when it comes to food?

And, besides, when you're making a cake that tastes like a Terry's Chocolate Orange, shouldn't it be okay for it to look like someone whacked it?

(Click here to go to the recipe. The only thing I changed was to leave the instant coffee granules out of the ganache and put in some almond extract. And next time I embark on this adventure [and it tasted good enough that there will be a next time] I'll substitute almond extract for the vanilla in the cake, too.)


  1. "And, besides, when you're making a cake that tastes like a Terry's Chocolate Orange, shouldn't it be okay for it to look like someone whacked it?" <--Perfect, Rachael. I love it.

  2. LaLa, from your pic it does not look like the cake stuck to the pan, yummy brown surface looks intact. It looks like the cake just fell apart so the problem could be the recipe. If the cake did stick to the pan then I am quite impressed with Mike's surgical skills and maybe he should talk with Taka about his career goals. Taste definitely overrules appearance. Actually there are many foods we love and eat regularly that would disgust us if the sense of sight was our only motivator.

  3. Haha I agree with Meg about your Terry's Chocolate Orange comment. I'm with you - I'm all about how it tastes, not how it looks. It's too stressful and time consuming to worry about how it looks. And the cakes that look really pretty, I find, usually don't taste that good. I'm sorry to hear it all fell apart though - that's really disappointing. :(

  4. Mmmm, Terry's Chocolate Orange Cake *drools*