Excuse me while I take this moment to pout.
*pout pout pout*
You see, I'm a perfectionist. (I know, you had NO idea) Especially when it comes to cooking and baking. It's the one of the things I feel like I'm pretty good at, so when something I'm cooking isn't successful, I get really frustrated. Especially when I can't pinpoint what went wrong.
In the last few posts, I've had sort of an idea of maybe where I went wrong, and some of them weren't even that bad (the chocolate eclairs were certainly edible but the Coffee and Walnut Fudge, not so much). Nevertheless, I've continued to bake, hoping that my luck will just sort of pick up. I think that's why I decided to make a cake for this next post, which is something I feel a little more comfortable doing even if it's a cake I've never made before.
I went home to Virginia Beach for the weekend so my family became my taste testers.
Ok, enough with the talking. On to the
butter, caster sugar, eggs, dark chocolate, flour (in the canister), salt, apricot preserve
I preheated the oven and prepared the cake tin by buttering it, adding parchment paper to the bottom, and flouring it. I creamed the butter with about 3/4ths of the sugar, and then added the egg yolks one at a time.
I stirred in melted chocolate and then added the flour by sifting in a little at a time and folding it in.
In a separate bowl, I whisked the egg whites with the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt. I let them whisk for as long as I could, but I don't think they quite made it to stiff peaks.
What can I say? I'm impatient
When I was thoroughly bored watching the egg whites whip, I added them a little at a time to the chocolate mixture, folding them in like I did the flour.
I transferred this mixture to the prepared cake pan and baked it for 45 minutes. I let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning it out upside down onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Because this cake is cut in half, it's suggested that you bake it the night before to ensure it cools completely so it's easier to handle. I made mine early in the morning so it had plenty of time to cool.
Once cool, I cut the cake in half and placed the bottom half onto a paper plate I cut to fit the size of the cake. This was my sister's idea since the recipe called for a cardboard cake card, which I didn't have, and it's much easier to move a cake dripping in chocolate when it has something solid to rest on.
The cake was surprisingly not crumby or crumbly. The cut surface was perfectly smooth which sounds strange, but it's hard to describe. It was light but also very solid which made it really easy to cut in half.
I measured out the right amount of apricot preserve and brought it to a boil in a small saucepan. I poured it through a sieve to make a kind of syrup.
Using a pastry brush, I brushed some of the syrup onto the bottom layer of the cake, but only brushed one thin layer of the syrup because I didn't want it to be too overwhelming. (I remembered the Lemon Cake which was way too lemony.) I placed the top layer onto the cake and brushed the top and sides with more apricot syrup.
I let my sister help with this and she was much more liberal with the syrup, although you can see that I had some leftover in the bowl behind the cake
Finally, it was time to make the chocolate glaze for the top of the cake. I boiled water and more sugar together, and immediately added the chopped chocolate off the heat.
I stirred slowly and gently as too vigorous stirring would result in a dull and less smooth glaze. But as the chocolate melted, I could tell something wasn't right. The glaze was grainy and not smooth, like the chocolate hadn't completely melted.
I thought perhaps the sugar water mixture had cooled off too quickly, so I returned the pan to the heat so the chocolate would melt more. This did seem to help somewhat, but it still was not as smooth as it should have been, and was getting thinner.
There were only 3 steps to this process. Seriously, how could I have messed it up? I resigned myself to the fact that the glaze just wouldn't be perfectly smooth, but at least it would still taste good. I poured it over the cake and prepared to spread it in as few motions as possible to keep it nice (ha) and shiny (ha ha).
All the glaze just slipped right off the cake like the watery chocolate it was and there was no stopping it. I stood there staring at it forlornly as my sister and mom tried to make helpful suggestions.
Me? I wanted to take my knife and stab the cake until it was dead dead dead.
I had no idea what went wrong. After a few minutes I picked up the parchment paper that had caught all the fallen chocolate and poured it back over the cake. The glaze had thickened slightly, so this helped a little.
I was still extremely disappointed that something so simple had failed so tremendously. But my sister and mother were not so easily defeated.
But, when all else fails, add more chocolate.
My mom melted some plain semi-sweet chocolate and poured it over the top.
This didn't really help the appearance of the cake (clearly), but whatever, there was more chocolate now and that was all that mattered.
When we tried it after dinner that night, I think we all agreed that it was good, but not great. The cake was nice and light, but didn't have a lot of flavor.
Theoretically the apricot should have made up for this, but I made the wrong decision when I left half of the apricot syrup on the bowl. You could barely taste it and the middle layer had completely soaked into the cake so there was no filling.
Now, I'm not one to typically mix fruit with my chocolate (chocolate and orange: blech. Mint and chocolate? no thanks. I may be the only person in the country who hates HATES Thin Mint girl scout cookies. Ew.), but I sort of wished for more apricot. The thin layer I brushed in the middle of the cake was completely absorbed and made no impact. I was thankful my sister had used a heavier hand with the top and sides of the cake, because you could just taste the apricot under the chocolate, and I really liked it. It was a nice light flavor, and since the chocolate of the cake wasn't overwhelming, I think it was a welcome addition I would have liked more of (and could have been accomplished by using all the apricot syrup I had). The glaze actually tasted fine. Nice and chocolatey and it did harden, but to a dull finish.
When I told Dan about this EPIC FAILURE because I'd failed! FAILED! I am a disgrace to my craft! (this was in the midst of the chocolate glaze debacle when I was being perhaps a teensy bit dramatic. Just a smidge), he brought up a point that I am aware of but sometimes choose to ignore: it takes more than 1 try to perfect a recipe. And I know this. Every time I make something new, I think, "Oh good. Now I know for next time that I should reduce the baking time by 10 minutes" or "Next time I'll definitely add LESS lemon syrup" etc. etc.
And I know this. But right now, that's not really my concern. I'm more interested in working my way through this book than I am perfecting every recipe. The irony of course is that I want everything to be perfect the first time. And that's just not going to happen. So I'll press on, but this next cake had better go well. If it knows what's good for it...
Next Indulgence: Apple and Poppy Seed Cake