As I was preparing this cake for the oven, I did ponder Marie's casual remark that she had selected two easy cakes for us in the lead up to her (and now my) nemesis: the chocolate pine cone. I reflected on the 2007 Rugby World Cup, which was played in France. I am a New Zealander and if you didn't already know, New Zealander's (or Kiwi's) have a evangelical love/pride/obsession for their rugby union team. So much so, that my grandfather, a farmer aged 76, whose previous overseas travel had taken him to Australia, travelled the 31 hours with my aunt and uncle to Europe to watch the All Black's rightfully seize the Rugby World Cup. The All Black's were in great form and almost certain to win. My family had only bought tickets for the semi finals and finals. You know where this is heading, don't you? The All Black's lost in the quarter final against the host nation. Devastation and disaster and tears from many many men. My Uncle's theory was that the All Black's hadn't been stretched in the lead up games and instead of playing the current game, they were focused on playing the Grand Final.
I admit to not being a true Kiwi, one who watches every single All Black game. Actually, I don't think I have watched one game since that 2007 World Cup quarter final loss. And I only watched that one because my grandfather, aunt and uncle were with us in Scotland. This admission is kind of like saying that you have never loved your parents or your children: strictly taboo.
Anyway, like the 2007 All Blacks, I may have been focused on the Grand Final Chocolate Pine Cone rather than the English Gingerbread, when I *whipped* this cake up. And last week's carrot cake did little to stretch my cake baking form. I did display some dedication to the task at hand. I made Kate Flour, except without the Xanthan Gum and without the cornflour. It was such an easy cake. Melt the butter, golden syrup (alot), sugar and marmalade, and allow to cool. Whisk in eggs and milk. Then mix the wet into the dry ingredients. Job done.
Except it wasn't. Because my mix, although soup like, was a bit too lumpy for my liking. So I dug through it with my hands to break up the flour lumps. Calling it good enough and praying to Rose that the remaining lumps would sort themselves out during the baking, I put it into the oven.
When I opened the oven 10 minutes from full time, I realised that maybe this was like the All Black quarterfinal against France. Doomed. What did that mean for the Chocolate Pine Cone? I am pleased to say that I didn't cry - I am reserving that right for next week. However, I did swear. Alot. Who knows what went wrong (www). My pan was 9 inches round and 2 inches high. Maybe I added the wrong amount of baking powder? But then it doesn't taste soapy. Oh well. I am pretty sure I will be the only baker with a three tiered gingerbread cake and the only one with such a grotty oven.
So, I persevered and let the cake cook through. I dressed it with its lemon syrup, wrapped it in plastic and put it to rest. The middle sunk. The edges where it overflowed the pan were as crisp as a brandy snap. I sliced it 24 hours later and it was stodgy. None of Rose's light crumb for me. Just heavy cake. And not that gingery either. Spicy yes, gingery, um, not so much.
Now 48 hours later, the flavour of the ginger is peeking through a little more with the tang of lemon much mellowed. And I am now eating it the way my grandmother would have served it, slathered with salted butter. And it isn't too bad. The gingerbread cakes of my memory were more loaves, with a very fine yet dense crumb, that desperately needed the butter to aid digestion. I think I need to add the cornflour and the xanthan gum to make the proper Kate Flour to get the Rose lightness. I also made the mini vanilla bean pound cakes and they were tough - not at all tender. The flour definitely needs more work to make it less work to chew.
On the other hand, I may just admit defeat and buy the stupid bleached flour. Afterall, £10.59 or $17.00 USD isn't too much to pay for two bags of flour delivered? Apparently bleached flour makes you hysterical if you eat it, but quite frankly, I will be hysterical if I don't get a non stodgy cake soon!
This does not bode well for the Holiday Pinecone. I am thinking that chocolate roulade would not go so well with a healthy swipe of butter? I have all the ingredients, bar the right flour and the corn syrup - I am hoping that golden syrup can be substituted as per usual. On the plus side, they stock the chocolate fondant in the 24 supermarket, so all is not lost if the fondant is rubbish. That said, if my roulade is more heavy than light, I won't waste my time dressing the concrete log - it will be straight into the bin and I will be straight into the wine and onto the computer to bake vicariously through the more talented and brave.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Pine Cones to everyone.