Thursday, 22 April 2010

Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie

My husband has renamed these WooHoo Pies.  For some bizarre reason (I totally blame Michelle Pfeiffer), every time I read Whoopie, my brain translates it to Sex.  Yes, I know it is spelled differently and I can't imagine any Amish having such impure thoughts when they ripped into their lunchboxes in the fields.  Sex Pies just sounds weird.  And wrong.  But maybe I just lack imagination?  Actually, I can't expend any more brain matter on the association of Whoopie Pies with sex - it is totally weirding me out.

Whoopie Pies have become the new cupcake in London.  They are even in Harrods.  But that shouldn't surprise me - Harrods sell everything, including lion cubs (not the stuffed variety).  And if ever there was a better photo of the owners resembling their pets, then I would love to see it!

My one and only dalliance with the UK version of the Whoopie Pie left me wholly unimpressed - I won't tell you where I got it from, let's just say they were American and I paid a number of pounds and I expected a whole lot more.  True, it was big.  Massive.  So I didn't expect more "size", just more taste.  The problem was the cake was dry and the buttercream filling was gritty and almost inedible.  Even my son wouldn't eat any of it and handed it back to me.  It was akin to cheese (for some bizarre reason, he loves vegetables but detests cheese) to his little tastebuds.

Given that experience, Rose's recipe could only be better.  And boy oh boy, was it ever better.   By a factor of approximately 11,547.  The ingredients were quite diverse for a chocolate cake - dark brown (muscovado of course) sugar, buttermilk, oil and butter, melted chocolate, cocoa and only one egg, then the usual flour and leavening.  My photos are a bit sparse.  It is a pretty dark mix, even before adding the melted chocolate and db sugar.

The method for this cake was to cream the fats with the sugar and then mix in the chocolate before alternately adding dry and wet ingredients.  Rose has you use a stand mixer, but you could definitely make this with a hand mixer, or even just with a wooden spoon and some decent arm action.

The trickiest thing about this recipe was portioning out the mounds of cake on the baking sheet.  I am quite envious of the range of icecream scoops the North Americans have access to.  How I wish that photo was of my collection.  My ice cream scoop is a tablespoon.  So given Rose mentioned that it was a 2 tablespoon ice cream scoop, I duly heaped out two tablespoons piles.  Sometime around the fourth pile I started to think that maybe I wouldn't get to Rose's 12 piles.  This photo is a bit deceptive, because they actually started out pretty big and then progressively got less big.  I ended up getting 10 piles. 

Instead of scraping it back in the bowl and starting again, I just made do.  Next time I will make these as one tablespoon portions.  That seems to be a better eating size - these massive ones were cut into quarters.  Which now makes me laugh because at no point did any of us stop at that substantial quarter.   So we had Whoopie pies as big as my head and also in a small perfect serving size for one.  The smaller diameter cakes had better height than the massive sprawling ones.   Having just read an Economist article I can compare my progressive Whoopie pies as LA vs Portland.  Both good, just in different ways.

On to the icing.  I substituted Corn syrup for Golden Syrup, because that was all I ever have.  And I probably heated it to over the recommended temperature, but it didn't spoil the icing.  I am not so sure it was fluffy like marshmallow but it tasted amazing.  I mixed this with a handmixer as it didn't seem to be enough volume to warrant the big guns.

Given my ridiculous portioning of the cakes, I decided to be a bit more precise in the application of icing to cake.   Which is unusually uptight of me - except I note that I am 2 grams under Rose's recommendation, so I am not *that* uptight it would appear.

I took these cakes to a friends place for dinner on Saturday night.  Both my husband and I rued that decision all the way home and then all the next day and then halfway into this week, which was a bit silly, since they never would have made it past Sunday.

This week we are moving house.  We are moving to a bright and sunny flat in Kew, about 300 metres from Kew Gardens.  If you are ever in London, and you are keen on the green, then catch the District Line out and see these amazing gardens.  They have two massive glass houses built in the mid 1800's when collecting exotic plants was all the rage.

Even in the midst of moving I will be baking a few things, mainly because my extremely sweet toothed father in law is finally making it to London on Monday night.  They were due to arrive last week, however Iceland's revenge took care of that.  And a week without a plane overhead every 45 seconds was really quite peaceful, but eerie.  I would have felt like I was on a deserted island, except for I catch the Tube to work every day, and you never feel isolated when your face is pressed into some stranger's armpit.  Even if they don't acknowledge your existence.

Things will be a bit quiet around here, mainly because we didn't sort out our internet connection, and that will take five working days.  Whoops.  And also because we are off to Seville on Wednesday evening until the 4th of May.   I won't be baking cakes that weekend, but I may well eat a few...  So, see you in a week or two.

I have a special warning message for Marie, given that she is celebrating breaking the back of Rose's +90 cakes in the HCB.  (BTW, this mug is excellent to drink tea from).

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Banana Refrigerator Cake

I'm back!  Planets have come into alignment and I have found my way back into the kitchen.  This Banana Cake made me return - it has a force greater than gravity - resistance is futile.  I have actually made it about four times, each time slavishly following Rose's instructions.  Using the food processor to whiz the banana's, creme fraiche and eggs, stand mixer to mix the sugar and egg mixture together before sifting in the dry ingredients and beating for another few minutes  blah, blah blah.  Last night I took charge, ditched my slavish approach and went for a PB preparation time.  On your marks... that is 8.23pm for those that can't really see it that well.
The clock had started.  No mis en place, in fact, ingredients were still in the cupboards, pan unprepared.  I used my teeny tiny Kenwood hand mixer food processor thingy to whiz my black bananas and creme fraiche and eggs and vanilla.

It was the perfect size really, and I should never forget that!  And alot more simple to clean afterwards.  The rest of the ingredients I just mixed in a bowl with a whisk, and I sifted nothing.
The mix emulsified quite quickly and I had no issues with the flour not mixing in properly.  All in the pan and ready for the oven by 8.39pm.  So, 16 minutes from start to finish.  I don't think I could make a packet mix in that time... mainly because I would spend 15 minutes having a personal crisis and a flagellation about using said packet mix.  The horror!

Into the oven for I am not sure how long.  I think roughly the time Rose said.  I can't remember, because I didn't take a photo of the microwave clock... um, perhaps my short term memory ain't quite as hot as it used to be.  I blame sleep deprivation (although I do wonder when the placenta will vacate my short term memory area-can someone please reassure me?).

The Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate icing (or whatever it is called) is easy to make, so long as everything (just the cream cheese and butter really) is at the right temperature.  If not, which it wasn't for me, then 10 seconds in the microwave at 20% power make things right.  I did use the electric hand beater for the icing.  Cream cheese, butter, a dollop of creme fraiche and the secret ingredient of white chocolate.  This is bliss, absolute bliss.  Make it.  Like Vicki, you will be wanting to run away with it, forsaking all other icings.
 I am really rubbish at applying icing, so the before photos always look much prettier than the after photos... can I please request at the HCB'ers get together that some of the more talented (everyone else!) leads a hands on tutorial?

I first made this cake with Kate Flour and it worked okay, but did end up with the wet layer that Rose talked about.  I made it with Gold Medal All Purpose - same deal a very slight wet stodgy layer.  With the cake flour - perfection.  Even crumb, delicate, the oil allows the banana flavour to really shine.  I assume that butter masks some of that flavour in a traditional banana cake.  I left out the lemon zest this time - I can't discern it in the final cake.  I also left out the almond essence in the icing, only because I think almond essence is the work of the devil.  Along with cherry essence.

My lazy method resulted in a slightly less high cake, but really, not a deal breaker for me.  The lazy method wins out.  I mean, 16 minutes, a few rotting banana's and some creme fraiche, some white chocolate and cream cheese... it doesn't get more simple than that.  Plus no flagellation required (unless you are into that kind of thing).

This cake is so easy and quick and reliable, it will forever be in my cake universe, on an orbit similar to Mars.  Assuming that US cake flour is also in that same orbit.

I am looking forward the Whoopie Pies this weekend.  I sampled my very first one about two months ago and I was massively unimpressed.  The frosting was gritty, the cake itself dry... it can only be up from there.