This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie challenge was to make the Traditional Madeleines found on pages 166-168 of "Baking, From My Home to Yours," and was chosen by Tara of Smells Like Home. We were also given the option of choosing one of the past TWD recipes if we didn’t have the correct pan to make the madeleines.
And so for two reasons, I didn’t make the madeleines. First off, I don’t have the right pan, and though I could pretty easily get one, there was reason number two – my daughter’s birthday party and the requisite cake for that. So, in my merry two-birds-with-one-stone killer way, I picked the Perfection Pound Cake, which was chosen back in January, long before I was a member.
Pound Cake, as Dorie mentions in the "Playing Around" section of the recipe, "lends itself to variations minor and major." And that’s exactly what happened with mine. I had asked the soon-to-be Birthday Girl what kind of cake she wanted. Asked her several times, in fact, because I know how often her mind can change. Ultimately it boiled down to these three requests: Strawberry cake, Purple on the outside, with Pink flowers on it.
Purple on the outside was simple enough – just color some fondant and that would be that.
Pink flowers – nothing I couldn’t accomplish with some pink royal icing.
And the strawberry cake?
I used Dorie’s Perfection Pound Cake recipe – tripled, because there would be at least 14 people, if not more, and I generally make about twice what I realistically need because I’m insecure that way.
To the cake, I added some orange zest, because, well, I’ve been using lemon (and lime) a lot lately, and I needed a change in citrus.
And I sliced about 3 pounds of strawberries or so and macerated them briefly in some sugar.
And so here’s how it all went down….
2 cups all-purpose flour or 2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan or an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes.
(Add in the orange zest.) Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each egg goes in. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speeed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated–don’t overmix. In fact, you might want to fold in the last of the flour, or even all fo it, by hand with a rubber spatula.
Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top.
(And scatter the strawberries on top and press lightly into the batter
Put the cake into the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. If you’re using a 9×5 pan, you’ll need to bake the cake for 70-75 minutes; the smaller pan needs about 90 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean.
(The heart-shaped pans ranged in bake time from about an hour to an hour and a half.)
Remove the cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 30 minutes.
Run a blunt knjife betwene the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature.
So those are my Perfection Pound Cakes – with strawberries pressed into the tops. They smelled phenomenal, and I had to fight my family off in order to keep the cakes safe for Julia’s party.
Once the cakes were cool, it was time for the construction. I couldn’t exactly level the surfaces of the cakes, because I’d end up slicing away a lot of the all-important strawberries. And I could have put the strawberries in the bottom of the pan…and I had thought about it…but I forgot until I’d filled the first pan, so I just pressed them on top.
I also didn’t want to cover the whole thing with fondant because – again – the strawberries. They looked so yummy…I couldn’t hide them.
First, I sliced each cake in half, so I’d have two layers per cake…and I slathered seedless strawberry jam in between the layers.
I also wanted to enhance the appearance of the strawberries, so I melted down some apricot preserves and glazed them with that. Nice and moist and shiny.
Then I wrapped ribbons of fondant I’d colored with "aster mauve" and "delphinium blue" around the edges of each layer.
And to all that, I added some fondant ribbons and royal icing leaves and flowers, and this was how it looked:
Later on, after we’d sung "Happy Birthday" and Julia had blown out the candles, I started to cut the cake.
And in that momentary silence, my little Birthday Princess said,
"I don’t want any cake. I just want ice cream…I don’t really like cake."
Everyone else seemed to like it. And of course I’d made way too much, but I gave everyone a chunk of it to bring home, and this was all that was left:
So Happy 4th Birthday, Julia!
Next year you get pie.