Sunday, June 20, 2010

The joyless cake

I was recently given a challenge by a friend of mine. Make an awesome birthday cake.
Haha Ms Cupcake let slip a cackle, that I can do! But wait there was a challenge. The people eating this cake are allgergic/intollerant of EVERYTHING THAT MAKES CAKES AWESOME! No butter, flour, sugar or eggs... just the fundamental anatomy of any good cake. Even the humble strawberry is met with a suspicious squint and tag of 'moderation only'.
Ok so this was going to be more dificult than I imagined. As I trawled the recipe book that resides in my brain I would think of a few optons only to have them shot down for some fundamental reason (syrup is made of sugar you fool! Merigue? what! are you crazy!).
So I switched tactics, rather than focusing on the can't haves, I switched to the can haves... hazelnuts.. good.... polenta... interesting... glucose... so there can be some sweet...citrus...hmm a good mate of semolina!

Never one to shy away from using the internet as a primary source (watch out PhD examiners!) I began the quest for ideas. No hysterical mothers group forum or pompus vegan hippie's blog was left unread, I found recipes for zuchini fritata cake and cocoa betroot mud cake but quite frankly they were joyless..sad pathetic looking things not fit for a birthday celebration. Birthday cakes are suposed to be absurdly unhealthy! they should be beautuful to look at and amazing to eat and spew forth love at who ever are in their paths. Birthday cakes should not contain zuchini and spirulina powder for that added green.

Such was the mantra I chanted as I began to make this very quickly turned into a whispered mumble as I realized that this was near impossible task. Sure you can make something that looks like a cake but I think that's where reality veered my dreams of awesomeness into a ditch. Firstly glucose is not sugar, it is goop with a hint of sweet, you have to add about 300g+ of the stuff before you can taste any semblance of sweet and  then I'm sure the carbohydrate chemists amongst us would agree there starts to be some serious interference with the cooking reactions going on. Which lead me to the next part, having no flour means no gluten (duh) so I had none of those lovely proteins that make love to the (conspicuously absent) sugar and eggs and butter in order to make a beautiful lattice of soft spongy cake. I was working with hazelnut meal and polenta, otherwise known as fine and coarse sand. Hmm

So as I whipped the dairy free cooking margarine with the 5kg of glucose syrup I already knew that this wasn't going to be one of my brightest moments in baking. Nevertheless I powered on adding orange and lemon zest and the weird soy cream cheese that my sources swear behaves as a great substitute for eggs... Then the addition of the juice and the two sands, the batter was done. A quick taste and oh....HELLO grit, hmm I hope this softens up in the cooking process. Fingers crossed the oily sand sludge (with a good hit of orange) was put into the tin and then the oven. Ms Cupcake peered hopefully as it cooked praying to the baking goddess that something magical would happen in there. 30 mins later and a quick look in see that magic is occurring... the magic of carbohydrates burning and producing carbon..thanks to the excess of margarine in the recipe the top of the cake was cooking far too quickly. A hastily made foil blanket was added and the cake returned to the oven. At the end of the cooking time I was still dubious the tin had leached oil from its base and he cake didn't appear to have any clear cohesion ( would one egg between 8 slices really have killed anyone?...probably)

Meanwhile I zested and juice a few more oranges and lemons and boiled it up with the remainder of the glucose syrup which is what one usually does for syrup cakes except with sugar so it packs a real punch, again glucose and it's sugary fail let the team down but not too badly.

After what seemed like an age (50mins) the cake looked pretty much done ( well on the outside at least) and I was running out of time to get it off to it's party. Garnished with a few slices of lime and orange and drizzled with the syrup it didn't look too bad...until the side collapsed and it engulfed the doily I was try to put it on. Frankencake pretty much hates me right now...the sentiment is shared. So I sheepishly palmed it of to my friend and bid it farewell with an apologetic 'good luck'....

Sadly in the kerfufle I forgot to take photos, alas.

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