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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Autumnal birthday cake for the autumn of my life....

On the 30th March it was my 30th birthday, and so far it's been an extended one starting with this birthday cake at a rehearsal 4 days beforehand, and a ending with an afternoon drinks party for friends at my house on Easter Monday. In between I've had dinners with family and a very luxurious weekend away in Daylesford, with a lunch at The Lake House and spa treatments daahling! in Hepburn Springs. Still to come is another birthday weekend away with more friends. I like special birthdays! They almost make up for the slight panic you may feel at turning an age where you thought you would be all grown-up, and realising you have a long way to go before that happens.
I didn't want to make another chocolate cake to take for rehearsing friends, so I turned to this one in Nigella's Domestic Goddess: the Autumnal birthday cake. Appropriate as my birthday falls in the first real flush of Melbourne autumn, which is my favourite time of year. The days are warm, clear and sunny, the leaves are turning, the afternoon light is golden and the nights are crisp and I can curl under my doona for the first time in months. Do you like my pseudo-artistic cake decorating efforts with the leaves from our front yard? Hey, I brushed the dirt off first!

The cake is an adaptation of a maple & pecan layer cake cake from the Magnolia Bakery in New York, and it uses 2 full bottles of maple syrup. You know how much that stuff costs? Hell! I might as well make it from GOLD! I nearly reached for the imitation maple-flavoured slop, but slapped myself around the head and reminded myself that I'll only turn 30 once, and if I couldn't buy the good stuff for my good friends then I was a horrible person. At least buy the good stuff for me! Despite the amount of syrup in the cake and the frosting, it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet, although the smell convinced many otherwise. This cake would be a great wasp attractor.

It's a simple, sponge-like cake batter, flavoured with maple, that is best eaten on the day it's made as it tends towards dryness. It was already heading that way that evening. The frosting is a cooked meringue, with the texture of marshmallow fluff, again flavoured with maple syrup, and quite sticky to touch. The pecans provided a textural contrast that was needed, although I was confused by the amount in the recipe, because the picture in Nigella's book definitely doesn't show it covered in as many as specified! The recipe doesn't instruct this, but I toasted the pecans before chopping them in salted butter, and based on my new knowledge from Ray Capaldi at Fenix about the need for salt in nut-based desserts, I added a hefty pinch of my pink Murray River salt flakes. I liked the taste of salt cutting through the sticky meringue.

A note for next time: it calls for a lot of flour - 1/2 kilo of it, and self-raising flour at that. I don't like the squeaky, chalky mouthfeel of SR flour, especially in those quantities, and again armed with my new knowledge from Ray Capaldi about how flour is a cheap filler, next time I would cut down the amount. Hopefully it would still set, but it's worth a try. It might stop the tendency towards dryness too.
It's rich and filling, and we could only manage small slices, although my brother who really doesn't have a sweet tooth came in late at night and found the large wedge leftover. Heating it up in the microwave (dryness factor) he ate the entire CHUNK, which frankly astounds me. I know he likes maple syrup, but....whoa!
No recipe on my site this time, but I found it on another blog. Enjoy!

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