Tag Archives: Erica Bauermeister

Cake for Helen and Carl

Cake for Helen and Carl

I am still reading The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Baurmeister. I am super excited reading about this novel. There is a recipe hidden in every chapter. Thinking about how this novel is making me happy, I am also happy that my favourite novel, Pride and Prejudice didn’t have any cooking descriptions. I would have taken ages to finish reading that classic.

At this point in the novel, Lillian, the protagonist and the master chef of the novel, is teaching her class how to bake a cake. As you must have understood from my previous blog about the choco-coffee, Lillian doesn’t believe in handing out recipes to her students and asks them to cook or bake using their senses. This time too, there is no written recipe for the cake. But here among her students, we have an old couple, who got married without a traditional wedding cake, and still are going strong despite ups and downs, and even an affair. Lillian dedicates this cake to Helen and Carl, the couple who believe in love. And I, like the last time, am giving you the detailed report of how my cake turned out as per her instructions. Given below are the instructions taken directly from the book. So they are not exactly instructions, but are parts of conversations and narration.

Lillian’s Instructions for the Cake

My Cake

Separate egg whites from yolks. I did this later in the process.
Lillian put the butter into the bowl and turned on the mixer. I used about 125g of unsalted butter and softened it manually using a spoon instead of putting into a mixer.
Slowly, in an impossibly thin waterfall of white, she let the sugar drift into the bowl. I used about 100g of fine sugar powder and blended it with the softened and now air-filled butter.
Finally, when the butter and sugar reached the cloudlike consistency of whipped cream, she turned off the motor. Since I was manually blending and air-filling the butter and sugar, it took me longer time.
So, now we add the egg yolks, bit by bit, letting the air rise into them as well. Separating and placing yolks and whites of 2 eggs in separate bowls, I whipped the egg yolks well enough to make a yellow coloured free flowing liquid and then slowly added it to the butter-sugar mixture while stirring.
She remarked lifting out a scoopful and letting it fall through the sifter in a fluttering snow shower into a large measuring cup. I sifted about 200g of all-purpose flour (maida) and set it aside.
Lillian began adding some of the flour to the batter, the milk alternatively. I used about 200-250ml of cold milk and added to the batter alternatively with the sifted flour.
If you mix the flour with the other ingredients for too long, you will have a flat, hard cake. I didn’t set a timer to know for how long I was stirring the batter to blend the flour and avoid lump formation.
Lillian beat the egg whites into foam, adding just a bit of sugar at the end, as the class watched it turn into soft then stiff peak. I beat the egg whites and added sugar to it in the end. Maybe it’s because of the manual blending, no stiff peaks were formed.
When it was done, Lillian carefully folded the frothy cumulus clouds into the batter, a third at a time. Well, I did just that.
The frosting was a thick butter-cream. Since I was in no mood for frosting, I skipped this last step. If I do this, I will surely update.

There are a few things you need to know here.

  • In the novel, Lillian brings out eggs, milk, butter, flour, sugar and baking soda and places on the table. But while baking, she doesn’t use baking soda. So, I just added about 2g of baking soda to the flour and sifted both together.
  • Lillian doesn’t use any flavouring agent, either natural or artificial while baking. You may add it if you want.
  • She doesn’t mention pouring the batter into the cake mould or anything. So please use your commonsense and pour the batter into aluminium cake mould or tray, and then place it in the oven. The mould or tray should be greased and dusted before pouring the batter into it. Otherwise, half of your cake will be stuck to the mould itself.
  • About the baking temperature, I baked the cake at 180°C for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven at the same temperature for 5 minutes before placing the tray inside it.
Freshly baked cake for Helen and Carl. Just out of oven.

Freshly baked cake for Helen and Carl. Just out of oven.

The cake came out fine. Honestly, it was way more delicious than the ones baked following a proper recipe. But I am not a professional baker. I guess Lillian is right. Food turns out to be better when you follow your mood and sense than a recipe. The yellow colour of the cake is due to butter and egg yolk. Most of the recipes out there don’t recommend using egg yolks and only mention egg whites. If you decide to bake as per Lillian, do let me know what you think of it when compared to “recipe” cakes.

The Choco-Coffee from Lillian to Her Mother

The Choco-Coffee from Lillian to Her Mother

I am currently reading The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. I am a voracious reader and a foodie. When a book caters to both the senses, how can I not fall in love with it? At the point where I am reading now, Lillian has prepared a drink for her mother who has her head stuck in a book all the time to escape the reality. The girl just wants to bring her mother back to being herself and prepares delicacies to entice her. In one such attempt, Lillian prepares a drink and I thought why not I try this on my own because the recipe looked simple enough and I am no Julia Child. But Lillian is someone who doesn’t follow any recipe and goes by instinct. So, let me tell you how my little culinary adventure turned out.

Given below (sounds so academic) is the comparison of what Lillian did and what I tried.

Lillian’s Recipe (You can’t actually call this a recipe)

My Deed

Put milk in a saucepan. Use real milk, the thick kind. Half a litre of Goodlife milk by Nandini poured into a saucepan.
Make orange curls. Set aside. I don’t know how to get curls of orange peel! So I grated the outer peel carefully avoiding the inner white layer. White layer gives bitter taste.
Break the cinnamon in half. About 2-3g of cinnamon stick.
Add orange peel and cinnamon to milk. Added to the milk in the saucepan.
Grate the chocolate Grated about 18-20g of plain Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate into the milk.
Add anise. Just a touch. Added about 1g of anise powder into the milk.
Let it simmer until it all comes together. You will know when it does. Yes, let it simmer. When all the chocolate melts and you get a faint aroma of spices, that is when you know it is done. By then, the milk would have reduced to half of the original quantity.
Use your wand (what she means by wand is a spatula). I used a spoon. Keep stirring otherwise a layer of cream/fat forms on the surface spoiling the taste.
Now add that to your coffee. I added about 5-6g of Bru instant coffee mix to the milk and filtered it to remove cinnamon piece and orange peels.
Top with whipping cream for softness. Fresh cream from Milky Mist helped. I added 50g of the whipped cream to each of the two mugs.
Serve. One mug for myself and another for my mother.

I have to mention here, Lillian did not filter the contents to separate the cinnamon stick and orange peel. She used a spoon to hold them back as she poured her preparation into mugs. I just made my work easy. Also, Lillian’s coffee was already prepared. Considering it had sugar in it, sugar for my choco-coffee came from the Dairy Milk chocolate.

About the drink, it turned out to be yummy. I am not a fan of coffee or tea, but this tasted good. If you don’t trust me, then ask my mom. On some days, she survives on coffee when I pester her a lot.  I don’t know what this is called. Lillian hasn’t named it in the novel. I will just call it choco-coffee. Simple enough for a person who is not much into the world of coffee. If you don’t add cream and whip the drink itself, I guess it turns into a cappuccino. People who drink it regularly would know better. Do let me know if both are same. And the picture doesn’t show pretty patterns on the drink. Bear with it.

The Choco-Coffee from Lillian to Her Mother

The Choco-Coffee from Lillian to Her Mother