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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.