Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cake fail!

Some time ago I posted about my problem with cookbooks. I have too many of them I don't use often enough. In that post I said I would try to use them more often and would blog about the results. Well, it's been awhile, but finally I have something to report - an exciting failure. I think we need to talk more about our failures because we learn as much from experimentation and failure (stretching our boundaries) as we do from our successes. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. And where my cake went.

I needed to make a dessert for dinner with friends. Rather than go to any of my tried and true recipes or the store, I decided to try something from one of my old cookbooks. After some pleasant reading I settled on this one, The New Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book by Ruth Hutchinson, (c) 1948 and 1958. Each chapter begins with some homely advice, the recipes themselves are straightforward and largely attributed to various wives - Mrs. Donald Hellferich, Mrs. Thomas B. Keck - with a few single women and men tossed in for good measure.

The molasses cake recipe looked good - I love molasses - and I had all the ingredients on hand. While the recipe had some unfamiliar steps and proportions I thought it would be an adventure. And it was.
Here is what I learned:
  • Creaming 2T of shortening into 1c of brown sugar is a challenge. 
  • I thought 1c water AND 2c molasses seemed like a lot of liquid for this recipe. I was right (see below) and need to remember to trust my instincts.
  • I'd never tried the soda-and-vinegar leavening method. I enjoyed the grade-school volcano experience. 
The batter was very liquid. I didn't add more than 1T extra flour, since this was a new recipe. I just poured it into the loaf pan and popped it into the oven.

Fifteen minutes later I smelled something burning. The cake had risen so much - and was still so liquid - that it had boiled over and a quarter of the batter was burning on the floor of my oven. I put a cookie tray on the bottom shelf, scraped off what I could from the oven and decided heck! it's summer! I'll turn on the fan and let it go.

After 45 minutes it was still molasses soup. Clearly something was amiss.

At 1:25 I finally took it out of the oven. The middle was still a thick liquid while the sides were a dense, soft cake. Kind of like a hot fudge pudding. Hmm. I scooped it into a bowl and we ate it - hot molasses pudding. Delicious. But not what I expected nor anything I could bring to our hosts. And my oven was a mess.

Next time I'll plan on the extreme leavening and make it in a much larger bowl, maybe use less water and more flour, or just go with the pudding effect. It was a good learning experience.

I ended up bringing strawberries to our hosts. And a story. Now they want to come over and taste the molasses pudding. I just hope when I make it deliberately it turns out half as well.

(c) 2010 Laura S. Packer

3 comments:

Diandra said...

*lol* Sounds like a real adventure! The one time I tried making cheese cake, it ended up a huge, lemony omelet. (^v^)

A Peachy Life said...

This is one of the reasons why I enjoy cooking, experimenting and never knowing how the end product turn out. I have lost count on how many cakes have died in my oven lol.

Molasses Cake sounds really good though!

-Jojoanna from swap-bot
"I'm a Blogger, Follow Me!" swap

better than naked said...

i enjoyed your story! great writing! (swap-bot betterthannaked)