So do you all remember when I failed at my company's bake-off last fall? Well I do! So when they announced last week that we will be having yet another bake-off for our spring preview party, I thought, here it is! My chance to redeem myself! What is that glimmer of hope that a bake-off conjures? I believe the magic of a bake-off is this: It's low-risk, it's tasty, and it's a potential opportunity to gloat. Good stuff, people. Good stuff.
I learned so many things from my failed chocolate tartlets of six months ago. Most notably, that meringue doesn't hold up so well after 24 hours. Also, that tartlets aren't meant for the subway. But most importantly, I learned that you must practice your recipe in order to determine a few things: A) Does it actually taste good? B) Will it still taste good tomorrow? C) Do I have the skills to make it look good? D) No really, how do I make this look good? And E) Can I transport it without complete disaster? So as a warm up for next week's bake-off, and as a way to preemptively celebrate the Royal Wedding via watching the terrible Lifetime movie about Wills & Kate with my girlfriends, I decided to try out a recipe using my TINY CAKES method!
Yes! Tiny Cakes are back on the blog! I am still addicted to making them and they are more delicious than EVER. For my bake-off entry, I decided to try out the Cassata Cake from United Cakes of America by Warren Brown. This is, for reasons I don't quite understand, the official cake of Ohio. Warren Brown encourages a different kind of baking than us 'Mericans are used to. For instance, he has you weigh ingredients rather than scoop them out of measuring cups. And he encourages using the finest, freshest ingredients you can find. His message seems to be this: If you're gonna bake, do it right, people.
My cakes came out of their ramekins beautifully. A little crumbly at the edges and golden brown. The trick with this recipe is that a meringue is folded into the batter just before baking, so the cake is truly an airy, spongy delight. Not dry in the least!
The magic, the mystery, and the glory of this cake belongs almost entirely to the lemon ricotta filling. Stiff yet smooth, tangy in a way that only ricotta can be, and joyful in a way that only lemons can be, I was tempted to use the filling to frost the cake. (I resisted, of course.) I sliced each Tiny Cake and the loaf in half and plopped a generous amount of filling in the center along with a handful of sliced blackberries. (Note that my bake-off entry will have strawberries, but they looked dismal in the store that day. Come on spring! You can do it! Mama needs fresh strawberries from the farmer's market by next Thursday!)
I placed the tops on the cakes and pressed down a bit so the filling oozed out the sides.
Because I was going to watch the horrible William and Kate Lifetime movie at my friend's house on Monday night, I thought it only proper to turn the extra loaf into a wedding loaf. Bejeweled, of course, for the occasion. Plus it gave me a chance to try out the cake recipe on a group of discerning friends! (Who, by the way, have no problem telling me if something I made tastes terrible.)
As evidenced by Jess licking the frosting from the tiara, I think it was a hit.
But the question is this: is it good enough to win? Who knows! A past winner of the bake-off said this to me yesterday: Do you want to win? Then you've got to do chocolate. I know she's probably right, but damn it, I'm a rebel. I believe in my chocolate-free Cassata Cake, and I hope you do, too. Wish me luck!