Thursday, December 29, 2005

THE Cake Lady Is Cool And Stuff

I wrote to RLB whining about my ganache mishaps. That shit is the bane of my existence. She has fast turnaround; I whined to her only yesterday.

Read my whine and her reply here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Well, I'm Back

I have no new baking to report upon.

I just thought I'd post something new.

My mother, betrayer of betrayers, got a freaking Costco sheet cake for the night of a million zillion pilipinos. A Costco sheet cake! Oh my god!

So I put my mom's kitchenaid back in the corner, closed my battered copy of The Cake Bible, and ate See's Candies with my sister. While lounging on the chaise. With our little drop-kick dogs. While getting fanned by the servants.

On a happier note, my Uncle Karlin (technically my cousin's husband's father, but we like to shorten that to "uncle") brought his yummy Kahlua cake. I had second helpings of that. And several thousand toron. Toron is a sweetened plantian or a banana sliced the long way, wrapped in lumpia wrapper (which is like a very very thin eggroll wrapper, usually made of just cornstarch and water) and deep fried until golden brown and crispy. Dust with a titch of powdered sugar and drizzle a teeny bit of chocolate sauce and you have a freakin, freakin, good dessert.

And, yes, I did have a piece of the Costco cake, which was like "typical" cake--too too sweet, but not bad. I have to say I harbor a guilty liking for that horrible grocery store frosting--you know, the kind where it is sort of crispy on the outside yet fluffy on the inside and 100% sugary, and if you get a corner piece you usually shove all the extra frosting to the side. Well I am the one that reaches over to your plate and eats all the extra frosting. And promptly passes out from insulin shock.

Christmas dinner was great and we had over John and Rita; Rita is this awesome and funny Austrian woman who likes to bake, and she bakes european-like. Which means yummy genoise cakes (ie sponge cakes--but genoise sounds more eurotrash, no?) spiked with lots of liqueur. Hell yeah. She baked us a Buche de Noel (hope I'm spelling that right) and she even candied her own orange peels for the filling. That is a woman after my own heart.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Is Why I Love These People

me and the crazyheads

Those crazyheads. You know what they got me for Christmas? Cookie rocked my world and got me a ROTATING CAKE STAND. Hell yeah!! My cakes will become eviller and eviller, muhahahah. (I'm sure eviller is a word, shutup.) Hole got me this soft and comfy blanket that is almost as nice as cuddling with the Stinky. I call it "the surrogate." Who knew that at age 32 I'd find my binky.

In a few short hours I'm going to drive to my parent's house 700 miles away. While in Los Altos this holiday, I aim to:

1. not go crazy
2. eat chocolate and cookies in the pantry in the middle of the night with my sister (holiday tradition)
3. see all my pilipino relatives (6 aunts and uncles, 5,000 cousins plus their husbands/wives and 200 children, random people I'm probably related to in some roundabout fashion, ie: in-laws of cousins, cousins of cousins, friends of cousins, and one big roasted-in-the-ground pig, which I'm sure I'm related to somehow, but don't remember)
4. bake for my relatives
5. get a pie crust lesson from my momma
6. not go crazy (worth reinforcing)

me, auntie, cousin, cousins' cousin, momma, cousin's wife
and etc.....

Happy holidays everyone. I hope you spend it with people you love, and don't you go crazy.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Why Do I Love These People

I just came from the House of Tran where I was trying to bake cookies with my two best friends from college. We met on our very first day of school, awww. We take a weekend trip to somewhere every year, just the three of us, where we usually drink WAY too much and smoke WAY too much and stay up until the wee hours of the night, and we never ever see the sights of the town.

I say I was trying to bake cookies, because there was only one mixer, and I had to wait for Hole to finish dirtying up the entire counter before I could squeeze my way in. My cookies, pilfered from an Oregonian article from the FoodDay issue that trumpeted the gloriousness of butterfat to the sky (in the form of european style butter), didn't take long to put together but had to rest up in the refrgerator TWICE and they weren't ready to be baked until 1 am...two hours ago....

I was too tired to bake at that point so I brought home the chilled dough and I'll bake tomorrow.


I rolled the chilled logs o' dough in colored sugar, but what I didn't know was that all the chemicals that go into coloring sugar make it taste BITTER and generally unpleasant. Next time I'll use beets. Also, the cookies were like little shortbreads in texture, and for all the glorious eurotrash butter, the cookies didn't taste all that buttery. WTF?

Anyway. What I will remember about the cookie "baking" party at the The House of Tran won't be the cookies, it will be how weird Cookie and Hole are. Hole was making Nipple Cookies--you know, the peanut butter cookies that 3/4 of the way through baking you smash a hershey's kiss on top which doesn't melt--and he anally had all his little chocolate kisses unwrapped and arranged on the table. Cookie reached over and began to stuff kiss by chocolate kiss into her mouth until about half of his stash had disappeared.

She did this once before when we were sitting on the floor at the airport waiting to send Hole back to Montana. She grabbed his pack of eclipse gum, which comes packaged in trays of eight to ten or so, and quickly shoved 90% of the tray of gum into her mouth. She was chomping away like a cow with her mouth open and all you could see in there was a big mass of white stuff; tears were pouring down her reddening face, the corners of her gum stuffed mouth were turned down, her eyes were big and sad and her brow was furrowed. She had the face of a sad clown, a sad clown who has shoved a shitload of spearmint flavored eclipse gum into her mouth and realised there are no midget firemen who will come driving up in a midget firetruck to squirt water into her mouth and put out the minty fire. With tears falling, she whined, "it's hot," but of course it came out more like "isth haaawwwwtttt" and all you could see was GUM when she opened her mouth wider to try to enunciate. She kept that damn gum in her mouth for about 5 more minutes, open mouthed chomping, crying, red sad clown face, with me and Hole laughing so hard I almost peed.

Well with the chocolate kisses her mouth was still wide open and the corners were still turned down, but instead of a minty white mass it was a shit colored brown mass. No tears, but Tran had the same sad clown expression and she kept her head tilted up, as if all that chocolate was threatening to spill out at any moment. Again she tried to talk to us, and what it sounded like she whined was, "isssth too sthwwweeett." After much pointing and laughing at the Sad Tran Clown, Hole started unwrapping more kisses and she tried to grab them, as if her gaping cakehole had any more room.

Later on she sneaks over to Hole's Nipple Cookies and smashes down one of the kisses so the nipple is all deformed.

Hole's other cookie he chose to bake was the Nutty Butter Balls. Need I say more.

Friday, December 16, 2005


There were a few little caramels left over from yesterday's Turtle Cake.

They were fucking, FUCKING good.

I have a new obsession.

I could put caramel on EVERYTHING, including my doorknobs, in the bottom of all my glasses, inside all christmas cards, like little mints on the pillows here at the clinic, instead of toilet paper (hmm maybe not that one), wrapped around marshmallows, nuts, kholrabi, curds.

Caramel. I would like to replace my blood with caramel. It has natural clotting agents. It is a great source of energy. It even sounds nicer than blood. caramel. blood. caramel. blood.

Caramel wins, hands down.

Turtles Make Good Cake

Coleen had her birthday party at the Portland City Grill, you know, the restaurant at the top of Big Pink. Awesome views of downtown. Packed with lonely worker droids looking for love in all the wrong places. Our corner of the bar was very aptly manned by Ludwig (I swear, his real name). Makes a good lemon drop. And a good spanish coffee.

There is a lot more to tell about tonight: the birthday girl and her wild, wild past, the guests and how much I love them, the bar and the droids who occupy, the conversations about what happens when you start a life with your sweetheart and how it changes both of you often in unexpected ways, the attempt to leave being thwarted by drunken meanderings to the bathroom (those were the 50-somethings, us 30-somethings were much more sober), and much, much more. However I am cranky and heartsore and am going to fume in bed/go to sleep.

Oh yeah, the fuckin cake. I had a vision for this cake and it worked. When I put it all together and looked at it, I felt really satisfied. And it tasted pretty good, too.

Dec 15, 2005
Coleen’s Birthday
Jen’s Turtle Cake
2 layers choc fudge cake
filled and topped with gooey caramel and toasted pecans

Like a turtle cake, but better than the one recipe I have. That recipe is BAD. It calls for a cake mix. BAD, BAD, cake recipe.

The choc fudge cake calls for brown sugar, and I got the raddest brown sugar ever: light muscovado. I FREAKIN love the muscovado brown sugar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!

The mishap (there is always a mishap in the jensteele baking experience) came after I took those lovely lovelies out of the oven and let them cool on the rack. They were sooo pretty. Soo black, so nicely risen, so irresistible smelling, so light and moist and pretty. Aaahhhh. Then it was time to turn them out of their pans and let them cool completely to room temp. That’s when I tried to be cool about turning them out of the pans and BOTH cakes split in two. DAMMIT. Normally this wouldn’t be such a problem because I’d be filling and frosting the cake so no one would know the cake split. But I was planning on exposing most of the cake so that everybody could love and appreciate the chocolate fudge cake as I do. And so we could have gooey caramel without it being too, too sweet. So now what? Do I still do it? I still want to.

I’m doing it anyway. Fuck it.

And fuck yeah, that caramel is the fuckingest fucking shit! And so easy to make!

The cake went over well. Someone suggested chopping up the pecans before toasting so that more surface area would get toasty. Someone else preferred a bit of some serious raspberry liqueur over the cake. I thought it might have been a tad on the dry side. But the caramel to cake ratio I thought was good. The ice cream helped—maybe a little crème anglaise next time?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Dec 14, 2005
Bear Moon
Too Many Sagittarians
Coconut-Raspberry-Lemon Cake
2 layers white cake (split to make 4 layers)
filled with raspberry preserves, lemon buttercream
frosted with lemon buttercream and coated in coconut flakes

This cake was a celebration of mediocrity. All you could taste was the raspberry, and the most prevailing texture was the coconut flakes. You couldn’t taste the cake or the lemon. The frosting was just a buttery texture with no flavor.

I am a bit miffed because the buttercream on its own was VERY lemony. I guess when you invite raspberry to the party it interrupts all conversations to talk about itself. Not a team player, unless the party host is chocolate. Then raspberry plays along. Is it true love, or cowardice?

I vote cowardice.

If You Don't Eat Any Meat, You Break Out In Vaginas

I just saw this episode of South Park and damn that's a good lesson to learn.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chocolate Meat Isn't Just For Breakfast Anymore

My darling roommate wants a recipe for chocolate meat.

Now, don't get as excited as you think you should be, folks. Chocolate meat is a Filipino dish made from meat, innards, and coated in a dark brown saucy stuff that looks like chocolate, but is really BLOOD!

It is the dish we most like to encourage non-Philippinos to eat when they come to one of our parties. Heh heh.

And even though everyone (even the fooled) says it is a tasty dish, and I have heard that blood is kind of sweet tasting, I don't eat it. I'll eat 5,000 lumpias (5,000 times better than an eggroll, but compared to all the same) but I won't eat the chocolate meat.

For you brave/curious people, here is a recipe.

AND, as I was searching the internet for said recipe, I found this very funny, very true list of "you know you are Philippino when..." Take a peek my dear readers, and learn a little more about where half of me comes from...

A TEST FOR FILIPINO-NESS: Are You Really Filipino?

Monday, December 12, 2005

This Is Why I Love My Job

Zetta rocks. If you haven't read this yet, DO IT NOW. If you have already read it, DO IT AGAIN.

Thanks. I'm baking at least 2 cakes and 2 dozen cookies by Saturday, so stay tuned.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dude! Sweet!

Now that I have discovered RLB's blog its about all I can talk about. She posted this mondo essay on sugar the other day where I learned new words like jaggery and finally found out what treacle is:

[as pilfered directly from her site] Black Treacle: Containing 18 percent water, this dark, thick liquid is obtained from the residual molasses which is drained from the molds used in the sugar refining process. The flavor of molasses varies considerably depending on the source and origin of the raw sugar. It is generally considered too bitter or pronounced for culinary use but by blending with other intermediate refinery liquors and then evaporated and filtered it is valued in the U.K. for baking and the confectionery where a rich flavor, dark color, and moist texture are required such as in gingerbread and fruit cakes, and liquorice, which contains 20% or more treacle for flavor, moisture and sheen. As it contains only about 65% sugars and 4 to 9 percent minerals, it is far less sweet than sugar. It is considered to be of a higher quality than molasses. (It is a good source of iron, containing more than spinach and also calcium, containing more than milk. it is also high in potassium.)

And etc. God love her, I sure do.

July 2, 2004
Becky’s 44th birthday
It’s from scratch!
2 layers yellow butter cake with mini chocolate chips
Filled and frosted with classic egg white chocolate buttercream

I tell you, good cake pans and fresh baking powder a great cake make. But, the crumb was a little bigger and not so fine; is that d/t the choc chips? I tossed them in a little flour and then mixed them in at the very end, right before scraping the batter into the pans.

Everybody liked the cake and gave me complements, but I think it was too sweet. I reduced the sugar in the cake by ¼ cup to compensate for the chips, but maybe I should have reduced it more than that?

(8/8: !! doesn’t the sugar dissolving make a contribution to the crumb of the cake?? Would the decrease in sugar be the reason why the cake seemed to have a bigger crumb? Why am I not a food chemist?!)

(8/9: So of course I read up in The Book and on page 472, she states that “sugar contributes flavor [sweetness] and facilitates the incorporation of air into the fat….In a batter containing a large amount of sugar, the gas cells expand more before the batter sets b/c the sugar elevates the temperature at which the egg protein and the starch granules gelatinize. This creates a more open texture, weakening the cake’s structure and making it melt faster in the mouth.” And on page 23, “the butter cake derives its light texture from the air bubbles produced by creaming the sugar and fat and by the leavening—which enlarges these bubbles during baking.” So yes, it seems that decreasing the sugar would lead to a bigger crumb. I love science!!!)

Also, I used a not so bitter bittersweet chocolate for the majority of the choc in the frosting, so it was sweeter than usual. But that frosting has a real milk chocolate flavor to it; I think it would make a great mocha frosting. An easy buttercream to make, and I had all those egg whites left over from baking the cake, so it was good to use some of them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Woe Unto Thee, Little Egg Yolk

According to The Book
(this is why I love The Book)
1 large egg white = 2 tbsp, 30 g
1 large egg yolk = 3.5 tsp, 18.6 g

There is an egg yolk conspiracy.

I noticed something was fishy after I got a scale and began to weigh my ingredients. I thought that weighing everything would solve all my baking problems. You see, pre-scale my cakes would turn out a little dry and a bit dense. Still tender and fine, tasty and not too sweet, but not moist and airy. And that bugged the shit out of me. So when that scale entered my life I thought all my problems would be solved.

Alas, it was not meant to be. The cakes undoubtedly improved, but there was still something wrong. Especially with the chocolate cakes. There was no improvement in texture in the chocolate cakes.

The truth slowly began to dawn on me, starting in March with my first perfect cake:

March 5, 2005
Allie’s Birthday
A Classic Cake Combination
2 layers yellow butter cake
choc ganache filling and frosting
fresh raspberries in the filling

The cake itself was the best cake I’ve ever made. It was light, airy, flavorful, but not too sweet. I love that about these cake recipes, the main flavor of the cake isn’t sweet. The cakes from a box just taste sweet. They don’t have any other flavor than that. The cake was moist, which is something I’ve had a problem with in the past—most have come out a little dry and dense.

The difference? Besides the mistakes I made regarding mixing, I used the scale for everything. Including the eggs, which I think made a big difference.

March 12, 2005
Deer moon
Lemon Chiffon Cake

The cake came out fine. But I was supposed to use 7 egg yolks but I had to use 8 to get the proper weight. And less than 8 whites. Something about these eggs….

March 19, 2005
Lisa’s Experiment
Your Cake is On Fire!!
One layer yellow butter cake
Frosted with classic egg white chocolate buttercream

And the cake was good. The crumb is more open than with the choc cake. I am wondering if it has to do with the eggs I use; I have noticed that these eggs have more egg white than yolk—in terms of when I am weighing out yolks I need to use about ½ yolk more to get the proper weight, but I don’t need as many whites. But in a choc cake I’m using the whole egg [and hence not weighing]—so there is probably more white and less yolk than needed. Hmmm.

July 7, 2005
Stacey’s Birthday
German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting Take Two
2 layers chocolate butter cake
filled and frosted with the goop

Good cake. Best choc butter cake I’ve made yet. I’ve really got the texture thing down. It all comes down to measuring the eggs separately (whites and yolks). The cake was moist, chocolaty, good, open crumb but not coarse…damn that was good stuff!

September 17, 2005
Punkins Love Each Other
Chocolate LOG (aka Giant Gourmet Ho-Ho)
A flourless chocolate soufflé rolled around mocha whipped cream with toasted hazelnuts
A serious dusting of cocoa powder

I think there is an egg conspiracy. I always need more yolks than the number of eggs she calls for—this time I needed eight egg yolks to get the proper grams of what should have been 6 yolks. I think chicken keepers are getting their girls to lay eggs with less yolk so that they can make eggs look healthier in nutrition facts. That’s my theory.

My newer theory is this: I use eggs from chickens that get to run around and eat a more natural diet. Back in the day when RLB was putting The Book together, maybe she was using standard eggs from chickens who ate a shittier diet? Maybe the tiny egg yolk is actually more normal and the big yolk of our past is the abomination?

My other theory lies in the general public's assumption that fat is bad, and egg yolks are evil. So maybe chickens were bred to produce smaller yolks and this is the result.

Anyhoo, I am a little giddy as I found out that RLB talked about the egg yolk conspiracy on her blog back in October (read it!). Just recently she posted a bunch of letters she recieved and a woman brought up the egg yolk conspiracy again. I posted a little comment, and she wrote back to me! Just a two sentence email, but I feel special!

And here it is, my cherished email from the one and only cake lady (I am but a tiny minion):

thank you!!! i was beginning to feel like i was imagining things. no one else seemed to notice this.

On 4 Dec 2005 21:10:11 -0000, [me] wrote:
Aha--the egg yolk conspiracy (as I like to call it) has gone public! I've noticed that extra large egg yolks are closer in weight to what was once a large egg yolk. So now I separate and weigh out the yolks and whites (because obviously there is way too much egg white in an extra large egg). Its a good thing egg whites freeze so well. Can't wait for your new cake book!

Sigh. Her email means as much to me as did Felicia's ABBA turd that she wore in a vial around her neck.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Consolation Prize

So I'm sitting here in the kitchen after an amazingly lazy Sunday and I decided to try out my consolation prize. This is the 7 in cheesecake made with the leftover cheesecake batter from the birthday boys' flourless chocolate cake.

It is a tasty cheesecake, but it seems too creamy, if that's possible. Like a little undercooked. I think I put too much water in the water bath. I know that can slow down the baking process.

The Grand Marnier is barely detectable, but that's okay. I just know now that I would need to put a lot more than 3 tbsp to make a drunken cheesecake.

At the birthday shindig we got into a discussion about savory cheesecakes: breakfast bacon cheesecakes, sausage-leek-caramelized onion cheesecakes, etc. Then we got really creative and talked about a cheetos crust for said savory cake. People got really excited about that possibility. Hmm.

me and stinky Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tonight Isn't As Much Fun Anymore

I'm just feeling whiny because I'm not going to see my man this weekend.

The flourless cake is well on its way to being complete.

I need to remember that I cannot bake a cake and have a deep conversation with someone. My dear friend Annmarie called from Spain as I was beating the crap out of the eggs and so I spent time talking to her instead of getting the cake mixed and into the oven without deflating the eggs too much. Then after I put the cake in the oven I realised I forgot the cheesecake layer!! The cheesecake batter was sitting all nice and pretty off to the side, totally neglected. (Kind of how I feel right now....not really, just being dramatic.) So instead of having a layer of cheesecake in the middle, there's a layer of cheesecake on top. Oh well.

I substituted Grand Marnier for the lemon juice in the cheesecake. The uncooked batter didn't have a strong Grand Marnier taste to it, but you could tell there was a little somethin somethin in the background. We'll see how it turns out cooked.

How it turned out cooked:

Tasty. I thought the Grand Marnier was noticable, but faint. The problem was that the cheesecake didn't get to firm up like it wanted to. It would have liked 24 hours in the refrigerator, which I didn't really understand. So when I unmolded the cake after 3 hours and inverted it onto a plate, I noticed that the cheesecake layer started sagging and oozing. Oops. Quickly I reinverted it and reapplied all the cheesecake that had stuck to the plate. So it was more like a cheesecakey frosting. Which isn't a bad thing. It spooged a bit down the sides of the cake as I drove over to the party. I kept my cool, unlike the last time I made a birthday cake for the same group of people and the cake totally fell apart on the drive over which completely unhinged me. I was totally, dramatically pissed off. However, this time--no problem!

I thought the raspberry sauce was a little too strong for the cake, but maybe that's because I dumped a lot of it right on top of my slice. Maybe a little bit on the side would have been better.

I used 200 g Lindt extra bittersweet and 254 g Scharffenberger 70% this time. The Scharffenberger chocolate seems to have more of a cocoa flavor compared to Lindt. Lindt has this wonderful caramel undertone. Schaffenberger chocolate also tends to make a drier torte, go figure.

Have I mentioned how easy this cake is? You just need the chocolate, 2 sticks of butter and 6 eggs. That's it. You melt the chocolate and the butter in a double boiler. You put the eggs over simmering water and beat/whisk the shit out of them until they are warm to the touch. Once warmed, you take them off the stove and continue to beat them until they triple in volume. Then you fold half of the eggs into the chocolate/butter. Then you incorporate the rest of the eggs, scrape into a 8 in springform, tuck it into a water bath, and bake at 425 for ten minutes. You let the cake cool at room temp for 45 minutes, then chill it for 3 hours. Before serving you should bring the cake back up to room temperature and that's it. Crazy easy.

Even though my night didn't turn out as planned, I still enjoyed myself immensely, and I got to eat a tasty braised pork shoulder. So I'll quit my whining, waah wahhh waaaaaah.

Consolation prize: I have a nice little 7 inch cheesecake in my refrigerator (getting its 24 hour chill time). It's not the same as cuddling with the Stinky, but it'll do.

Today Is A Good Day (So Far)

Once I get my lazy ass out of bed I will be baking up that flourless chocolate cake with the cheesecake layer and the raspberry sauce.

But in the meantime I have been enjoying my pirated wireless internet connection from my comfy bed and found out that my dear cake mistress and mentor, Rose Levy Beranbaum, has recently started A CAKE BLOG! It's mainly a question and answer forum for desperate bakers like myself obsessed with her many books. But still!

(OH MY GOD this is why I LOVE her!!!!!!!!!!)

For all of you who don't know, pretty much every cake I bake comes from her book, The Cake Bible. My battered, trashed, falling apart copy of The Book is my constant companion in times of woe. I am trying to gather up the funds to have Kinko's laminate the pages and spiral bind the book since all the pages are beginning to fall out. Please donate to my worthy cause. Help the children.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Nethack will suck you in and never let you go. It's a great game.

Something Flourless This Way Comes

I have been invited to a birthday shindig this weekend and since the birthday boy is attached to someone whom I owe cake, I am hoping to make one cake and have it count for both of them! (Hope you don't mind, kids.) They shouldn't complain, they are getting the flourless chocolate torte with the layer of cheesecake in the middle with lightly sweetened raspberry sauce on the side.

That frickin torte is three ingredients: chocolate, butter, eggs. It doesn't get any better than that.

On another note, this shitty winter weather makes me want to play nethack all day long. That game fuckin rocks.