I’ve loved the vast majority of cakes I’ve made over the years from the Baked cookbooks. Some a little more than others (lemon drop and caramel apple being two all-time favorites), but even when I struggle with the frosting, I typically am happy to devour the results. Sadly, I wasn’t at all impressed with the Tricolor Cake that was Sunday’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection. After trying it myself, I felt a little embarrassed that I had served it to other people. It’s not that it was bad, just unexceptional.
It’s hard for me to be negative about a Baked cake. It’s worth pointing out that the day I made this cake, I wasn’t operating at my best. I woke up thinking it was the wrong day, rushed to the gym for class only to get lectured by the instructor for showing up 30 minutes too late and interrupting. Then, I met a friend for tea at Barnes and Nobles, but left my purse behind in the cafe when we left. I got all the way to my car before I realized what I was missing. Thankfully, no one relieved me of its contents (at least, so far as I can tell). Crossing the street to the grocery store, I dropped my purse in the middle of the road as a car came rushing through the intersection (I did have the right of way). I shrunk my favorite pair of dress pants, which happen to be dry-clean only. In the course of making this cake, I dropped a precarious jar of flour, shattering glass and flour all over my kitchen (sink, floor, counter, clean dishes, dirty dishes, feet…). So…. it’s hard for me to be certain whether my failure with this tricolor cake is truly due to the recipe or simply another indication that I should have given up and retreated to the safety of my couch.
Since it was the first day of Spring this past Monday (and my brother’s birthday and the Persian New Year and just recently St. Patrick’s Day), I opted to make a green-peach-green layer cake instead of a red-green-red tricolor cake. Making the cake batter itself was relatively easy, although I wasn’t fully convinced that my almond paste incorporated in fully. Since I’m trying to be moderate with my grocery bill, I made my own almond paste – 1 1/2 cups ground blanched almonds, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, an egg white, and 2 teaspoons of almond extract. It tasted like almond paste ought to taste and was the right consistency, which meant it didn’t readily blend into the rest of the cake batter. I did my best, then weighted and divided the batter 2/3 in one bowl, 1/3 in another, and mixed in the dye, about 4 drops in the small bowl and 8 drops in the larger bowl. I calculated a weight of 675 grams per layer. Baking the three 8-inch cakes took about 40-45 minutes.
Making the raspberry filling was really simple. Heat the raspberry jam in a pan, add the liqueur, stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Instead of a framboise liqueur, I used Triple Sec, since I didn’t have framboise but guessed the orange Triple Sec would pair nicely with the raspberries and chocolate (it did).
Unlike the raspberry filling, I thought the chocolate ganache crumb coating was a major pain to work with. When making it, I added one of the tablespoons of extra cream because it seemed pretty thick. I shortly wished I had added both extra tablespoons. The ganache dried quickly and instead of getting a nice a crumb coating on my cake, I had chocolate crumbs all over my counter.
Making the dark chocolate glaze and drizzling it over the cake went alright, because I’d somehow had the foresight to put parchment paper (leftover from the cakes cooling on the rack) down beneath the rack before pouring the chocolate. I wound up with a ton of chocolate on that parchment paper and lots of streaks along the side where the chocolate glaze refused to cascade, so my cake was definitely not perfectly shiny and smooth.
In the end, I felt the same way about this cake as I do about tricolor cookies. Exactly the way the preface to this recipe describes the typical letdown that is a tricolor cookie. When my favorite part of a cake is the jam layer, it’s a problem. My tricolor cake looked pretty, it smelled almond-y and appealing while baking, but it wasn’t particularly flavorful, nor particularly moist. I didn’t taste any almond, despite the 14 ounces of almond paste and tablespoon of almond extract. The chocolate ganache topping(s) were rich and chocolate-y, but also temperamental and difficult to catch at exactly the right moment between too hard to fork and warm enough to sweat. For the amount of expensive chocolate and almonds (not to mention butter, cream, sugar, eggs, etc) in this cake, I expected a much more decadent, delightful cake than the one I wound up serving.
Hopefully, my unsuccessful tricolor cake experience was just a reflection of the day I was having. To find the recipe and see how other people fared with this giant cake, head over the Baked Sunday Mornings.