Welcome to round 2 of Easter cake! In this round we each take a shot at trying to change and/or modernize the original recipe in some way. As I said at the end of round 1, we are free to research again and when creating a round 2 recipe, the sky is the limit. So, did my plane of cake soar high into those unlimited skies? No, it did not. It definitely made it past takeoff, but it remained more of a low flying sight seeing tour at best.
My goals for this round were to increase the amount of batter to better fill a 13×9 pan, to increase the moisture in the cake a bit and to add in some sort of pecan and brown sugar filling into the mix. I thought the original recipe was actually pretty nice overall and that it would make a nice base for a breakfast or coffee cake – I had the idea of Easter brunch in mind. In making the shift to a coffee cake, I also went from lemon flavoring to vanilla.
Producing more batter was simple enough – I just increased most of the ingredients by 25%. My one exception was the sugar, which I actually reduced from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup. I felt that the reduction of sugar in the batter would help accommodate the additional sweetness from the filling.
To increase the moisture, I went with one of my favorite tricks for doing so without adding a lot of extra fat. Instead of using oil or butter, I added 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt. I have read that if you are using or replacing 1/2 cup or less of butter or oil, you can do a 1 to 1 substitution without making what you are baking too dense and wet. I have used the trick before and it generally works pretty well and it did a decent job again, although for this recipe it did become a little more dense than the original cake.
Finally, for the filling I mixed brown sugar, flour, pecans and melted butter together. I froze the mixture for about 20 minutes and then crumbled it into frozen pieces before incorporating it into the batter. I chose to freeze it first so that when it was mixed into the batter it wouldn’t blend into it and change it into a butter brown sugar cake. I also wanted them to turn into little bursts of buttery brown sugar and pecan bites throughout the cake and it worked nicely as they melted while the batter baked around them, locking them in place.
When the cake finished cooling, I spread on the glaze topping. I kept the recipe the same as the original cake, but instead of lemon, for the thicker first layer I added some cinnamon and for the thinner portion of the glaze meant for decorating, I went with more vanilla. I also made four colors for the decorative glaze instead of just green – we don’t just make green Easter eggs, so I didn’t want just green frosting either!
First bite…. eww. The glaze was chalky and had a harsh bite to it. The thicker cinnamon portion had real cinnamon instead of flavoring, and it just didn’t work well. The thinner vanilla portion also wasn’t good – what went wrong when it was fine in round 1? Almost immediately, I realized it was human error – this human in his haste to get the cake glazed on a Sunday evening forgot to add in the melted butter.
As for the cake itself… As I described above, each individual change seemed to work well as I was putting the cake together. The sum of the parts however did not add up to the best end product. The little bursts of pecan, butter and brown sugar tasted pretty good and the cake alone wasn’t too bad either, although perhaps a bit too moist in the end.
All of the parts eaten together did not work well because of the mistake I had made with the glaze. I understood that of course, but why was it that the two decent parts, the filling and the cake, did not seem to go together well either when the glaze was taken out of the mix? Did the addition of the yogurt along with the frozen bits of butter melting while baking cause the extra moisture and denseness? Was the reduction in sugar in the batter to blame? Should I not have tried the yogurt idea at all and simply added oil?
I still haven’t come to any conclusions, and I’m not sure if I ever will. Some baking mysteries just can’t be solved, and perhaps we shouldn’t even try. Maybe the best thing to do is just cut your losses and try again. The one thing I do know is that I will not be sharing a new recipe for an Easter brunch cake with you today! Sadly, the best thing about the cake was the way it looked!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen to give my round 2 cake a proper send off – garbage pick up day is tomorrow. On that note, I’ll turn this over to Karen with fingers crossed that her round 2 went way better than mine did! Have a great weekend!
Ray and I took very different approaches to round 2! While Ray took large swings at the cake, my approach was to make smaller “tweaks”. I took that approach because the original cake was not too bad, perhaps a few small changes would bring it up to par. That, and remembering not to turn the oven off 10 minutes into the process.
I decided to use cake flour because I was looking for a lighter texture. I’m not sure just how much difference that made, but that’s what was in my head. I also decided to add a small amount of vegetable oil. This was again for the purpose of making the texture of the cake lighter. In keeping with the original, I used the hot water again, but not quite as much.
The next thing I thought about was flavor. I opted to add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract along with the lemon. I’ve read that vanilla enhances everything, including lemon cakes and a quick perusal of my cookbooks confirmed that to be the case.
Next, I considered the baking vessel. I have a spring form pan that has a bundt insert. This pan is smaller than my other bundt pan so I thought it would do the trick. This also meant that I needed to make an educated guess about the baking time again. I went for 350F and thought 40-45 minutes would be in the ballpark.
Lastly, I considered the decoration. I liked the way the first frosting turned out, so I kept that and rather than mix another frosting color, introduced the green through sprinkles.
How did it go? not quite as well as I thought it would. I kept an eye on the cake, and pulled it out at about 44 minutes. A skewer test came out clean, but I wasn’t sure about the spring and the texture, so I put it back in for 3 minutes. I burned the fool out of my thumb when doing so, and when I pulled the cake back out of the oven, I suspected I may have gone too far as it was no longer making any sounds. I decorated the cake, then took some pictures of it. The moment of truth would be the taste test. First thoughts? It was dry. Damn! Those 3 extra minutes had taken a toll on the cake. Then flavor was assessed. It doesn’t taste bad, but it does taste bland. I suspect that the hot water isn’t doing this cake any favors. If you think about it, water will add nothing, but will dilute flavor, so a rethink is in order.
As Paul Hollywood would say, this is all style, no substance. So for now, I will still hold out hope that we can make a success of this cake. Perhaps a year from now, we can revisit this exercise, but for now, Happy Easter everyone!