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Let’s Eat Cake
Author: J H McIntosh
Baked Alaska is one of my favorite cakes. I first made it when still in my late teens. I wanted to do something special (and show off my culinary skills) so I made Baked Alaska for my baby sister’s birthday.
For those who may not know, a typical Baked Alaska is layers of cake and ice cream that you bake in the oven. The ice cream does not melt if you thoroughly insulate it with a thick layer of egg white meringue. When I pulled it from the oven it looked more like a huge milkshake. Obviously, I made the rookie mistake of skimping on the meringue.
My mom, forever my biggest fan scooped up a spoonful, tasted it, and exclaimed: “Still taste great! Who wants some?” Nobody declined.
BOSTON CREAM PIE:
Having worked and lived in Boston for many years, Boston Cream Pie has to be on my list of favorite “cakes”. I know, I know it’s called “Boston Cream Pie” but it really is more like a “cake” than a “pie”. However, you classify it, give me a large slice.
It is almost as “American” as apple pie. This delicious cake consists of three parts that combine to make one marvelous sweet, moist vanilla cake loaded with smooth vanilla cream. Top it off with a chocolate ganache; and do I have to say again, make my slice large.
In case you’re befuddled regarding why this “pie” is really a cake. Perhaps it goes back to the day when it was common to use pie tins for baking cakes.
Yes, I must plead “Guilty as charged your Honor” to the accusation of harboring a “sweet tooth”. However, I actually prefer using unsweetened coconut when a recipe calls for coconut. I make no exception for coconut cake. I know that goes against Ina Garten’s acclaimed Coconut Cake recipe; (and she is the “Barefoot Contessa”) but still I’m sticking with unsweetened coconut.
Some coconut cake recipes inject a little coconut extract to lend more “coco-nuttiness” to the cake’s flavor. Again, I shy away from coconut extract because, to my taste, it artificializes what for me is a favorite cake.
GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE:
If this cake was a weight lifter, it might be called an “Arnold”. This cake is not fooling around. It’s a real showstopper. A gooey coconut and toasted walnut filling, a dark, moist chocolate cake, and scrumptiously rich chocolate buttercream on top!
Many consider the German Chocolate cake the best chocolate cake on earth.
CHARLOTTE RUSSE CAKE:
My first introduction to the Charlotte Russe Cake came when I moved from Boston to Charlotte NC. There are many cakes that bear the name “Charlotte”. One “constructs” a Charlotte more than in the traditional sense of “baking a cake”.
A Charlotte is made up primarily of layers of fruit and Bavarian cream. Bavarian cream is a blend of whipped cream and custard. The “constructor” lines a mold with ladyfingers and layers the other ingredients into the mold. My preferred fruit? Fresh strawberries.
Strawberries like those, as kids we would be hired by my dad’s best friend to pick when his acres of strawberries were ready for harvest. There was a hefty penalty for eating one instead of placing it into the basket. Our “Boss” understood there was no way we could stop at eating one, so he would always remind us, “You’re fired if you eat one, and you don’t get paid if you’re fired.”
The historical backdrop of Baked Alaska traces to the 1700s. It has gone through different manifestations throughout its history. New York City café Delmonico’s truly made it famous, and it has been a staple of their dessert menu since the mid-1800s.
Their formula (unchanged), is a mix of a pecan white cake, banana gelato, apricot compote, and meringue. Delmonico’s will also alter their recipe to suit your taste.
Chiffon cake is a sort of froth cake due to a high proportion of eggs to flour. Its height is due in large part to the air incorporated into the egg whites. That makes chiffon a fluffy cake. Unlike some recipes that rely on egg whites, chiffon uses the entire egg.
This contributes to the extravagant and delightful taste of chiffon. The chiffon ingredient list is similar to most cakes including flour, sugar, eggs, fat (butter or oil), salt, and a leavening agent.
NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE:
The New York style cheesecake is another cake I have made on several occasions. I tried using a store-brand cream cheese once but, in my opinion there is no substitute for Philadelphia brand cream cheese. And “No” I did not get paid to say that.
I love its velvety, silky, rich thick texture. We make ours tall, topped preferably with strawberries or blueberries. As good as the Cheesecake Company’s version is (it’s wonderful), the one we make at home is my, hands-down favorite.
Of course, our ingredients include the usual suspects, cream cheese, eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, lemon and a secret ingredient that was passed to us verbally by a master baker.
MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE:
Molten Chocolate Cakes, a/k/a Lava Cakes, are warm, usually individual-sized chocolate cakes with a chocolate pudding-like filling. They remind me of a chocolate pudding cake the Baker at my High School cafeteria made when I was a teenager. I loved it so much I asked if I could copy her recipe on a three-by-five-card.
Years later when my mom went on to be with the Lord, my sisters put together little “care packages” of things thought to be of interest to the eight of us. When I opened my package, lo and behold there was that three by five card I had given to my mom some fifty years earlier.
I tried making the recipe but of course, I could not match the cafeteria Baker’s skills. But you know what, my mom could. And she would make it whenever she saw I needed something special to lift my spirits.
Japanese cheesecake is a soufflé cheesecake. It’s unlike the better-known New York style cheesecake loved the world over. But it’s just as delicious. They are lighter, fluffier, and spongier because of the whipping technique employed.
When I was in the building trades, I knew a Japanese carpenter who could polish one off at lunch break by himself. Funny thing, I don’t think he had a single extra pound of body fat. Japanese Cheesecake is the second cousin to the Japanese soufflé pancake.
DIRT CAKE: When I first heard about a “dirt cake” I thought, are you kidding. Then I found out they are made with Oreos. Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? Oreos, cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, whole milk, pudding, etc.! Hey I was “in” when you said “Oreos”. And here’s the best part, it’s simple to prepare.