Posted by: Erin | August 18, 2010

Potlucks, Potlucks, Everywhere! (Part 1)

I believe I’ve said this before, but my office LOVES potlucks. We have them for EVERYTHING. We did one a few weeks ago for a coworker who was getting married, and then one last week for our annual retreat (which was a potluck barbecue at said coworker’s house). Potlucks are entertaining for me, because I use my coworkers as culinary guinea pigs. I like to bake, but I never really have a reason to, so whenever we have a potluck, I jump on the desserts list and try to pick one of the million baking recipes I’ve got bookmarked, particularly something I haven’t tried before.

For the wedding shower potluck, I wanted to try a variation on the Berry Bonanza Cake from Bake Decorate Celebrate. I’d decided I wanted to do a cake, and I was leaning towards a slightly more fancy one, mainly because I felt like it. This seemed as good a reason as any to try one. So I was poking through the BDC site to look for ideas. (I didn’t think I’d actually do anything from there, since decorating-wise, they’re big on fondant, which I’ve never used, and, quite honestly, tastes terrible. I like frosting.) I had some fresh raspberries in the fridge, so I liked the decorations on this one. I thought I could do a layer of raspberry jam in the middle, and make the other two layers out of blackberry jam. I am a fan of berries.

And then the problems started. First, I only have one round cake pan. Second, I do not have one of those nifty cake slicer things you see in the recipe photos that allow you to easily make multiple layers. So I decided to alter my plan. I’d been looking for a lemon cake recipe to use with the BDC decorations, because I like lemon and berries together. (I think the original idea came from another elaborate cake recipe I’d seen on Cooking Light’s website, but I might be making that up. It gets hard to remember sometimes.) I found one called Nathan’s Lemon Cake.

I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to do the next part, but I think it had to do with trying to slice through a round cake layer: I decided to try to make the cake in a loaf pan. The idea was to split the batter and cook two loaf pan’s worth, so I would have an easier shape and width to slice through before adding the jam. A great many of my kitchen ideas turn out to be better in theory than in practice, and this was definitely one of those. I had to alter the baking time, which is not as easy as it sounds. Additionally, things baked in loaf pans do not bake flat on top, and loaf pans are slightly curved, so it’s not an even brick of cake. I figured I could slice off enough to even it out. I did, but I definitely over-baked the loafs (surprise, surprise, right?), so I had to slice off more than I expected, which made the cake smaller than I would have liked.

I ran out of time to decorate properly, so I didn’t do one thing that was probably the key in making this work: I didn’t have time to pipe some frosting around the edges of the top of the bottom layer before putting the blackberry jam in there. That would have kept the blackberry jam from squeezing out, and from getting pulled up into the frosting when frosting the rest of the cake. I didn’t use icing (obviously), but I used a Betty Crocker whipped vanilla frosting. I think I bought it because it was a larger can and because I hadn’t bought frosting in such a long time, I forgot the kind I usually like. (I have learned that making your own frosting when you do not own an electric mixer is rather difficult.) I do not recommend it. It was thinner, so it didn’t frost as well, and it didn’t taste as good, either. And, as I should have expected, I pulled up some of the jam in the frosting. I salvaged it okay, but it took more effort than I wanted.

So in the end, I ended up with a lemon cake in a loaf-shape, with blackberry jam in between the layers, with vanilla whipped frosting. It tasted just fine, but it was less exciting looking than I had hoped. Apparently, I do not have a picture, but that’s probably better. It would call my baking street cred into question, I’m sure. 🙂

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