Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD: Berry Surprise Cake, or "Naomi's Revenge"



I would not go so far as to call myself a "diva scholar," but I do feel that I have an above-average understanding of divas and diva behavior thanks to my inexplicable and long-held interest in celebrities. So when Dorie issued the following ominous warning in her recipe for Berry Surprise Cake: "The beautifully beaten eggs are fragile and must be treated like the divas they are," I proceeded with caution, but deep down I really felt like I was ready. Ready for Paris in the pink Parismobile eggs. J. Lo checking into a hotel on any random Tuesday eggs. Linda "I don't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day" Evangelista eggs. Britney delaying a United Airlines flight because the seats were not leather eggs. Posh and Becks launching his-and-her fragrances in crazy heel-less boots eggs. Mariah hiring a team to towel-dry her eggs. Even George Clooney in a restaurant at the table next to Fabio's camera-toting friend eggs (sorry, Georgie).

But it became obvious, as I assessed my deflated brick of a génoise, that I had woefully underestimated the magnitude of the diva eggs that I was dealing with. These were clearly no ordinary diva eggs. These were the Queen Mother of diva eggs; the diva eggs who teach other diva eggs how to be diva eggs; the diva eggs that would reach waaaaaay back and do this to you if you offend them; the diva eggs that beat up security guard eggs at Heathrow and maid eggs for losing their favorite pair of Stella McCartney jeans. Yes, as I looked at my flopped cake, I realized that my best Berry Surprise Cake-making plans had been thwarted by none other than:


Naomi Campbell eggs. They weren't just diva eggs, they were crazy-as-a-loon-and-mean-as-a-snake-diva eggs, and even as I write this I am still terrified of them.

The really sad thing is that I felt like it had all been going really well. I've got that dry ingredient sifting down like a champ these days. I managed to do the whole "bowl of eggs and sugar in a skillet full of water" thing without injuring myself, making a huge mess, or waterlogging my egg mixture:


I heeded Dorie's warning to Mary Ann and was very careful not to overheat the eggs.

I let the Kitchen Aid go to work on the divas. After a few minutes on medium, I felt like they weren't showing any signs of morphing from Beyoncé into Destiny's Child (i.e., tripling in volume), so I cranked it up a notch. Once they had tripled, I eeeeeeever so gently added half of the dry ingredients. No, strike that. I did not "add" the dry ingredients. I bowed at the altar of the divas and SIFTED half of the dry ingredients onto the egg mixture, so as to not needlessly disturb My Precious. I then proceeded to fold in the dry ingredients and the butter as gingerly as I could possibly manage while still accomplishing the assigned task of getting everything mixed together.

The divas were looking happier than a sunny afternoon on Jay-Z's yacht. I felt in my bones that it was going well.



And then I noticed a flour pocket:


Had to break that baby up. And found another one. Got it. Before I knew it, every time I ran the spatula through the batter, another pocket of flour would appear. What do I do? Do I bake the cake this way and risk having my tasters experience unpleasant bursts of flour with every other bite? Or do I go after the stray flour, thereby risking overmixing? Well, I opted for door number 2, and kept trying to knock out those flour pockets. And the next thing I knew, my previously happy, robust looking batter ACTUALLY HISSED AT ME and started to bubble like witch's brew:


And that's when I knew that I had offended Naomi. At that point, there was nothing to do but duck, and/or turn around and run like hell put the cake in the oven and hope for the best.

A miracle did not occur in the oven, and therefore I was left with what you see at the top of this post -- a thin, dense, sorry excuse for a génoise. I tasted it, and it was edible. I could get a slight hint of how wonderful it would have been had I not ruined it (there were hardened bits of flour in there, however, despite the fact that I flopped the cake in my efforts to eliminate them, which added insult to injury). I had some ambitions to try to salvage it by making the filling and syrup and throwing something together in a parfait glass. But since I had planned to bring this cake to David's grandmother's 90th birthday party over the weekend, I had to use my extra time to quickly reverse course and make something else, because I love David's grandmother and did not want to send her a confusing "flopped génoise" message.

I REALLY wanted this cake to work. I would have tried to make this again if I had the time, because (1) I hate failure, and (2) I have little doubt that it is fabulous when done correctly. On the other hand, the whole experience kind of reminded me of that moment back in my 20s when I had an epiphany that low-drama boyfriends are better than high-drama boyfriends, and I never went back to the high-drama ones again. So I'm kind of having a hard time imagining myself voluntarily standing before the egg divas again and saying "slap me. slap me again. slap me again" when I know that desserts like the truly fabulous (and relatively laid back) cheesecake and french pear tart are out there in the world. With most of my baking disasters, I can go back over the process in my head and identify what I might have done differently, but with this one, I really don't see what else I could have done. I was SO careful, but my eggs simply could not stand up to even the minimal mixing needed to incorporate the flour. But I really can't wait to read other blogs to see everyone else's stunning creations, and hopefully pick up some great tips to avoid a similar outcome JUST IN CASE I do decide to get into the ring with the divas again someday.

Mary Ann at Meet Me in the Kitchen, one of my favorite bloggy friends and a supremely talented cook and baker, chose the recipe this week, and I have a feeling that her cake is going to be a vision of beauty, because her food always is. You can find the recipe over at Mary Ann's blog (and while you are there, check out some of her other creations -- she always chooses really interesting recipes and executes them beautifully!). Thank you for picking this fun and challenging project, Mare! It certainly wasn't boring!

64 comments:

Steph said...

hahahahahah.. I knew if anyone could come up with a post like this it would be you! It looks like you got a really nice rise though. Now you're scaring me with the thinness because compared to yours, mine is really thin. I sure hate those flour pockets, I also get butter pools at the bottom.

pinkstripes said...

I think your cake looks alright. These were definitely Naomi level diva eggs. They were schizo in whether they would work or not--for no rhyme or reason.

So what kind of cake did you make for David's Grandmother?

Megan said...

Don't consider it a failure - at least the eggs didn't throw their blackberry at you. THEN you could consider it hazard pay!

Mary Ann said...

Cathy! Could you mention one more diva- that was hilarious. My mom and brother and hubby and I were all laughing like crazy reading your post. You are so funny.
And your cake doesn't really look like a brick at all. It looks like you got nice height and no sinkage!
I am sorry it didn't work out for you, but it is interesting that you knew when you had mixed too much.
Thanks for your kind words about me and my blog.
Hope you still had fun with the divas hanging on Jay-z boat. That was so funny!

Food.Baby said...

If you hadn't said anything we wouldn't have known - from the photo your cake looks great!

Debinhawaii said...

Very funny post! I do take slight offense to my man George being on the diva list but otherwise spot on! You also made me make a mental note to NEVER EVER try to make this. I don't have the skills and i have no patience for divas. ;-)

SiHaN said...

oohhh.. you offended the diva egg cake didn't you knocking out those flour pockets. Gosh. that was such a farnie post! Thank goodness the diva on this side of the world was much more pleasant.

Cristine said...

FABULOUS POST! Sorry the cake didn't work for you, but it seems like you made the best out of it!

n.o.e said...

Loved your parade of divas! Sorry your cake fell, but mine was a brick too. And I hope your plan B turned out to be a hit at the party.
Nancy

The Blonde Duck said...

I love your description of the eggs. I laughed so hard I teared up. I wish we could hang out in real life. I'd have a six pack from giggling.

Audrey said...

um, speaking of "certainly wasn't boring" ... this was too too funny. But, as my mother used to tell us, "we're laughing with you, not AT you" and your poor cake. I've made some of those hardened flour cakes too...

Katherine Aucoin said...

I loved your desacription of the divas and how you handled them. Your cake came out great!

Amanda said...

FIrst of all your post was so fun to read LOL!

Glad yours turned out well! Mine turned out pretty, but it fell too much and I wasn't happy with the flavor of the cake. Oh well, next week! :)

Cathy said...

pinkstripes -- I went with the chocolate gingerbread. Something about it (like the fact that it's on deck for next week?) just called my name.

Megan -- I put my blackberry away while making this for fear that the divas were going to rise up and beat me with it.

Deb -- it pained me to call out our George that way, but the fact that Fabio (Fabio!!!) called him a diva just made the whole thing irresistible to me.

Pamela said...

Ugh! Cathy, what would we do with out you? I LOVE YOUR POSTS! I know I say it all the time, but I just look forward to getting here to read what you have to say. I loved the "bitch slap" reference and every other link to celebrities you put in here. Too much! Sorry the cake didn't work out for you, but the post was awesome anyway!

Flourchild said...

Your cake looks good despite all the problems you had. I too wanted this cake to work so bad! I love all the Divas you listed, great post!

Danielle said...

I am sorry your cake didnt turn out as you had hoped! I thought your cake looked great!

Peggy said...

Cathy your cake rose wonderfully - I'm jealous. Mine worked, I just did not care for the texture of it. And I like sweeter things if I am going to this much trouble. I think your cake is way better than you gave it credit for!!!

MacDuff said...

Oh yeah. I was dodging hurled BBs all night long. And my cake was definitely like Destiny's Child - it tripled in volume, then sank down to two, then back up to three, screamed for 45 minutes straight, then sank back down to one again and tried to convince me of a little sister egg who apparently has talent.

I think we should stick with chocolate for TWD.

Heather said...

you crack me up! i have an undying love for celebrity gossip, too. so sorry naomi reared her ugly head while you were baking. i think it looks and sounds delicious!!

Maria said...

I always enjoy your posts!! I love reading your blog in the morning, I know I can count on a good laugh! You are great!

spike. said...

That Naomi is so mean, sorry she ruined things for you.

Jessica said...

I'm in the cake fiasco club too. Loved your post. Each week I think that your posts can't possible get funnier, and each week they do! I was giggling reading your description of divas and eggs this morning. I agree, it's definitely not a laid back dessert. But then again, it could be great. I might revisit this one, just to show those divas who's really in charge.

karen said...

i'm really well rounded with my celebrity gossip knowledge, it's something i get embarrassed by every now and then... like i should know quantum physics instead or something. :) your cake looks good to me. i had some minor issues with sinking, but it all worked out in the end. we thought it was delicious with blackberries.

natalia said...

Ciao Cathy ! My diva's eggs and their pockets are still in the oven I think your cake looks great ! Ciao !

Pam said...

You are so funny...Sorry the cake didn't work. Those darn Naomi eggs.

leanne said...

Love your post! I couldn't satisfy the divas either.

Karen said...

I don't think the picture at the top is doing your cake justice. It looks tall to me! Love the description of your eggs! :)

kim said...

lol, they were definitely naomi eggs ;) i don't know, though, yours looks pretty great to me!! mine was a giant crater. i don't know what the deal is with the flour pockets... maybe they go away during baking?

Sabrina said...

You are Berry funny!
Well you tried, I guess that counts for something. :)
Now we know about those darn diva eggs!

Anne said...

Haha, that's too funny about the divas. It's nice to know you can still pull of fabulous desserts like the ones you mentioned, though, without the drama!

Marie said...

awww. sorry your cake didn't work out, but it did make for a good read! Divas will be Divas!

vibi said...

Humpf... I don't get it, Cathy! Your génoise looks pretty fine by me! It didn't sink, it was perfectly shaped! ...didn't even brown!
Anywho, perhaps you are as demanding towards yourself... as a diva? LOL
It would still have been nice to see the end result!

Katrina said...

Well, the picture looks great, like it's not fallen at all and perfect height, but I'm sure you would know. Yes, those little devil divas were quite annoying! Great go at it though. Sorry it didn't work for you.
GREAT post anyway!

Jennifer said...

Your post is so funny! I will forever think of this as the Naomi Campbell Diva Eggs cake.
Do you think you will try it again? I've tried and struck out twice and am considering at least one more try.

Melissa said...

I'm so sorry you had trouble, Cathy! I totally feel your pain. I had the flour pockets and opted to try to break some of them up, but I stopped myself before I let it get out of hand. I baked the cake very fearful of those pockets still in the cake and thankfully they were not noticeable to those who ate it! Better luck the next time you try to conquer this, and remember, you can leave the flour pockets - no one will even notice them!

bakingwiththeboys said...

Loved the diva parade. I so remember Linda Evangelista's comment. I think I was making $5 an hour then. rage. Your cake looks great. It rose so much more than mine. I definitely missed something with this one.

Jules Someone said...

So hysterical! At least you could laugh at the Naomi Campbell eggs.

chocolatechic said...

I know...I know!!

I don't ever want to see Diva eggs again.

Matt said...

I loved clicking on all of your links! Why is it that when George Clooney lets his grey beard grow he looks great whereas I look more than a little bit scary?

Don't forget "Zsa Zsa Slapping the Cop" eggs or "Russell Crowe Hurling a Telephone at the Hotel Clerk" eggs. I had the same experience as you. One minute smiling, the next slapped senseless. HIgh drama eggs? No thanks. Give me low drama any day...

Kimberly said...

crazy-as-a-loon-and-mean-as-a-snake-diva eggs = haaaaaa

I was SO scared to overmix that I pretended not to see the flour pockets and they indeed were there when I pulled the cake out, so I relied on gallons of cream cheese and whipped cream to distract my taste-testers :)

Secret Server said...

Your cake actually looks way higher than mine. My diva eggs bitch slapped me refused to rise at all.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Ahahaha! How funny you and your little egg divas!

casaamiga said...

I had flour pockets as well and tried breaking them up. That's probably another reason why mine is so small. And I'm just impatient and didn't let the eggs and sugar mixture triple in volume.
At least I know I'm not the only one. I may try it again, just to see if it works. Thanks for the funny post!

Mary said...

You rock. This is the best post ever...combining two of my favorite things- celebrity gossip and eating. Perez Hilton would be proud! I am off to go watch another Diva (Mariah Carey) sing at the inaugural ball!

Ivette said...

You're post is awesome.. so funny! I tried to kill all those flour pockets too and ended up with a deflated cake...oh well.. yours looks great though!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

Takes a diva to know one! Sorry this didn't work out the way you wanted it to. Valiant effort!

TeaLady said...

It looks nice to me. I thought you did better than most. Great post. Funny!!!

Gabe's Girl said...

How funny and well written out! I love all the links. I think your cake looked good. It seems tall and level to me. I really enjoyed reading your blog! See ya next Tues.

Di said...

I think my favorite is "morphing from Beyoncé into Destiny's Child." =) I think your cake looked pretty good, from the picture. I also wonder if some of the problem with this recipe came from the baking powder.

What's for Supper? said...

Your post cracks me up. I always look forward to reading your blog!

Jess said...

As always, your post cracks me up. Naomi Campbell eggs, indeed. I thought I treated mine with kid gloves, but they spat little chunks of flour back at me. Oh well - on to some desserts with less 'tude.

Natashya said...

Glad to see I am in good company. I had all the same problems you did. Oh well, onto the chocolate gingerbread!

LyB said...

I clicked on every link in your post, and laughed my head off! I think you could have made the cake with that génoise, it looks fine to me. With the hollowing out and the syrup, it would have become the diva cake to end all diva cakes! :)

Bridgett said...

LOL, I got a kick out of your title. You just have to laugh at Naomi and her antics. She is more Evil Diva than anything!! The cake looks very glam, Cathy. ;)

Amanda said...

The world is better with a Cathy blog. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you have a category called "Failure." I also love my low-drama husband. This was exactly what I needed yesterday to lift my spirits.

dharmagirl said...

ROTFL! Love, love your Diva details! I'm sorry to hear the Divas threw a fit...the cake *is* good. I also like the Party Cake, which I remember being a little less fussy, and also including a light cake and fruit.

Jacque said...

Don't sweat it... you tried your best. Life's too short for fussy recipes! LOL

Audrey said...

OK, so something happened blogwise that won't let us leave comments about your chicken cacciatore or about Billy Joel being a cheapskate at the right spot. So I'm here, and he's there, still short, and regretting the fact that he met you once and said something stupid to the Tortefeasor. These recipes both look great and I'm also rather fond of your grandmother!

Cooking for Comfort by Jennifer said...

Your blog always makes me laugh....and this particular post made me envious. MAN! Your cake really "rose" to the challenge!

The Food Librarian said...

LOL! Such a funny post. You did a great job!

Liz said...

This post was so great! It's good to find someone else as obsessed with celebrity gossip as I am. :) And oh yeah, the cake pictures didn't hurt either.

Flourchild said...

I was trying to leave you a comment under your sticky bun post but could not find the comment link. Oh well I just wanted to say hello and tell you thanks for the comment on the Marshmallow PB bars. I hope your husband enjoys them. My husband suggested I drizzle chocolate over the top next time..he IS a chocolate lover! I really liked them just the way the recipe reads. Oh I grew up Catholic and went to private Cath. schools..that line in the song used to bother me too!

AmyRuth said...

Golly Gee, what is this cake supposed to look like? Think your might have hit the mark. sponge and all. Anyway....either way, its about the hilarious post OMG I laughed and could just imagine those eggs hopping out of my computer to speak. he he You are famously funny.
Thanks for the giggles.
AmyRuth

 
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