RLB White Christmas Peppermint #Cakefail

It tasted good, and that’s the main thing, right? An old boss of mine used to talk about Christmas gremlins. She was convinced that mischievous creatures were  interfering with our work during December. I think maybe they visited my house while I was baking this cake, because I can’t remember the last time I had an inexplicable failure like this. I’ve made plenty of RLB cakes before, and this cake had the same distinctive crumb as the other cakes, but for some reason the outside cooked while the inner ring was raw. You’ll see what I mean…

Things started out just fine with the liquid and dry ingredients:

cake liquid ingredientsdry ingredients

I combined them, and beat them together, and it was good.

cake batter in pans use me

The batter looked good, and tasted great.

naked bumpy cake

The cake, well, the more important one out of two… I knew it was undercooked in the middle, but the edges were brown and pulled away from the sides. I thought maybe I could hide the middle with frosting.

white chocolate and butter meltingwhite chocolate frosting

There was no bar white chocolate in either of the two supermarkets I visited in the midst of pre-Christmas madness, so I grabbed a bag of  cocoa butter-containing white chocolate chips.  Here they are melting on the stove, and turned into frosting through some alchemy I don’t entirely understand.

cakefail partly frostedfinished cake looking meh

The alchemy wasn’t up to the task of retrieving a holey, crumby though delicious cake, to my dismay. The colors were good though, and my Christmas hosts were appreciative of my effort. And in fact, once sliced it looked, if not impressive, decidedly good enough to eat.

slice of cake

RLB Cranberry-Walnut Christmas Bread


I start today’s post with a confession; there are no cranberries in my cranberry bread. I had some dried cranberries, and a few dried cherries, and a whole entire bag of these things, which were an impulse buy at Costco, and hadn’t been touched since I opened the bag about six weeks ago. So they needed to be eaten, and rather than run to the store again, I decided to experiment. I know the color is less festive, but sometimes you gotta work with what you got.

The biga phase went just fine. I threw the ingredients together, let them sit and then refrigerated them.  The next morning I hauled out my trusty Kitchen Aid and cut the biga into the rest of the dough ingredients. Which I measured, and thought about, and considered, but I think I made a mistake somewhere, because the dough was way too stiff.


dough in mixing bowl
Stiff dough

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this dough was too tough. I added more water, and that helped.

berries soakingwalnuts

Here are the goldenberries soaking in water, and the toasted walnuts. I ground some of them up per the recipe, and chopped the rest of them. It makes for a rather lumpy dough, but in a good way:

P1040209 This is the same dough, I don’t know why it looks so much darker in the top photograph.

P1040210 dough closeup dough corners folded dough torpedo

I added the not-really-golden berries to the dough, folded it up, let it rise, then patted it into a rectangle and folded the corners over, finishing by rolling it into what is supposed to be a torpedo, though I’d call mine a log. A log with lots of berries popping off. There really was something not quite right with my dough,  affirmed by the fact that it weighed over a hundred grams less than it was supposed to. Again I read through the recipe carefully, and combed through my memory banks trying to figure out what I omitted or skimped on. Again, I came up with nothing. But something was off. Still, the dough was rising, and it did feel like bread dough, albeit a little stiff despite the extra water. I pressed on. I found rye flour (in a bag labeled pumpernickel, which always confuses me)  to sprinkle over the top, and did so.

bread finished no distractions close up loaf bread sliced

Here you see the loaf I baked, a close-up with all the dents and holes (too big to be nooks and crannies, I’m afraid) and a couple of slices of bread with some butter. It tastes good, but the texture isn’t all it could be. It’s almost brittle.  That was definitely my fault. I think I’ll have to make another loaf just to compare and contrast with this one. The brittle loaf tastes good enough that it won’t be a hardship!

RLB Renee Fleming Golden Chiffon Cake

Light, lemony goodness. This cake was a welcome and refreshing note amid the more common December notes of chocolate and mint. It disappeared fast!

lemon zest whipped egg whites

To achieve all this lightness and lemony-ness, one needs lemons and air, of course. Lots and lots of lemon zest and lots and lots of stiffly beaten egg whites were a big help.

zested lemon
Lots of flavor came from this lemon!

egg whites and batter +

The egg whites folded into the batter making it oh so light.

This is the stiffest egg white I have ever created. I was so proud of myself for pushing past the point where I usually stop, afraid I’ll wreck something. And grateful for the encouragement Rose Levy Beranbaum provided in the Baking Bible , the pep talk that kept my hand off the power switch.meringue bowl

cake batterP1040182

Here are the before and after baking photos. I’m not sure it’s clear, but the rise was impressive! The cake started out below the rim of the pan and ended up above the cake strip surrounding it.

Next up, lemon curd whipped cream. Here I must admit I cheated. I had a jar of lemon curd in my fridge. It had been there for several months, and I wasn’t sure when it would be eaten. I looked from the recipe for lemon curd in the Baking Bible, to my jar of lemon curd, and decided that my audience would understand. My family was fine with it, and I’m pretty sure you all won’t be able to tell the difference, except that I have no photo of preparing lemon curd. I did, however take a picture of the product before I added it to the whipped cream:

lemon curd

And here it is, crowning this delicious cake. The best part is the whipped cream lasted for days. It did start to weep a little at the bottom, but it was fluffy and yummy and eaten with enthusiasm!