I am not a patient woman. I drive too fast, I refuse to wait for tables in restaurants, I take the easy way more often than I should because I Just Can't Wait. This is not to say that I can't appreciate taking the slow route, or that I'm not learning to love doing things slightly less efficiently than I normally would--I am, really!--but more that my expectations are so: When the work is done, the product should be Ready To Go.
So I was super disappointed in my second Cookbook Club offering last Sunday, a cake that I hadn't practiced At. All. But I liked the look of the recipe, and finding rosewater was a pleasant treasure hunt (which ultimately turned up the tiniest, dustiest bottle I've ever seen in a high-end supermarket. It was like the holy grail, and I chose wisely.), plus it's CAKE. I don't know about you, but that's enough to get me interested.
Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful, and I was up immediately with this cake on my mind. Ingredients were assembled, the pan was prepped, the oven preheated. I muddled my way through the recipe (though I admit that I was befuddled less by the directions and more by the fact that I hadn't taken the time to have my morning coffee BEFORE starting to bake. Stupid, stupid, stupid.)
It all came together relatively easily...and when I started slicing the cooled, syrup-soaked cake, it began falling apart pretty easily, too. By the time I had pried the second piece from the pan, I had amassed a pile of syrupy crumbs and my confidence was ebbing. I piled up my tumble of cake on the cake stand and hoped for the best.
Aaaaand then those hopes were dashed when we dug in to the myriad desserts that were on the table. How could this dry, crumbly cake hold up next to Creme Caramel, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Milk Tart and Caramel Ice Cream? It was like eating crunchy, rose-flavored cornbread, and I hated it. I sent as many pieces home with the girls as I could get rid of and contemplated the remaining four chunks. They were covered on the cake stand and ignored for the rest of the day.
(here's where you start to lose faith, where you wonder why the hell I'm writing about a dry, disgusting cake. have faith, friends.)
But then there was Monday. The day after the cake was baked. The day where I woke up with a little bit of a Cookbook Club hangover (which, despite the prosecco+lemonade we were drinking, is not the typical hangover, but rather a feeling of profound sadness that Cookbook Club is over for another two months. And also a distinct heavy feeling, the kind that follows the most delightful of indulgent days.) and made my coffee a little too strong. What goes well with coffee? CAKE. What did I have left over? CAKE. And let me tell you--this cake, on Day Two, it is a miracle. The extra day of sitting around, being ignored in favor of sexier, more caramelly desserts (shut up, that's a word), it gave the cake the time it needed to soften and relax and find the peace within.
So that I could find a piece within. My mouth. Twice before I finished my coffee.
- 9tbs unsalted organic butter (that's 1 stick+1 tablespoon), at room temp
- 2 cup granulated sugar, separated (1 cup for cake, 1 cup for the syrup)
- 1 cup greek yogurt (the recipe asks for yogurt that is "not too thick or thin" which is utter bullshit. I don't know what that means, so I just used full-fat greek yogurt and it was fine.)
- 2 tbs rosewater, separated (1 tbs for cake, 1 tbs for syrup)
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 tbs lime zest (I use a microplane, not a zester, and I don't pack the measuring spoon too tightly. The recipe asked for 1/2tsp of zest, which is bullshit as well. Even with 1tbs, the lime flavor is very, very difficult to detect.)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup fine semolina (NOT semolina/durum flour. I know, it's confusing, but here's someone else's blog post about the whole thing. Also, if you're really bored, you can google "semolina vs. semolina flour" and read about a lot of other people who are confused on the issue. Basically the semolina should be about the same grittiness and consistency of fine cornmeal, NOT powdery like flour.)
- 2tsp aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/2 cup ground almonds
- 1 cup water
Then do these things:
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Prep your pan--the recipe called for a 9" square pan, but I think you could easily use a round pan if you wanted to slice this into wedges. The 9" square pan yielded TWENTY-FIVE squares of cake, but they were very hard to get out after being soaked in syrup. Be prepared to sacrifice a slice to the Cake Gods, as my first piece out of the pan crumbled entirely. Whatever pan you choose, butter it well and dust it. I used the semolina instead of AP flour.
- It is helpful to do these preparatory steps before getting into the mixing: whisk together the flour, semolina & baking powder in a medium-sized bowl. Zest your lime. Grind your almonds in a food processor until they are fine crumbs but stop before they become almond butter. Separate your eggs.
- Cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is smooth. Mix in the yogurt, 1 tbs of rosewater, egg yolks & lime zest. Once those ingredients are incorporated, mix in the ground almonds.
- Add the flour/semolina to the wet ingredients, being careful to stop mixing as soon as the dry components are incorporated.
- In a separate, extremely clean bowl, whisk your egg whites until they form soft peaks. Scoop about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter and stir vigorously so they are combined. Add the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites and gently fold them into the batter. (The first 1/3 is added quickly to lighten the batter a bit, the latter 2/3rds are gently folded in to add lots of volume, but you must be delicate with them.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is springy to the touch and GOLDEN (as Tessa Kiros is fond of instructing). A cake tester should come out clean.
- While the cake cools in the pan, prepare the syrup. Combine the last cup of sugar, 1 cup of warm water and the last tablespoon of rosewater in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, then pour directly over the cake. It will seem like A LOT of syrup, but I promise you, it works out for the best in the end.
- Let the cake sit. And sit. Just wait until the day after you've baked it, and it will be delicious! Yum.