Baking with Julia – French Strawberry Cake aka Bitch Cake

So as you can probably tell from the title of this post (and let’s get serious, the picture) this cake was not my favorite. Not only was it a bitch to make, but it sorta made me one too. In Julie & Julia, Julie dubs Julia’s recipe for tedious rice “bitch rice” and I am going to sort of steal the moniker for this cake. I have never made a genoise before, but I have seen one made and I know sure as the sun will rise that it’s not supposed to look, taste, or feel the way mine turned out. Failure in the kitchen doesn’t happen to me all that often, so when it does it kinda upsets me. But lets start at the beginning, shall we?

I had wanted to go to the local berry farm and pick some strawberries for this but it never ended up happening and all the berries were on sale at the grocery store so I went with raspberries, blackberries and monster most likely genetically enhanced strawberries. Maybe nature was punishing me for my poor choices…

But they sure do look pretty all mixed up with some sugar in the bowl now don’t they? I left them to juice while my mom and I went to get facials. She was visiting for the weekend and we indulged. It was awesome. When we got home, I prepped the pan, pre-heated the oven and got ready to get my genoise on. Forming the ribbon actually went really well – Candy was a champ as per usual.

The stage after this is where our heroine (me) ran into problems. I have previously expressed my feelings on folding in ingredients. I hate it. It takes forever. And just when you’re sure you’re done, another goddamn dry spot reveals itself. It seems endless. I used my biggest spatula and try, try, tried to be gentle and thorough but based on the result I was neither. I was feeling a little apprehensive when I poured it into the pan and it looked like this:

I had a feeling all those bubbles did not bode well. I put it in the oven and crossed my fingers but this is what came out:

So it didn’t rise one little bit. Not a damn bit! After I let it cool for awhile I sliced it into the thinnest layers ever and just made the best of it. But you can bet there was some serious swearing and pouting going on. I’ll be the first to admit I was a real baby. It’s just that I hate putting time and effort (and ingredients) into something that sucks. Plus my mom was visiting and I had invited another friend over for dinner since I figured Tristan, my mom and I wouldn’t be able to finish the whole cake and it didn’t seem like it was one that would keep. I read the P & Q and made extra whipped cream even! Grrrrr. I decided to make lemon cream so I added the zest of 1 lemon and a 1/2 tsp of lemon extract instead of the vanilla to give it a little citrus twist.

Tristan, my mom, and Dave were all lovely and said it was good but they were lying their faces off. The berries and whipped cream part were tasty but the cake? Good god, the cake. It was super dense, dry, and weird. Plus when I sliced the layers I saw a ton of dry spots that completely corroborate my theory that I am the world’s worst folder. I forced myself to eat it because I don’t like waste but I was completely defeated by this genoise. I will have to work really hard to make a better one the next time we need one for BWJ. In conclusion, I am so glad I was the host for naan and not this because that would have really been embarrassing! 🙂

Tom Hanks is eagerly awaiting the next recipe but if you want to give this one a go, visit Sophia of Sophia’s Sweets or Allison of Think, Love, Sleep, Dine for the recipe.

Baking with Julia – Hungarian Shortbread (now with added strawberries!)

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is on TV right now so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little distracted during this post. I feel like I should hate this movie because everyone says it broke up Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt but I honestly don’t care about that at all. Clearly things weren’t peachy in their marriage to begin with or whatever. I just like this movie because they have great chemistry and that’s always a treat to watch. Plus Brad Pitt has some truly great one liners in it. “Clearly you want me dead, and I’m less and less concerned with your well-being.” Bwhahaha! Also I’m really appreciating how beautiful Angelina Jolie is in it since we just watched The Tourist yesterday and she is looking so gaunt these days. Like she really needs a sandwich and a beer, stat!

Anyway, back to the recipe. I gotta say I wasn’t that pumped about this one for some reason. Maybe it was the fact that it was literally right next to the Rugelach and I kind of wanted to branch out more or something. That seems stupid, but I’m being totally honest here. Luckily, I had a bag of frozen rhubarb from my dad’s harvest last year (thanks Daddio!) so I didn’t have to scour the barren produce department or drive to Madison for the farmer’s market or anything. I had a pint of strawberries hanging out in the fridge and since everyone always pairs strawberries and rhubarb, I thought “why not?”

I usually just always discard the tops of the strawberries without a second look but for some reason yesterday I thought they looked kind of picturesque. I did have to run down to the store and get some vanilla beans though. Would you believe I’ve never used one before? I bought a tube of them from Penzey’s last summer with the full intention of making Creme Anglaise but it never happened and I ended up giving them to a friend so he could make homemade ice cream. We carry Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract & beans at the store so I just popped down and brought Jilly some of this delicious, addicting, crack-like Buttery Toasted Cap’n Crunchies mixture and grabbed some and sped back home so no one would see me in my scrubbies with my hair all whack-adoo. So I skedaddled home and got the jam mixture on the stove

It came together very easily and was smelling seriously good. I set it off to the side to cool and then got on with the shortbread portion of the evening. This part also came together really quickly but I have to say I thought it was really hard to deal with in the whole splitting it in two and wrapping it in plastic wrap stage. Every time I have to use plastic wrap I turn into a hybrid of the Hulk & my Uncle Tim screaming “the only thing this shit sticks to is itself! Augh!” I HATE PLASTIC WRAP. But it is very useful and I do end up using it a lot ergo, there is a lot of Hulk-ing out in my kitchen.

The next part of the recipe perplexes me. Why in the name of all that is holy was I expected to hold onto a ball of dough the size of large grapefruit and grate it into the dish? I seriously am confused by this. The grating went okay for about half the ball, but then things deteriorated. I believe you see which side of the pan took the bulk of the shoddy grating

Things look all nice and uniform on the far side of the pan but then they get PRETTY uneven and lumpy in the foreground. Oh well, what can you do? I slathered on that beautiful homemade jam and then repeated the same pisspoor job on the top crust

And into the oven it went! I was pretty confident that the shortbread would spread out and melt kind of and if it didn’t, that’s what a seriously thick coating of powdered sugar is for, right? I followed the directions and unleashed a blizzard of powdered sugar on the shortbread right after I took it out of the oven and while I thought I put on a TON it seemed to kind of melt and turn into a buttery yellow crustiness which I am actually okay with. I don’t like when you accidentally inhale a bunch of powdered sugar and choke when eating a delicious dessert.

I really liked this recipe and so did everyone I shared it with today. I totally apologize for my unreasonable reluctance about it. It was good. It was very, very good. The next recipe on the docket is Pecan Sticky Buns and you know I’m going to have to make some kind of alterations to that one because there is no frickin’ way I’m using pecans. So what did all the rest of you badass Doristas think of this one?

P.S. I just realized I forgot to link to our hosts this week! The lovely Cher over at The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler and the very talented Lynette over at 1SmallKitchen have got the recipe for you if you want to have some of this buttery goodness going on at your house!