Tonight I went to Karen’s Oscar-watching party, which I enjoyed very much. I don’t have a TV, and I haven’t watched the Oscars probably since high school, but even so I’m sure not everyone would make the choice to attend a comfy home party rather than skip down the street to get a glimpse of the red carpet arrivals. (Seriously. If you don’t know where I live, let me tell you, it’s a ten-minute walk to the Kodak Theatre. Fifteen minutes, tops.)
Last weekend, when she was visiting, Jackie gifted me a very comfortable pink silk dress, so I wore that tonight with my awesome lady coat and some cute little nude wedge sandals that have gotten me through a lot of dress-up events from Brian’s wedding to last year’s Senior Cruise. (Fortunately, I didn’t have to walk much this time so I escaped blisters.) Today was another beautiful day, like yesterday, and what with that and baking a cake full of whipped cream and raspberries, once I put on this dress I felt like the very essence of springtime. Never mind that it’s February; this is LA.
So not many people showed up to the party, but I had a wonderful time anyway. I actually got some work done–I had come over extra early in case there was Oscar traffic on Hollywood–and I must say I am in total envy of Karen’s office. It’s a little studio in the backyard, detached from the house, and she has all her bookshelves set up there, and her dictionary stand, and her computer workstation, and a lovely slightly beat-up wood desk. That heavy desk, and the spaciousness and the light brought to mind North Reading Room in Doe Library. I put Duke Ellington on the CD player and read and wrote to the light from the east window and the breeze coming in through the screen door and the faint tinkling of wind chimes outside. And the backyard! Grass, and orange, tangerine and lime trees, and flowers and an inviting little walkway… If I can ever have a backyard like Karen’s, or an office like hers, I will count myself lucky.
Then the Oscars were about to begin, so we filled out our little ballots to guess who would win for each category, and sat back to watch the show. Karen and Caroline fed us delicious pasta and salad and bread and munchies, and their friend Claudia brought the best deviled eggs ever. I must have eaten the equivalent of at least four eggs, and that’s in addition to everything else I ate, but they were so, so incredibly good. I told Claudia I liked them and she told me the eggs are from HER OWN CHICKENS! !!! !!!!!!! Who keeps chickens in LA?! But no wonder the eggs were so good… creamy, perfectly seasoned, richly eggy filling and the whites cooked to just the right texture… I could have eaten the whole platter, and really, if you’d left it to me I probably would have. I really think I might be willing to shave a year off my life just to eat my fill of these eggs. They weren’t so much fancy or special as they were just perfect. I’m going to be dreaming about them for a long time.
Oh yes, but the cake. This is the Raspberries and Cream Cake from Shirley O Corriher’s Cookwise, an excellent book, and it’s a moist yellow layer cake with a filling of Chambord-soaked raspberries and mascarpone cream, a fluffy creamy mixture of whipped cream and mascarpone with honey. The Chambord and raspberry juice soaks down into the bottom layer so there’s a nice contrast between the two layers. There’s another layer of mascarpone cream on top, and, if you’re a little richer than I am right now, lots of fresh raspberries. The last time I attempted this cake was two years ago, for Shra’s birthday in 2003, and, well, it didn’t come out so brilliantly then. Wanting the cake to be as decadent as possible, I bought “Bulgarian-style” buttermilk, which has lots of fat, and then I made tons of mascarpone cream and the whole thing just ended up being too rich even for us. It did taste good, but it was just too much. So Shra ended up throwing out a bunch of it, even though I’d slaved over it for hours the night before, and had pulled an all-nighter the night before that to finish the first draft of my thesis. *sad face* (Just kidding, Shra; that cake was way too rich. It’s okay.)
It’s really the recipe’s fault the cake didn’t turn out like it should have. Shirley Corriher writes really minutely detailed instructions because she’s trying to teach us how to make the most perfect food possible. For example, this recipe tells you to put the mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for twenty minutes, along with the sugar, so it’ll all be nice and cold when you start mixing, and that helps keep the butter cool while you mix, which in turn helps aerate the fat better to produce a lighter cake. These tips are interesting, but since things don’t always go perfectly when we cook, it can be hard to adapt her recipes to a normal kitchen style! So, I tried my best to follow her instructions, but my cakes just don’t come out as high as they need to be for me to carry out the recipe in its entirety. This is where I ran into trouble last time. She says to cut the cake into three layers, but my cake was so flat that I just couldn’t do it neatly. I ended up with goofy big bits of cake which I tried to stick together with cream, and it all got messy and turned into the bizarre construction you can see in the linked photo.
This time, there was some weird thing going on with my springform pan that made it leak batter partway into the baking. I smelled the lovely scent of yellow cake and thought the cake was coming along fine, and then when I looked in the oven near the finish time I noticed that batter had leaked onto the floor of the oven and baked there, creating these odd slime-mold-like blobs.
So the cake didn’t even rise as much as last time. There was less cake than there should have been. Especially in light of that development, I knew better than to make the same mistake in dividing the cake, so I just cut it in half to make two layers. I also used regular lowfat buttermilk (actually, reconstituted dry buttermilk) and didn’t make as much cream, so the thing wouldn’t be so rich. I filled the cake and brought it to Karen’s and iced the top there, and then it sat in the fridge and waited patiently until we were all done with dinner and there was a nice long commercial break so we could have our dessert. We had chocolate-covered strawberries and Oreos that Christen had brought, and we had my cake.
Oooo, the cake was so good. It’s probably among the best cakes I’ve eaten. The cake layers were dense but moist, the cream and raspberries blended perfectly together, and at first bite you thought it was just a cake with raspberries and whipped cream but then as you ate you began to notice more tastes, like that butter-sugar sweetness that makes a good yellow cake so delicious, or the marvelous blend of tangy mascarpone and sweet honey in the filling. You can’t taste the Chambord at all, no one ever can, but you know these are some damn good raspberries. Caroline said the cake was “out of sight” and Claudia said she’d trade me her deviled eggs for this cake any day. (My reply: “I think you already have.”) Everyone loved it and I loved it and I had seconds and other people had seconds and there was just a little bit left over at the end of the party, enough for a piece for Karen and Caroline and a piece for Jason and one for me. Now that I am starting to figure out how this cake works, I will have to make it again sometime and try to perfect it. It, and Mattie’s Chocolate Cake from Patricia Volk’s Stuffed, are becoming “my” cakes to make for all occasions, and it’ll be worth while to really get them down. Er, in whatever sense.
I enjoyed the awards show, despite Beyoncé overkill and the fact that all the women’s dresses looked the same (supertight bodices–must have excellent underpinnings going on there–and skirts leading out to a flare at the bottom? dark colors?). I was disappointed to see that Hotel Rwanda won nothing, though glad The Aviator didn’t walk away with Best Picture along with all its other awards. To my surprise and amusement, I actually won our ballot contest by getting the most correct guesses (nine), so I got a prize! A 550-piece Movie Posters jigsaw puzzle. I love puzzles so I am very happy to be the winner, though I won’t have time to work on this one till Spring Break or later.
Nice way to spend a night.
I don’t think I should have any more eggs for a week or two.
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]