June 01, 2005

Cake in progress

The Apricot Nectar Cake, first edition, came out of the oven last night, and was an immediate flavour success despite a miscellany of obstacles - not the least of which was a decided lack of Apricot Nectar.

Huh? That stuff used to be everywhere, but on the day I actually need it specifically, I can't even find a place-marker for it on the shelf at Safeway. I used to drink the stuff cut with ginger ale, to lighten the thick, fuzzy texture, but I guess I haven't bought any in a while.

I ended up having to settle for an all-juice blend of apple, orange, and peach. The apple juice thinned out the sensation of drinking velvet, which made it perhaps a better beverage, but also made it a thinner texture than I had hoped for (not to mention, different flavour!) for the cake.

Still, I was determined to go forward. The combination of the weaker flavoured juice with the lemon extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice glaze made for a thoroughly citrussy flavour, but my refusal to add yellow food colouring, per many of the recipes I was cribbing from, made for a sort of blandly coloured cake. Not snowy, like a white cake, nor adequately orange to suggest the flavours within. Yellowish beige was the interior of the cake (the fact that I got any colour at all is likely attributed to the yolks of the two free-range eggs) and perhaps a little bit to the zest. The top and sides of the cake took on a nice golden glow, though.

I am reluctant to add food colouring where it is unnecessary, so I have been contemplating alternatives. I have a lovely little container of saffron that was just recently given to me, a gift brought back from the Middle East, and that seems like it might be the way to go: citrus, apricot and saffron all go together delightfully, and it would add a slightly exotic depth of flavour to the cake that appeals very much - at least on paper. Other colour options include Turmeric, which would be effective might probably detrimental to the delicate flavour, more lemon zest, which would have limited effect, or the dreaded bottled colouring.

The pan-size could use fiddling, too. Since I was starting with 2 cups of flour, a 9x9" pan seemed a little small, so I went with a 9x13". The cake did rise to about double its batter volume, but was still fairly short. I am contemplating using a bundt pan for the next attempt - slice-friendly and somehow well suited to the snack-cake oeuvre. I could, of course, give the 9x9" a try, although I suspect that the cake would volcano a bit in protest.

The texture was fairly pleasing - light, much as the buttermilk coffee cake is, but very moist thanks in part to the lemon glaze that is applied while it is still warm (another argument in favour of the bundt). The fat content was a measily 21% (as best I could calculate with the tools at hand, that is) but it doesn't taste like health-food at all.

Overall report? Favourable, with subsequent attempts scheduled to rectify minor defects. Now I just need to source some genuine apricot nectar...

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