Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where have we seen this before?

It's cheesecake time again!  We can always count on Hiro to come through with some version of this American confection.  This time it was a repeat of the classic New York style cheesecake with the decorative fruit topping.  The fresh strawberries and blueberries are piled on seemingly to represent a bunch of grapes. We don't know if that was the intention but that's what it reminds us of.  This is a good cheesecake that is not as heavy or dry as some of the commercial cakes tend to be.  We thank our colleague Hiro for bringing some continuity to our cake time experience!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another old favorite....

We haven't had a Boston Creme Pie in awhile so were happy to see one appear. This one came from Whole Foods who actually does a good job with this particular creation which as you all know started at the Parker House Hotel in Boston. The hotel is still there and still serves the pie. They also started Parker House rolls which makes sense. 

We all know that a Boston Creme Pie isn't really a pie. It is a yellow cake, three layers tall with pastry creme in between the layers and chocolate icing on top. This one also had some decorative markings with sugar to finish off the look. It's a great treat especially when it is fresh and homemade like this one.  Don't go for some of those mass produced store bought ones though Boston Creme doughnuts aren't half bad.

There was continued discussion about the World Cup with some strong preferences for a South American team to win.  This was causing some distinct concern among the African fans. Nothing has come to blows yet!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Princess of Ghana Comes least as far as the cake is concerned

We are always interested in seeing what comes up when Princess is the one providing us with our cake hour fare.  Ever since that candy cane cake we know to expect something out of the ordinary, let's say.  Well with the help of a colleague the Princess came through with a diversity cake..or that's what we called it because it has a layer of black, brown and white.  A metaphor for our society...don't you think.? It was quite good. The bottom layer was a chocolate cake layer and above it was a layer of coffee -or mocha - mousse and then vanilla or white chocolate mousse. On the top a layer of dark chocolate ganache with some decorative shavings.  It was not too sweet and rather light.

Our Princess was still celebrating the victory of the Ghana soccer team over the U.S. in the world cup. She was even interviewed by the local newspaper.

In the print addition you saw her lovely face looking up as if for inspiration from the heavens.  She got cut out of the online addition. Of course, who knew that the World Cup was being watched at work!  Spilled the beans a little on that one...but the cake was great!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Classic Vanilla Cake

Talk about opposites!  Yesterday's classic chocolate cake was followed up with today's classic vanilla!  This was from one of the best bakeries and cafes in the Renaissance City with its Venetian Style canals. (The National Trust for Historic Preservation described Providence that way. Apparently they've never been to Venice though we are not dissing PVD.) Pastiche bakery produces some REALLY fine treats. This was a yellow cake with a light vanilla mousse between the layers and a great vanilla butter cream frosting. It was pretty light though that butter cream gets pretty rich.  The bee decorations on the top were a nice touch and clever. They were made of frosting with almonds for wings. We thought that would mean there was honey in the cake but if so we weren't told and couldn't tell.  It was really good and kudos once again to Pastiche!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Serious Chocolate Cake

If you want to have any kind of classic cake then you can usually go right by schlepping on up to Gregg's Bakery in Providence or any one of its branches.  Gregg's makes some really good all American classics including today's chocolate layer cake.  This four layered cake with a creamy chocolate frosting throughout and on top would really satisfy any chocoholic's cravings.  It's the kind of cake that you had as kids and it left us craving for a glass of milk to go with it.  Gregg's also sell very fresh products and this was no exception.  Moist and delicious is what they say and it goes for this also! 

Today was the day that Italy got knocked out of the World Cup. Pity that one of the rooters for a competing team had to rub it in by broadcasting the loss as the first slide in a journal club presentation.  Tacky, tacky, tacky!

There still is a lot of interest in the World Cup and now that we are in the elimination rounds people's true colors and loyalties are starting to show!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sin Bakery Cheesecake

A cake from Sin Bakery - now that has implications.  The selection was a custom made Kahlua Amaretto and Bailey's Cheesecake. Instead of them being all mooshed together, however, each third of the cake was flavored with one of the aforementioned liqueurs. Otherwise it was a standard cheesecake with a graham cracker bottom and some flavored striations on top. Because it was a cheesecake - which has a distinctive flavor in and of itself - it was a little difficult to tell the flavor of the part that you were eating. If there was a preference it was hard to accommodate any request because none of the liqueur flavors stood out. The stuff on the top had a bit of a punch, however. This was good but the next time it might be advisable to stick with one flavor or better yet get one cake for each!  (That's a bit much!)

When we first heard the name of the bakery there was some interest as to whether it would be like the erotic bakery in Boston that makes cakes and decorations to reflect sexual organs or actions. Mercifully, it turned out the name Sin Bakery refers to the fact that everything they make is so good that it is sinful.

Today we learned when someone comes to say that their chair and the building is shaking the best response may not be to be dismissive and joke like "what do you think it is and earthquake.!"  It was, in fact, and earthquake so the next time we shall no be so instantaneously dismissive!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cake Hour Goes Green

Going Green but not necessarily in the environmental sense.  Take a look at the color of the cake. It's pretty green. What was served is a Key Lime cake from Lasalle Bakery which is rapidly becoming a favorite.  It certainly is a nice looking cake though the large dollops of frosting on the top seemed a little intimidating. However, it turned out that the frosting was considerably lighter than it looked and was thus not so overwhelming to the arteries.  The cake tasted of lime and had a citrus filling in the middle. As we have notice is always the case with Lasalle products, the cake portion was very moist and fresh. Expecting something much heavier we were pleasantly surprised.

The green color perhaps did awaken our environmentalist sensibilities.  Some likened the frosting heaps on top of the cake to be reminiscent of whales.   And in the latest version of frosting art we have a bird coated and submerged in an oil slick.  Since key limes pie are products of one of the gulf states I suppose this is is an odd way an appropriate tribute to the mess down there.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blueberry Cranberry Boy Bait

Now doesn't that sound interesting. The cackler who baked this got the recipe and the name from a roommate. From the name one might think that said roommate would bake this as a means of attracting young men to her boudoir or whatever.  Whether that was the purpose or not remained unclear but we just ate it up - literally.  This was a baking pan coffee cake and was supposed to be made with just blueberries. A variation was made and that's where the cranberries came from. The creator was being creative. But that didn't matter as it was good and got a lot of positive comments. It was moist, sweet and had a good texture though it might could have done with a little powdered sugar on top. Nonetheless it got such a good response from some of the new cacklers that a few tried to preempt the 15 minute rule and have a second piece without waiting. That speaks well for the cake but not for those willing to break the rules for more.  They got their second piece,  however.

The luna moth was spotted this weekend and that was a topic of discussion. A green moth with a four inch wingspan certainly would attract attention. Even more so when it seems to want to get into your house. We got a nice up close look when it attached itself to a screen so we could see the whole body. It's one big moth. Of course like all moths it lives as an adult for about a week for breeding purposes and it doesn't eat. Poor thing - I guess there is no moth equivalent of cake hour.

Have you ever been bothered by random folks hanging around when you flow - especially if they are inappropriately inquisitive about your flow? To some, we learned, this is a very disconcerting experience and we would not have expected it.

Just for clarification the verb to flow here refers to doing flow cytometry in a laboratory. It's not what you might otherwise have thought!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lame, Lame, Lame!

No cake, no coffee. Take a day off and the rest can't keep their act together. Serves them right if they went home hungry!  Better luck on Monday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The visit of Borak

No, not the prehistoric Ice Man from South Park - who was called actually Gorak by Stan - but a new contributor to cake hour. What better way to learn what is out there in the world of science than to do so with someone willing to participate in cake hour as a means to satisfy our sweet teeth and get out some info on what they otherwise have to offer. So Borak came with two great cakes - a chocolate ganache and a carrot cake - both from Whole Foods.  The carrot cake was really good and seemed to be the preference of many. But chocolate is almost always a hit and this cake also hit the spot.  What a predicament to be in - having to choose one of the two. The solution was simple - have a Mashiko piece of each. (That's our term for a small piece.) Many did and went back for more.

But that was not the end of the story. Borak gave an informal presentation of some scientific wares including some new and fun stuff and did so pleasantly and with good humor.  A back flip microfuge tube, a 5 ml microfuge tube, black tubes so you don't have to wrap your stuff with aluminum foil and a multi-colored rack that disassembles so you can incubate something without having to transfer it so something else.  In addition, samples were offered to all those who wanted to give something a try. There was some disappointment that there was no free sample of the rack but that is pushing it. Nevertheless the freebies were a hit and will be dutifully tested to see if they merit further consideration down the line.  We'll anticipate some serious reviews.  The visit of Borak was a hit and we'll just have to do it again some time! Princess and Borak...BFFs?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coffee Cake a la Turque and exiting the womb

Another entry from Asia Minor as it was known way back when. Today we have a coffee cake from a Turkish recipe. As it was explained this is a typical cake to go with coffee or tea. Hence it is dense!  And a touch dry but this is ameliorated by the hot beverage of your choice to go with the cake. The dough was not that sweet allowing for the candied fruits to provide that taste sensation. We always appreciate something new - doubly so when homemade - and so we give this a thumbs up.

The conversation somehow turned to students applying for medical school and how some of those personal statements tend to exaggeration. From this discussion came clearly one of the best lines not to be used as an opening sentence in a med school application - "Since I exited the womb, I knew that I wanted to be a scientist!" Since I exited the womb??  A little over the top, maybe?  It is certainly self-explanatory why this statement was finally edited out and we wish the author a great career in science.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lemon Cream and Whatchamacallits from China

Today's treat amounted to a Lemon Meringue pie sans meringue. Instead of the meringue an ersatz whipped cream was used making it a Lemon Cream Pie.  Basically it was good - who doesn't like a cream pie?  The whipped topping though was similar to that seen on another cake with the defining trait being it was really white.  Although it was lighter than real whipped cream we have always preferred the latter largely because we just don't know what is in these pseudo-toppings. Vegetable oil presumably but with whipped cream you know what you're dealing with. The lemon custard part was identical to that with a Lemon Meringue so no complaints there. 

In addition, today's cake contributor brought some treats from a recent trip to China. We never did get a name for either of them even with Chinese native speakers in attendance. One of them was for all purposes some peanut brittle like thing and it was a hit.  The other was a rather chalky tasting thin strip mad with walnuts.  Judging by how dry it was we assume it is something to be eaten with a cup of tea, perhaps. In that context - or with coffee - it wasn't bad. It was certainly interesting as are a lot of things that come from that part of the world - (see the post about the Durian wafers)!

The Chinese peanut brittle was tasty but in several countries peanuts are contaminated with aflatoxin - a fungus that has been implicated in liver cancer.  So of course someone had to bring this up and implicate the peanut brittle as potentially contaminated. Then again the person who brought it works with the naysayer... and the lab studies liver and the causes of liver cancer. Was this a plot... were we guinea pigs? I suppose that's a little far fetched but there is something coincidental about this. Time will tell!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cake Hour Protocol Breach

Blame it on the World Cup. Blame it on the fact that someone took a day off. Blame it on whatever you want to but a protocol breach occurred.  Today a delicious homemade fruit tart from out Italiana was served.  It was supposedly to die for.  You would think someone who was there would have known the routine by now and taken a picture of this masterpiece. Well it didn't happen!  Sorry to say the cake will not get its moment in the spotlight at least until we can convince the chef to come up with another one. Stay tuned and fie on those that didn't step up to plate as it were!

Friday, June 11, 2010

We couldn't resist it!

Today's treat is also from Lasalle Bakery in Providence, RI. When shopping for goodies for Oonoo's PhD party we caught a glimpse of their chocolate cream pie and couldn't pass it up. Since this would have been overkill for the graduation party we kept it nicely refrigerated so we could dig in the next day.

This is a classic recipe.  Lots of chocolate filling covered with gobs of fresh real whipped cream. It was the whipped cream piled on the top that really sold us as you can imagine. It didn't last very long especially with the summer students now aware of the advantages of attending cake hour. We welcome their participation at this time because it gives them the lay of the land so to speak so that they will be prepared for the role they will play in July which, as everyone knows, is STUDENT CAKE MONTH!  It will be up to the students to bring in the cakes during the month of July and try to wow the group. These student cakes are evaluated on a scale of one to five.  However you can only get a five if the item is homemade!  The competition is usually fierce and we will of course be reporting on the entries and the winner!

World Cup is underway and starting next week we expect to see some delayed attendance as the televising of the games will overlap with cake hour.  Hopefully there will be something left when the soccer freaks make their appearance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stinky Smelly Wafers

So have YOU ever heard of the king of fruits. Nether did we or at least not most of us. But a few of us had indeed heard of or ingested Durian. This fruit is found in the Far East and is known for two things. It has a very sweet flesh when you eat it and it stinks. Really, it smells bad. So much so that supposedly in Far East hotels they will post signs advising clients not to bring Durian inside or have signs saying "No Durian Allowed."

Well, we didn't have Durian but the cake master had come across some Durian wafers at a Chinese Food store and because of prior conversation about the fruit decided to buy them.  Honestly how harmful or smelly could some cookies be?  Pretty darn stinky!  I opened the bag and took a whiff and thought I was smelling someone's rancid socks. I offered a smell to the person next to me who took a nice deep breath and just about gagged.  The next thing we knew people from outside the room were coming in wanting to know what the smell in the corridor was. We told them to some disbelief.

So how did they taste?  These wafers were made with Durian cream instead of say, vanilla cream.  If the Durian has any overwhelming taste you couldn't tell it from the stuff in these wafers. Moreover the entire time you are trying to get it down your gullet you are dealing with the smell which negated any positive effect from any supposed great taste.  Some of us couldn't finish it or even swallow it and several wouldn't even go there.  I don't suppose this was a genuine Durian experience and the Cake Master offered to get some of the frozen flesh of the fruit to try.  The number of folks looking forward to that experience is undoubtedly pretty low.

The smell passed after awhile and soon we could all breathe easily again!