Thursday, July 17, 2014

First time for Babka!

It's time for another student cake!  Today's baker has a Jewish/Israeli heritage. Indeed after her internship she is headed to Israel for the month of August. Not bad!  To fulfill her obligation she decided to prepare something that reflected on her heritage and came up with a Babka! She found a recipe online and undertook to prepare this classic Jewish/Eastern European treat.
This is something grandmother would have made!
It's Babka in a pan! 
Streusel on the top adds texture!

In some respects this is a cross between a cake and bread.  It is a yeast dough that is twisted into a shape and includes either chocolate or cinnamon as a filling.  You could say it is a cake version of a cinnamon or chocolate roll. Our baker today opted for the chocolate version. Since the dough is twisted and then baked the filling forms shapes throughout that are seen when it is cut.  This makes for a nice visual effect.  The top is covered with streusel which is made from butter, sugar and flour.  Streusel is very commonly strewn across the tops of coffee cakes and the like so it was appropriate here.

Good and solid and tough to cut at first!

The twisting of filled dough makes for some stripes inside!
Today's baker made two solid bricks of Babka.  They were baked to a golden brown. I don't know if it was the batter or the added streusel but the outside was very hard at first and made for some interesting cutting. Once you got through the edge it was perfectly fine.  It certainly tasted good, went great with coffee and seemed to go over well with all.  There was a whole one left over so we let today's student take some home to share with the family.  Given that she wanted to share something special and the quality of the homemade product this gets our four star rating.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bastille Day Brownies

We are heading into the second week of the student cake competition. It also happened to coincide with Bastille Day.  This is a big holiday in France, in case you didn't know, commemorating the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution.  It is interesting that this name is used in the English Language.  The French holiday is actually referred to in French as La Fête nationale or The National Celebration.  It celebrates the referenced Bastille storming but also the day the French were unified which is also on February 14, 1790.  Maybe since it celebrates two events they decided to not reference the Bastille in the naming of the holiday.  Did you know that as part of the celebration The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests?  Now you do!

So far today our student volunteer baker opted for some basic brownies but left them on a sheet uncut and then frosted them with three colors of frosting to give us the French tricolor flag!!  Très créatif!  

I'm not French but someone told me it was Bastille Day!
Tricolor Brownies!
It should be viewed this way to accurately represent the flag!

It was fun to tie in his baked goods with the French national day.  The Brownies were a friend's recipe and were very dense and chocolatey - much more fudge than cake like.  The frosting on the top was a commercial frosting that our friend had colored with normal food coloring. It tasted exactly as we would expect. The brownies were good and probably would have been so without the frosting. But then it would not have been a tribute to Bastille Day.  

The squares went fast!

More fudge than cake in this batch!
We give today's entry a 3.5 star rating giving the day's treat credit for being homemade and for being French fun!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The cake had cancer and could probably cause it too!

A very colorful entry today for our student cake month!  The top of the cake alone had a lot of color and had something to say!  One of the things we study in the lab is hepatocellular caricinoma or HCC which you see on the cake. One of the models we use is a subcutaneous tumor model in rodents.  The animal image is that of a mouse and the little red floret on the upper back of the mouse represents the tumors that form.  So we have a colorful paean, as it were, to the work that we do.  This definitely gets marks for creativity.
Celebrating research with a colorful cake!
Our work with HCC or liver cancer gets a different publication!

So does our study model!  That's a mouse, y'all!

That's not a flower. IT'S A TUMOR!

The cake was another pan cake and the question was what flavor would it be...chocolate, yellow white...or electric blue and yellow!  Say what?  That's what it turned out to be. For the first time we have a marble cake not out of the traditional chocolate and yellow cake but rather yellow and some electric blue batter. This apparently was mix of yellow and actually aqua blue cake mixes.  Taking note of the cancer theme on the cake, there was some sarcasm about whether the food coloring in the cake could actually cause cancer.  Lighten up people!  It's not like your eating a ton of it. Though we did try to get out 1000 calorie a day colleague to eat several pieces.  Maybe he will be a test case!

What flavor do you suppose?

Are we at risk from this blue coloring? Call the FDA!
The flavor for each remained vanilla. This cake got your attention and was certainly unique. It tasted fine however the vanilla frosting in various colors was definitely a commercial frosting. Although the recipe was not original, the artistic factor gives this cake a boost and a four star rating. Not to mention that the baker had to combine those bags of batter to get the swirl effect! What a physical challenge that must have been!
Imagine the effort mixing those colors!
Today we also had bread number two - also cinnamon raisin!  The goal was to make it less moist and doughy to try to get a better bread consistency.  It was definitely drier but still not quite there. Further experiments are necessary.
Look familiar? It's daily bread number 2!
Definitely more bread than cake like but there is a ways to go!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A good mocha cake and it's NOT Duncan Hines

Our third student cake also went with the chocolate theme.  This was a chocolate cake that included coffee in both the cake batter and the frosting. So we guess that makes it a mocha cake. It turns out it was a collaborative effort. Our competitor for the day took advantage of a friend's better experience with baking and came up with this creation. 
All by herself Skeptical!
Her partner in cake!
The proud bakers!
A little asymmetry for effect?
It was a good size chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The two people involved swear that the entire thing was made from scratch and not from a mix.  There was a little skepticism because the cake part was very dark as you tend to see after using Duncan Hines cake mixes.  However it was explained that was because both cocoa powder and coffee were used and also that the batter included heavy cream and vinegar as a replacement for buttermilk.  We were still a little skeptical.
There's coffee in that frosting
Dense and dark!

If we didn't know better....

.......could it be this? See the resmblance?
The frosting was a standard butter cream that also included some coffee.   As the cake got warmer the frosting softened up nicely and went better with the cake.  It was a two layer cake with the same frosting in between. The presentation was standard for a cake like this and it was essentially cylindrical that looked good and solid. On one part the top layer overhung the bottom layer supposedly for artistic reasons. We were skeptical.  One of the chefs indicated they were going to decorate it with M&Ms but then thought that would be too much.  It would NOT have been too much.
A few M&Ms would have been a nice finish!
Apparently the M&Ms didn't matter much!
The cake itself was rich and moist, to the relief of the bakers. The chocolate/mocha taste was great and as mentioned the cake paired very well with the frosting.  Assuming this was from scratch and not Duncan Hines, we give a four star rating for a great tasting recipe.

We are also guinea pigs for and experiment in bread making. Don't ask why because we don't know!  Today's sample was a cinnamon raisin bread made in a bread machine. We are supposed to help determine the best texture and dough ingredients.  This one was cinnamon raisin. It was good although a little too doughy so the recipe will be changed tomorrow!  Can't wait!
Give us our daily bread!

Cinnamon raising in case you were wondering!

On balance good but a little doughy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Lemon Squares were great but check out that Birthday Cake!

Day two of student cake month and our contestant opted for some homemade lemon squares.  They were baked in a glass baking dish and done to a nice golden brown.  They made an impression for sure but were, shall we say, a bit overshadowed.
Our intern of the day and her lemon squares!
Baked in a glass cake pan..
..and done to a nice golden brown!
Today was also the birthday of our baking student.  That being the case her mother wanted to make sure that she had an appropriately eventful 21st!  So unbeknownst to our intern, mother arranged for a few things to arrive to amplify the celebration.  One of them was a spectacular golf themed birthday cake..check it out!!
Surprise!! It's a golf birthday cake courtesy of Mom!

A few balloons to go with the cake!
And some favorite flowers!

It's golfy and girly!
 It was a large two layered almond flavored cake that was decorated with elements from a golf course.  Why? The birthday girl loves golf!!  A golf cake could come off looking a little macho but the bakery was given instructions to make it look feminine and to accent the colors of pink, orange and green those being the favorites of the honoree!  The bakers certainly came through!  The colors are bright and the decorative elements representing the grass, sand, tees, hole and balls of a golf game were very well done.  The "grassy" part was especially clever. The cake was very fresh with a subtle but good almond taste. The frosting, presumably butter cream, was not overly sweet and there was plenty of it. If you are a frosting fan this would have been a good cake for you.  There was enough to go around for sure as the cake was intended for 30 people.  That was because when the number of people was given to decide the size, mom doubled it and added the comment "people can have seconds!" The whole experience was very memorable and Mom did a good job making the 21st birthday the same.
Two layered almond cake with thick frosting!

We like the "grassy" part!
And a bright pink birthday wish!

And what about those lemon squares?  They were sort of the dessert to the cake.  Everyone managed to try a small one after eating a large piece of cake.  The taste was not too tangy or sweet and they were perfectly done. The bottom was even a bit overdone which made them stiffer and a bit crunchy.  This was a good thing.  Due to the freshness and the good taste we give these lemon squares a 3.5 star rating. They were however a "bit" overwhelmed by the golf cake.  Had our baker for the day made it, it would have taken the prize for sure!

It's the yellow layer that makes the lemon square!

Reinforcements came for the birthday party!

Along with the cake hour regulars!

Monday, July 7, 2014

First student cake of the summer is a hit!

We had the first entry for the student cake "competition today".  Our baker opted for a single layer chocolate pan cake with chocolate frosting.  The top was embellished with striations of white chocolate and some fresh raspberries and chocolate covered strawberries.  Everything was homemade from scratch - no cake mixes here. Even the aforementioned strawberries were hand made! The presentation was very impressive and it was probably one of the best looking flat cakes we have seen.
The unveiling of the first student cake!

Chocolate cake with fruit and white chocolate embellishment!

Our student baker sets a high standard right off the bat!

Best looking pan cake we have probably seen!

Nice little cluster of berries as decoration!

The chocolate covered strawberries were a welcome added touch!

The cake tasted good, was moist not dry and generally pleased everyone.  It seemed more like it was milk chocolate than dark and it was certainly nowhere near as dark in appearance as some of the commercial products.  In that sense the chocolate flavor was not particularly intense. The frosting was a chocolate butter cream also reminiscent of milk chocolate. Butter cream frostings can be very sweet but that was not the case here.  It paired well with the cake and the fruit garnishes.  It would have been advisable to take the cake out of the refrigerator prior to serving to soften the frosting because this type is better served creamy. We give the cake a four out of five star rating and are off to a great start.
And now to give it a try!

Plenty of slices for all!

Good moist chocolate cake with an additional treat!
We learned that one of our interns who from Brown University has a good friend who arranges a lot of naked parties and events for the Brown community.  That's right - events where clothing is optional or forbidden.  This was discussed with some incredulity but there are naked donut runs and even a Nudity Week featuring naked yoga, open mike etc.  The Daily Beast even picked up the story:

The theory seems to be that if you have body image issues you can fell better about it if you spend time with a bunch of people naked. We're not sure if any studies on this have been done but we all agree that there will be no naked cake hour ever.

No cake but quite a few buns during nudity week!