or…. “THE DAY DAN LEPARD TRICKED ME“
Maybe some cooks are fearless. They open any cookbook, pick any recipe, open their cupboards, and make it: no trauma, no drama. But, I am not such a cook. I notice some improvement over the years: in the past I wouldn’t even attempt a risotto or a souffle. But I’m still severely “cake-challenged.” Nothing infuses me with fear more than the phrase: “cream the butter and sugar“. Ever since a painful fiasco with a strawberry genoise “shoe” cake, that I regrettably served at a party back in 2003, I’ve successfully avoided recipes that instruct to beat the butter and sugar into the elusive “creamy” stage. Why would I even bother?
Fate plays strange tricks, though.
A couple of weeks ago I learned about an internet event – a Bake Along – organized by Dan Lepard (my bread baker guru). Folks from all over the world connected to “The Guardian” website at 3pm London time, and waited for Dan’s instructions to bake a traditional Dundee Cake together. He posted the ingredients the day before, and the bakers logged in for a virtual group meeting – even a lady from Australia who awakened at 2am to join the party!
Where I live, the baking started at 9:00 am. Well, to be precise it was 9:03 am…. Can you tell that I was ready for it?
I measured the ingredients, prepared the pan and waited for Dan’s first instructions, that arrived like a hydrogen bomb overhead: mix the sugar with the butter and beat until creamy. WHAAAT? I re-read it, hoping for a misunderstanding on my part. Nope.
I looked at my butter, it was not even “softened” (whatever that might be). I considered quickly logging out, explaining that a tornado was headed my way, but…. in November? Who would believe me? Then, a fellow baker, probably hyperventilating almost as much as me, related that his butter was still cold from the fridge, what was he supposed to do? “Don’t worry, Dan responded, ” heat it until about 1/3 melts, and proceed.”
Maybe that’s why his last tip before we began was…
“Stay calm and relaxed. We’re going to have the best time, ok?”
Yeah, right! Calm and relaxed I was not. Still, I took a deep breath, microwaved it slightly, added the whole pitiful blob to the bowl of my mixer, dumped the sugar on top, and…… beat it. To my amazement, IT WORKED!!!
I suddenly realized that I hadn’t done it correctly before. Maybe my butter was too cold or my sugar too coarse (this time I used superfine), but on this occasion it worked!
Thrilled, I moved on, adding the eggs, the marmalade, the dried fruits…
This cake baked in two stages: first a partial bake covered with foil to generate steam, and then after removing the foil, nuts were added on top and the baking resumed, uncovered, for the remaining time. I couldn’t find whole blanched almonds to cover the fruitcake, so I used macadamia nuts instead. My cake wasn’t as beautiful as those with the nicely distributed almonds, but it tasted great!
Beautiful cake or not, having survived the “cream the butter with sugar” battle, I was happy….
Maybe for the most part I was not calm and relaxed, but… I did have the best time that Sunday!
You can see the work of all my virtual friends by following the pictorial show organized by Dan and his crew in London, by clicking here
Verdict: A wonderful fruitcake indeed! I was planning to eat a few slices and then add Port wine to some of it, wrap and store. But there were only crumbs left next day… Next time I will make it in small loaf pans, and save a couple to taste later.