Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake
I know I've mentioned this already, but I'm very excited about Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, by Alexis Hall, which is coming out on Tuesday.
I love everything Alexis Hall writes from books to twitter and frankly you cannot possibly imagine how excited I was to learn he was writing a book about a bisexual baker competing on a Great British Bake Off-style show. I cannot remember the last time I was this excited for a book to come out. I baked along to last season of GBBO and I knew, as soon as I heard about Rosaline Palmer that I was going to bake every single recipe from it, so fasten your seatbelts and order yourself a copy if you haven't already because the next few weeks are going to be a lot of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake.
And the book comes with recipes. Recipes that have been released into the world already, and are available here.
And so, in anticipation of the release of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (which, it bears repeating, COMES OUT ON TUESDAY) I have baked those recipes and will share pictures and just a few, brief, thoughts on them. The recipes are written in the characters' voices, which is charming. The recipes themselves are fun and different- with basil buttercream, boozy biscuits, and a savoury choux... and I was super excited to try them all.
They all turned out well... eventually. But, and I cannot tell you how much it pains me to say this, I think they all needed a little work in the *recipe* department. Now, multiple author bios have taught me that Alexis Hall does not consider himself a baker, so we won't blame him, but, if you're going to bake these recipes, I do have some suggestions...
So, I will admit... I'm not a huge fan of chocolate cake, and I am definitely not the person to apply to for an opinion on whether *this* chocolate cake is good or great or just mediocre, since I have never found a chocolate cake that I love. But I liked it with the basil buttercream, and I LOVED the basil mascarpone buttercream. I have distributed slices of this cake to friends and family and the overall reception has been very positive of the cake, the buttercream, and the combination (with one notable exception, who liked the components but wasn't sold on the combo.)
HOWEVER, do make sure you grease your pans well- it's not in the instructions and should be. I lined the cake pan with parchment on the bottom and would recommend you do the same, and grease the sides however you like to (I'm a fan of a spray, but if you want to butter or flour or whatever, I say you do you, since the recipe says nada).
Also, SIFT YOUR COCOA. The recipe doesn't say to, so I didn't... because I'm kind of lazy... but there were little bites where my finished cake had bits of hard cocoa even though I whisked it VERY thoroughly. Don't do that to yourself.
The basil buttercream is, in my opinion, DREAMY. I mean, really, bravo. Excellent, creative, well-written. The only thing is that there's not enough of it to fill and cover a cake in a pretty way. First off, when you level a cake, you should probably use like, a sugar syrup to brush over it to keep it from getting crumbs in your frosting. The recipe didn't say to, so I didn't. When I tried to fill and cover the cake, it got all full of crumbs. Also, there just wasn't quite enough... So I chilled my cake with the first round of buttercream on it and made a second batch.... which was then way too much which, you know, was a hardship I was willing to bear, but still, if I did it again, I'd make 1.5 times the frosting suggested, and be sure to brush down the crumbly crumbly top of the leveled cake.
(Also, I just eyeballed my "split it into to cake pans" and didn't bother leveling the bottom layer so my cake ended up pretty uneven in layers, but you can fix that by not being lazy and weighing your batter and leveling your cakes better than I did.)
I love me a boozy dessert so I was almost as excited about these as I was for the basil buttercream. I was going to make my own Irish cream (Smitten Kitchen has a recipe I've been meaning to try) but then I went to Trader Joe's and just bought some of theirs instead.
The brown sugar shortbread is lovely, and I've never tried a shortbread with brown sugar before so that was fun. The recipe also doesn't say to, but I HIGHLY recommend chilling that dough before rolling it out. I've never made a shortbread that didn't need chilling, so I chilled mine while I made the buttercream. It was still very soft and a bit difficult to work with. I had a little dough and plenty of buttercream left and made them a few days later with REALLY cold dough and it was so much easier, so I'd say chill at least an hour, but overnight would be even better.
I'll admit, the filling was a little too sweet and a little less Irish cream-y than I wanted, so I added a bit more butter, a bit more Irish cream, and a pinch of salt. And then a bit more Irish cream. In the end, it came out lovely. And if you didn't make those modifications, it was probably still lovely, but I think my way was a significant improvement.
And last, but not least...
My first attempt at these was a complete and unmitigated disaster. I started to make the choux pastry and it was just like, all grease and no dough... so I added more flour. And more flour. And more flour. I am pretty sure I doubled the flour to get anything even remotely resembling choux pastry. They still ended up hard on the outside, raw on the inside, and with all the butter run out making a mess of my oven. I'd have absolutely been sent home if I'd tried to present them for judgement on a TV baking show.
But I refused to be defeated. I SAW SOMEONE ELSE POST A PIC OF THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA. So why wasn't it working for me? I've made choux before! Admittedly not many times, but my prior attempts were all successful... so, I looked for a gougère recipes in my bookshelves and compared Harry's recipe with The Silver Palate Cookbook's. Silver Palate was a little different in a few ways, but one that made me go WELL THAT'S THAT THEN was that for the same volume of (slightly different) liquid and flour (with different cheese and one additional egg), it called for exactly half the butter.
So, I tried the above recipe with half the butter (one stick, not two) and... they're perfect, they're beautiful, and they taste lovely. I went with gruyere, and, when they worked, I liked them enough that I look forward to trying them with cheddar one of these days.
So, there you have it. My inaugural, anticipatory Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake bakes. Over the next few weeks I'm planning on working my way through all the bakes described in the book for which I will find, or create, my own recipes. I don't expect you to be anywhere near as excited about them as I am, but I am so looking forward to this project and I hope you all will enjoy the book and the bakes along with me.