My office holiday party is tomorrow. Unlike last year, where as a contractor I was not allowed to participate, this office embraces the contractors whole heartedly.
The theme is "the islands" and they do not mean "Cape and Islands," for you locals. Think sandy white beaches and palm trees. Caribbean. Jamaican.
There is always some sort of contest with these people. And I'm okay with that. Last big contest was an ice cream making contest, and my co-worker Molly won with a goat cheese and drunken cherries blend. So good.
I figured, I'm okay at baking, so hey - maybe I'll bake something authentic for my people. So I googled things, and all points seemed to lead to Caribbean Black Cake. I asked a long time blog friend, someone I met on Journalspace back in the day, Mr. Keifel himself, for a good recipe. He's originally from Trinidad, so I figured he'd have a good recipe for me.
He sent me his Grandmother Winnifred's recipe, and I was excited to give it a try.
Seeing as right now it is Thursday night, and the party is tomorrow, it is already a semi-collosal flop because I didn't have the fruit soak in the booze long enough. I prepped the fruit yesterday and it should really sit for a couple of months. But hey -- I'm just trying to have some fun over here!
I went to the market with my smartphone dialed up to the recipe, and walked around in search of prunes and currants. I had to call Jo from Awesome and ask "So, what on EARTH is candied mixed peel?!" She laughed at me, educated me and wished me well.
With ingredients in hand, and booze procured earlier in the day, I set to soaking the fruit. Prunes, raisins, currants and this mystery collection of strange bits like citron and cherries and whatnot. When I got home from Boy Scouts tonight, it was baking time.
At 9pm. 9 Freaking PM.
So I'm baking at 9pm, and drinking beer, like you do, and listening to the police scanner as protestors are out in the streets of Boston... I'm pondering race, race relations, crimes while white, crimes while black, drinking more beer and just feeling like the world just needs so much help. I am thinking about black and white people, growing up white in an all black neighborhood, co-workers and friends who have broken or angry hearts tonight. And overall, there is nothing I can do.
So, back to the cake. I followed the directions and I cut the recipe down to 1/3. I got 3 cake pans out of the deal, which is kind of nice. If I did the whole thing, it would be like 12 cakes.
While working and following said directions, I noted that I cracked all 8 eggs into one container before I read that I should separate the yolks and whites out (again, my cake will be a colossal failure because of that). I couldn't get the egg whites to peak the way they are supposed to -- after 15 minutes of hand mixing, we got nowhere but fluffy and foamy, and the motor on the mixer started to get super hot. (again, colossal equals failure equals cake).
Continued on 12/5, non-drunkenly but somewhat hungoverly
Party is about to begin. I transported the cakes to the office this morning and my friend Rakiesha took some pictures of me finishing the cakes. The cakes are supposed to soak in alcohol. Wine or rum or both or whatever. I had used all of the wine in the part where I set the fruit up but there was still the more full bottle of rum to be used.
When the directions said to add the alcohol at the end, I emailed Keifel and asked "what, like a drizzle? He said no - "I drunken up those babies." So, I did. I poured the entire bottle of rum on the cakes, and they absorbed nearly the entire bottle.
I finished it off with the juice of a lime, one half on each cake.
Winnifred's name is on the tent in front of the cakes. Two are alcoholic, and one is alcohol free. I better win this competition.
Photos and the process:
I took all the pictures with my phone camera because I have no idea where my camera is right now. Last time I saw it was Geoff's Eagle Project a couple of weeks ago. It's around here somewhere...
The fruit, wine and rum, run through the cuisinart.
I think if it gets to sit for a good long time, that liquid gets absorbed or something...
A pound of butter, a pound of brown sugar.
That's a lot of butter and sugar.
Next time, don't just crack all the eggs into the container, read the instructions. dummy.
Because this is what happens, 20 minutes of whipping the egg whites results in no peaks.
But the good news is, it is hard to mess up blending butter and sugar...
And then you add in your fruit.
I used half of this amount of fruit... the other half is in the kitchen waiting for
me to find an appropriate container
After adding in all the fruit, and the egg whites which never did peak
(I gave up) the mix looks like this.
I ended up with 3 whole cake pans full of batter from the above mixer.
When were they done? Insert Spongebob 3 hours later image here
(cakes came out of the oven at like 12:45am)
Finally asleep at about 1am with a wake up time of 6am.
Sounds just about right for stuff I decide to do...
After the cakes cool the recipe says to add alcohol to the cakes.
I thought I would be drizzling the cakes with booze.
Instead I was baptizing them by immersion.
The entire rest of the bottle of rum on 2 cakes.
The cakes were like giant sponges, soaking up all the rum.
I may have over baptized them, because after a while they stopped
soaking up the liquor, and the liquor pooled all in the pan.
Note to self, stop after a while.
Just for fun, I added the juice of a lime, one half per cake.
because I thought it would taste good. It didn't make much of a difference because... Rum.
Conclusion, Saturday morning after the party
We didn't seem to have any sort of judging of cakes and baked goods. One of my co-workers made a rum bundt style cake, and it was good but not this good. Another made oatmeal chocolate cookies which were outstanding. Someone else made a dip for strawberries with cool whip and Oreo cookies, which tasted great. It was super firm and tasty. And someone bought some sort of Boston Cream Pie.
I think everyone just ate fast and had Yankee Swap time and no one was really paying attention to the prospects of the competition... except for maybe me. As far as parties go, it is sometimes just better to not have structured events, but to just party and chat and have a good time. And this party had plenty of that. It was a really good time.
But I would say it if there was a judged moment it would have come down to my cake vs. the oatmeal cookies. Hers were tasty, baked right there in the office at 3pm. Still semi-warm by the time we all tucked into them. But I heard a lot of incredible feedback from people about the cake. And that made me incredibly happy. I enjoyed the cake greatly myself. And to be honest, you know that's all that matters.
1. Buy some dried apricots too. You like those.
2. Do the eggs correctly? please? It should not take 15-20 min to peak egg whites so ... you did something wrong there girl. Probably that tiny bit of yolk you got stuck in there that didn't want to get out of the whites. Figure it out. Don't do it again.
3. Put the rest of the fruit/booze mixture into a glass container and save for a few months so it gets all super funk just the right way. Or save it for putting over ice cream next weekend.
4. Always have beer handy while baking. It just makes life so much more fun. But... do not drink it all, like you just did.
5. Browning. It's some brown sugar/caramel thing that Keifel mentioned in an email to me that I completely missed this detail. It isn't mentioned in the recipe but Keifel mentioned it in an email discussion. I thought browning was an action, not an ingredient. I was all "ZOMG LET'S MAKE CAKE NAO!" when I went to do things, and so... always read all the correspondence in everything.
6. Cooking time states it should cook for an hour at 175 F. That is actually more like 2 - 2.5 hours. She learned as she crawled up to bed at 12:45am.
7. Use a better quality rum for the baptism. I felt like the cheap rum that we bought for the soaking of the fruit was probably not the best rum to be using for the soaking. No one else complained, but it just seemed too harsh to me.
8. Don't use so much of the rum for the soaking.
9. Room temperature? Seemed super squishy. I think it may be better chilled.
10. Ice cream would be a good addition.