Monday, December 6, 2010

A Few Bad Decisions

Mistakes were made in the construction of this tart. It was supposed to turn into a lemon-polenta cake so beautiful on Nigel Slater's Web site that I couldn't resist. Things came a little undone in my kitchen, unraveling slowly and then nearly landsliding into defeat.
Things started out well. I measured the ingredients to the gram using my new scale. I even pulverized the polenta, knowing it to be a little coarse. 
When the cake came out of the oven, I was still encouraged. The smell was so pleasant and the top of the cake a lovely golden brown that I thought surely victory was mine. Until I turned it out and realized the cake was less than half the height it should have been. Did I make an error in converting Slater's Celsius to American Fahrenheit and made the oven too cold? Or was it the egg whites? Perhaps they weren't fluffy enough. Slater called for a 20 cm cake tin, mine is 9 inches, is that the same? No matter how I messed things up, it only got worse once I took the parchment paper off and the cake completely fell apart.
I had crumbs and a load of delicious light, creamy whipped topping mixed with lemon curd to frost them with. I just couldn't throw anything away. I stared at my products for a moment. The lemon whipped cream and the crumbs. And I thought, why not stir them together? Both taste good. Brilliance struck and I ladeled the crumby-whipped topping into cupcake sleeves to be eaten individually with a spoon. Maybe like ice cream?
A horrible idea! Just horrible. The cupcake things didn't hold their shape at all. It was a mushy mess. I was a mushy mess. I started crying alone in my kitchen on a Friday afternoon. I cursed. I cried some more. I cursed a little louder at my life, the crap cake I had just made, my skill as a baker, Nigel Slater. And then I threw one of the cupcake liners filled with sugary goo at the faucet of my sink. It splattered on the window, which actually felt good. Then I scraped all the goo back into the bowl, put the bowl in the fridge and went rock climbing at the gym.

At some point Friday, I came up with a decent idea. The goo tasted good, and I hated the thought of just throwing it away, plus there was so much of it, it seemed like it might make a good topping to a pie.
So I made a crust. This is where things started looking up. Things usually start looking up when that much butter is involved.
The crust came along nicely, and I used the remainder of the lemon curd for the icing with some berry jame for a thin filling.
And this tart is what came of the lemon-polenta cake. Really, it was quite good.


4 comments:

Randall said...

great experience overall. looks yummy, thanks for sharing!

Meg said...

at least it was cupcake goo you threw instead of a phone. and at least it just splattered the window instead of shattering it. ; ) it looks really good, lainers.

Jess said...

you are so awesome. I would have thrown it all at the faucet, cursed and cried, then ordered pizza for dinner.
you, however, are not so easily defeated and I commend you for your persistence and creativity!
truly, things do start looking better when you use lots of butter. that always helps me, too.

Megan Champion said...

My first cake disaster, all those expensive ingredients, hours of labor and one small mistake. It always leads to cursing. Still, when you can pull something good out of it, the world can be right again. Your tart looks delish.