Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Caked Crusader’s 10 Commandments of Cake & Desserts

The CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother), in one of his more inspired moments, challenged me to come up with my “10 Commandments of Cake & Desserts”.

Never one to shy away from a challenge I came up with the following:

1. No low fat substitute products
2. Fruits should always be stoned or de-pipped
3. If you can’t eat it, it shouldn’t be on the plate
4. Always custard, never crème anglaise
5. Always make enough so everybody can have seconds
6. You can never have enough cake tins or recipe books
7. A mint sprig is a problem, not a garnish
8. Extract = good; essence = evil
9. Invest in a good spatula and use it often
10. Cake is a baton – pass it on

Now to expand on my views just so you know where I’m coming from with regard to these bold statements:

1. No low fat substitute products

Why would you? You’ve obviously decided you’re having some cake/dessert so why spoil the treat? Would you go to the cinema and decide to sit with your eyes closed all through the film? Of course not; it would lessen the enjoyment you got from your treat. So why lessen the deliciousness of a cake/dessert by using something ghastly like low-fat cream cheese? Just typing “low fat” brings me out in a shiver.

2. Fruits should always be stoned or de-pipped

I don’t care if you warn everyone the cherries still contain their stones – no one biting into a piece of something lovely wants to suddenly feel that their tooth has shattered on impact with a pip. Plus it creates problems – what are people meant to do with the pips they’ve got in their mouth? Spit them out? Leave them on the plate? Choke on them? Until I get some sort of commission deal in place with a local dentist all my fruits shall be de-pipped.

3. If you can’t eat it, it shouldn’t be on the plate

Birthday and Christmas decorations are lovely but, by the time a slice of something is served to a recipient, all such frippery should be removed. This also goes for artistic swirls of peel, stalks left on cherries and those wizened, crispy brown leaves that physalis (cape gooseberries) come in. On a side note, I always have to be careful when mentioning physalis as my instinct is to call them syphilis. Obviously, one should never serve anyone a plate of anything containing syphilis – not even Heston Blumenthal has tried that yet.

4. Always custard, never crème anglaise

I defy anyone to convince me that crème anglaise is anything other than a watered down version of custard - an ugly show pony that thinks just because it has a few vanilla seeds in it it’s somehow haute cuisine. Trading standards punish pubs who sell watered down drinks, so why aren’t they tackling the important issue of diluted custard? Where’s a policeman when you need one? Officer – arrest this chef, a crime has been committed.
Custard is glorious and thick and yellow; it coats the spoon and creates a sense of wellbeing. Crème anglaise is mean and thin; it runs off the spoon like watery gruel. Do not allow it to taint your baking.

5. Always make enough so that everyone can have seconds….

….then, cajole everyone into having seconds. Aside from no cake (which is always the default worst position), there is nothing worse than being given a meagre slice of cake in the knowledge that there is no more. Further, if there are unexpected guests or you merely misjudge how many slices a cake will yield, someone will go without. View this CAFTA winner to see the misery this causes.

6. You can never have enough cake tins or recipe books

Despite what anyone tells you, even when your cupboards are packed tighter than a rush hour tube train and you’re too afraid to open the door in case you cause a landslide of aluminium and steel, you do not have enough cake tins. You don’t have to use them; picking them up occasionally and stroking them a la Gollum and the Ring is more than adequate reason to buy them.
Rev. Sydney Smith once said “there is no furniture so charming as books” and he was almost right. There is no furniture so charming as recipe books, particularly cake and dessert recipe books.

7. A mint sprig is a problem, not a garnish

Be honest now, when a dessert is put in front of you I bet the first thing you do is pick up the mint sprig and place it on the side of the plate. As far away from the main attraction as you can lest your spoon accidentally makes contact with it again. I know of but one person who has ever eaten the mint garnish (you know who you are!) and that was only because he had vowed to eat everything capable of being eaten on his plate for a week; even he found the mint garnish tough work. What is its purpose? It doesn’t look pretty, it doesn’t taste nice and – if eaten – overpowers everything else on the plate. Begone foul leaf!

8. Extract = good; essence = evil

The benefit of home baking is that you can control exactly what goes into your cakes/dessert. No additives, no nasty ingredients, no things beginning with E that sound like they shouldn’t exist outside a laboratory. Extract comes directly from the actual item i.e. vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans, almond extract from almonds. Essence is padded out with water and alcohol and other nasties. Admittedly, extract is more expensive but you use less of it; further (and this is the clincher for me) the flavour of extract is far superior to any essence.

9. Invest in a good spatula and use it often

It breaks my heart to see cake batter left in the bowl or on beaters – even on TV shows where they claim they don’t have the time to scrape it all out. The cake batter left in the bowl is identical to the batter in the cake tin so why leave it out? Suppose you had your cake batter in the tin, were just about to put it in the oven and I came along asking if I could take a tablespoon of mix out and throw it away? Apart from asking me how I got in your kitchen, I suspect you would say “no, that’s good mix, I need it”. Point made.

10. Cake is a baton – pass it on

Far too many people have never known the delight of home made cake or, if they have, it is a fond-yet-distant memory usually involving a grandma or two. If those of us who bake don’t share the joy it brings or the divine results we cannot convert others. OK, this is starting to sound a bit cult-like. What I mean is offer to teach someone else how to bake – even if it’s just a plain fairy cake – share your recipes, share your baking. Once people have tasted good home baking they will be more critical of shop bought cakes that use inferior ingredients and are not always made with care. We are cake evangelists and must spread the word!

So, that’s my 10 Commandments. Are there any you disagree with or have I missed out on a key issue?


Maria said...

I loved reading your commandments. These I can follow:)

trasha said...

These make so much more sense than those religious ones.

Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree with your 10 Commandments. can i ask please, what is a Fairy Cake?

Passionate About Baking said...

I love your commandments, & how you elaborated each one of them. Couldn't agree more with home-made & seconds. I still like adding a sprig of mint though as I love the vibrancy fresh mint adds to visual appeal. My lad chomps the leaf down with much relish thankfully...
Cheers Deeba

Premyscakes said...

I really enjoyed reading your 10 commandments and i agree too.

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

A fairy cake is a cup cake. In the UK they always used to be called fairy cakes until we seemed to adopt the US name for them. Personally, I think fairy cakes sound far prettier!

Phebe said...

I'm sort of disappointed to learn what a fairy cake is. I've always thought of them as something impossibly light and small, a secret recipe, known only to the elite. Now I find I've been making them all my life....

Rhiannon said...

I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with the commandements. The one about the spatula made me smile especially though, as I can remember being told off by my mum in the beginning days of my cake obsession for "leaving half the cake in the bowl". Needless to say the spatula is now one of the most used pieces of equipment!

Anonymous said...

Hello CC! Still no German recipes for translation?! I am waiting!! :-) You'll be pleased to hear that I kept up the baking and just had cake for breakfast! (Marble) I love your commandments, especially the caketin-avalanche, which I read out to other half. Sure it includes pie-dishes, brioche forms and stewpots? Please confirm, he does not agree... Just really writing to nominate Withnail and I for a CAFTA, demanding their right to cake ( Alas, no cake is ever actually shown.. will it count?

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

I have been pondering your question and can give the following answer:
1. Pie dishes and brioche forms are definitely included
2. Stewpots are only included if you use them, at least once, in a cake or dessert related way i.e. stewing fruit for a pie or making jam.
I hope this helps

Thanks for the CAFTA nomination - you raise an interesting point; can cake win if it doesn't appear. I shall ruminate on this and get back to you.

The Caked Crusader
PS. When I make a German recipe you shall be the first to know! Thanks

Trekkie said...

I'm going to print this post out and frame it - and immediately bin the recipe for 'low fat' New York Baked Cheesecake that I saw in an old Good Food magazine.

Please forgive me.

glamah16 said...

I will obey!

The Sugar Fairy said...

Haha, I love your commandments!

Since no one has really disagreed with any commandments I think I will disagree with No. 7! Mint sprigs do look good when added to the look of a dish, though i'd never eat them.

Having said that, I confess to using vanilla essence *hanging head in shame* and since you made extract sound so heavenly, it'll be in my shopping basket next week.

Katie said...

I found myslef nodding along in agreement with your commandments. One can never have enough cake tins :)

Margaret said...

I'm sure you know that I too have an addiction to cake tins!
Agree wholeheartedly with the commandments. A girl can't have too many spatulas - even these seem to have become an addiction.........!

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

cult, new religion, whatever.....where do I sign up and start giving you all my money??

Great set of rules, EVERY single one makes sense!

Lisa said...

I agree that fairy cake is a much lovelier term than cupcake--but either way I'm diving in because I love me a little cake all my own.

May I add another commandment?

"Thou shalt not call homemade baked goods junk."

People who look at a plate of lovingly prepared brownies, fairy cakes, or cookies and say "Well, sorry, no, I don't eat junk food" should be walloped with a bag of limes (makes them easier to juice later). Junk is prepackaged, processed crap in a box; homemade baked goods bring joy.

Sorry, was that even a commandment? Perhaps I should get off my soapbox. :)

Ayls said...

I love the idea of personal commandments! I will (and mostly already do) gladly abide by all but one... as I'm a shameless mint fiend. I'm one of those uncouth diners who feasts on the mint garnish at the end of pudding. I wouldn't necessarily serve it to other people myself though, so maybe I'll scrape by and get into cake heaven after all?

Louise T said...

Whilst I can agree with your commandments I do have a slight issue with number 9. Yes it is a crime to leave cake batter in the bowl, as you say it is perfectly good batter. On the other hand it would be a crime not to lick the bowl out having placed masterpiece in the oven!

Elessario said...

Now the problem is you've given me an actual reason to indulge my addiction to buying more cake tins: the Cake Crusader commands it! I thought I was the only one who took them out and stroked them every now and then. "Walk past the cook shop, shut your eyes and just keep walking!" I tell myself, but it's hard.... Could not agree more about spatulas and mint garnish!

Jess-Blatch said...

Absolutely have one more to add.

We shall not pass off Margarine as Butter!!! Nope not once is it acceptable, I shudder at the thought that there are people out there who try it.

Hettie said...

Here Here! Well done for the 10 Commandments. Specially no. 3! I shall live by these now!

Anonymous said...

Fairy cakes are vanilla sponge with water icing, usually dainty things. Cupcakes are deeper, bigger affairs with a mound of buttercream on top. Both nice in their own way but different.

Anonymous said...

Amen to 6!

sensibilia said...

I was particularly interested in "spatula". I notice you make no reference to licking the bowl. Reading your words, my mouth was actually watering at the thought of all that lovely cake mix left in the bowl. I would have eaten it. Do you take a position on eating raw cake mixture? (I know that things have never been the same since Edwina Curry made her pronouncement on the dangers of uncooked egg, but greed overcomes caution in this house).

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Sensibilia

I always have a little dip into the batter to taste but, if the cake has an ingredient such as bicarbonate of soda, the raw mix can sometimes be a bit icky! Mostly though, it is a thoroughly enjoyable activity!