The Late Bloomers' Club is the most recent novel by pastry chef Louise Miller. It is the story of two sisters with a tense history, and other characters in a small Vermont town. One character leaves some recipes behind, and one sister's boyfriend Max decides to make cakes from them. The most traditional recipes, like the 1-2-3-4 Cake, only consist of a list of ingredients, without instructions.
"That's all I need," says Max. Because, of course, he has training. Back in May, I told a similar story about the recipes my grandmother gave me. "Back then," she said, "everyone knew what to do." And really, the name of the cake tells you almost everything you need to know - 1 cup of butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs. Plus a few other little things. Hmm, or maybe 1 cup is for the milk? Now I'm confused. Sometimes old fashioned tricks only work if you learned it the right way!
I took the ingredients listed in the Miller novel, and assumed certain things about the technique. I made a simple chocolate buttercream to go with the cake, although in the novel, the characters eat it with jam in between the layers. I just didn't have enough jam at home, and didn't want a trip to the store just for jam! (I'd already switched recipes to make this weekend due to the absence of another ingredient.)
(Ingredient list from Louise Miller, instructions by me!)
4 eggs, separated*
1 cup milk
3 cups cake flour (sift and then measure)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsweetened butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, then eggs, beating after each addition.
3. Mix flour with baking powder and salt.
4. Alternate between adding flour mixture and milk, adding flour mixture first. Only mix well enough to incorporate ingredients.
5. Divide into cake tins, smooth batter to edges, and bake 28-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes and turn out of pans to cool completely before icing with frosting of choice.
*Well, I ignored separating the eggs. That may have lightened the cake a bit, but I just added each one separately and beat the heck out of the batter after. It wasn't bad, although butter cakes always taste a wee bit dry to me.
I am curious what the other recipe, the one you abandoned for lack of an ingredient, was? And what was your missing ingredient? I feel like this is the story of my life, one ingredient short of a great recipe! And while I freely change casserole, salad, soup recipes, I am always a bit afraid to do that with baking!
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