Happy 2015! As usual, it’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone, and that the whirlwind of the holidays is behind us. This holiday season was chock-full of baking for Christmas, Chanukah, and plain ol’ winter joy; there were all manner of cakes, cookies, bars, and candy– for once, I baked pretty much everything that I wanted to! This of course meant that a lot of baked goods were consumed, and truth be told, I’m experiencing one of those rare times of feeling totally sugared-out! (This generally only happens after coming back from trips to New York…) After four incredibly indulgent days in Napa Valley last week, I definitely felt the need to detox. 2014 was not the best health year for me due to the second of two ankle surgeries that I had to have. And if you do the math, lack of exercise plus lots of dessert is not where I’d like to be physically. I usually try not to make lofty resolutions about fitness and weight loss, and in truth, a few years back I didn’t need to. But this year I am resolved to get healthy and in shape again, so I went into January 1 with the intention of eating pretty much just lettuce for the day; except that I didn’t have any in the house… and didn’t feel at all like leaving the house to go grocery shopping. And then there was this Hair of the Dog Cake, our first Baked Occasions recipe of the year for Baked Sunday Mornings… And instead of eating lettuce, I decided to make that. So yeah.
Here’s the thing… I really didn’t want to bake anything this week. Do you ever feel like sometimes baked goods know when their baker isn’t really in the mood? I’ve definitely experienced failed/inferior baked goods at times when my heart just wasn’t into it… and this was one of those times. I try to keep up with the group unless there is some compelling reason that I can’t bake that week or a recipe is totally unappetizing to me (very rare), and this cake was very intriguing. I had precisely zero idea what to expect with this broiled frosting business, particularly given its rather unusual name. Not being a big drinker, I also didn’t know what “hair of the dog” meant until I googled it, and I learned that it refers to treating a hangover with more booze! (The Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes from the book would have been more appropriate after the Napa excursion…)
This is a pretty easy and straightforward recipe, and sometimes those are the ones I struggle with. I may have slightly over-baked the cake (even though it baked for the minimum recommended time), such that it shrunk so far away from the sides of the cake pan that most of the “frosting” poured down the sides of the cake; the cake came out uneven and wonky, and… my parchment paper caught on fire in the oven when I was broiling the frosting. It was one of those baking nights. *sigh*
But let’s take a moment to talk about rum. As I mentioned, I’m not a big drinker (I prefer to eat my calories), so I don’t profess to know much of anything about rum. I once had a nice bottle from Belize that I guarded jealously, but I finally used it up in various boozy BAKED recipes; after that was gone, I was lost. The recipe intro says that the rum flavor really shines in this cake, so it’s best to use a dark, spicy variety to impart deep flavor. I figured that my cheap bottle of Trader Joe’s rum would not do this cake justice, so I went trolling for a nicer bottle. I settled on The Kraken Black Spiced Rum, which was purported to be a dark, spicy, smooth, and slightly sweet variety… but yeah, mostly because I could go around saying, “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” 😉
So back to the cake. This is not your typical creaming method preparation; it is a “hot milk” cake, meaning that you heat milk and butter (then add rum and vanilla in this case) and pour that into a mixture of beaten sugar, eggs, and the dry ingredients. I may or may not have lost a little of the milk/butter when pouring it into the mixer while trying to take photos. Fortunately this proved not to be a huge issue, but as I said, it was one of those nights.
My cake baked in 30 minutes, though I’d probably pull it a couple of minutes earlier next time. While the cake cools a bit, you’ll make the easy “frosting”, which simply consists of melting butter, and whisking in light brown sugar, heavy cream, and more rum, and pouring this over the warm cake; you’ll then put it under the broiler for just a couple of minutes, until the frosting browns and bubbles… or in my case, until you start a fire. The most important instruction in the recipe is to watch the oven while the cake is broiling; after 1 minute, the overhanging edges of parchment lit up in an instant, at which point I decided that the broiling portion of the evening had reached its conclusion. (I will use aluminum foil rather than parchment next time!) Or maybe I should’ve left it to burn the frosting a little, like a flambé….
At least I got some bubbly action in that first minute, though the frosting didn’t get very dark. And hey, I thought, maybe I would even get some essence-of-smoked-embers flavor, but not so much. 😉 By this time, it was quite late in the evening, so I decided to make the whipped cream in the morning and eat the cake for breakfast– which was a fine idea! However, to my dismay, most of the already-thin layer of broiled frosting had soaked into the cake, and because most of the frosting had collected between the cake and the sides of the pan, I was left with a thick, gooey layer of brown sugar sludge on the bottom of the pan after removing the cake– not much of a “frosting”.
I’m happy to report that despite all of these imperfections, the cake was still moist, fluffy, and delicious! The texture was similar to a light pound cake. I was surprised that the cake itself wasn’t particularly boozy. What little frosting I got provided some rum flavor though. At first I was going to nix the rum in the whipped cream, predicting that there would be plenty of booziness in the cake and frosting, but upon sampling the cake, I decided that I needed more Kraken in my life. I have to say that the whipped cream made it for me, given the lack of frosting. The spongy cake and fluffy cream together were fantastic, with just the right amount of rum flavor. I do see now why the recipe recommends good rum– there was no harshness, just smooth rum-tastic flavor. I would never go back to the cheap stuff!
I hope your 2015 is getting off to a great start– and I also hope this baking comedy of errors does not foreshadow my year!! If you need a sweet and tasty cure for your New Year’s libations, you can find the recipe for Hair of the Dog Cake at Baked Sunday Mornings, and see how my fellow bloggers baked their way into the New Year. 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2015.