July 4, 2010
One of my favorite recipes to make (though I haven’t made any since I started this blog), is Ina Garten’s Strawberry Country Cake. I first learned about this recipe from Adam Roberts’ “The Amateur Gourmet”, which I read about a year ago. The cake has three very important attributes. It is:
Not stressful to make
I think these may be the three attributes I value most in a recipe. In fact, without thinking about it too deeply I think these may the be three attributes I value most in anything. Maybe.
The country cake is all these things, though sometimes I increase the amount of strawberries by 50% because I like fruit much more than I like whipped cream. In any case, I thought it would be interesting to try miniaturizing this cake as I’ve done with many others. For presentation and convenience purposes, it’s useful to be able to make a cake either big enough to be sliced, or in cupcake format.
The cupcakes came out pretty well. But one problem with baking cupcakes is as follows. In my oven at least, cake edges tend to dry out fairly dramatically, and sometimes even burn. This is especially true around the circumference of the top and around the circumference of the bottom. This happens with all cakes. But with cupcakes there is much more edge, relative to the total amount of cake, than there is with a full-size cake. (The next two paragraphs are math, so feel free to skip.)
For example, if you have a 9-inch cake, you end up with 2*pi*4.5 inches of circumference, or about 28 inches. But if you make 24 1-inch cupcakes out of that same batter, you end up with 2pi.5 inches of circumference, or about 3 inches, times 24 cupcakes. That’s 72 inches, or 2.5x as much edge.
These calculations only take into account the linear circumference of the top of the cake, but as I mentioned the previous paragraph the circumference of the bottom tends to dry out too. So, assuming for the moment a cylindrical cupcake, figure the actual comparison is 56 (linear) inches of burn vs. 144 inches, which is even more dramatic (3x). These are rough approximations, but even if I am off significantly I hope the point makes sense, and that the math is correct. This dryout is difficult to avoid, so the taste impact when this happens with cupcakes is significant.
The edges of these cupcakes did indeed dry out (though they didn’t burn), which was unfortunate. Fortunately, they are so laden with whipped cream that after a day in the fridge they were thoroughly moistened. The flavor impact remained, but it was slight.