Plese Note: There was an error in the recipe. The eggs were left out. It is corrected now. Sorry about the mishap.
This last weekend I needed to have a fast dessert for a birthday party, so based on my experience (meaning something that I baked multiple times) I selected the Tiger Cake from Alice Medrich’s cookbook, titled: “Bittersweet.” Although this cake is not known to be the prototype for a “speedy gonzales” preparation, I thought my extensive experience in working with this recipe will overcome all other issues. BTW, it is actually a chocolate marble cake that uses extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, which makes my health-conscious relatives less guilty eating it; after all olive oil is good for you.
The recipe also calls for a pinch of white pepper to add a touch of heat to the cake and to accentuate the flavor of the olive oil. I added chilli pepper and sweet Hungarian paprika instead, because I did not feel any “heat” last time, when I baked it with the white pepper. Actually, it is more trendy to use these spices with chocolate than black or white pepper.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I could also use this cake (which actually belongs to the pound cake families) to show the effects of using different bake wares. Medrich recommends the use of either a 10 to 12-cup size Bundt pan or two 6-cup size loaf pans. We discussed in earlier posts the effects of the size of the pan on baking time.
I only have 8-cup loaf pans ( 9 X 5 X 3), which is what I used in baking these two loafs. By using larger pans than Medrich recommends, I needed to consider that the cake will bake faster because I changed the “depth” of the batter (the batter has more space to spread, so it is less deep in these larger pans.) However, I also used one standard and one double-insulated aluminum pan (because that is what I wanted to show); so now I created another factor to be considered for baking time. In fact, my theory of selecting a “quick-baking” cake just went out of the window. Oh well, didn’t I say that I like to learn always something new? And wait until I will tell you what else happened with this poor, beautiful, delicious cake; you will see how experience flew out of the window, as well.
Please check the top photo with the two loafs, side-by-side. Doesn’t it seem as if one was baked in a much larger pan as compared to the other? Naturally, the higher cake is softer (less dense) and more moist, despite the fact that both pans are the same size. The cake in the insulated pan was ready in 70 minutes, which is what Medrich suggested. So what happened to the change in the depth of the batter?
Well, the two different effects balanced or cancelled each other out. The larger capacity pan needed a cut in baking time due to the now lower height of the batter in the pan; but it is also double-insulated, so it needed a few minute increase in baking time (up to 10 minutes) due the slower transfer of heat to the cake via the double insulation.
This cake was ready in 1 hour and 10 minutes, exactly as recommended by Medrich. The slow heat transfer also helped the cake in this pan to rise better and higher and did not fall back after taking it out of the oven.
The other pan, however, did not experience a slowing in heat transfer, only contained a batter with less depth due to the larger capacity pan; therefore, it was ready about 10 minutes earlier correctly, as compared to the recommended baking time by Alice Medrich.
I know it sounds a bit complicated and most of the time you can avoid it, but it is good to know so that in the event you encounter a similar situation, you will know how to handle it and your hard work will not end up in a waste basket.
From this experiment, I would choose the insulated pan again for these type of cakes. The cake appears nicer visually, it taste better, it has a better mouth feel and I believe it will keep better.
What you should take home with you from a post like this is that there are no rules written in stones when it comes to baking and forget about “experience”: follow the instructions of the author carefully. Many steps in the baking process should be individualized and cakes should be monitored most of the time.
I think I talked enough for now, so let’s go and bake this wonderful cake. This cake is also called the “king” among cakes, because it is versatile, it keeps well and can be paired with a variety of things (i.e. whipped cream, chocolate sauce, ice cream, strawberries, etc.)
TIGER CAKE by Alice Medrich with a minor twist by Georgette
- ½ cup/1.5 ounce natural cocoa powder (I did not have it in the house, so I used the dutch-processed one, made by Pernigotti. I love this product; I consider it the best cocoa powder. I have to add here, dough, that Medrich stresses the importance of not using the dutch-processed cocoa powder in this recipe because it does not pair well with olive oil and you may experience an unpleasant after taste with the combination. I did not taste any unpleasantness with the cocoa powder I used.
- ½ cup/3.5 ounce/105 g granulated sugar (I use Bakers’ sugar which is ultra fine crystals, that dissolves better and easier)
- 1/3 cup/2.75 ounce water – I used this time freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of the water, but would not do it again, the sour taste of the lemon does not work well with the cocoa powder; however, before I used freshly squeezed orange juice instead of the water and that works real well.
- 3 cups/15 ounce/about 400 g all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons/10 mg baking powder
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- 2 cups/14 ounce/420 g sugar – (I used bakers sugar which is ultra fine crystals, that dissolves better and easier)
- 1 cup/8 ounces extra virgin olive oil – do not use the inexpensive kind, which may add an odd flavor – do not save on this ingredient
- 2 teaspoons/10 ml vanilla (I used paste; I like the vanilla specks it has)
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 5 large eggs, cold
- 1 cup/8.5 ounce cold milk – use whole milk
Medrich suggest to use a 10 to 12 cup tube or bundt pan or two 6-cup loaf pan
Prepare the oven: The rack should be placed in the lower third of the oven
Preheat the conventional oven to 350F; if using convection oven, preheat to 325F.
Prepare the baking pan(s): grease it with butter and sprinkle flour on it; do not use baking spray (like PAMs)
A. In a small bowl whisk the cocoa powder, sugar and water (or orange juice; see under ingredients) until well blended. Irrespective of what you using as a liquid, boil it first and add it as hot liquid to the cocoa powder. This method will intensify the chocolate flavor in your cake.
B. In another larger bowl mix together the flour, salt, chili power, paprika and baking powder. Once it mixed well, sift it to a parchment paper large enough to hold the entire flour mixture.
C. Yet in another large bowl beat (use the whisk attachment of a standing mixer, like KitchenAid) the sugar with the oil and vanilla until well blended. Add the eggs one at the time and mix well after each egg addition; then continue to beat the mixture until it becomes thick, pale yellow or what we bakers call “the ribbon stage.” What it means is that when you raise the whisk the mixture will drip off like a ribbon (it may take up to 5 minutes). Now add a third of the flour mix to the egg mixture and beat it on low-speed until well blended. Then add half the milk and beat until well blended. Add another third of the flour mixture and the milk and beat until well blended. Ad the remaining flour and beat until well blended.
D. Pour about 3 cups of this mixture to another bowl and add to it the previously prepared cocoa mixture and blend well.
E. Pour half the plain batter into the prepared pans, then pour half he batter with the chocolate on top. Then pour the other half of the plain batter on top of the chocolate batter and close with the chocolate batter. Medrich states that you do not need to do anything after this just bake it; it will create its own marble, but I took a knife and moved it across the batter making circles of 8 to create the marble effect.
Bake until the tester comes out clean, which may take 70 to 75 minutes. Cool it in the pan on a rack for 15-20 minutes then slide skewer around the tube pan or a thin knife in a loaf pan, invert the pan and invert it again setting the cake right side up on a rack to cool completely.
Note: The measurement of baking pans are not standardized so it is not a good guide to use for selecting a baking pan. Some manufacturers measure the pan rim to rim, some use outside dimensions exclusively and other methods that is not even reported.
If you read this post, including the recipe, then you may be interested to know:
The rising of butter cakes (to which this cake belongs to) depends on how well you aerate the batter; or how well you beat the butter with the sugar. Our next post will report on the three original pound cakes we baked from three different cookbook authors and how the result is so different with respect to the flavor, texture and appearance. The post will also include photos of the progressive changes of the butter/sugar mixture.
In addition, how well you combine the liquids with the fat to produce a smooth batter will also affect the rising of the cake.
If you like this post, please send me your comments and spread the word; If you will bake this cake, I would like to hear your opinion