Thursday, March 25, 2021

the rum-cake experiment: results

I served my rum cake today, not knowing whether it'd be a triumph or a tragedy.  Let's start with the images and work our way forward from there.

First, the cake is way more suntanned than my mother's used to be:

It's not burned, mind you, but it's a much deeper brown.  Here—take a closer look at the cake's open, beckoning anus:

Brings back sweet memories of prison life, doesn't it?  It could be that the cake was simply over-baked, but the texture, when I cut into it, was pretty moist.  At the same time, the surface of the cake resisted cutting with a smooth-bladed knife:  the cake bent and wobbled before finally yielding to the blade.  That may be a sign of slight over-baking.

As you see below, the cake's interior was moist, but it was also quite dark.  Mom's rum cake used to be a bright, happy yellow, probably because it was from a boxed mix like Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines.  Right now, I'm thinking I need to use a different Bundt-cake recipe.

When I cut into my cake, I didn't think it was all that bad.  The look wasn't ideal, but it tasted like rum cake.  The interior texture was gooey, heavy, and sweet.  My boss complained that the cake was slightly too sweet, but I don't trust his criticism because he went back for seconds.  He asked me what I thought of the cake's sweetness, and I told him that I was the wrong person to ask because I have a very, very sweet tooth.

The cake's heaviness and its buttery interior almost reminded me of the Korean cookie called yak-gwa, which is a greasy mix of honey and oil, pine nuts (which are naturally oily), and even sesame seeds depending on the recipe.  While not quite as fatty as a yak-gwa, my cake was definitely heading in that direction thanks to the buttery syrup. My American coworker pronounced the cake excellent, but once again, my Korean coworker never said a word about what he'd eaten, so I suspect he didn't enjoy the cake very much.

The above slice is yellowest at the bottom.  The bottom was formerly the top of the cake while it was baking.  When I spooned the rum-butter syrup onto/into the cake, the syrup ran down thanks to gravity, and I guess it didn't linger at the top.  Either that, or the cake's interior color has nothing to do with the rum-butter syrup.  I should note, at this point, that I'd been aiming for a bright-yellow interior.  To that end, I'd added eight drops of yellow food coloring to the mix while I was making the batter.  The yellow really shows through, as I mentioned, at the bottom.  I'm disappointed that that color didn't dominate the entire cross-section.

Where do we go from here?  I had wanted the cake to be a bit lighter in both weight and color (there's no such thing as a light rum cake, but I think there's no reason for the cake to be this heavy), and that's not the result I got.  Possible solutions:  (1) use about two-thirds to half of the rum-butter syrup; (2) use a different recipe for the Bundt cake itself; (3) try not to fuck up the baking process by pouring in too much batter; (4) try cooking the cake for longer, and at an even lower temperature, like 300°F.  That might minimize the suntan.

I don't think I'd call the cake a total failure; it obviously tasted good enough for my American coworker to compliment it, and for my complaining boss to eat two slices (it occurs to me that he didn't complain about my chocolate cake, which was five times sweeter).  At the same time, it didn't get any praise from my Korean coworker, and I actually think my boss's complaint about the over-sweetness is legitimate.  I think what I need to do is see whether I can make a regular old yellow Bundt cake—a nice, bright-yellow one—without the rum syrup.  If I can master that, then I can move on to adding the syrup.

Expect more cakes over the coming months.  Lots of trial and error.


Charles said...

It does look quite heavy, but honestly when I hear "rum cake" I think "heavy."

John Mac said...

I'd say it appears to have been a successful first effort that provided some ideas to incorporate into future baking endeavors. Perhaps you are reading more into your Korean co-worker's silence than you should. The cake could have been perfect, but just not to his liking. Honestly, I don't like rum cake (or any other combo of alcohol flavor and sweetness like in some chocolates), but that doesn't make it bad. Just not for me.

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, gentlemen.