16 September 2008

Mm, cake!

Beth: Oh, that looks so good, what is it?
Gabe: Limone-mandorle-polenta.
Beth: Mandorle?
Gabe: Almond.
Beth: Mm.
Karen: Instead of white flour, you use polenta.
Beth: Oooh, what a good idea.
Gabe: And six eggs.
Karen: It's very eggy.
Gabe: And a ton of butter.
Beth: Mm, it's delicious.

Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies

Okay, so the girl with the annoying food allergy is doing a food show. Specifically, I'm doing a show where cast members drink coffee, eat cake, drink wine, eat salad, etc. In general - and I can do this because I'm asymptomatic, which means that I don't get actively sick if I eat something gluten-y - if my character needs to eat something, I eat it. But if there's an easy work-around, why not take it?

I asked Craig, our director, what he was planning to do about the one of the items that I am required to eat - the cake. He thought that he'd probably just ask the Properties Designer (the person in community theater responsible for things that carried, moved, eaten, etc by actors) to get a yellow cake. "Or I could get a gluten-free cake mix and be responsible for the cake."

I am usually happy to be responsible for: learning my lines, learning my blocking, showing up on time, and, um, performing. I am usually very resistant to being responsible for anything external to that. Why? Largely, because I am very lazy.

But I actually do like to cook and rarely get to do it. So the chance to cook and do a show, well, I volunteered to provide some of the food for a food show.

Gotta love the internet. Go to Google and type in lemon almond polenta cake and then just scroll through the returns (go ahead, I'll wait). Something I'd never heard of before I first read Dinner with Friends back in 2004 and something that had no real resonance for me before I went gluten-free (mostly) in 2005 is all over the web. I read lots of recipes, eliminated the ones that called for "flour", focused on ones that looked reasonably simple, and settled on this one from Nibb'lous.

It's a very easy recipe to make. Frankly, the hardest part was translating the measurements from grams to ounces, which wasn't even necessary as my measuring cup has both.

Some thoughts:

- If the recipe calls for softened butter, than the very first thing to do is put the two sticks of butter (the half-pound of butter*) in the bowl you'll be using and leave it on the counter as you create your mise.

- The Whole Foods near my place doesn't carry caster, or superfine, sugar, so I made my own by running regular sugar through the coffee grinder. This idea may also be all over the internet, but I thought of it myself. (When I am not busy being a complete idiot, I occasionally guest as a genius.)

- If the ingredients are listed in metric, then perhaps the oven temp will be as well. The cake takes an impressively long time to bake at half the correct oven temp. (And, thus, we are back to idiot.)

- I made a glaze for the top but instead of lemons I used key limes (donated to the cause by Mattie), sugar, and titch of cornstarch. Tastes lovely. Boils in nothing flat. Do not turn your back on it.

- None of the recipes I found suggest using a parchment round in the bottom of the pan, but good luck getting the cake out in one piece without one.

- With all that butter and all those eggs, this is one really moist cake, which a good thing as far as eating on stage is concerned.

The second time I made the cake, I set the oven to the correct temperature. Worked out much better. Mattie and I tasted attempt #1 and she gave me some good feedback. Laura, Sally, David, and I tasted attempt #2 and the rest went to the theater for my castmates to try.

I figured that Andy, who actually has to eat his piece would be given a primary veto. If he hated it, we'd use yellow cake or something similar. Andrea has to eat some of hers as the lights go down, so she got a secondary veto. Doug has to plate it but doesn't intend to eat it so his opinions matter less. Craig, our director, got to try some because I like it when people eat my cooking.

They liked it!

So now I only need to make another 15 or so of them.....

*It's a seven-inch cake tin. That's an Alabama-level of butter in this cake. With the three eggs and the corn meal it just needs to be deep-fried to be an official Mobile recipe. And maybe served with a side of bacon.


dgorsline said...

Yes, but the baking times in the recipes are metric, too, so it comes out even.

Anonymous said...

I got to try some and it was absolutly wonderful. You should raffle one off every evening of the show. But then you'd have to make 15 more cakes. So maybe not.