Mary’s tiramisu cake

Time for another bake!

I mean, clearly. That’s kind of the point of this whole blog thing. And the point of these posts. And the title and image of this post is a bit of a dead giveaway.

The point is, I’ve baked again. Or am baking. I have baked part one of this recipe as I write this. This three-spoon pudding/dessert recipe, I should add.

Tiramisu cake.

A classic British dessert, right?

The more I go through this book, the more I realize the British have basically stolen desserts from their neighbours, added a sponge or jam or tea and called it “British.” Classic England. It’s not a bad thing for my purposes, though, because who doesn’t love tiramisu?

Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner had a whole conversation about it in Sleepless in Seattle, so that’s approval enough.

This tiramisu—as already suggested—has sponge instead of lady fingers (or instead of chocolate wafers, which is what I used to make it the last time I attempted this 10+ years ago).

The sponge. My nemesis. The thing that always sinks and never rises and is more dense than it is light. The thing that, until about 10 minutes ago, I thought was my kryptonite.

What happened 10 minutes ago, you ask? I’ll get to that.

First up, the eggs.

Four of them that, thankfully, didn’t need to be at room temperature before whisking with the sugar. As a three-spoon recipe, I can only assume it’s going to take up most of my weekday evening, so I want to get this going because it still has to “cool completely.”

Time to get whisking.

This recipe—a technical challenge by our very own Mary Berry (yes I’ve adopted her as my own)—tells me to whisk for “about 5 minutes,” so I set a timer. And then added a little bit of extra time to try to conquer this sponge once and for all!

It’s supposed to have those ribbon trails and be pale and thick.

Is that getting close enough?

I’m going to say yes!

I added the sifted flour but my old phone started running out of battery juice and wouldn’t let me take a photo of that stage, so I guess you’ll have to be satisfied with it post-folded:

Time to put it in my Swiss roll tin, a.k.a. a cookie sheet.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting again. I made angel food cake once and I had to put it into a cold oven and then preheat it with the cake mix in the oven, so I figured I’d try that this time too. I put it into the cold oven, turned it on to preheat it and decided to patiently wait for it to rise beautifully.

But as mentioned, I realized my error after I put all the ingredients together. My classic error that I should have thought to check. The error that made me realize why none of my sponges have worked.

You know how I don’t have self-raising flour so I’ve been mixing all-purpose with baking powder?

Well, did you also know that baking powder expires?

It doesn’t go rancid (I hope), but it does lose its abilities. So, well, yeah. I’ve been using expired baking powder. And this recipe has it too. (Sorry, eaters!) But that may be a contributing factor to my multiple sponging fails.

*20 or so minutes later*

I’m not sure if it’s done. It’s thinner on one side than it is on the other, so it’s cooking faster there. Maybe I should turn it around.

Or maybe I should just take it out. It’s looking pretty evenly golden and is very springy to the touch.

Time to let this thing cool. For a while. What to do in the meantime? Hello, Netflix.

*five minutes later*

I think I overbaked it a tad.

At first I was going to say, “Don’t tell anyone,” but that’s problematic for two reasons. One, I just told you and this is a public forum. Two, people would probably be able to taste it. So I decided to do some shaving.

Now to let it cool and then start assembling.

*some time later*

Okay I made a decision. This sponge is supposed to be cut horizontally to create four layers and there’s just no way because of the baking powder debacle. So I’m quickly whipping up a second sponge to create more of those layers—even if they’ll be kind of dense. (I really have to update my baking powder situation.)

I also made a decision to go non-alcoholic so I had to peruse the Google machine to try and figure out conversions because this recipe requires 100 ml of brandy and I refuse to be responsible for intoxicating my coworkers. The Google says 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of brandy extract for every 2 tablespoons of brandy, and 100 ml of brandy is about 6 tablespoons. So, math would mean it’s, let’s say, 3 teaspoons?

Math. I used to be so good at it. What happened? Oh yeah—I graduated high school and stopped using it.

Now I have to wait for the second sponge to cook and wait for this coffee/brandy situation to cool. Most of this recipe is just waiting.

*some time later*

Hullo, second sponge.

*some cooling time later*

I really am upset with this baking powder situation. I should have known! I should have checked. I want to retry sponges with fresh baking powder. It’s a good thing I didn’t fail on the ultra-British Victoria sponge that I have yet to make.

Also I just don’t know where to start. I realized why this is three spoons: organization. My kitchen is so not big enough for all of this.

I’m feeling a tad overwhelmed.

First up, beat the mascarpone (which I always thought was marscapone). By the way, mascarpone is really expensive. I’m just saying. Now I know why my sister makes her own.

I’m to gradually beat in whipping cream and icing sugar.

Okay. So I’ve got the mascarpone icing. I’ve got the cooled coffee. I’ve got the sponges that are thicker than they should be (but better than that too thin, I think).

First layer: sponge.

Followed by brandy/coffee mixture.

Followed by icing/frosting/cheese.

Followed by grated chocolate.

And lather, rinse, repeat.

I have one thing to say about the chocolate: how do you grate it? Which grater do you use? If it was a massive block of chocolate, sure. But it was a Lindt bar, so I ended up chopping it up. Grated chocolate? I just don’t get it. Or maybe I’m stressing over the little things.

And I have another thing to say about the bakeware. The recipe calls for a loose-based square cake tin, but it never explains when to drop it down to its base. I couldn’t find a loose-based square cake tin, but I did find a square springform pan, so I got that. I’m just not sure when the sides are to removed to allow me to frost the sides as well as the top. Mary never explains. For shame, Mary.

Things started to feel a little soft, though, so I decided to chill it for a bit to firm it up.

I’m also not sure I want to even try the chocolate decoration considering the last time I tried chocolate decoration. I’m definitely not going to try the fleur-de-lis the recipe suggests. Maybe a heart? Or a star? What other shapes are there? Circle? Square? @? &? %? $? Now it just seems like I’m swearing.

I need to make room on my counter to attempt this.

*on second thought*

The chocolate situation requires exact temperatures, and I am without a candy thermometer, so that’s just not happening. I chickened out.

Also I’m really worried about this cake. It looks super messy and slightly unpredictable and I’m not sure how it’ll transport tomorrow or if it’ll even fit into the cake container that I have. Ah! Stressful!

Like who even are you, tiramisu cake? What are you trying to do to me? I do have to say the sponge bits I sneaked/snuck/snook were tasty and the massive amount of frosting I happened to have on my hand at the end was delicious.

Although I also dropped the palette knife onto the floor whilst it was covered in frosting and that was just, you know, wonderful. So that cupboard door and section of floor is extra clean now.

And for real, Mary, what is the deal? She says to remove the cake from the tin but that means the sides aren’t iced but in order to apply the chocolate decorations, the sides need to be iced. So I iced the sides, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to? But the picture has iced sides.

I’ll do the cocoa powder tomorrow morning.

I sure hope this tastes good. I’m very scared.

(On a side note, I told my friend about my frustration with Mary and she told me that Mary was probably drunk when she wrote it. Maybe that’s what the 100 ml of brandy was for.)

*the next morning*

I’m a little nervous about transporting this cake. I’ll have to find a way to balance it in my car and drive very carefully.

Before leaving for work, I dusted the top with cocoa powder and thought about how empty the sides look sans chocolate decoration.

Wish me luck.

*one commute later*

I did manage to balance it on the seat belt buckles in the backseat and drove so carefully that someone honked at me. However, when I lifted it out of the car, I noticed an imbalance of weight. I took the elevator so as not to jostle it more and double-checked it before popping it in the fridge and it had, indeed, shifted. The layers are all intact, but somehow the very cake did a twirl inside the container and three of the edges got smushed.

Oh well. It should still taste the same. I hope.

Now to figure out when to serve a dairy-heavy, cake-tastic dessert on a workday. I imagine pre-11 a.m. is too early. This isn’t a biscuit or a slice of bread to have with tea. This is a massive, heavy (and hopefully tasty) cake.

*a couple hours later*

Well, it’s gone! People gathered from far and wide (not really that far and wide—just a few people from department and the neighbouring cubicles). Everyone seemed impressed when I lifted the lid of the container, and were even more impressed when they started to partake. People remarked that it wasn’t too sweet, that it was really nice and fluffy, and that it wasn’t heavy at all. My friend told me at first that the slice seemed to big but by the end she said it was so light that it turned out to be the perfect amount.

The layers even look pretty good, if I do say so myself:

So, I guess I can breathe a sigh of relief now. And maybe take a break from three-spoon recipes that cause me so much stress.

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