Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cook like it's 1905

I love America's Test Kitchen.  Love it.  Their recipes may not always be the easiest, but they never disappoint.  Until recently that is, when I tried to make a Cold-Oven Pound Cake.  One of America's Test Kitchen's websites, "The Feed" is doing a "Cooking Through the Decades" series.  They are exploring the 20th century, 100 years worth of American cuisine, one decade at a time, through weekly challenges to the site's visitors.  The first challenge was Cold-Oven Pound Cake, a recipe from 1905.   

What the heck is Cold-Oven Pound Cake you ask?  I asked that too, with my initial thought being "How can you cook something in a cold oven?"  According to The Feed, when gas ranges were initially being sold, they didn't appeal to women who were used to oil and coal ranges.  So, as a marketing technique, these new ovens were billed as time savers, because you didn't have to preheat the oven to start baking.  As was the case with this cake.  You just throw it in the oven, turn the oven on and check on it when the time is up.  So I resisted the urge to preheat my oven and started whipping together the recipe.

America's Test Kitchen cake

The recipe itself looked delicious, loaded with butter and sugar, with the appearance of a chiffon cake but without all of the effort.  I mean, look at that photo.  Doesn't it look amazing?

I followed the directions perfectly, but in the end, I was disappointed.  I can't quite describe the "crumb" that I ended up with.  The center was like hardened gelatin or something, the whole cake was far too dense and it ended up being a squat cake instead of the high, fluffy one pictured.  I knew I didn't do anything wrong, so why would my cake have turned out this way?

Delicious Dairyland cake

One of the things I love about America's Test Kitchen is that when something doesn't work out, you can e-mail them, Tweet them, Facebook message them, whatever, and you actually get a response.  From a real person.  Here's what Belle at America's Test Kitchen had to say regarding my failed attempt at the recipe:
"We have not had similar experiences with this cake so I cannot tell you for certain what may be going wrong, but I think it may have something to do with the heating cycle of the oven you used. Some ovens cycle very high and then shut off to maintain a constant temperature of say, 350 degrees. If this happens the cake will overbrown on top and will “set” before it has time to cook through, thus the heavy, flat cake you described.  Unlike most of our recipes, the novelty of this cake’s cooking method, ie beginning in a cold oven, does present an unknown variable that cannot be avoided...And in this case, you can blame your oven, not your baking skills."

Okay, so the cake didn't technically turn out, but that didn't stop me from eating pretty much the whole thing within a couple of days.  The flavor was awesome (it can't be all that butter and sugar, can it?), so I am sure I will try to make this again sometime down the road.  Maybe after I have bought a different oven.  So now, I implore all of you, try the recipe and let me know what kind of results you get.  And don't forget to bring me a slice!  If you can't access the recipe, leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail and I'll share it with you.

As for me, I plan to try every historical recipe in this series.  Next stop:  1917 - Chicken A La King.

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