It's time, ladies and gentlemen, for a Martha Stewart Living Cover Challenge.
It's been a while since we've tried to tackle a recipe featured on the cover of Martha's magazine. The last time we attempted it was when we took on Croquembouche, which you can read about here, here, and here.
This recipe caused a bit of an uproar when it was published as demonstrated by the 40 comments following the online recipe. Apparently the pan Martha used is unavailable for purchase, which really pissed a lot of people off. It seems Martha used a vintage beehive mold to make her cake. Many people were seduced by the photo at the checkout line and then miffed when they couldn't get the exact same pan. Curiously though, none of the comments are about how the cake actually tastes.
Thus, our mold is slightly different that the one featured on the Martha cover. It has little molded bees worked into the design of the cake pan, and it was purchased at Williams Sonoma for about $32.
Pouring batter into a beehive mold makes this impossibly cute beehive cake. The mold comes split in two halves. The two sides are then "glued" together with a honey glaze and then a second sugar glaze is applied over the top of the cake.
How would we describe making this cake? Hmm. Challenging? We were hoping that the effort would give us a big pay back, transforming us from mere drone to Queen Bee.
We don't mind the effort of a complicated recipe, per se, but there is a mathematical ratio between effort involved and the taste we're expecting. We want greater effort to equal extraordinary taste. But while making this cake kept us as busy as bees, the final product disappointed.
To make this cake: first you cream butter and brown sugar, "until pale and fluffy". This is a bit vague and hard to calculate, but we did our best. Next, you reduce the speed of the mixer and drizzle in 2/3 cup of honey and beat until "very pale and fluffy". Then add vanilla, and alternate a flour mixture (which includes 2 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon and a pinch of ground clove) and milk until well mixed.
Next you whisk 6 egg whites (with a ¼ teaspoon of Cream of Tartar) into peaks. Fold 1/3 into the cake batter and then fold in the rest. Then divide batter into the two halves of the beehive molds.
Despite adding the egg whites, we notice the batter is still quite heavy.
But wait! We are not even close to being done. After the cake is baked and cooled in the refrigerator for at least an hour it still must be assembled by leveling the two halves with a serrated knife and then making two separate glazes -- one to glue and one to coat.
Long live the honeybees. This cake has a lot of honey - both in the batter and the glaze. And, when the cake was baking in the oven it filled the kitchen with the smell of a delicious honey fragrance.
But ultimately, the sum of these parts did not add up. The cake looked great but the consistency was quite dense. Did we do something wrong? We were left wishing we had created something more light and airy. Was it all that honey? Had we not whipped "until pale and fluffy" enough? We are not sure, and it will probably be a long time before we find out.
While we loved the look of the cake, the density was just too much. We would be inclined to use our mold with a different cake recipe.