brown butter and vanilla bean weekend cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

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Another dreary, rainy weekend, but it still put a smile on my face.  For a change, I would have perfectly diffused light to take photos.  As I rummaged through drawers searching for the exact linens needed, I came across an envelope.  Tucked inside was a pretty little square of Swedish bobbin lace that my mother-in-law brought home from one of her trips to Europe.  For years, that envelope has made appearances as I shuffled things from drawer to drawer and today, with a flash of inspiration I can only blame on the rain, I thought it would be the perfect stencil for my cake.

The recipe for the cake calls for baking it in a 9″x5″ loaf pan but I wanted to make just half the batter-which is still too much for the two of us.  After picking through boxes and pans, I settled on a small granite-ware skillet which would make a nice, round cake; a perfectly boring round cake…Luckily, with that flash of brilliance and a tub of powdered sugar, the cake would be anything but ordinary in appearance. 
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While I have no idea how bobbin lace is made, I am envious of those who are skilled in the craft.  The photos I have seen show slender, intricately carved bobbins made from wood or bone and weighted with spangles of glass beads as well as pins, lots of pins.  The work is intricate and obviously time-consuming but the results are lovely and delicate; a true work of art.


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A lucky break-the square fit perfectly over the cake and left very little space uncovered.  The hearts are my favorite part of the design.  The way the threads between them make a star or a flower depends on how you look at it.


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Sifting powdered sugar using a large wire mesh is the best method.  If tapped gently, you can cover a large area with a fine layer of sugar.


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Now for the tricky part, removing the lace without ruining the pattern.  This is a one and done method.  If it doesn’t work the first time, it is unfortunate because once there is some sugar on the surface, you can not move the lace and try again.  With fingers crossed, I gently lifted the lace making an effort not to smear the design or dump any of the excess sugar off the lace and onto the surface of the cake.


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It truly was my lucky day!  Not only did the design transfer well, I was able to lift the lace without incident!!!


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The flower pattern between the hearts transferred nicely and so did the delicate scalloped edge.  But that square in the center…I just love the little beads of sugar and that barely there dusting in the center.  This may not be what the lace was intended for but I can say that I will use it again.


IMG_2959It almost seemed sacrilegious to cut it but I have no will power where cake is concerned!  So how did it taste?  Well, the recipe calls for browning the butter and I did that, but I think I should have gone a little further with it.  Since my supply of vanilla beans is really sparse and I am not sure of a reasonably priced local source, I decided to go with vanilla extract and because we did not have any rum, I used the next best thing, bourbon.  In my opinion, it could use more flavor and I do not think it is worth sacrificing a vanilla bean to get that extra punch.  Personally, I think a little more butter, maybe an extra tablespoon, browned to a color no less than my tabletop in the photo would help add flavor and a little more moisture.  Also, the added fat can help prevent the gluten from developing as the flour is mixed in; my cake had tunnels in it that I am sure were caused by over mixing when I whisked in the flour as directed by the recipe.  The amount of vanilla extract initially seemed excessive but now, maybe not, however, it was strong enough that the bourbon was not noticeable.  In the future, I might cut the vanilla by 25% and increase the bourbon by 50%.  This is a recipe that I can see myself using again when I need a simple cake and because it is basically a blank slate, I can also see it being the base of a shortcake or part of a trifle.  And lastly, serving it plain with a simple dusting of sugar is good but I have a feeling it could also stand up to being slathered with buttercream frosting.

If you enjoy reading my Tuesdays with Dorie posts, be sure to visit the website and look for the “LYL” post to see how the other bakers made out with the recipe, and if you are feeling left out, JOIN US!!!  Pick up a copy of Baking Chez Moi or Baking with Julia and bake along with us as we work towards our goal of baking every recipe in the two books.

15 thoughts on “brown butter and vanilla bean weekend cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

  1. This is so beautiful! Do you remember my frantic tweet about the lack of loaf pan, looking for alternatives? Thanks for helping me out! I also topped mine with powdered sugar but your is soooo pretty. Must try that next time! – mary

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  2. Fun to read your tips and suggestions re ingredients and it’s nice to know a half-size works out well as there are just two of us here for the most part as well…always thinking how I can reduce recipes these days. Your powdered sugar top is gorgeous…that is so special and lovely…any weekend guest at your place would feel special and smile at that cake!

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