doubt keeps faith alive and moving ::::
Believe – (bĭ-lēv) verb 1. To accept as true or real. 2. To credit with veracity; to have confidence in; trust. 3. To expect or suppose; think. 4. To hold a religious belief. (from The American Heritage Dictionary).
Revelation – (rěv’ə-lā’shən) noun 1. Something that is revealed, especially something surprising. 2. An act of revealing. (from The American Heritage Dictionary)
There is an attitude in many circles that believing in God causes one to lose credibility, especially if one is highly educated. It’s as if the the more one is educated, especially in the sciences, there is an expectation of aloofness to any theology, that the existence of the supernatural vanishes with college degrees, and that we, humankind, must be bigger than anything else in the universe. Any belief in a higher power is a crutch. A weakness. We are in control, the pundits say, not some unseen being.
While I’m not here to debate the existence of God or the historical and personal relevance of the Bible, I am here to state that my faith and my education do not war with each other. Science and faith co-exist peaceably in my world, reinforcing each other. For some, the idea, the belief, of a power greater than us comes with the birth of children, that bloom of revelation that your blood, holding her in your arms and seeing her cry, sneeze, and smile for the first time means that there is something bigger creating us. Having children strengthened my faith, already long rooted in Jesus already. Though my faith and beliefs are not recent revelations, it was just before Peach‘s birthday this month that I decided on the Revelatory Caramel Cake for her celebration. She chose the Cinderella and Hello Kitty themes herself, no epiphany needed. (Choosing those motifs to top her cake was absolutely clear to her!) Peach entered the world in a blur: it began with early labor at 35 weeks, me dashing to Labor & Delivery surprised and unprepared, while at work. Peach, always a firecracker, ready to be born early, lighting up our eyes and sky. That was four years ago. She is still that firecracker, strong-willed, ready to tease, wanting to run and swing at the park, quietly reading, or drawing focused pictures of princesses with long willowy arms and legs, rotund bottoms, and bulbous crowns.
And she irrevocably loves desserts and sweets. This cake was a perfect match for her: a white springy wedding cake (just like a princess) and a sugary, caramely icing, all topped with Hello Kitty cake toppers and a Cinderella candle. I loved the flavor of the icing on this cake, and I am usually hard to please when it comes to icing. But I wanted more caramel texture. I watched the candy thermometer like a hawk, positioned like a crouching quarterback: when it exactly at 235 degrees F, I proceeded to the next step. While my icing was nutty and buttery, it had a little bit of a sugary crunch to it. I suspect my thermometer wasn’t calibrated correctly and I set out to figure out the problem. The best way to check a thermometer: boil some water and check its temperature. It’s gotta be 100 degrees, right? If your thermometer is off, you know it’s time for a new one. That’s exactly what happened to mine. Off. By 2 degrees! Celsius! I’m not sure if two degrees could affect cooking a caramelly icing so much, but it’s possible. And maybe I just messed something else up.
Another issue was the cake itself. I don’t make a habit of using cake flour for baking, just because I normally don’t have it around and can make the easy replacement of 1 cup of all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons, then adding back 2 tablespoons of corn starch. But this time, I went for it. I bought it. Without reading the box carefully, unfortunately. I studied it more carefully at home. With my delayed reading I discovered that cake flour is bleached. Bleached! That explains why I have pushed aside so many slices of wedding cakes, eyeing them suspiciously, wondering what preservatives caused the papery taste or if the high-end bakery from whence it came really covered the cake with real buttercream or the ominous Baker’s Butter.
I would definitely make this cake again, new thermometer in hand and cake flour substitute ready. We celebrated a wonderful Peachy birthday with this cake. I believe it was just about perfect, revelations unnecessary. Cinderella and Hello Kitty, however, very necessary for a complete Peach birthday. Happy Birthday, Peach. Love and kisses.
- CAKE: 1 cup whole milk
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups sifted cake flour (try to find unbleached if you can or make your own)
- 1½ cups sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ICING: 3 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and flour the pans, tapping out the excess.
- MAKE THE CAKE: In a bowl, mix ¼ cup of the milk with the egg whites and vanilla extract. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed until smooth, 1 minute. Beat in the egg white mixture in 3 batches.
- In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the batter, then fold in the rest. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and peel off the parchment. Invert the cakes and let cool completely.
- MAKE THE ICING: In a saucepan, stir 2½ cups of the sugar with the corn syrup and milk. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm.
- Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms. Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel (it will sputter, so watch out). Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the caramel dissolves. Stop stirring and cook until the caramel registers 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer (watch like a hawk!).* Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and ¼ cup of the heavy cream. Strain the caramel into the bowl of a standing mixer. Let cool for 15 minutes.
- Beat the caramel at medium speed, gradually adding the remaining ¼ cup of cream, until creamy, about 15 minutes.
- With a long knife, evenly cut each cake layer into two layers. You will have four thin cake layers. Set 1 cake layer on a plate. Pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top. Top with a second cake layer and cover it with icing. Do the same with the third. Add the final cake layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the cake. Let the cake stand for at least 2 hours to set the icing before serving.