Oh, I adore to cook. It makes me feel so mindless in a worthwhile way. ~ Truman Capote, Summer Crossing
In recent months, it is not often that I have been afforded a leisurely day in the kitchen to cook or bake. Not just any cooking or baking, but rather, preparing recipes that require labor and time to create something special. While it may not appeal to some, the satisfaction of spending all day over a hot stove or in a kitchen warmed by ovens in baking mode is gratifying and one of the reasons I love to cook. At the end of the day, there’s something pleasurable about a demolished kitchen with dirty bowls, pots, pans, and gadgets filling every square inch of counter space. Of course, that’s before the reality of cleaning the dishes sinks in.
It’s the process of creating a dish that excites me. Yes, the final product has to taste good, but I enjoy the steps in a recipe and working through the creative process as much as I enjoy the final outcome. After all, playing in the kitchen is half the fun.
There are days when the kitchen calls me and I need to succumb. No matter what else is on the agenda, I will break away and focus on preparing a dish or two. At the end of the day, Mr. B is very happy with that decision, too.
A few weekends ago I spent such a day making a Bolognese Sauce that simmered slowly all day. Adding water and seasonings over many hours, the sauce was reminiscent of Bolognese Sauce that we’ve had in Italy. You cannot substitute the time and love that goes into a slow cooked sauce. We enjoyed that rustic pasta dish with a bottle of red wine as much as we appreciate an evening out in a great restaurant.
In addition to the Bolognese Sauce, I baked a Rum Cake that day from Thomas Keller’s and Sebastian Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Also known as a Tortuga Cake, which originated in the Cayman Islands, this recipe is a favorite of Chef Sebastian Rouxel’s. You may remember that I received a copy of this gorgeous cookbook several months ago at their book signing in Nashville, Tennessee. It has been whispering from the shelves, begging me to put it to use in the kitchen.
I had purchased almond flour in anticipation of baking this cake over the holidays, but never found the time. I was determined to bake this cake before the winter had past. It is a rich and dense cake made with four cups of almond flour, regular flour, a pound of butter, a dozen eggs, nearly three cups of sugar, and Myers’s Rum. The aroma of this cake baking that morning was, needless to say, intoxicating.
Chef Keller told the audience, the evening we met him in Nashville, to throw away measuring cups and spoons and to use a metric scale for accuracy in baking. While I did not heed that call entirely as some recipes I love use standard measures, I did enlist the metric scale for this recipe and was precise with the instructions and ingredients.
This cake requires the old fashioned or “Original Bundt” pan that has a 15-cup capacity. I have the anniversary version that was available at Williams-Sonoma a few years ago which is one of their Goldtouch® nonstick pans that is designed to bake more evenly. The type of pan that you use makes a difference in the total baking time. I did have to bake the cake an additional fifteen plus minutes to achieve the desired doneness (where the cake tester came out clean).
Goldtouch® nonstick pans do not brown a cake as much as other metal pans, so it is lighter in color when done. Aluminum, steel, and other nonstick pans all bake quite differently so you will need to rely on testing the cake and not the baking time suggested in the recipe.
There are many recipes for Tortuga Cake, some use white flour and others, like this one, use almond flour. If you regularly bake with almond flour, you will be familiar with the dense texture and almost graininess of this cake which is not present in the white flour version.
The buttery goodness of the cake soaked with a good dousing of simple syrup combined with Myers’s Rum followed by a substantial drizzle of Myers’s Rum Icing transports you to the islands. If you can’t get there for some sunshine and an umbrella drink, then this cake may be the next best option.
I have not included the recipe for the Rum Cake since this is a new book and I wanted to support the authors’ sales of the book, rather than give it away. If you love to bake, this is a fabulous cookbook to add to your collection. The photography is stunning and there are many photos that will explain step-by-step procedures for some of the more difficult recipes. Chef Keller recommends beginning with the easier recipes first and then working up to more challenging recipes to ensure your baking success. The Rum Cake recipe is the perfect place to start.