If I wasn’t the type of person who enjoys a challenge, I would be worried I bit off more than I can chew with Doña Petrona. Converting the recipes from metric to US standard is more difficult than I imagined. I tried a pizza dough recipe earlier in the week using metric measure and, for some reason, the dough didn’t rise. It’s possible this is because of the weather. I have soapstone counters that hold onto cold, of which we’ve had plenty. The flour was cold, the equipment was cold, and the room was cold. The yeast may have had trouble blooming. Who knows.
I decided to start out in metric or find a way to convert to US standard using a system that accounted for the differences in density across the ingredients. For example, because mini marshmallows, flour, and sugar each have their own density, 100 grams of one isn’t 100 grams of the other (mini marshmallows, 10 cups; flour, 4 cups; sugar, 2.5 cups). I found a site called gourmetsleuth that seemed to take this into account. I decided to try it out with an orange cake recipe from Doña Petrona’s cookbook because, hello, it’s January in California and I have three trees heavy with fruit.
It didn’t work out. According to gourmetsleuth, I needed 3 cups of flour. But was that three cups scooped from the bag, or 3 cups spooned into a measuring cup? That’s what I don’t like about volume measure. I went with scoop, and my dough was far too thick and stiff. Three teaspoons of baking powder converted to 2.6 teaspoons of baking powder and, as you can see from the picture, I think I needed at least the full three teaspoons.
I’m not blaming gourmetslueth entirely. It’s an odd cake recipe, a combination of basic cake and chiffon. The four eggs in the recipe are separated, like a chiffon, but instead of oil you use butter, like a basic cake recipe. The whole point of separating eggs and using oil is to give a (chiffon) cake as much height as possible, where butter adds weight and richness. So separating eggs (height) but adding butter (weight) seems counter-intuitive. Why not just add the eggs whole, one at a time? I stuck to the recipe, just in case I was missing something.
Nope, not missing something. The cake ended up dense and flat, like a pound cake. Rather unattractive, in fact. I admit, I was bummed. I wanted to impress you with something lovely and delicious, and I didn’t think this was it. I whipped up a quick orange glaze, poured it on top, and called it a miss. I’ll keep trying because I’ve got plenty of oranges!
The good thing about living among men is that even a bad cake is good cake. They ate it up and often asked for seconds during the week, and I can’t blame them. The flavor of the cake is outstanding. You can taste the orange, but it isn’t cloying like some fruit-based cakes. It’s worth trying again, if only to see how it tastes when done correctly.
So are there any bakers out there? What do you think happened? If you have any tips on how to convert from metric, or why 3 teaspoons of baking powder converted to 2.61 teaspoons, I’d love to hear your thoughts.