• Ashley Margaret Waterman

1900-1916: Burnt Leather Cake

I've made it to the Twentieth Century! My enthusiasm wavered as I saw the name of the first cake: burnt leather cake. I read on to realize that "burnt leather" is one of the first caramel cakes. When you make caramel, it's like burning the sugar. Pretty clever.

I decided to make the cake more challenging: gluten-free, vegan, and baked in a loaf pan.

I used my favorite gluten-free flour blend (one that I mix at home from Fork and Beans). For the "egg," I tried Ener-G egg replacer for the first time. The recipe in American Cakes calls for the egg yolks and whites to be separate. The Ener-G box tells you how to make this happen with their powder. I made the yolks and then whipped the egg whites. I was surprised that the whites whipped so well. I was able to get peaks as if the powder came from an egg shell.

One of the reasons I bake is so I can share. To make the cake more shareable, I baked it in a standard loaf pan. I checked it regularly and in the end, it baked for 55 minutes. This seemed like a standard bake time for a cake in a loaf pan.

I let my loaves cool and made the caramel frosting. The picture here is a solid representation of what my frosting looked like, although the cake looked nothing like that (in my haste to try this modified cake, I forgot to take photos. The photo you see here is from Brian Francis).

When the cakes came out of the oven, they appeared normal. Sam and I ate the trimmings and he professed how much he liked the cake. I wasn't sold. I sliced it up and put it in the fridge so the vegan frosting wouldn't melt all over the place. The next day, I brought the cake to work. I set it out in the breakroom for my coworkers to enjoy and discovered the texture changed. It wasn't a super spongy cake to begin with, but overnight, the cake became dense with an underbaked appearance, though it tasted fully baked. It seemed more like a Japanese sweet than a traditional cake.

I cannot fathom what caused this. Could I have used too much egg replacer? Was going gluten-free taking it a step too far? It seems I'll have to bake this again and do one gluten-free batch and one vegan batch to isolate the issue, then adjust to combine the two.

Although the texture baffled me, my coworkers seemed to like it. It's hard to tell if people ate it to be kind, or if it wasn't as odd as I thought it was. Either way, the cake got eaten.


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