Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cake Chart


Figure 1


It’s been an embarrassingly long time. For a while knitting design was consuming all of my creative energies. Then I got a job. While it is my dream job, it has been consuming all of my time, or at least it feels that way.

I’m doing database development for public health researchers. Each year the programmers put on a poster session for the rest of the staff. Since this year’s session happened about two weeks after I started work, I couldn’t really participate, except to bring to treats. Except... to... bring... treats!


The cake is another iteration of the Rombauer jam cake[1], this time a single recipe made with plum preserves and cooked in a 10.5 inch springform pan. I don’t know why it sank so deeply in the middle. We didn’t have that problem last time.

I used our standard sour cream frosting[2] with a bit of vanilla powder. For optimum taste, the cake to frosting ratio should have been higher, but that’s something about which you will rarely hear complaints.

Technically, licorice whip would have satisfied Article 2 of the Manifesto[3] better than chocolate in conjunction with a spice cake, but I was seduced by the glamour of the chocolate fins. To make them, we melted 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, spread it into a 10 inch circle on a piece of plastic wrap, and popped it into the fridge to harden. Before it was completely set, Matt scored it into 16 wedges. This worked beautifully. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to cover the top of the chocolate disk with plastic wrap. The bottom of the disk came out lovely and smooth, but the top was a bit rough.

The data labels were applied directly to the cake where feasible. Prep bowls were used for messy ingredients, or those best not eaten raw. The egg was hard-boiled to minimize the risk of a hazardous spill.


I didn’t expect this would be a difficult chart to apprehend, but many people didn’t get it right away. The most frequent first comment was probably, “Is that an egg?” Admittedly, an egg on top of a cake is incongruous and worthy of note.

Figure 2

During the presentation I was mortified to realize that I had made a massive oversight and completely omitted to record the brown sugar in the cake. I also overestimated the chocolate because we used only half of the fins that we made. My colleagues graciously consumed the evidence of these errors.

Figure 3 shows a corrected schematic. The comparison is by mass, and includes the ingredients in the cake, frosting and chocolate fins, but not the data labels themselves.

Figure 3


Job – blog death knell or creative kick in the pants? Further research is clearly indicated.


As is so often the case, Matt provided much of the creative genius, labor and, in this instance, geometry.


[1] I Rombauer. The Joy of Cooking. 1953.
[2] S F. Cut-Up Cakes for Grownups.
[3] Ibid.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since the weights of the salt and leavener were included with the weight of the spices, it would be more accurate to refer to this category as "other" (or perhaps, "spices, leavener, and salt") rather than simply "spices."

November 16, 2009 at 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This one took me awhile to figure out. Now I'm just filled with admiration for your and Matt's creativity.


December 6, 2009 at 7:55 PM  

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