We are currently smack in the middle of the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ and I know for some that’s a period of almost dread because it’s the season of the year considered the hottest and most sultry. Where the heck did that term come from you ask? Well, the Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog) and also the brightest star in the night sky. Did you know the Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the weather? Yikes…Abbie is lucky that today we just turn on the air conditioner!
Still; I can handle the heat (luckily Denver doesn’t get all that sultry) especially when I think of the things that I love this time of year. At the top of that list? Strawberries, tomatoes and corn..both fresh and in all of the wonderful dishes to be made with them; yep, makes it all worthwhile. This Strawberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake is just one great example.
I was inspired to make this cake because…well because I bought too many strawberries when I made this cake for the 4th of July! It was either use them or lose them forever (is anyone else thinking ‘Top Gun’ right about now?) Anyhoo…I spied this recipe; add my strawberry glut coinciding with the weekend and the trifecta was at play to make it happen. And it was all good. Well, most of it at least.
Oh the cake was good alright but not without incident. High altitude incident. It is a buggar and a bear and sometimes I get it just right and sometimes, with EXACTLY the same methodology that has worked elsewhere, awry happens. There is the occasional GRRR I think could be heard ’round the world but in truth I would like to believe my claim to being a baker is not about perfect results but in being able to perfectly rescue something others might think a fail. Experience, trial and error; all those help get you to a place where it’s no biggie…just, ‘Now what can I do to fix it?’
What went wrong here? Well it’s all conjecture but what I think might have happened was that the inner circle (sounds pretty melodramatic huh?) struggled with the weight of cream cheese and strawberry jam resting on top of it. Should I have reduced the leavening more or not messed with it at all? Upped the volume on the oven temp maybe? Cooked it longer possibly? Maybe. Or not. The cake was done so it didn’t need more time; I had already increased the oven temp 25 degrees so maybe leavening was an issue. I did my typical trick of just gouging a bit out of the measuring spoon with my pinky fingernail insuring it’s just a dot that is removed; maybe I shouldn’t have removed any since I was already increasing the temperature?
The thing is I just try not to sweat it…**it happens. It’s happened before; it will happen again. Want proof? Here are a couple of other cakes with the same sad story:
One of the absolute, positive most ‘horriblest’ photos on my site but I’m willing to embarrass myself so you can see a similar depression with this Ricotta Pound Cake. Don’t those berries look like they belonged there? Uh no…but guess they do now; it was a great, if unexpected conglomeration! I always thought this one especially strange; the depression was a half inch inside the outer border; all the way around. I couldn’t get that to happen again if I wanted to!
More? This Almond Cake with Raspberry Jam was made for the first ever meeting of a local group of food bloggers coming to my home for coffee and cake and getting to know each other. See how pretty it looks? What is wrong with it you say? Well, that whipped cream was my save. Try to picture this…when I split those two layers, it had sunk enough that the top layer was really just a tire; the center was completely devoid of ANYTHING…so my sleight of hand was to cover it up with whipping cream. Voila…no one knew; oh, except that I told them!
I’ve said it before and firmly believe in this truth; the real talent of a baker at altitude is not just their ability to manage a list of ingredients but it’s their ability to punt when these things happen. Funny thing is that this time around for me meant putting fresh berries down in that depression; now how do I revise this cake so I always have to do that? Seriously you need to pack up your family now and move to altitude so that this dessert sinks and you have the perfect area to pack a whole bunch of fresh, juicy strawberries. They’re at their best now during these Dog Days of Summer!
One thing to mention? I never post my recipes with instructions for high altitude; that would appeal to a very small segment of readers so recipes are meant for ‘normal’ baking at sea level. If you are at altitude; your revisions will depend on how high you are.