Miette

Recently we were doing the desserts for a wedding.  We were asked to make 12 cakes, 6 of them white cakes.  The white cake recipe we use is very labor intensive, calling for 16 egg whites to be beaten to stiff peaks, then folded in at the end.  I am very proud of our white cake and feel it is the very best in town. It is light, tender, and has a perfect miette, or crumb.  I judge all white cakes on their miette.  I am a miette snob, I will admit.  Not all cakes have to have a fine crumb, for example a carrot or coconut cake, but a white cake absolutely should.  If not, it is not worth the calories in my, er, humble opinion.

We read in a few places on the internet, so you know it must be valid, that you could forgo the beating to stiff peaks and folding in.  If that were true, this could save us loads of time and sore wrists! However, this is not what I was taught so I was very skeptical. I am not one for shortcuts if the final product is compromised. Weirdly and sometimes to my chagrin, the more difficult something is, the more I seem to like/hate it. That must be the sign of some personality defect...

We decided to do a taste test, just like America's Test Kitchen, although I did not have a red apron and bow tie, darn it. We baked two small cakes, one with the egg whites whipped to all their glory, and one with the whites simply stirred in in their liquid form. 

In the photos below, can you tell which cake had the egg whites whipped and folded in in the dial step? 

CAKE A                              CAKE B

CAKE A                              CAKE B

The cake on the left, Cake A, is taller.  Not a lot, but a perceptible amount, due to the  air whipped into the whites.  Perhaps you would reason that because there is more air, the crumb would be looser.  As you can see, that is not the case at all.  The crumb, the miette, is tighter.

CAKE A                              CAKE B

CAKE A                              CAKE B

It has bonded together.  It is also more tender. When I cut the cakes, the whipped egg white cake did not crumble, but held together beautifully. The other cake got pretty messy.  

CAKE A                              CAKE B

CAKE A                              CAKE B

It stands to reason that it would be harder to frost, assuring you would absolutely have to do a crumb coat and chill the cake beforehand.

What about the taste?  Although the ingredients were the same, because the "chew" was finer on cake A, and there were no big crumbs on my tongue as in cake B, the taste was far better. Cake A was definitely more moist. It was also prettier.

You may think I am biased toward Cake A, because that is the way I believe it should be made.  To do a totally scientific study any chemistry student would be proud of, I blindfolded myself and mixed the pieces up. (Yes I did that.)  I could tell which cake was which by the feel on my fingers, as well as by the feel in my mouth.  I wanted a drink of milk after Cake B because of the unpredictable crumb size.

What is the moral of this little experiment? It is this: if you want perfection, you have to go the extra mile.  When the cover of Better Homes and Gardens scream Fast Fresh Easy, I want to laugh.  When Rachel Ray shouts out in her gravelly voice, "Dinner in 30 minutes," haha.  She happens to have full bottles of everything in her cupboards, she didn't go to the grocery herself for any of it, her cat didn't just throw up a hairball, her baby's diaper doesn't need changed, her teenager didn't just wreck the car....It is a fallacy. Stop putting the pressure on yourself that you can have a great dinner, cake, bread, kids, love life in mere seconds.  Good things taketime and a little devotion. 

At La Dolce Vita, it is worth the extra 20 minutes for us to prepare your white cake the correct way so you can savor every bite.