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A reply to a challenging recipe

And No, I wouldn't send it.

Dear Ms Bullock-Prado,

Thank you for writing the cook book 'Bake it like you mean it'.  I am normally cautious of US cook books but yours seemed to have a strong German influence and be mostly readable to a UK cook.  However I have a few points to raise given my experience of the cover cake called Walk the line.

1.  Having the method and amounts overleaf from each other is awkward.  Book already has four greasy finger prints on it.  Moving the pretty picture two pages over to the end of the recipe would have avoided this.

2.  I used a good cocoa but not the £14.00 a kilo version you have used as I found the recipe a tad extravagant.  It must be extremely potent as your cake is practically black and mine is the colour of a milky latte.  I already feel inferior.

3.  Having to roll up 108" of narrow swiss roll requires one heck of a kitchen worktop, four hands and possibly a move found in erotic tantric rituals or the type of twist that funds the lavish lifestyle of many chiropractors.

4.  Is it really appropriate for a recipe to contain 24 eggs and 1.4kg of butter?  Please remember that in the UK we still live in huts and eat pease pudding and dirt.

5.  When you state that butter should be added by the tablespoon and there is no mention of it being in a liquid or solid state - one is forced to sheepishly compromise with softened butter.  It's sort of like going to the Isle of Man on holiday and claiming that it's 'abroad'.

6.  A warning that the egg-white buttercream may come very close to overflowing a standard 4.8L food mixer bowl would be helpful.  I doubt my nerves could have taken much more.  How does one capture, hygienically, overflowing egg white and sugar boiled to exactly 72 centigrade as you instructed?  Also the instruction that you should put the bowl from a food mixer over hot water to start the egg whites off is fine but saying that your process will be complete when the bowl has cooled does not take account of the cooling times of a metal, glass or other material bowl.  My husband who has an excellent understanding of thermodynamics which he is keen to share, will probably treat me to an explanation, with experiments.  For this, I thank you.

7.  On the plus side the swiss rolls were so flexible that my husband gleefully picked one up by the end and flexed it - at this point I was about to bar him from the kitchen as I had visions of the previous night's hours work breaking into pieces.

8.  It is extremely difficult to get Jelly Pans in the UK.  The concept of a baking tin 17.5 inches by 12.5 inches is too much for us.  The largest I found was 15 by 9.  This involved a headache causing bout of maths to discover that 3 12 by 9 pans would get me 86% of the area of your suggested method and 78% of the length.  My long dead primary school Maths teacher is currently grinning in her grave.

We shall talk further about 'Britting up your tome' when I have finished icing the cake tomorrow.


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5. Butter is sold by the stick in the US, with pre-printed tablespoons on the wrappers. Thus, it is easy to cut one's butter by the tablespoon in that country.

(Butter wrappers in the UK used to have equivalent half-ounce markings, for British convenience, measuring off weight rather than volume; I don't know if any still do.)

Lurpak, at least, has 25g markings. But I would just weigh it - a tablespoon of butter will be about 12g, and it doesn't need to be soft for me to weigh it.

An American tablespoon is closer to 15g - at least, that's the shorthand I've always had in my head (teaspoon 5g, tablespoon 15) and a stick of butter weights 115g, and is divided into 8 tablespoons, which gives you 14.375.

A tablespoon is 15g of water (it's 15ml), but butter is less dense than water.

It's worth just buying a set of American measuring spoons, jug with ounces and cup, then US cookbooks are a bit easier to follow.
I have just been reading some novels set during and after WW2, in which rationing featured - that quantity of eggs and butter would probably have been the allowance for an entire village...

These sound like occasion cake quantities -is this such an elaborate recipe that you would only do it for a party ?

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