Good grief, did this holiday season kick anyone else in the pants? I realize we're more than halfway into January (how did that even happen?!) and have gotten back into the swing of reality, but all I really want to do is have a solid lie-down and binge watch The Great British Baking Show in my pajamas.
I suppose our holiday break got off to a bad start when our car broke down (at 1:30am, on a dirt/mountain road, in a storm), and was punctuated by various unforeseen events (including more car trouble) through the New Year. I mean, really, everything was okay in the grand scheme of things (and the car trouble meant we were able to have more time with family), but it felt like each day something made us say, "WHOA, okay... guess we're dealing with this, now." We're both still reeling a bit.
And then last week, on a day when I really needed things to go right, I baked a cake.
And it SUCKED.
It stuck to the pan, the top came out strangely tough while the inside was quite delicate and almost under-baked, it didn't rise the way I expected... blah. It has been a while since I've adapted a cake recipe, and I had forgotten how devastating it can feel to put a lot of time and effort and care into making a cake and have it not turn out the way you want. Granted, I did mess around with the recipe quite a bit, but in a way that I honestly thought would turn out okay, if not extremely well. That probably sounds arrogant, but CLEARLY I WAS WRONG ANYWAY.
So, when we bake a cake and it turns out wrong, what do we do? Do we cry (maybe), do we eat a lot of the part that was stuck to the pan (probably), or do we find a way to remedy the situation (um, sure?)?
Some ways have already been devised to rescue weird cakes (remember cakepops?), but usually when I am making a cake, it is because it is a celebration or special event of some kind, and I want to make something a little more special or fancy. It also usually means that I am cooking other things, and I don't have the time or wherewithal or emotional capacity to deal with stuff like tempering chocolate and finding skewers or popsicle sticks.
No time like the present to break out a good old parfait.
A parfait is, in its most elemental form, layers of cake or cookies, whipped cream, and fruit. Sometimes the cream has other things going on with it, like mascarpone or creme fraîche whipped in (or maybe a wee bit of booze). I personally like my whipped cream tempered with yogurt in a 1:1 ratio. It is just rich enough for dessert, but still feels quite light and has a pleasantly subtle tang; you could serve it for breakfast and nobody would say boo.
So next time you plan to make a cake, on the off-chance it decides to be temperamental, grab a pint of cream, a container of yogurt, and some fruit just in case you need to perform some parfait magic, and no one will EVER know that your cake was a near-disaster. Unless, of course, you write a blog post about it later.
(Also, Richard and I agree that we like this so much that we'd make it again with a not-ugly cake, too! Though I may save at least the next good cake for something else, if only for my ego's sake.)
You can scale this recipe up or down quite easily, depending on the number of people you want to serve; just keep the 1:1 cream to yogurt ratio.
I was testing out a recipe for a sesame cake when I made these parfaits, and decided to use cara-cara oranges and lime zest to go with the sesame flavor. The combination was out-of-this-world good, and I'll be sure to share the recipe for the sesame cake once I get it dialed. Serve this cream with any cake you like, and with any fruit you like, but here's a quick thought regarding chocolate cake - I'd actually replace the yogurt in the cream with mascarpone, as I think it would taste better to have something slightly richer and less tangy to go with the chocolate.
1 cup full or low fat plain yogurt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 cake, sliced or broken into bite-sized pieces
fresh fruit, cut into slices or chunks (reserve a few pieces for garnish)
lime/citrus zest (optional)
Whisk together the yogurt and cream in a large bowl. If the yogurt and cream are not straight-out-of-the-fridge cold, place the bowl into the fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill (it won't whip properly if it is not cold). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or with a hand whisk, beat the yogurt/cream until soft peaks form. Continue beating for a few more seconds to stiffen the mixture, but keep it somewhat billowy and soft (it will look prettier and be easier to layer).
Layer the cake, cream, and fruit in individual glass jars or wine glasses, beginning with the cake and ending with the cream. Garnish each parfait with a piece of fruit and some fresh citrus zest, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve