Let me start this post by stating that I am by no means a baker. I like to cook, no, I love to cook. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I can spend hours scouring Food and Wine magazine and creating my own recipes in my head. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Baking is not.
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. I decided to bake a cake, against my better judgment, because cake is his favorite thing to eat. I felt confident enough to use my new European oven. After all, I had already “somewhat” conquered it. Luckily, I had thought to pack an oven thermometer. It has both Fahrenheit and Celsius. (350°F equals 180°C.)
On a prior attempt at using the oven, the settings had created a problem. One would think deciphering pictures would be easy. A squiggly line on the bottom meant heat came from the bottom. A squiggly on top was a broiler. A fan in the middle indicated a convection oven – with which I am not familiar. I quickly decided I would never use fan settings. Wrong! My first attempt at using the oven could have proven fatal. I baked chicken. I didn’t use the “fan” setting. Luckily, I did use the thermometer. The temperature never rose high enough for chicken. I could have poisoned everyone. Now I only use two settings: squiggly line on bottom with fan for baking and squiggly line on top with fan for broiling.
On to the recipe. I settled on a simple recipe I found online, a coconut cake with a strawberry preserve center, white icing, and strawberries and coconut on top. Sounds simple, right?!
I had already found a website that was quite helpful with translating recipe ingredients. http://www.turkishfoodandrecipes.com/. It is a blog written by a Turkish woman who is now living in the U.S. She writes traditional Turkish recipes in both English and Turkish. So, for example, when I needed to buy baking powder and baking soda, I searched her website for recipes that contained these terms, compared it to her Turkish translation, and Voilà!
The website came in handy when making the strawberry preserve filling. Unfortunately, my husband had eaten half of the strawberries the night before. So I mixed in bananas. No pectin necessary for this recipe. Just fruit, sugar and lemon.
This particular recipe also called for cream of tartar and cake flour. I used an online translator for cream of tartar, “tartar kremi.” Simple enough.
Now, I know in the U.S. we have many kinds of flour. Bread flour, cake flour, wheat flour, and so forth. I never used cake flour before. I assumed my Joy of Cooking cookbook would save me. No such luck. So I searched the internet. “Just add corn starch.” This cake was becoming soooo much more difficult!
I went back to the Joy of Cooking. I searched both simple white and yellow cake recipes. Ugh. Cake flour! I thought of calling Mom. But, it was too early in West Chester.
Just then my phone rang. The only person who calls me is my husband. He calls every day around noon. “Surely it wasn’t noon yet. It must be a wrong number.” Much to my dismay, three hours had passed and I still had to go to the market! I settled on a plain cake recipe from the Turkish site. Shouldn’t be a problem finding all of the ingredients.
I spent about 15 minutes in the market before I came across box cake mixes. Life saver! I settled on a chocolate cake because it had fewer things to add – margarine, eggs, and milk. (I already knew two of those three words. The pictures on the back of the box helped with the eggs.)
The last problem was that my pans were differently-sized than Turkish pans (and perhaps the box was for a single-layer cake and not a double.) The two pans just barely fit in the oven. I checked the cake at 20 minutes instead of 45. It seemed done – although I did not have a toothpick to insert!
After cooling, I added the preserves, strawberry and banana slices between layers. Another store find – bitter chocolate glaze in a pouch – melted nicely in the microwave. I drizzled it over the top. Added a few more toppings and it was done! It was no Jill B. cake and definitely not a Dante Nuno cake! (http://www.fireandicing.com ). But it did the trick!
The family enjoyed the cake. And in Turkish-style wished me an “Eline Sağlık”, a blessing to the cook. I replied with, “Afiyet olsun!” (Bon Apetit!)