I woke up in a bad mood on Saturday. Well, really, I woke up still in a bad mood.
Reader, I had a week this week.
It’s been snowing and icing basically every day here in PA, and while we certainly don’t have it as bad as some places, it’s been a challenging winter nevertheless.
On Tuesday, my pain reached a fever pitch and I had to take a day off to sleep, drink water, and avoid screens as much as possible. Wednesday morning rolled around and my car tires had literally frozen to my parking space out back, which meant I had to salt the area and hang out at home for the start of my day.
Then I got to work and realized I’d forgotten my laptop charger.
It’s just one of those weeks where nothing truly bad happens, yet a bunch of little irritations snowball (literally).
And then Saturday morning I had to make good on the promise to myself that I had to go to the DMV to get my PA license. I’ve been putting this off due to an identity crisis wherein I do not want to admit I no longer live in Ohio. But this year, the gig is finally up since my Ohio license will expire on my birthday. Which, for those counting, is less than a month away.
Like most things you put off until the last possible moment, this turned out not to be that bad. Sure, waiting outside for 20 minutes in 20 degree temperatures was not ideal, but once I got inside, they accepted my paperwork with no complaints and suddenly, I am a legitimate PA citizen.
That squared away, I got to settle myself in for the best part of every Saturday: on my marks, get set, bake!
This Week’s Recipe: Jaffa Cakes
The aforementioned DMV happens to share a parking lot with a Giant Eagle, so my prep was easy peasy this week. A quick jaunt through the aisles to grab an orange, some jello, more eggs, and dark chocolate.
I have to admit this list of ingredients doesn’t exactly thrill me. I don’t care for jello, nor for orange flavors mixed with chocolate, but… at least getting my hands on everything was simple enough!
Unsurprisingly, the first item on the agenda for today’s bake was to create the jello. Because our jello is a bit different from British “jelly,” I followed the box instructions to create mine, but added in orange zest per the recipe.
I’ve made jello maybe twice prior to this, if that. It’s a pretty standard task that mainly requires patience as you wait for it to firm up. You boil some water, dissolve the powder, and then you add some less hot water and pour it into a mold. For this particular recipe, we’re going for a large sheet of jello from which you cut small discs to set atop your cakes.
Well, not so simple when I read the instructions and realized that the stuff needs about 4 hours to set. There were “quick set” instructions involving some ice to cool things off faster, but… I still found myself wishing I’d thought to prep the stuff before my trip to the DMV.
The jello in the fridge, I went about putting together the cake portion of jaffa cakes. The sponge is simple, your standard sugar, egg, and flour combination. You’re meant to put these into what’s described as a “shallow bun tin” but I opted not to buy more tools and instead stuck them into a muffin tin that I simply didn’t fill as high.
That seems to have worked pretty well! Some of the cakes came out with rough little browned edges, but once they cooled, I cut them off easily and had some fairly uniform little cakes to work with.
An hour went by. Then two. The jello got a bit more firm, but never arrived at the consistency I would’ve liked for cutting it into discs and setting atop cakes.
When the four and a half hour mark passed, longer than the package directions said it would take, I admitted defeat and decided to work with it as is.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to scoop partially formed jello off a sheet pan, but I can assure you it’s a very bizarre experience. I cut the shape using a cookie cutter, slid my spatula under it, and watched it sort of dissolve back into the rest of the pan as I tried to pick it up.
Eventually I managed to scoop 12 such blobs of sad, soft jello onto the 12 little cakes.
All that was left was the chocolate. Considering it’s supposed to be spooned over nice, smooth jello discs, I anticipated a struggle.
Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. There was no good way to make it look especially neat given the jello lumps, but I found a groove for gently spooning the chocolate over in little swirls so it was easier to help it along to cover the top of the cake without getting lumps of jello mixed in. I even managed to somewhat get the little fork ridges on the top.
The resulting cakes aren’t nearly the neat little ones in the photograph in the textbook, but they are little cakes with jello and chocolate on, so I’m relatively pleased with them. Upon taste testing, the jello’s inability to set became clear–I somehow put too much water into the mix, resulting in a sort of watery orange flavor and soft jello.
In all, another one that is technically a success in that it’s mostly the right shape and edible, if not entirely delicious. Fingers crossed that next week’s black and white celebration cake is a winner, because it’s a little demoralizing not to produce anything excellent for so many weeks in a row.
We are now four recipes away from the end of the cake section, which is pretty exciting! I’m going to go ahead and let you wonder what type of food we’ll be getting into next.