When Copy is Sloppy: Feathery Jam-Filled Butter Cakes

I decided to try the recipe for "Feathery Jam-Filled Butter Cakes" in The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses, mostly due to the fact the the picture of the cake in the cookbook was adorable -- a golden little hockey puck of a cake bisected to reveal a glistening filling of dark berry jam.  Also, the crumb is described as having "an irresistibly buoyant texture," and who wouldn't want to experience buttery, buoyant feathery-ness?

When I read through the recipe, I noticed some glaring errors.  The first listed ingredient is "2 cups cake flour (16 ounces, 450 grams)."  Normally when measurements are given by both volume and weight, I will go by weight, since it is more accurate and also saves me the trouble of dirtying a measuring cup.  But 2 cups of cake flour do not weigh an entire pound, not even close.  I also noticed that the ingredient list calls for "2 large eggs, lightly beaten," but the instructions tell you to add the two eggs one at a time (thus making it unlikely that they should be beaten first).  Most bizarre of all, the ingredient list says the glaze contains only powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest, but the instructions tell you to make the glaze by whisking together "the sugar, egg white, milk, and lemon zest."

I decided to forge ahead anyway.  Looking at the proportions of other ingredients in the recipe, I knew there was no way that the recipe should use a pound of cake flour, so I went with the volume measurement of 2 cups instead.  The rest of the batter ingredients are baking powder, lemon zest, salt, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and whole milk.  At the end, you fold in seedless fruit jam (I used raspberry), divide the batter into greased cupcake tins, and bake.

Although the cake pictured in the cookbook has a completely flat cylindrical shape, my cakes rose in the oven and had peaked tops, like muffins.  I made the glaze from lemon juice, lemon zest, and powdered sugar (ignoring the directions that mentioned egg white, milk, sugar, and lemon zest -- because that just sounds disgusting), and dipped the tops of the cakes in the glaze while they were warm. 

These cakes were hugely disappointing.  First, the jam distribution was quite uneven.   I had completely expected this would be the case, because the recipe actually touts property this as a virtue: "I prefer to gently swirl in the jam rather than fold it in completely.  Not only does this make for a prettier presentation, but it also distributes the flavor unevenly, which I find is the fun of it... some bites are intensely jammy, while other are more about the soft buttery cake...."  In contrast, I found the uneven jam distribution to be quite irritating.  I wouldn't mind some bites within a single cake having more jam than others, but some cakes were sorely lacking in jam overall.  In fact, one person who tasted these complained about the lack of jam in her cake and came back for another, hoping to fare better in the jam lottery the second time around. 

More importantly, I didn't like the actual cake.  The lemon flavor in the cake and glaze was nice, but the cake was dry and not buttery.  The texture was pretty much the opposite of what I would have expected of something promised to be "feathery" or "irresistibly buoyant."  In my book, dry cake is just unacceptable, so I won't be making these again.

The numerous typographical errors in this cookbook are frustrating, and many of the reviews on Amazon criticize the editing problems.  Only after I made these cakes did I notice that it appears Bill Yosses himself has submitted an Amazon review addressing many of the errors identified by other Amazon reviewers (including the ones in this recipe).   I'm not going to claim that I'm not prone to making typos myself, but then again, I don't have an editor and I'm not trying to sell people a book of recipes where conveying the recipe and directions accurately is kind of the whole point.  On the other hand, I have had positive experiences with several other recipes from this cookbook (including the Orange-Glazed Olive Oil Cake with Fleur de Sel and the Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Nutella), so I'm going to continue using it.  Let's just hope that Yosses and his editors get their act together and make some corrections for subsequent editions. 

Recipe: "Feathery Jam-Filled Butter Cakes," from The Perfect Finish: Special Desserts for Any Occasion, by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark.