Friday, April 27, 2012

Holy Holly Haitian Cake

I have the greatest boss in the world.  His name is Holly (pronounced OH-lee), and he is from Haiti.  Holly is by far the nicest, funniest, and most compassionate man I will ever have the pleasure of working with.  Because most of us student employees are seniors, we really wanted to do something special for him this year before we graduate.  He doesn't like it when people do things for him, so we made sure to pump out some information on his birthday and favorite cake from him much earlier in the semester, so that he wouldn't suspect anything.

He said the only kind of cake he likes is Haitian cake.  Of course, I had no idea what that was, and when I typed "Haitian cake" into Google, I got far too many variations to have any idea which one he likes.  I decided to email his wife and see if she had a recipe or just at least a better clue of what he was talking about.  (His wife is a professor here at Wes, and may be one of the only other people on this campus to match her husband in terms of niceness and warmth).  She very quickly responded and sent me the link to this recipe.  I decided it was something I could handle and got to work.

We always like to pick on Holly because of his diet.  He really doesn't like fruit, except for maybe bananas, and you rarely see him eat vegetables (unless you count the onions in his dirty rice and beans).  He most frequently eats fried chicken, grilled cheese, pizza, french fries, and anything else that would clog your arteries.  That's why it came as no surprise to me that his favorite cake would contain no fewer than FOUR sticks of butter and EIGHT eggs.  Holly's birthday is a special occasion every year because we are celebrating one more year that he did not die from cardiac arrest, so I figured that this cake was very fitting for that reason.

Traditional Haitian Butter Cake (Gateau au Beurre) w/ Honey Lemon Syrup
Recipe adapted from EverythingHaitian.com



Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (four sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup milk (I used soy- sorry Holly, it's all I had!!!)
1 Tbs vanilla
1 Tbs coconut rum
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest

Ingredients (I don't know why the baking soda is in this picture)
Separate eggs
Advice on separating eggs:  Use three bowls.  Gently crack the egg over the middle bowl, and pour the yolk back and forth between the two shells until all the white has drained off into the bowl below.  Put the yolk in one bowl and the egg whites in the other.  This way, in case you break a yolk, or get a piece of shell, you won't contaminate the entire bowl of whites and have to start all over.

Beat egg whites until semi-stiff peaks form, and beat yolks together with a fork.  Set aside.
In a very large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth
In a separate large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and lemon zest
Add in egg yolks, vanilla, and rum
Add dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk
Fold in half the egg whites until almost fully incorporated, then fold in the other half
Grease and flour pans, pour in batter.  It will be thick and lumpy looking.
*You can use whichever pans you would like.  EverythingHaitian shows it pictured in a large bundt pan.  I chose an 8" round cake pan and a dozen cupcakes.  You could also use two round 8 or 9" pans, a 9x13", or two cupcake pans.*

Bake at 350°F until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  The cupcakes took only about 20 minutes, but the big round cake took around 50 minutes to an hour.  Just stay in the kitchen and continue to check on it.

Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and finish cooling on wire racks.
I really didn't want to put any more butter or sugar on this cake, so I opted to use a syrup instead of a frosting.  You can put whatever you want on top of it.  I combined 1/2 cup of honey, 1/4 cup of water, and the juice of one lemon in a small saucepan, and boiled until the honey turned brown and began to thicken.  Let it sit until room temperature, and then brush on top of the cakes.

The main cake for Holly
Little cupcakes for the rest of the mail room staff
Holly, thank you for an amazing four years here at Wesleyan.  I know there is no way we could possibly make it up to you for all you've done for us over the years, but maybe this cake and the love that went into it will at least give you an idea of how much we love and appreciate you, both as a boss and a friend.  Happy Birthday, Holly.

Love and cookies,

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