The Pomegranate Cake Slabs, Attempt One, by L

I had two pomegranates sitting in my fridge for the longest time. A couple of weekends ago I decided to be Queen of my Kitchen and not only cook the meal for the upcoming week – the chicken tarragon that poisoned me, no less – but also attempt a pomegranate cake. To get a vague idea of component parts / see if it had been done before, I went here. Liking the simplicity of this – though I had no juice, just the fruit, and of course planned on carrying on in my whimsical way with little reference to the recipe – I decided to experiment, C on the other end of GoogleTalk.

First thing to do was to ‘peel’ the pomegranates themselves. Pomegranates are an ‘old world’ fruit indigenous to the Iran/Caucasus region but now widely cultivated in other arid, Mediterranean climes, and have a wealth of symbolic value to many cultures as far as Europe and China. They’re more familiar to the ‘new world’ for their nutritional benefits – the unsaturated oils in the seeds, the high VitC/B5 and potassium content, tannins. Most culinary uses are restricted to the juice purely for the difficulty of getting in to the darn things – the only part of them you’ll be eating are the arils (with seeds inside):

Indeed, for this reason they are useful in keeping children occupied! My mother told me how when they would go to visit their grandmother, she and her brother would be given half a pomegranate each and told to sit out on the porch while her grandmother and mother visited. I’ve also done this to my eldest niece before with the same degree of success. (Just bear in mind that the juice can stain – it’s been used as a dye by ancient cultures for a reason!)

But I digress. The best way to harvest the arils is to slice the fruit into quarters, fill your sink with cold water with a bowl at the bottom, and gently pluck the arils away from the white membrane and foamy outer skin. I find it’s easy to invert the leathery outer skin with my fingers, and brush against the arils with my thumb to loosen them. You’re doing this underwater because membrane and foam will float, and arils will sink, collecting helpfully in that bowl you placed at the bottom.

I ended up with maybe two cups of arils by the time I did both pomegranates, and in retrospect I think this was too much. I semi-crushed one cupful in the same bowl with my hands (trust me, it’s easier and less squirty than using anything else, though C suggested between two nested bowls), to use this in the cake batter, setting aside the other cupful for my adventurous topping.

The batter itself I made according to the recipe (above) and though it wasn’t quite as ‘foamy’ as anticipated, I thought it looked like cake batter so what the hey. I then added the crushed cuppish of pom-arils. The result was this:

It's blue!

I thought, oh cool, that’ll be fun – not quite the elegant teacake I was expecting to make, but it’ll be different. Also, you’ll see the remaining aril flesh has sunk to the bottom due to the thin batter consistency.

I report back to C. All seems to be going well, he says. My retort: “Have patience, there’s still plenty of time for me to be an idiot.”

Indeed, I only realize that I have not greased the cake tin (which is too large for my purposes, by the way) after the thing is in the oven baking. Well, I figure, nothing to be done about it. Will just have to be careful. As it happens, not long later (I never time these things – I just keep an eye on them) when I take it out, the timing has been fortunately perfect and the cake comes out easily. Unfortunately the cake is not light and fluffy and beautiful and blue, just thin and a little spongy, with the arils still sunk at the bottom. It doesn’t taste that bad.

I decide to be ambitious in an attempt to salvage what I’ve done. Pomegranates aren’t cheap (about two bucks each when you can find them) and I’ll be damned if they’re gonna go to waste. I decide to cut the inch-thick sad-looking cake in half and turn it into a double-layered affair.

Does it stop there? Nope. Of course not. Because if you’re gonna mess up, make it a doozy (or so Coco Channel supposedly said). The kitchen gods gave me several points to try and throw me off my path of doom but my stubbornness won out every time. Example one:

“Oh, I have a leftover pack of cream cheese from the king-cake making. Let’s use that as filling! Can throw in some arils along with the sugar, and that’ll be tasty!”

Example two:

“But I still want to make a topping with these leftover arils.” *kitchen gods try to throw an obstacle in my path – no corn syrup* “Ooo, and I can make my own corn syrup, put the arils in like so, la dee da…”

The result is this:

Do not be fooled. It make look appetizing, and was, vaguely, for the first couple of bites. Also, that’s this angle. You also have these angles:

(And here’s one without the mushed-brain topping:)

I think ultimately what happened was:

  • The crushed arils instead of juice replacement threw off the abilities of the baking soda and flour. Thus, I did not get a beautiful angel-food texture with pretty bright arils floating around inside. I got something that tasted like a sweet brillo-pad with strange baby alien heads hiding at the bottom.
  • The cream cheese…it just didn’t fit. Wrong taste. Even the slight smell.
  • The sticky topping might have been good on a pale angelfood cake, but not this. It was just too much.
  • Overall, though, I don’t think the flavor of pomegrantes are suited for cake. They work better as an accent for savory dishes – I wish I’d gone along with my original idea of roasting a chicken with them.

Ultimately, I threw both slabs away. I know that sounds wasteful, and indeed it was. But they weren’t going anywhere else otherwise. I also made this before I made the chicken tarragon that poisoned me, and thereafter was paranoid that everything I made that day was somehow cursed and out to murder me.

Maybe.

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