Baking With Ashes: Revisited

As die-hard (that’s right, *DIE*-hard) Ask a Mortician watchers know, in Episode Four I attempted to bake faux cremated remains into a chocolate cake, to test whether or not it was possible to serve your post-mortem ashes to your family via-pastry.

The results were bad.  Trust me, I ate that business.  Crunchy cake is gross cake (unless the crunch is walnuts or those yummy coconut flakes).

Turns out, commenter TNTTrailerTrash, a self proclaimed baking nerd, has a different assessment of why it didn’t work out:

In regards to the cake: the secret to adding dry ingredients to any cake recipe is to add enough moisture and other flavors to make up for the added dry ingredients.

What if you processed the remains again (like ran it through a food processor or coffee grinder) and then made a paste out of them with oil and vanilla extract, then added a touch of extra milk and some chocolate chips?

Also I’d reduce the amount of cremated remains to a quarter to half a cup. I think it could work and not taste like ass, actually.

There you have it!  Any other bakers (or part time cannibals) want to weigh in?

 

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  • I suspect the cremains would need to be processed to a very light powder to go totally unnoticed, and then perhaps you’d need an acid or vinegar ingredient to make a fizz that might reduce density. I wonder what would happen if you substituted cremains for baking powder in buttermilk biscuits–would they fluff up the same way?

  • Anonymous

    i don’t think that cremains would have the leavening qualities of baking powder… baking powder is baking soda and cream of tartar mixed together… but i think that using buttermilk instead of regular milk in the cake would also help increase the moisture, or simply adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. ok i’m officially way too into this now

  • g_bop

    The cremains would definitely need to be processed until smooth, and then sifted into the cake mix. I would also add extra cocoa powder and/or chocolate chips to help mask the taste. Finally adding an extra egg and a couple tablespoons of oil will balance the wet to dry ingredient ratio. Now I must locate some cremains free cake.

  • Although the acidic properties of calcium phosphate make it an excellent leavening agent, the fact that cremains aren’t *pure* calcium phosphate, as well as the rather larger particulate form in which it presents in cremains counterindicate reliance on them for any leavening action, while the texture of even finely-ground and sifted remains would indicate that you actually increase the recipe’s leavening ingredients somewhat more than you would when adding more traditional dry ingredients. As for the acidic properties, again, I wouldn’t rely on them to contribute to the leavening action, and would recommend keeping the original recipe’s ratio of acidic elements. Another solution might be to utilize a recipe that includes a structural element in addition to the chemical leavening reaction to achieve the desired consistency; the most obvious example being a cake in which the batter is folded into stiffly-beaten egg whites. I don’t think you can completely overcome the grittiness issue, though; the best you can hope for is to successfully mask it, which might be achieved by incorporating cremains into a denser cake rich in heavy ingredients, like a rustic carrot cake, or even a nut-based quick bread.

  • I’m going to give you my 2p here (so apologies for the metric baking measurements, if I use any). I’ve had a good little think about this and I reckon the best way forward would be to bake a traditional chocolate sponge cake, as it accounts for the adding of extra dry ingredients (cocoa powder) already.

    If you were making a large cake (like the one presented in the amazing .gif) then a double batch would do, the first being your cremated cake and the second being your extra chocolately cake. You could then fold the two together and voila! delicious chocolate cake batter.

    I imagine dark chocolate would be best, as the acridness of the ashes would be masked. You might even want to finish the cake with a layer of ganache before adding your icing/frosting. The cremated remains would have to be sifted though, but this is a rule for pretty much any dry ingredient and it’ll probably always end up not as nice as a regular non-dead-relative-cake.

    I think one of the biggest problems with your test though, was the use of a cake mix. Oil in cake? Seriously? What is wrong with you people?! It’s never going to taste nice. I imagine a cake baked purely out of cremated remains (ie, no flour and no cocoa powder) would still taste nicer than a cake mix cake with no cremated remains in it.

    Another option would be to not actually bake the remains into the cake, but rather to include them in some other way: cremated-ganache between two layers of cake; cremated-marizipan image in cake (pick your shape and your colour – comme ca: https://twitter.com/alisonatkin/status/273136473493094400/photo/1); chocolate buttercream(ated) frosting? I’m totally patenting that last one!

  • Mandy

    Although I am very impressed with everyone’s baking prowess here, I think I’m going to (c)remain with the old standby option of keeping the cremains separate from the cake. That is, not putting them in there. That said, if Grandpa really wants me too, I’ll eat just a pinch of his cremains with a big glass of milk, then enjoy some cake. Celebrate good times.

  • Mandy

    Although I guess if you think about it, almost *all* cake as well as everything else is made from stuff that died. That stuff just had the courtesy of turning itself into wheat and whatnot first. 😉

  • So your loved one went down the shiter, appropriate for some i bet !