Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pay Rise Cake

Regardless of whether you are working in industry or academia there will be occasions where you will have to supply cake (If this isn't the case you've got it all wrong and should bring some cake to work tomorrow). Now I will concede that there are decent commercially available cakes that I will eat with great pleasure. However, if you consider yourself a synthetic chemist, be it organic or inorganic you MUST make the cake yourself. It's way easier than synthetic work and the final product doesn't require chromatography, tastes great, won't kill you and will make people happy. So here's a recipe to help you guys out if you have no idea what to bake. It's the cake that a friend of mine has named the pay rise cake as you are guaranteed to impress your boss with it. It's a fairly expensive cake to produce but believe me its worth it.

Banana and Chocolate Cake aka Pay Rise Cake [Serves many, 20+]
Flour (500 g)
Sugar (500 g)
Quick oats (50 g)
Butter (300 g)
5 x 50 g eggs
8 ripe bananas (ca 700-800 g when peeled)
Skim milk (150 ml)
Vanilla sugar (5 tsp)
Baking powder (5 tsp)
Salt (3 tsp)
Dark chocolate (300 g, Don't be a cheap skate and use good stuff. For example Lindt 70%)

(1) Melt the butter - do not reflux
(2) Beat the sugar with the melted butter
(3) Add the eggs (not the shells) and beat
(4) Add milk and bananas (mash the bananas first) and beat
(5) Add flour, quick oats, vanilla sugar, baking powder and salt and beat
(6) Chop some of the chocolate (200 g) and mix it with the dough (don't beat it at this stage)
(7) Transfer the dough to a large baking tray (eg. 30 x 30 x 5 cm) and bake in the centre of the oven at 180 oC for 40-45 minutes. When the dough doesn't stick to a metal object it is finished (you basically insert a metal object such as a knife into the cake and check if anything is sticking to the knife). It is a good idea to check on the cake after 30 minutes as ovens vary greatly in performance. The cake approximately doubles in size depending on the baking powder used.
(8) When the cake has cooled to room temperature cover it with a thin layer of melted chocolate. You have to be careful when melting the chocolate. First chop it up (100 g) then put it in a suitable container (eg beaker) and melt it using a hot water bath whilst stirring. Do NOT add water, milk or anything else. Simply use good quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and you are in business.

Enjoy the cake - it is really nice. The cake is excellent for freezing and I generally have some tucked away at -20 oC for "emergencies". If a pay rise isn't enough and you are going for a promotion then you may consider serving it with some fresh strawberries. D!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Retraction - Azepinoazepine or Viologen?

I believe a new post is way overdue. Since my last post I almost ended up becoming a regular writer for a chemistry magazine and I have been reading an excellent book: Organic Synthesis - Strategy and Control. In due course I'll post a review of this most excellent book. Anyway, let's get to the point. Additions and corrections to papers are quite common in organic chemistry but you don't see retractions very often. Well it appears that Yamaguchi, Tsutsui and Sato where getting a little bit too excited about their synthesis of azepinoazepines (1). However, after the paper was accepted in Angewandte Chemie someone (probably Thomas Vaid, Washington University, US) was kind enough to point out that they had in fact made some viologens (2) (See Vaid's paper on viologens here). I guess that paper didn't last long on the CV. In Yamaguchi's defence I will say that it isn't entirely trivial to sort out the 13C NMR spectra of these compounds and when you are actually trying to make something specific you have a tendency to get carried away at times. I just hope this sort of thing never happens to me. On a similar note someone I know recently had a rather controversial opinion paper accepted in a high impact journal. However, whilst making changes suggested by the referees she came to the realisation that they couldn't actually draw the conclusions they had been making in the first place......I guess that's better than having to retract it later on but it's gotta hurt. D!