One Thousand Scents

Monday, June 16, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 16, Angel Food

I see that two thirds of my Demeter postings so far this month have been about edibles, which may tell you something about me, or about Demeter (the huge majority of their scents are based on food and drink), or merely about the fact that the things we eat and drink smell good.

Angel food cake doesn't have a particularly penetrating aroma or flavour. (Naturally, it smells terrific while it's baking, but after it cools, it doesn't smell like much more than a block of sugared styrofoam.) It has no fat whatever: its leavening is the air trapped in beaten egg whites, with just enough flour and sugar to hold the whole thing together while it bakes and give it some taste. Since fat is one of the primary carriers of flavour, angel food cake is fairly bland. It's mostly about the texture, which is unlike any other kind of cake, and its blandness means it's often used as a base for something else with a little more punch; sugared macerated berries, ice cream, or pastry cream.

You'd think that this lack of aromatic character would make it difficult to turn it into a scent, but that's never stopped Demeter before: they have one called Holy Water, which by rights ought to have no fragrance at all but which according to them (I haven't tried it) smells of "the porcelain font, ozone scented water, oak scented pew...all mingled."

So their Angel Food might be expected to smell like a bakery at a hundred yards, and it sort of does, but what it mostly smells like is coconut at twenty paces. I'd never heard of a coconut angel food cake, but you can add most any kind of flavouring extract to the recipe to make it a little more interesting, so why not coconut extract? (Vanilla is usual, and I've seen recipes with almond, orange, maple, and even peppermint; there's also a chocolate version that uses cocoa powder.) According to the website, the coconut flavouring is "from a generations-old Pennsylvania recipe".

Angel Food changes its character ten or fifteen minutes in; the lightness and coconut fade out, and what remains is darker, not quite burnt but certainly baked. To me, it's actually more interesting at this point. The whole thing is gone altogether in under an hour, as you might expect.

If you want to smell like an ordinary angel food cake, I don't know where to point you. If you want to smell a bit like coconut baked goods, Demeter Angel Food is the place to go; it's very pleasant. If you want to smell quite a lot like a coconut can find out tomorrow (and it's not what you expect).



  • What a terrific project! I look forward to your future Demeter posts. At the moment Quince and Tarnish are my favorites but yur descriotion of Vetiver guarantees that it will be in my next order.

    By Blogger the oblitterati, at 3:58 PM  

  • Dear Pyramus,

    Just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying these posts. I haven't tried many Demeters; you're inspiring me to try quite a few.

    By Blogger rosarita, at 8:59 PM  

  • Thanks to both of you!

    I've never tried Quince or Tarnish. Quince doesn't sound quite like my kind of thing, but Tarnish has me intrigued, I have to say. It seems like one of those fascinating oddities (Dust! Paperback! Clean Windows!) that everybody has smelled, but nobody ever thought of smelling like until Demeter came along. Probably in two years' time, when I theoretically have a hundred and fifty of the damned things, it will be in my collection.

    I'm glad I can be an inspiration. Demeter has such a huge range of scents, not all of them completely successful, that it's kind of a crap shoot (and I've bought a few duds along the way); if I can help clear the minefield a little, I've done my job.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 10:49 PM  

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