Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lessons in cake baking

If you have been following this blog over the years, you may remember that I have had some "cake fails" in the past. Like 6 years ago, when my husband requested an ice cream cake...and we ended up with a cake engulfed in cookies-and-cream-ice-cream.

Last year for Ryan's birthday, I attempted a dark-chocolate layer cake. The cake collapsed in the middle. So my fix was, I made out of those "coffee mug cakes", cut out the collapsed goo, and put the "mug cake" in the hole. Ryan thought it was a "special layer" cake - and it was a win-win!

So as you can see, cake baking maybe isn't my strongest? But I like to think I'm good at it. Because I love to cook and bake.

So there I was Thursday night. I was at a HH for work, and ran into one of my girlfriends. We were planning a surprise 40th bday party for our friend Amber. I asked if she needed help with any last minute details, and she asked if I'd be able to take care of the cake!

Famous last words....

"I'd be honored to take care of the cake!!! Awesome!"

The party was Saturday night at 7 pm. I had to have it done by 4:30 pm, as we were responsible for getting the bday-girl out of the house for the party!

Here are the 3 phases in this process.

Phase 1: "The Happy Baker"

Friday night I had the house to myself. I came home from a long day of work. A rule in my house, is I cannot bake unless the house is clean. It's probably a superstition. But I just can't get in the mood with a messy house. So I took to scrubbing, sweeping, and dusting! Then grocery store. By 8:30 pm, it was time to start baking my cakes.

I was making a layered Dark Chocolate Cake with a Nutella frosting.

When the cake came out of the oven, I wasn't impressed. The consistency didn't make me happy. I hadn't stirred the cake well enough. (this is such a tough concept, because when baking a cake you don't want to stir too much! As it over-activates the gluten. Or something fancy like that...)

But it was late, I was tired, so I chose to get some shut eye, and try again tomorrow.

Phase 2: "The Concerned Baker"

I started my morning at 6 am with a long run with the b-day girl. During this run, she has no idea I'm making her cake. She starts to vent about the fact that she never got a cake on her 40th birthday - and "the cake is her favorite part of birthdays"

No pressure, right ;) ?! Cue mild sense of panic.

So after run and puppy class, I tackle cake #2. This time it's going to turn out perfect.


Except it didn't. It 1st started bubbling over, and spilling over. The oven started to smoke, because of cake batter boiling on the bottom of the oven. I pulled out the cakes, and they had collapsed.

**Cue angry baker.** Cue baker who throwing mixing spoon and says "How the hell can I not get this right?!?! WTF am I going to do?"

**Cue giggling husband in the other room**

Here was what I had:

This picture doesn't even do justice as to how screwed up this poor cake was...

There are 3 cakes in this picture, because the 4th cake was folded up into a "taco" in a crazy fit of rage, offered to my husband, and thrown in the garbage.

Now most sane people would call their local baker. But I'm just too stubborn. So onto cake #3.

Phase 3: "The Freaking-the-f&*%-out Baker"

After I calmed down, and realized that getting angry won't make this cake turn out. I decided to regroup, and try a different recipe. Now this is a risk, but it was a risk worth taking.

And, boy, was I overwhelmed with relief when the buzzer went off, and my cakes were evenly beautiful. I cracked open a celebratory IPA at this point. And sent my Mom a text. Because through all 3 phases, my Mom was talking me off the ledge. I don't know what I'd do without her!

I whipped up my Nutella frosting. By the way, this is my new favorite frosting ever.  It tastes like Nutella fudge...
It's no "master-decorated cake". But it was tasted good. My birthday girl was pleased, and it was a party hit! And above all, I learned a lot of lessons about the science behind "cake baking"! I am confident next birthday that rolls around, I will have this down!!


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh man, that is crazy! You are such a good friend to keep trying! And it looks like the end result was perfect and delicious! So way to stick with it. It does help to be able to call mom for guidance with things like this since she is the master baker.

You baked more in that 24 hour period than I probably have in years! I just do not bake. Gluten free baking frustrates me to no end. I will make banana bread but that's about it. I did make pot de creme last year as a trial run for JC night but I don't know if that counts as 'baking' as you just made the custard and then let them refridgerate...

Marlys said...

That recipe makes too much batter for two round cake pans. I don't blame you for trying a new recipe, but it really is a great moist chocolate cake! Glad it all turned out and the frosting sounds so good!
I know it was a frustrating day for you!