Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Adventures in Cake-ing

I recently did a wedding cake for a good friend. She picked a 2 tier square chocolate cake with strawberry filing and cream cheese icing. She didn't want anything super elaborate for decorations. Just a simple pink paisley pattern in a couple of places to stand out against the white. This is probably one of the most simple cake designs I've done, and yet, its given me such problems!

1. I tried to make a practice cake a few weeks ago that failed miserably. For whatever reason, the cake dried out super crazy fast and tasted awful. I was in the middle of bridal shower planning, so its very possible that that had a lot to do with it.

2. The paisley pattern she wanted came from a cake stencil pack I got at Michael's. We decided to try this spray on edible coloring. Wilton calls it "Color Mist", Duff Goldman calls it "Cake Graffiti." Either way, its essentially edible spray paint that one uses to color a cake, or in our case, stencil on a couple of paisleys. Lemme tell ya something. These things are not for detail work. If you're going to color an entire cake, or cupcakes, it works fantastically. If you're trying to do something more detailed, these will not work (or maybe I just need more practice.) Plus, the stuff gets EVERYWHERE! My fingers were pink by the end of it. It was really tough to get a precise, clean pattern without pink everywhere else, no matter how hard I tried.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about

Oh yeah. That's pink

3. After realizing that the colored spray wasn't going to work the way we anticipated, I spoke with my bride and I decided to buy some gum paste, and cut the paisley pattern out of that instead. I would then use the pink spray to color the gum paste pieces so it wouldn't go to waste. This came out so much nicer than I anticipated and I was really happy with the results. After spraying them and letting them dry, I took some silver petal dust and lightly brushed them to make them a little sparkly. It ended up looking really nice. I also piped on the dots instead of trying to cut them out of the gum paste.

4. I went to Joann's to pick up some gum paste. When I got home, I started working on the next cake to go in the oven. I had checked the fridge earlier to ensure I had enough eggs to make the cake BEFORE I left for Joann's. Yeah, well, it turns out, I didn't. There was 2 dozen eggs in my fridge. One had expired weeks ago, and the other were hard-boiled, which I didn't realize until I opened the carton and saw them dyed red (it's a Greek Easter tradition). So, after being home all of 20 minutes, Penelope and I got our shoes back on and we headed back out to Publix. I bought 18 eggs and an extra box of cake mix...and I am SO glad I did.

5. I finally get home and get this cake going...again...this time, with a fresh 1.5 dozen eggs. I put everything in the mixer, let it spin for a minute or so, and begin pouring it into the cake pan. That's when I noticed that the cake batter was awfully thick. I've worked with this batter before so I know what the consistency is supposed to be like. I thought maybe it was because I was doubling a recipe (2 boxes of mix instead of one) and it just came together weird. I also noticed it made less than it usually does. Again, assuming it was a weird discrepancy from doubling the mix, I popped it in the oven. 35 minutes later...it was done. Now folks, this is a 10in square cake. The 6-INCH CAKES take 40 minutes to bake. I also noticed that it hadn't risen very well and seemed like it wasn't cooked all the way. I pulled it out of the oven, let it sit for 30 minute to cool, and then tried to pop it out of the pan...and it stuck...horribly. Now at this point, I'm really confused. My cakes NEVER stick. I used a knife to work around the edges of the cake and keep trying to pop it out. Finally, it comes out and is very dense, very crumbly, and just doesn't look right, not to mention a part of the bottom had remained in the pan. I let it sit for a few more minutes to cool, and hopefully harden up a little bit (it was still quite warm at this point), and finally realized that I'm not going to be able to use this cake and I'll have to make another one.

6. Again, I add my cake mix, oil, and water to my mixer. I'm about to add the eggs when I noticed something. Only 3 eggs of my 1.5 dozen are gone. Remember, I'm doubling the batch, so I need to add 6 eggs total, not 3. That's when I realized what happened with the other cake. I only used half the eggs, so there was half the fat and less liquid. That explains the consistency, the fact that it didn't rise properly, and the incredibly dense fall-apartyness of it. At this point in the day, I'd been at this so long that I did the only thing I could do - I laughed - uncontrollably. I could not believe that I had forgotten to add the extra eggs. Thankfully I had picked up 1.5 dozen eggs and an extra box of cake mix so I didn't have to go back out. After I composed myself, I got the last 2 cakes in the oven (double checking my egg count with each one).

7. I let the cakes sit overnight to fully cool. The next day, I started making my strawberry filing to go in between the layers. It's a great recipe that creates a nice gelled filing that is very true to the fruit flavor. I looked at my recipe and decided to triple the batch to make sure I had enough for all the layers (3 filing layers in each cake). I started the strawberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice (to brighten the flavor) and kept an eye on it while it boiled and the strawberries fell apart. I strained it, per the directions, and added the appropriate amount of cornstarch and water slurry and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Within a minute or two, I realized something was wrong. Usually at this point, the mixture has started to thicken and gel. This had not happened yet. Understanding that sometimes doubling or tripling a recipe means you have to add more cornstarch/water to get it to gel properly. I added 3 times the amount the recipe called for, and still nothing. At this point, I also noticed that there were bits of cornstarch in the gel - it was falling out of solution. I realized that I was going to have to start over. So Penny and I went to Publix, and got more strawberries and I made some more. I decided this time to make 3 single batches instead of one tripled batch. This worked MUCH better and I was finally able to get the cakes filled and crumb coated. Ironically, the crumb coat icing came out perfect and I was able to get it coated and hardening in the fridge pretty quick. I'm still not quite sure what happened with the filing. I'm just glad that I finally got the cakes crumb coated.

8. I decided to wait until Saturday morning to ice the cakes. I had a really long day on Friday and was worn out by the time I got back from the store. I let the cream cheese for the icing soften and get ready for the cake. I made the icing and for whatever reason, it was quite soft. I was super worried that it was going to melt on the way to the wedding. Thankfully, mom, Travis and I had figured out a way to transport it and keep it cool to ensure it made it to the site (it was a 90 min drive).

Thankfully, the cake survived with only minor touchups needed. I was able to put it together, decorate it, and get it in the fridge before the wedding started. I was really happy with the outcome, and my friend was as well.

Congratulations to Jeremy and Miranda!

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hi Sarah! I'm Heather and I have a question regarding your blog! Please email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)