Sunday, August 1, 2010

My own cake wreck

After a very successful experimentation with rolled fondant for my own birthday cake, I figured that putting together Andrew's birthday cake would be a sinch. I wasn't even going to do fondant, but try making chocolate leaves (something I saw in a Find Cooking magazine). Alas, this is the third birthday cake for Andrew in a row I've ruined. Our first year out here (when I say out here, I mean in Alberta) I made a butterscotch chiffon cake, which is a Milne family recipe. That was before I got into making cakes, so there's no picture. The second year I made a maple walnut cake out of a Canadian Living magazine (pictured below). The year after was the year the Canadian Space Agency was looking for astronauts (Andrew just missed making the cut for interviews) so I made a space shuttle cake (i.e. a cake in the shape of a shuttle). It tasted okay, but I didn't have black food colouring, so I had to trim the cake with blue--it didn't quite look the way I had wanted it too (no picture). Last year I made a red velvet cake. Again, the cake was excessively delicious...all that red food dye...but the decorating...oh boy. I wanted to go with another space theme, so I tried to use marshmellows to make stars (initially thinking I could use toothpicks to make them look like they were shooting out from the cake), but the icing colour went out of wack. It ended up neon. I was sorely disappointed (definitely no picture).

The last good cake I made for Andrew, a maple walnut cake (including candied walnuts on the top).

To Andrew, my lovely husband, I sorely apologize. For the third year in a row I botched your birthday cake. I swear, upon pain up death, I will get it right next year.

What happened this year? Well, the first problem was that I felt rushed. Between training for the marathon, completing house cleaning chores, trying to get some writing in, and playing a double header of soccer on Tuesday night, I had to squeeze icing and decorating the cake into the leftover time. Second, the chocolate leaves didn't work. I'm not sure if it was due to low quality of chocolate (cheep melting chocolate from Michaels) or that fake leaves aren't suited as a mold. Either way, I had difficulty spreading the chocolate evenly, then when it set it cracked as I tried to remove the leaves. Third, the raspberry filling I used to separate the cake layers wouldn't thicken sufficiently so that it squirted out when I added the top half. Finally, and most disastrously, the icing wouldn't thicken. I used an icing recipe from Fine Cooking, where you melt chocolate with butter, and cream, then let it thicken and cool before applying it to the cake. As I prepared the icing on Wednesday I read the recipe and noted that it used plain sugar for sweetening rather than icing sugar. This is the conversation I had with myself: White sugar, granulated sugar, is that right? Better check it again. Yup, okay, granulated sugar. I should probably use icing sugar to help it thicken better. Hm, but I've made this type of icing before, I should just follow the recipe it will be fine. Trust the recipe, the people at Fine Cooking know what they're doing. This is what happened:

Doesn't that look delightful? It's like the cake has been slimed.

Despite an entire day in the fridge it never thickened sufficiently.

Sure, it looked terrible, but at least it tasted good.

To John and Cindy, if either if you are reading this blog post: THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO YOUR CAKE. I promise. I'm scheduled to take a couple of cake decorating courses at the end of this month. One on regular cake decorating, how to make icing, basic piping techniques, etc. The second is on rolled fondant. Also, I will make sure to start on your cake as soon as I get home in October. I'll bake the cake right away and put it into the freezer until needed. Then I will set aside lots of time for making decorations, etc. It will be beautiful. In the meantime, here are some pictures of cakes that did work out.

I had no piping bags at this point and had to used a plastic bag for the writing. It's pink, 'cause it was for Mandy's birthday.

Honestly, this cake was a bit of a mess, but I spent hours making icing flowers. The roses turned out well.

A chocolate, pepermint cheesecake. Yum.

Birthday cake for my mom a couple of years ago, clearly more successful than the one I made for Andrew...

Finally, my birthday cake.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding the sugar - that reminds me of the first time I tried to make meringue from a fancy cookbook. It called for "superfine sugar." I thought, "What's finer than icing sugar?" Afterwards, when trying to figure out what went so horribly wrong, I checked the FAQ which says DO NOT use icing sugar!!! Apparently superfine sugar is just really finely ground granulated sugar, which you can get at specialty baking stores...

(also, the captcha is gurls *g*)

- Claire