Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Cake

I confess: I make box cakes. They are easy, and I have to say, they taste really good, don't they? They are nice and light, and take about 5 minutes to put everything together and get in the oven. I once made a carrot cake from scratch, which turned out quite nice, but other than that, Friday night was my first try at a scratch cake.

I am enrolled in a cake decorating class, and for the second session, we had to come to class with a frosted cake, and three extra batches of buttercream frosting in different consistencies. "No problem," I thought, figuring I would whip up those icings while the cake was baking, and it would take me about an hour and a half tops.

Think again.

I finally selected a cake recipe from Bon Appetit online for simple white cake layers. Reviewers rated it positively, and so I set to work. It called for 6 egg whites. I didn't want to use six real egg whites because, well, what the heck am I going to do with 6 egg yolks except give myself a heart attack? Thankfully, for this class we had to buy meringue powder, which can be substituted, with water, for egg whites in recipes.

I make the recipe, following the directions. I finish, and the batter is thick; when the recipe says pour into the pan, I have to scrape it in there. I knew it wasn't right, but where did I go wrong? The recipe had like 6 ingredients.

I had committed cardinal baking sin number one: not reading the directions carefully.

On the meringue powder it had said 1 egg white = 2 tsp powder + 2 Tbsp water. Wait, TBSP of water?! I had put teaspoons.

Well that batch was a waste. I am the type of person that is always in a rush, and when baking, that is not a good mix. I will remember this next time. Before you make something. Read the recipe; twice. (I might even say three times).

The buttercream icings were fairly simple. 1 stick of butter, 1/2 c of shortening, 1 tsp vanilla and 4 c confectionary sugar. Mix this together, and add milk to get to your desired consistency.

When I tried to ice my cake, I saw that it had tons of lines and lumps in it, even though I used a cake icing tip (supposedly this will produce smooth lines every time). But the problem was that my icing was too thick. I should have thinned it down with more milk or water, but half the cake was frosted by then.

My teacher did give a fix for this in the next class. If your cake looks like mine after you frost it, and you wish it was smooth like fondant, wait 20 minutes, put some water on your spatula, and smooth it.

I have posted my first and second cakes. You can see how much improvement there is--this is just one week! Learning from your mistakes is crucial. Here are some of mine that you can learn from.

1. Read the directions, twice. I cannot stress this enough. In baking, the amounts and the order the ingredients go in is crucial. This is what caused me to have to throw out an entire recipe of cake, and all the money I spent on ingredients.
2. When you are putting the powdered sugar in the mixer for the icing, make sure it is as level as you can get it, because if it is a mountain on one side, it will shoot out over the edge, making a big mess in your kitchen. If you have one of those covers that fits over your bowl, even better.
3. Make sure your frosting is thin, meaning very easily spreadable (the peaks in the icing should be droopy). This will prevent the lines. If you can't get rid of them, wait 20 minutes, wet your spatula, and smooth them out. [This cannot be done after a few hours, the icing will be too hard].
4. Do not touch the cake with the spatula when frosting. This is what causes crumb spreading. Spatula touches icing, icing touches cake. You will probably need to use more icing than you think.

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