30 June 2008

The Great Cake Disaster/Trainwreck/What Was I Thinking?

There was a plan. A plan to make a cake. And it didn’t turn out so well.

Recently I’ve got into cake decorating. I’m pretty crap at it but now have lots of toys and such with which to do it. I ended up with two sets of cake pans, one with pans of 14, 12, 10, and 8 inch diameters and another with 8, 6, 4, and 2 inch diameters. For a while now I’ve been wanting to make a cake using all of them (well, only one of the 8 inchers) and I used Moglie’s birthday as a perfect excuse.

The plan was to start a week before the party, bake and freeze the cakes, make gum paste flowers, and get everything ready to assemble the day before. Well that got scrapped when I got shipped off to Serbia again and barely made it back to DC in time for the party. I took the Friday off, decided to ditch the 14 inch cake, and go with just 6 tiers instead of 7. The plan started well. Moglie shopped earlier in the week to get all the supplies I needed so I got up early on Friday and went right to work. Actually I started Thursday night and made orange curd which turned out…tasting more like stewed eggs than oranges and wasn’t really curdy…um; it was kind of gross. I also made orange peels Thursday night and set them out to dry so we could dip them in chocolate the next day.

On Friday I mixed two batches of batter which filled all 6 of my pans and got everything baked. The entire house smelled like chocolate cake and it was ridiculously hot since the oven was on all day long. After the baking I started to run out of counter space on which to cool them.

During the cooling phase I mixed up the ganache (of which I made way too much) and the frosting. My friend Giselle came over Friday afternoon and took charge of all the orange peel dipping. Everything was going so well. And then I had to go and try to assemble the bloody thing. I mean, in retrospect, what was I thinking? Why on earth would I want to actually assemble them? My plan was brilliant-except that fatal flaw.

I was not so ambitious or stupid to try to slice the 12 inch cake in half so that I just covered in ganache. I was sure though that I could handle the 10 inch. The slicing in half went well and I covered the bottom with ganache and then with frosting. The problem came when I attempted to put the top back on. Problem the first, the top layer broke into several pieces during the flip. Problem the second, it was so hot that neither the ganache nor the frosting had set up (the refrigerator was so full of food there was no room for the cake to cool) so as soon as I managed to get the now three piece top on, the ganache and frosting started oozing out the sides and all the top layer pieces started sliding off. Problem the third, I decided to keep going. So, repeat problems the first and second.

By about 11:30 that evening, the bottom three tiers (the 12, 10, and 8) had been sliced, ganached, frosted, and stacked on top of each other with dowels and cake boards holding up everything. And since the 8 inch layer reacted in exactly the same manner as the 10 inch…there was a lot of oozing and sliding and squealing. I was squealing, not the cake. Just in case you were wondering. Moglie thought that perhaps using extra dowels would help hold the broken sliding pieces to the cake, so we did that. Then Grizz was brilliant and suggested that long dowels stuck into the bottom tier would help hold everything together. Moglie also cleared out some space in the deep freezer in which The Monstrosity managed to fit.

The next morning dawned and silly me had hope that the rest of the cake construction would go well. Silly, silly, sad me. After much consultation and discussion, I decided to keep The Monstrosity in the freezer and tackle the top 3 tiers on their own. These would be sliced, ganached, frosted, and assembled on a cake board which would then be placed on top of the bottom tiers. By the time the 6 and 4 inchers were done, we’d prepared enough food that I could put those in the fridge. Then I tried to gently separate the 2 inch from its pan. That didn’t go so well. In fact the small cakelette seemed to explode out of the pan so now I was down to a 5 tier.

I mixed another batch of frosting hoping to use it to cover the mess of a cake I had and make it more presentable. One of the major flaws in my interest in cake decorating is my inability to nicely frost anything. So I set Moglie and a friend of ours with that task while I covered my eyes. After the frosting in the adding of the final two tiers and yet more frosting…we quickly added candles and chocolate covered candied orange peels and rushed the cake (which dude, weighed a freaking ton) out the door to sing Happy Birthday.

(The brown tubes are the orange peels. Yes I know what they look like but they're chocolate!!)

I think this is the second saddest and most pathetic cake I’ve ever made. Strangely enough the one that one that takes the cake, if you’ll pardon the pun, for most pathetic was also for one of Moglie’s birthdays. I do believe I get points for sheer size and level of difficulty.

Candied orange peels:
Slice peels of three medium sized oranges
Bring water to boil in medium-to-large sauce pan
Drop in peels, boil one minute
Drain and rum cold water over peels
Combine 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water. Heat in sauce pan until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to boil.
Add orange peels and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove peels and lay to dry on parchment paper

1 8 oz pk of cream cheese
1 stick butter
cream together
slowly add 16 oz powdered sugar
to flavor orange I zested 2 oranges and added 2 Tbls Gran Marnier

Slowly heat in heavy sauce pan 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 1 TBL butter, 3 TBL orange zest and 2 TBL Gran Marnier.
When bubbles form along the rim, remove from heat and stir in 8 oz chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate until smooth. Cool to room temp

Cake (recipe from Epicurious):
13/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
13/4 cups boiling water
4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
one 8-ounce container sour cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 sticks (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350° F. and line 2 buttered 7- by 2-inch round cake pans and 2 buttered 9- by 2-inch round cake pans with rounds of wax paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess.

Put cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk in boiling water in a stream until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate and let stand 5 minutes. Stir mixture until smooth and chocolate is melted and cool mixture. Whisk in sour cream and vanilla.

Into a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl of a standing electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down side of bowl. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until batter is combined well.

Pour 2 cups batter into each 7-inch pan and smooth tops. Divide remaining batter between 9-inch pans (about 33/4 cups each) and smooth tops. In middle and lower thirds of oven arrange one 9-inch layer and one 7-inch layer on each rack, putting 7-inch layers in front part of oven. Bake 7-inch layers 25 to 30 minutes and 9-inch layers 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and cool cakes completely. Cake layers may be made 2 days ahead and kept at cool room temperature, wrapped well in plastic wrap, or 2 weeks ahead and frozen, wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil. Defrost cake layers (without unwrapping) at room temperature.


kmac said...

It might not have been the most beautiful cake, but it was certainly scrummy!

Bernadette said...

This is funny as Hell! Mom said she laughed out loud while reading it. It is amazing what frosting can do to make it look edible. I'm sure everyone at the party enjoyed all of your hard work!