20 June 2011

Follow the Butterflies*

Absolutely aaaages ago I co-hosted a pre-wedding party for two colleagues who got married this spring (but not to each other). My part of the job was, of course, dessert. I had huge plans that I was positive were completely unfailable.

I got up the day of the party really early to start baking. I had to make two batches of cake batter to fill a 12, 10, and 8 inch pan. And the baking took for-ever. Once those were in the oven I got down to the business was the chocolate. The bride co-worker only requested that something be chocolate. I decided I would jump on the cake pop train but make brownie pops (because obviously brownies are better than cake).  I made the brownies the night before and decided that I was not going to mix in frosting as I've done with the brownie balls I've made. That was stupid. I thought this would be the easy part of the day but it turned out not so much. You know how brownies get all nice and crispy and slight hard on the top and around the edges? That actually makes it really difficult to smoosh them together into balls. I had to make sure that the crispy bit was never on the inside of the brownie.

I finally got all the balls together and sticks shoved through them. Then I regriderated them in hopes that making them cold would make them easier to deal with. Using a double burner (ie a coffee mug in a pot of hot but not boiling water) I melted pink, blue, and purple white "chocolate" for dipping.  I bought a styrofoam cake form and used it to hold the pops while they dried. Before they were completey dried I decorated them with sugar bells and butterflies.

A few died along the way which was sad but yummy. I ate the dead ones. Can't let food go to waste.

Then the cake. I started by ordering a patterned Wilton decorating matt I'd had my eye on for a while and running by the local bake shop (in the rain) for a cake board and more royal icing mix. The cake was to be a three tiered lemon raspberry covered with white chocolate mousse. I would then pour a pale yellow thin royal icing over each layer and after it hardened I was going to press the form into it to make a nice pattern.

Things started out fairly well. The cakes came out well, I managed to slice them in half with little incident and the white chocolate mousse came out very nicely. Assembly went pretty well too. Pictured is the 8 inch cake but I even managed the 10 and 12 inch rounds without the cakes falling apart. I think I got too cocky.

I even did the cakes properly this time. Unlike the Great Cake Disaster, this time I put each layer on its own cake board separator thing and drove straws through the cake at strategic points. Not more dowels shoved through multiple layers to please God hold this cake together resulting in slices with slivers thank you very much!

Each cake went into the fridge for the getting cold while I mixed up the yellow royal icing. I left it a little thin so it would pour nicely. That is what I would remember as mistake number one. I poured icing over each cake and then back into the fridge they went. I checked them an hour or so later and notices that the icing was not only not hard ... but it seemed to still be running off the top. So I figured it just wasn't cold enough yet. Back into the fridge.

An hour later, same story.

And another hour after that.

And after that.

And after that.

Then panic started to set in a little because it was getting pretty close to the time when Lauren was going to pick me up for the party. And the blasted icing had not hardened. At all. There was just a pool of icing around each cake. It probably wouldn't have been so bad if all the icing had just slid off but no. I put the three tiers together anyway and hoped for the best.

The best did not happen.

In a desparate attempt to fix it I slapped more mousse over the melty icing. Two problems there. One, the three tiers were already assembled so now the cake did not look like three separate tiers but one tall cake that simply tapered off at the top. Two, mixing mousse with un set up royal icing was just a truly bad idea. Then I had another bad idea.

I took the leftover sugar butterflies and carefully placed them in concentric patterns around each layer. Only to notice that the pattern in my mind was just a nonsensical mess. And that pale yellow frosting combined with pink, blue, yellow, and green butterflies made the cake look like it was for a two year old's birthday party. And that said two year old decorated it. Then I had an even worse idea.

I decided to put on more mousse to cover up the butterflies.

Two full months later and I'm still banging my head on hard things when I think about this. Needless to say, the extra extra mousse just made things worse. And then, believe it or not, it got worse. I blame this on a number of things:
  1. I had just quit my job.
  2. I was fully realizing that, having quit that job I would no longer be getting free trips to hang out with my friends in Serbia and Kosovo.
  3. I had this fail proof plan for a beautiful cake that somehow failed anyway!!
  4. I was on cake decorating failure 3,000.
  5. And about three other things that I don't want to list.
So I started crying. And I don't cry prettily. There are not tears that fill the eyes, overflow, and roll delictely down the cheek. No no. My face gets all red and scrunches up and heave out harsh sobs. Totally unattractive. I sobbed all through reading Lauren's text that she was 10 minutes away and all through getting dressed and fixing my hair. I about had it under control until I looked at the cake again. I'm sure when poor Lauren came in to my hysterics she was probably sure that my cat had died or something.

She came into the kitchen where I was standing in front of the cake (and I use that word lightly) with one arm wrapped around my middle and the other covering my face. Sobbing loudly. And hysterically. When asked what was wrong all I could do was gesture emphatically at the "cake". Lauren looked at it, then looked back at me.


"It's hor-horibble!"

"No, no it's fine."

"NO IT ISN'T!!!!"

"No, look, we can fix it. We'll just add more butterflies."

So we threw more butterflies at the cake while I continued to cry. When they were all gone we left for the party. The ride there I had to keep pushing the 10 inch back onto the 8 inch. The damn royal icing was still so runny that the cakes were sliding off each other. On the way Lauren tried to reassure me that the cake would still taste fine. To which I responded:

"I don't care how it tastes!"

We got it to the party with no more major incidents. The people I worked with are overly nice and praised the cake to no end. I looked at them all like thery were idiots.

Also, side note. When directions tell you to put cake tiers on those separators for stability they do not mention what a mess they are to deconstruct!! All the frosting sticks to the bottom of the cardboard and not the top of the cake. No wonder they take away wedding cakes to cut them. And another note, if anyone knows how tiered cakes covered with smooth fondant don't slide off each other when I couldn't make them hold with sticky mousee/royal icing...please let me know.

Now I suppose if you've stuck around this long it's because you want to see the creature. sigh. I guess you deserve it.

And no ... I couldn't even bring myself to eat a slice.

*10 points if you know the reference!

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