Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cake Creation 101: A Guestblog

Tonight's guestblog brought to you by Caitlin--another baker, another writer, and another Lore. Not as adept in her cake decorating or baking as her sister-in-law, Amy, Caitlin is working on it, one delicious product at a time. She even took a real baking class to see if she has what it takes. However, when she isn't baking, Caitlin can often be found writing at her blog Enduring. Soon she may post recipes.

I grew up with a mother who made birthday cakes. And not just any birthday cakes but decorated cakes. Wilton Startip #17 decorated cakes. I remember Cookie Monster and Birt and Ernie. Carousel horses, teddy bears, cars, and trucks. The Little Mermaid, Barbie, dinosaurs, and cupcakes. Lots of star tipped cupcakes.

Then there were the buttercream colors. Yellows and blues. Reds and purples. Greens and oranges. In all shades mind you. I loved watching her decorate, mostly because I loved sticking my fingers in that real buttercream. I never picked up a piping bag, though, until last fall.

I was nervous. I had never decorated cakes, only eaten them. But I was taking a legit baking class, and we had three requirements for cake week: lettering, swirls & curls (borders) and roses. We also only had a week to master the elements and produce a finished product.

One thing my pastry chef professor said, though, stuck with me and encouraged me. She said, in all seriousness, that those who have horrible handwriting in everyday life are often the best cake decorators.
That meant I had a chance.

But decorating the cake wasn't the only part of the feat--baking the cake from scratch was an obstacle too. We were planning to make sponge cake because not only are those simple cakes to make, but outside of boxed cake mixes they are the cheapest. But let me tell you... for someone who has never made a sponge cake before, it isn't that simple. It's a two step process and lots and lots of beating.
I was used to opening a package, mixing in two eggs and vegetable oil, and stirring for two minutes.

For a sponge cake, you have to  first separate the eggs, and then beat each part. The first part (egg whites) must stay fluffy.
The second part, which is egg yolk and sugar, must be beaten until "ribbon"stage: which I did not understand whatsoever until it was explained to me. And then I realized just how simple it was. When you disconnect the beater and let the batter run off, it will stay in ribbon form in the bowl. Ultimately, the batter is so thick it looks like mousse.

Can I just add there's a lot of sifting and folding in there as well, but when I was done, my cake batter was perfect.
And it looked delicious.

Appearances do lie, though. I hated the taste. Talk about eggy.
Lesson learned.
Sponge cake: love/hate.
Boxed cake: I may just stick with it.

See, my mother never baked cakes from scratch, either. Pillsbury, Dunkin Hines, Betty Crocker... those were staples in our cupboards growing up, and they transferred into mine.
And we all loved them. The taste of boxed cake is delicious... definitely not Cake Lore cake... but for us none cake bakers, they worked.
And what made me smile was that my pastry chef professor said boxed cakes were a work of art. Cheap, nothing like homemade, but still a work of art.
Again, it meant I had a chance at mastering cakes.

Nonetheless, this is what my completed product looked like that day:

Not bad for my first try
And it means there may be a little bit of Cake Lore in me after all. When I finished my class two weeks later, Chef left me with something I'll never forget, "You have hands. Whatever you do, don't stop baking. You have hands. Use them."

Perhaps next time I'll blog about the from-scratch-completely-homemade chocolate cake I have stumbled upon and will never let go.
It's heavenly, and definitely Cake Lore worthy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my little Caitlin, I am STILL so proud of your first cake :)