Friday, March 18, 2011

The Tale of the Chocolate Cake, the Smiling Boyfriend and My First Attempt at Cake Decorating

Yesterday was my boyfriend's birthday and of course, like any good baking girlfriend would do, I decided to bake him a cake. Anthony has only one requirement when it comes to dessert and that's chocolate. So for this celebration nothing would be more appropriate than a Double Chocolate Layer Cake. I chose this recipe from Food and Wine because Ina Garten said this was the best chocolate cake she ever made and Ina usually knows her stuff, so in my search for a surefire recipe for this very special occasion, I felt I could depend on Ina.

I managed to bake the cake layers in the hour and fifteen minutes between when I arrived home from work and when I had to go to my dance rehearsal. This is a feat I am very proud of. As I rushed in from work I preheated the oven, then made the buttermilk and the cup of coffee. I mixed the dry ingredients together, first with the electric mixer which created a cloud of dust which had me coughing. So I turned off the electric mixer and just whisked it instead. Then, I mixed the liquid ingredients together and then combine the two mixtures together. I can't help but recognize that I have written those two sentences many many times. This seems to be one of the fundamentals of baking, mix dry with dry, wet with wet and then mix wet and dry together.

I had all intentions of lining the pans with parchment paper, but since I was short on time I fell back on my quick easy method, I lined the pans with foil and sprayed the foil with last of the baking PAM and poured the batter in. The cakes baked for 35 mins, at which point my toothpicks came out clean. I removed the pans from the oven and set them to cool while I went to rehearsal.

When I returned, it was time for decorating. For this occasion, I wanted  to attempt some simple cake decorating techniques. A shell border on the top and bottom of the cake and writing on the cake. This was my very first attempt at cake decorating. Deb from recommended freezing the cakes before frosting them so that they were easier to work with and didn't break during handling. I thought this would come in especially handy in this case because the cakes were very moist as they came out of the oven, just the way I like them. So I wrapped them in plastic wrap and then in foil and stuck them in the freezer for an hour while I made the butter cream frosting.

I then removed the cakes from the freezer and applied the crumb coat. This coat is a thin layer of frosting which "glues" the crumbs down so that the final frosting layer can be smooth and crumb-less. The crumb coated cake was placed in the fridge to set, about half an hour. During frosting I placed strips of parchment under all sides of the cake to keep the cake board from getting messy.

After removing the cake from the fridge again, I applied the final coat of frosting. I found that my brand new offset spatula made it much easier to spread the frosting, it was worth the money indeed. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the frosting perfectly smooth. I then attempted pipe the writing with chocolate. I had read about a technique where you pipe the words on parchment, allow it to dry and then remove the letters from the paper and place it on the cake. I'm not sure why this didn't work for me but it was impossible to remove the letters from the paper. So I tried my best to duplicate what I had done on the cake itself. That didn't come out perfect either. Next I attempted to pipe a shell border around the top and bottom of the cake. I learned this technique online from Wilton. That didn't come out perfect either, but the cake was now complete and I placed it in the fridge overnight. By this time it was 1 am. I went to bed. This was the finished product:

It wasn't until yesterday evening when I got home from that we decided to do the official cake cutting. We each cut a slice and guess what? It tasted perfect!! It was moist, fluffy, chocolaty. Anthony said it was one of the best chocolate cakes he had ever eaten.Thanks Ina!!! This made me very happy. It didn't look perfect but it tasted amazing, and once again, the person I made it for loved it.

So, this week I learned a valuable lesson, that cake decorating requires a lot of practice and patience. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect the first time, if I keep at it, one day we'll all be sitting around a beautiful cake I made, laughing and reminiscing about my first decorated cake.

1 comment:

  1. I really like how the writing looks on the cake so sweet and clearly it was your first attempt at frosting and icing, that is what makes it so sweet and cute. Nothing more shows that you care than making something new for an important day well done.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    OBTW congratulations on joining the Daring Kitchen.