Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

chocolate cakewalk



I'm crazy. A glutton for punishment. Pure ego.

I didn't have to go out of my way to bake an old-fashioned, double-layered chocolate cake from scratch (cake by Ina Garten, frosting by Kittencal|RecipeZaar). But I wanted to, because that is what I would want to win in a carnival cakewalk when I was in grade school like my son is (2nd). I also relish the idea of some unsuspecting, random winner picking out my plain white cake box, opening it and finding something from scratch and lovingly home made.

None of this buy one get one free deals from Albertson's if you mention the school. Sorry, I couldn't live with myself if I did that. Besides, have you ever had store-bought, air-fluff, shortening-based icing? Yuck.

Baking layered, round cakes with frosting is not easy for me, either. The cakes almost always crack, break off, or tear somewhere. And by the time I get to the frosting, it's always late in the evening and I'm panicking, so I forget to sift the powdered sugar as I'm doubling the one stick to two sticks of butter because I'm too lazy to blend it with an electric hand mixer and I'd rather use my trusty old Cuisinart.



Two days before baking, I went out to Michael's craft store and bought two cake boxes (a 12-inch with a window and a 10-inch), as well as cardboard cake rounds. I thought then that I should've just bought the one 10-inch cake box, but figured I might need a backup just in case and a cake round will help sturdy the bottom of the box, which seemed a bit flimsy to me.

OMG. Good thing I did buy the extras. I wound up totally needing several of the cardboard cake rounds to help me flip flimsy, delicate, cooled cakes over to the right side (Ina has you start with the wrong side facing up) before frosting, and then transferring the finished cake into the box. Without those rounds, I'd have had chocolate trifle and been forced to go to the supermarket anyway at the last minute.

I screwed up the frosting as I usually do. I don't know why, but I always panic. I have five other things going on at the same time including my son wanting popcorn as a snack, me finishing up my tomato soup recipe for my own dinner, homework, dirty dishes. And when I worry I'll screw up at the hardest part of the task--in this case, lifting the cake from the rack without wrecking everything to frost--I rush. So I rushed the frosting, doubling the amounts in my head, throwing in two sticks of butter in the stand mixer, whirring it, vaguely wondering why it was sticking to the sides and congealing, throwing in the unsweetened cocoa in 1/4th cups, throwing in the confectioner's sugar, wondering why it's so much and how the heck this frosting can handle all this sugar, then-- disaster!



1. I was supposed to sift the powdered sugar first. I did not do that. I started sifting the second batch with a wet colander out of the dishwasher. Not working. Using my hands to force it through the wet mesh, cursing myself.
2. I was also supposed to alternately do this with the cream. Shouldn't she have mentioned this in the beginning?

At this point, in between going over spelling with my son for tomorrow's test, while allowing him to help me taste-test for sweetness and spreadability, I ignored the recipe and went rogue, using everything I knew from baking for the past three years and from watching so many cooking shows.

I knew frosting required a fat, shortening, or, in this case, butter. That was the base. It also required powdered sugar. Lots of it. Vanilla and a creamy liquid, cream itself, half 'n half, or milk. I also knew if I balanced the liquid ratio right, I could add espresso powder. I could've even added a tablespoon of already-made coffee. I just threw in this and that, me and my son tasting along the way, until we both were satisfied.

After the last tasting, James said the frosting needed more flour. I laughingly told him there wasn't any flour in frosting, so he said it was okay, then watched with growing horror as I bungled my way through the frosting of the cake layers.



Turning the cakes over onto the rack, futzing with it too much, trying to flip each one over, one at a time, using the cardboard cake rounds, frosting each layer, freaking out about the congealed bits of butter, trying to hide it with more frosting, dotting the cake with leftover Hershey's dark-chocolate chips to hide the butter bits... yeah, all of that was hairy.

But when I carefully placed the finished cake in the cake box, closed the lid, and put the whole shebang in the fridge, I felt relieved, proud and happy that I accomplished such a challenging baking task. Best of all, I'll be at the cakewalk overseeing as a volunteer for the school carnival's first hour. It just so happens that my son's class is hosting a cakewalk as its designated booth. Serendipity.

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