Friday, April 29, 2011

Cake Decorating 101 and Other Disasters…

A co-worker recently loaned me her non-stick (allegedly) cupcake cake pan which, for those who aren’t familiar with such culinary things, is divided into two halves. Anxious to try it out and having the perfect occasion (a birthday party at work), I eagerly accepted the challenge because, “How hard could it be?”

Famous last words.

I should know better by now, but somehow, history always repeats itself.

I think my first mistake was mixing two different cake styles – one regular and one mousse. For one thing, the mousse, which very much resembled a lava cake once in the oven, took twice as long to bake as the regular cake mix in the adjoining pan.

My second mistake was not allowing myself enough time to calmly and expertly cool and then frost the two halves of my cake. I initially started baking at 7pm, but quickly halted when I realized I didn’t have enough eggs. By the time I got back from the store, about an hour had lapsed.

Although behind schedule, I preheated the oven and then mixed the two different batches of cake mix taking turns pouring them into their respect halves. So far so good.

About a half hour later or so I checked the rapidly rising cakes. Although the vanilla cake seemed done, the chocolate (mousse) half still clung to the toothpick. I had a bit of a dilemma. How to let one cake cool while allowing the other to continue to bake? I scratched my head trying to figure out how to remove one cake without also tipping out the other. I ended up using a piece of wax paper and a plate. After much poking and prodding with a knife to loosen the vanilla cake, I was finally able to (mostly) pry it loose leaving only a small chunk behind.

Fast forward to about a half hour later when the chocolate mousse was finally solid enough and had been removed from the pan (with almost no trouble). I decided the time was right to finally join the two halves [I had previously frosted the middle]. Although there was a bit of space between the top and bottom, it looked okay – at least from the front.

Next order of business was to frost the top half and then decorate it. It started out smooth and easy enough, but the icing soon began dripping over the bottom half and onto the surrounding pan. After a few feeble attempts at triage, I finally gave up and surveyed the damage. It was bad. Real bad. My cupcake cake definitely showed my lack of expertise and was, quite frankly, laughable.

In my attempt to perhaps salvage the disaster, I had the idea to cut a piece off the back so the cake could lay flat displaying only its good side. However, once I did that, gravity had other plans and the situation went from bad to worse. In an effort to cut my losses, I decided to save the bottom (chocolate mousse) half for my husband and I and tossed out the rest. The bottom half, with white frosting half melted all over it, kind of resembled one of those cake candles you find at craft fairs. My husband said it actually tasted alright, but would be better with the mousse packet included in the cake mix box. That’s another project for another night…

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