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Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

When bad things happen to good cakes II

Because I bake a lot, people tend to get the impression it's all smooth sailing--I don't have oops, yikes or @#$@# issues with treats...they always come out perfect, right?

Wrong. Previously I discussed one of those oh-no-s . It happens to everyone I'm sure. My current favorite baking book from the library, Chocolate Chocolate, tells a story of a favorite recipe made many successful times and suddenly disaster strikes and it fails so miserable the baker never makes it again. (I wish the author would have included that recipe--I wanted to try it!). I've never had one fail that horribly (yet).

Last week I mentioned a special cake for a 40th birthday. You saw it--it looked good, right? That was the second one. The first chocolate cake I made looked fine coming out of the oven but for some unknown reason had a mysterious pocket in the top that didn't get done properly and it got a sinkhole. It wasn't horrible and I could have covered it up with frosting and probably no one would have ever known except me but it was for a special birthday party and the woman was paying for it (we won't mention that she seems to have forgotten that--that's another story). I can't in good conscience give a flawed cake to someone for a special occasion--much less when that person is paying for it.

We know my usual practice with a good cake gone bad...trifle! And that was my plan. I even have one scheduled to take in the office on Tuesday--problem solved.

I found I had a new problem tonight. I was off a week on my scheduled haircut. It was today--not next Wednesday. No problem with the schedule...but I always try to take Marie something. Too late to bake. Only an hour from getting home to haircut appointment time. Dilemma.

As I was riding home on the bus, I remembered that flawed cake. I finished baking it. It was good except the top was a little concave. Would there be time to do anything with it? Trifle? Not enough time. I finally decided I would cut out a 9" square (it was 9x13) and frost that quickly. The 9 in. idea was so it would fit in a box. I guess I could have tossed it back in a disposable 9x13 pan and only frosted the top. That would have been faster--wish I had thought of it at 3:30. :)

Instead, I cut out my 9 in. square and didn't like it. I realized the fluted sides made it harder to match and frost. Next, I realized that I could take part of the 9 in. piece off and it was the same size as the remaining piece. Next thing I knew, I put the two pieces on top of the first piece and had a layer cake. Rectangular but doable. Now...with 20 mins. to spare, what kind of frosting? Ganache seemed the quickest but it has to cool to firm up enough to stay put (that's where the logic of the 9x13 pan would have come in--edges to keep it on top!). So, I made a quick ganache with chocolate and cream and attempted to cool it with the mixer. It wasn't cooling fast enough (thank you dratted warm weather the last two days--my house is 70 or something!!). I grabbed a sheet of ice cubes from the freezer and put the bowl on top of that and it started firming up and thickening. 10 mins. to go.

I went to frost the cake...and now it was so firm it wouldn't go on easily. I persisted and got it on but it was a thin coating. I made a smaller amount because it is so rich I didn't want it too thick and now I was barely able to cover the layers (again...9x13 would have been perfect--only have to cover the top!). 5 mins. to go.

I finally got it frosted but the top had cake showing through in spots. Grated milk chocolate to the rescue! I sprinkled some of that on top and the patches vanished. Seemed a little drab so I took some grated bittersweet chocolate and did some of that as well. Nice contrast for appearance. 1 min. to go.

I ran, got a bakery box, quickly put it together and put the cake inside. I forgot to mention I only have round cake boards so it was diagonal on the board but fit. Now, the ends were too close to the box and would hit the sides. Not a problem. Turn it so it is diagonal in the box and voila all is working. A quick elastic band to keep the lid on and we are out the door.

Luckily the salon is very close and I made it about 7 mins. late and explained why I was late. Marie had a good laugh. Probably the fastest I have ever prepared a cake, prepared a frosting, frosted the cake and readied it for delivery. Roughly 40 minutes from the time I got home until I went to my appointment.

Marie's mom is having a birthday on the 23rd (or 25th). Marie is going to take the cake out of the box and wrap it and freeze it until time for the party, then let it thaw out for the party...homemade-delivered birthday cake. :)

Sadly I do not have a photo to share. I would have been even later to my appointment. It wasn't the prettiest cake I ever gave to anyone but a flawed cake with a track record (at least on my track) for frosting/packing/delivery may turn out to be a very special birthday cake for a very nice lady. Her mom used to do cake decorating...hope she doesn't lose it over my less than impressive decorating. Maybe all that chocolate will make up for the lapse.


13 Comments
spike
You are a very resourceful woman! I'm thinking you need a feature article in a magazine called "Baking In the Fast Lane" or something.
Spike   Thursday, April 9, 2009
RAGrise
Reminds me of Martha Stewart in that she wastes NOTHING!!
Richie & Ashley   Thursday, April 9, 2009
lgrant
My mom raised me to abhor waste. I have never thrown away anything baked and flawed with the exception of one item--I don't remember what it was but it was so terrible tasting that I couldn't figure out a way to use it! Everything else has been recycled or creatively used in some way. LOL

I'm thinking I need a Baking Tips Blurb once a day. Little things I have learned along the way. Maybe. :)
LGrant   Thursday, April 9, 2009
Krys
Sometimes you have to have oops to do it right finally in the end. Right now I am trying to think of a way to make upside down pineapple cupcakes for my staff on easter sunday. I haven't figure out how just yet, but I figure I will make it once tonight and if doesnt work then again tomorrow with the final batch being made on Sunday morning.

I don't think of it as oops, but as experimentation.
Krystal   Thursday, April 9, 2009
lgrant
do you want a recipe, Krys? I have one that's very easy that uses a cake mix and a 1-cup size (the larger one) muffin pan. Makes 24, I think.
LGrant   Thursday, April 9, 2009
reera
Great story and I think the blurb idea is a good one!
dannie   Thursday, April 9, 2009
lgrant
Maybe you need to do a cooking one, Dannie. You seem to have a lot of ears on here for your creative cooking to eat healthy. :)
LGrant   Thursday, April 9, 2009
Leslie
This story was a thrill ride, a mystery and a happy ending all rolled into one. I thought it would have a much different ending, but I guess you know that I have an active imagination. II thought there would be a trip while carrying the box to the car and slowly, veeeerrry slooooowly the cake would hurl through the air and SPLAT land on the ground. I am happy to hear that you are human and goof things up like the rest of us. :)
Leslie   Thursday, April 9, 2009
lgrant
I'm scared to say it but I don't think I've ever dropped anything on the delivery. Now, I've jinxed it and I will drop the next one. LOL

I certainly didn't expect it to become a presentation cake. I hope it doesn't flop there instead of on the ground. LOL
LGrant   Thursday, April 9, 2009
nheinzel
Krys, I love your idea of pineapple upside down cupcakes! Let us know how they turn out!
!   Thursday, April 9, 2009
lgrant
I really do have a great recipe if anyone ever wants it. Very easy--no baking degree required.

http://www.humzoo.com/lgrant/photos/5/64/
LGrant   Thursday, April 9, 2009
stevenheinzel
Very good story! Glad it turned out the way it did. Just remember, your birds would probably love any of your "mistakes".
stheinz   Sunday, April 12, 2009
lgrant
I've given them cornbread but nothing else. They prefer the raw seeds so I don't bother them with the rest. I can always use it in something!
LGrant   Sunday, April 12, 2009
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