Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Chill Out

It all started with a moment of panic -- not real, OH MY GOD! panic, but panic nonetheless. We hadn't found the chestnuts. I realize, again, in the grand scheme of things, this is not a problem. But, without the chestnuts, we couldn't make the Chestnut Sand cake.

Really, we bouyed and came up with an alternate plan. We'd skip it this week. Really ingenious of us wasn't it?

From that bit of panic, we searched the next few recipes, fore warned is fore armed, right? Then we saw that we're fast approaching the fun times -- named cakes at the back of the book. This time we made one of the "named" cakes near the end. But that's a bit ahead of ourselves.

After the chestnut discussion, we began making the Chocolate Fudge Cake (page 60) with the Milk Chocolate Buttercream (page 250) that we made on May 17. We decided that it was ok to repeat as it's what she suggests for the "Chocolate Spike Cake" (page 198). (You know if you take the page numbers in that paragraph add them together, divide by 7, multiply by 18 and subtract 84, you end up with the exact day the world ends.)

Our second cake was the Golden Grand Marnier Cake. For the adornment, we used powdered sugar.

We baked the Chocolate Fudge cake and honestly, it was the nicest chocolate cake in the mixing bowl. I almost would rather have eaten it with a spoon out of the bowl! Again, we had a bit of difficulty with the doming effect and a bit of tunneling. Janet thinks we over beat it and while it's one of the reasons that those things can happen (see "It is called a Cake Bible" installment in a previous week), I don't really think we did. I think we underbeat it according to the directions that Ms. Beranbaum gives. Well, it ended up being a beautiful "chocolate brown" Nice, rich, almost red with streaks of a darker, dark-chocolate brown. In certain light, it looked like a red velvet cake. I don't know if the picture actually shows it.

When we were looking at the cakes, just before pictures, Janet said, this one just needs a cold glass of milk. During the tasting, we both agreed. Try it out as an afterschool snack or a post work pick me up.

It was so tender, it split when we took it out of the pan. But never fear, we are intrepid and managed to conceal a whole host of things in the frosting. So, why did we try the Chocolate Spike? Because Ms. B suggests it and it was a way to try a new technique.

I have to say that for me all the techniques are new. My usual technique has been to open a tub of frosting and slather it on the cake, praying there would be some left over so I could cover my graham crackers with it. Usually, my tub o' frosting was too cold and I'd end up with a crumby mess. Of course, it still tasted ok.

This particular technique seemed suited for me. Take the icing and "pull it away" from the cake, causing spikes. At first it looked good, but as it sat for just a few minutes, the peaks became a bit bent. (I understand a bit better what a food stylist goes through.) The top has a neat squiggle pattern on top, but because we had a dome (and this is only my second "correctly" frosted cake) it didn't turn out right. Remember, just like bloody marys it may be something simple on paper, but in practice, it's a whole other ball game. In hindsight, we found that we ought to have been a little more patient by waiting until the cake layers were completely not warm anymore, and avoiding the temptation of "well, they're not steaming anymore, maybe it's ok to go ahead?" That, added to getting the frosting nice and tight would have produced a better result... we'll learn.

Golden Grand Marnier Cake, say that with me. Golden Grand Marnier Cake. Can it get any better than Grand Marnier, oranges and almonds? We'd have to say no. This was the easiest cake to put together. One of the prettiest out of the pan -- look at those pictures! And, trust me, the one that just called out for a dusting of powdered sugar. Our only comment was that the Grand Marnier Cake needed a cup of coffee. Try it for an after work snack or a Saturday or Sunday brunch. You brush the hot cake with a yummy syrup of Grand Marnier, orange juice and sugar that smells fantastic. That should help keep the cake very moist, as if there will be any trouble finishing this one before it dries out! The cake has a very nice texture due to the ground nuts and orange zest. For anyone who has had Janet's orange almond biscotti at Christmas time, think of that same flavor but in a buttery cake form.

But at the final discussion, we realized, if you're going to do something right, do it right. When it comes to baking a cake, it boils down to WAIT. Pause. Halt. Cease. Don't just go barreling through.

Let the cake layers completely cool.
Let the buttercream cool way down.
Crumb coat.
Then, chill.

Really, chilling out is your best friend and isn't that what baking with friends is supposed to be about?

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