Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From Near Disaster to Chocolate Bliss

I seem to have recently been unofficially dubbed the "maker of desserts for family functions."  As you all have figured out by now, I LOVE to bake and any excuse to find a new recipe to add to my repertoire is fun times in Reena land.  Usually, I'm asked (or offering) to bake for our weekly Friday night dinner at Bubbie's house, which is relatively stress free.  If I were to try something new and have it flop, people would be understanding (although probably sad that there was no yummy dessert).  One of my sisters is getting married in June and 'the aunts' were throwing her a tea.  I was asked to make a cake as a center piece for the table.  Repeat after me: EEP!  I was no longer just baking for my immediate family, I was baking for a gaggle of women who appreciate all things lovely and tasty.  Here's the kicker - I had never baked a cake before.  Ok, that's not completely true.  I had made three cakes prior to this one but, I made two of them in my baking arts class where failure was almost an impossibility, and I made the third one with sponge that was leftover from my baking class.  P.S. that third cake (that I assembled at home) was lopsided and u.g.l.y.
I immediately recruited my friend and partner in crime, Tammy, to help me with some serious recipe testing.  I had decided on a chocolate layer cake with chocolate mousse filling, chocolate glaze on top and chocolate meringue fingers that would surround the cake.  Sounds simple, right?  heh.  The first major obstacle and the one thing that worried me the most, was getting my oven to bake the sponge evenly and thoroughly.  If you aren't up to date on the stress my oven was giving me, you can catch up here.  I had a new plan for baking a successful cake, and it was about to be put into motion.  Tammy and I whipped together the batter for our tester cake, which, by the way, was not going too well from the start, and into the oven it went.  Fingers were crossed.  This was the first baked good, larger than a cookie, that I had made since I started having oven problems.  Fast forward to the timer beeping: insert tester stick and success!  An evenly and thoroughly baked cake!  (Quick update:  I have solved my oven issue by baking everything at 10 degrees higher than the recipe calls for).  Now was the time to cut our sponges into layers.  First layer cut, and disaster!  Giant pockets of unincorporated flour.  EEP!  Here's Tammy and I and our sad sad cake.

We didn't bother filling or glazing the cake since it was about to meet the inside of a garbage bag.  Oh, by the way, our mousse turned out more like pudding and our meringues were uneven heights.  All in all, we gave this one a pretty big fail.  All this failure had me mildly bummed, but mostly annoyed that I had to find a new sponge recipe, and fast.  I was three days away from the tea.  Through sheer luck, and the help of a great recipe, my next cake test was a smashing success.  Moist, rich, chocolatey devils food cake.

Assembling and glazing the three layer nine inch cake went quite well.

I decided against the meringue fingers since they would all have to be exactly the same height and width, which I am not quite capable of yet.  Instead, I opted for some pretty pink flowers for the top.

Well, all in all the cake was a success.  Something I could be truly proud of.  In the end, for me, this cake was a bit of a reminder to stick to my guns,  push for what I want, not to get too discouraged when things don't go as planned the first time, and that a labor of love will always be worth it in the end.  In this case I got to have my cake and eat it too.

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