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Lessons Learned - Happily Ever After.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Here it is – the “cursed cake” as I called it, since it was baking when my oven broke! All’s well that ends well, but this one posed plenty of problems along the way. Lessons learned are frustrating, yes, but looking back I’m grateful because this is what will make my next cake better. It seems with every project, I learn at least one “what not to do” for next time. Aside from my oven, which was beyond my control, the rest could’ve been avoided with a little more research and effort on my part.
Lesson number one – Always test a recipe before using it for anyone other than yourself. The request was for a marble cake. New one for me. But I felt confident because I used my trusted vanilla cake recipe for the base, so I knew it would be delicious. However, the “marbling” is what I faulted on. The majority of chocolate sat on the surface, even after dragging a knife through the batter. When I started leveling the layers I realized that most of the chocolate was being trimmed off. Next time I’ll layer the vanilla and chocolate batter, rather than just swirling chocolate over the top.
Lesson number two – Don’t skimp on the buttercream when crumb coating! I started running out of buttercream on the large tier about halfway through coating. Rather than going out to buy more powdered sugar and making another batch, I was determined to make it stretch. I ended up with a cake that had the most minimal amount of coating, and therefore resulted in a not so smooth finish. Once I covered it in fondant I could see the imperfections underneath.
I wasn’t given an exact design to follow, and thank goodness, because that allowed me the opportunity to improvise. Originally I planned to do a quilting technique, with some fondant cut-outs, but I knew it wouldn’t look perfect unless I had a smooth base to work with. So after spending some time online looking for a plan B, I decided on fondant swags. (Something I’ve never tried). I found a video and learned how to make them using wooden dowels to create a pleated look. I was so surprised at how easy it was, and guess what? It looked amazing! Once I had the swags on I had to figure out what to use to cover the seams where the swags were adhered to the cake. Saturday night I spent an hour making daisies out of fondant, then went to bed,
Sunday morning I started adding the daisies but it just didn’t look right. The swags were so elegant, and daisies just didn’t seem to fit. I decided on roses instead. So, after two hours spent making 18 fondant roses and white accents, it was time to call it a day. With only 30 minutes to spare before pick up I took a final look, snapped some pictures on my cell, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Gorgeous… Long story short – Although it began with heartache, it ended with happily ever after. Not only did I learn some “what not to do’s” next time and some new techniques too - I also felt good about my improvised cake. Success!

Close Call In The Kitchen

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I received a request for a two tiered birthday cake for a party this Sunday, so last night I filled four cakes pans and popped them into the oven. 20 minutes later the oven was filled with smoke and the heating coil was on fire. Gasp! I thought, this cannot be happening; I still have four more layers to bake!  Luckily the cakes were done so I pulled them out and assessed the damage. The coil was snapped in half and a flame was traveling down the length of it. That can’t be good. I turned off the oven and tried to think of who would be home the next day and would let me temporarily take over their kitchen so I can finish baking.

This morning I discovered the oven still on, even though the knob was turned to off, (strange) but thankfully nothing was smoking.  I figured I better try to get the rest of this cake baked before the oven either completely shuts down or blows up. So I filled the remaining four pans and crossed my fingers. Success! Replacement parts are in route as I speak, but until then it looks like dinners will have to be cooked in the microwave. Oh well; could’ve been much worse! I’m just happy that my kitchen is still intact.

Not Your Traditional Wedding Cake

Friday, March 2nd, 2012
When I think of the cakes I’ve seen at weddings I think of multi tiered cakes, white in color, decorated with flowers and topped with ceramic figurines. The request I had for my most recent project was unique, both in design and flavor – Pistachio! I had never tasted or made a pistachio cake so I was a bit nervous. The majority of the recipes I found online called for boxed cake mix and instant pudding. Although I’m sure delicious, I vowed prior to starting this blog that I would never again use a boxed cake mix. So, after some more research I found a recipe and went to work in the kitchen.
The result was a dense, heavy cake with a nutty flavor that came from ground pistachios and a touch of almond extract. Definitely not a light, fluffy cake. I filled the layers with basic buttercream, using more powdered sugar than usual to create a stiff frosting that would hold up to the weight of the cake. I didn’t have specific instructions for the design, other than I picture I was given of the floral dress the bride will be wearing to the celebration party on Sunday. Not your traditional white wedding cake! So, here it is… Yes, it’s sitting on my couch. It was the only place in my house that had enough natural light to get a decent picture...