Friday, November 1, 2013

Disasters in Baking

Every good baker knows that the weather affects how well your cakes rise, whether or not your candy will set, or if your soufflé will fall.  But I am willing to bet that not many of you know that your mood and frame of mind can also affected how your baked goods turn out.  I found this out the hard way.  Continue reading for the tale of the Distracted Baker.

            About a week and a half ago, a good friend asked me to make her son a birthday cake and at the time I thought, “no big deal,” so I gladly informed her that I would love to make her son’s birthday cake and I preceded to dream up a grand and glorious cake that any 16 year old boy would drool over.  So I immediately started researching his interests to see if there was anything that I could draw inspiration from that could be recreated in my delicious frosting.  Sadly every picture that Google returned to me was either completely made out of fondant or looked like a 3 year old had done it.  I guess this should have been my first clue that I was doomed to failure as I am never at a loss of ideas or how to recreate something with my own flair in my chosen medium.

After going back to my friend for more information and to regroup on his interests, everything I could think of that a young boy might like did not fit in this case.  I was at a loss.  So I decided that simple was the best.  I would make it masculine without being too grown up or too young and it would be less work for me since I had neglected to take into consideration that I would be baking this cake during the Halloween holiday and amidst orchestrating an entire food court for a church play.  Silly me to forget I’m not Wonder Woman.  My thighs are much larger than Linda Carter’s.  But I carried onward wayward son and after several misfires persevered. 

 In the end, I baked 5 different cakes in order to get two that were usable.  This has never happened to me before.  I have never had so much trouble baking the cake.  That is usually the easy part.  Icing the beast is where the skill and prayer, a lot of prayer and not to mention tongue biting, comes into play.  This time however it was as if I were a zombie trying to bake this cake.  My cake recipe is very simple, 1 box of cake mix, 1 packet of a secret ingredient, 4 eggs, and 1 cup of water, mix it, bake it.  Easy.  Well this time I was also using a chocolate chip fudge swirl and that is where the madness set in.  I mistakenly used my secret ingredient in the fudge and then added too much water to it because I had the biggest blonde moment of my life and forgot how to read simple instructions.  So the first cake would not rise or set through the middle.  See below for that monstrosity.


On the second cake, I made everything correctly but I forgot to spray the pan so needless to say only half of the cake came out.


The third attempt wasn’t much better as yet again I misread the instructions and added to much water but I also decided to go the old fashioned way and use the oil that is called for on the box directions.  So this cake just had too much liquid and was extremely runny.  So I decided to add a little of my secret ingredient to try to thicken it up.  Big mistake.  This cake not only didn’t rise it shriveled into a 80 year old version of a cake and was about a half inch thick which was much too thin.  I was so disgusted with this cake that I immediately threw it away and neglected to take a picture.  You should be thanking me though as it would give you nightmares.

The fourth cake I made was miraculously a success simply by the grace of God and the fact that I was about 5 seconds away from running to the Wal-Mart bakery and buying a premade cake to try to pass off as my own.  After that I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Day Two in Disasters in Baking:

 So day two was supposed to only be icing but since I had failed so miserably the first day to produce two sufficient cake layers, I still had one cake left to bake.  So I ran to the store as soon as I was released from work to buy my ingredients and get home to get my cake in the oven so I could take my little Ironman trick or treating.  Now if you’ve been keeping up with the story, you should know that at this point I am out of eggs.  There are twelve eggs in a carton and I’ve baked three cakes that require 4 eggs a piece and 1 cake that required 3 eggs.  This was only possible as my mom had three eggs left in her carton and I had previously purchased an additional carton in which I only intended to use 8 eggs.  We now know that this was not the case and all 15 eggs have been used.  So what did I forget to buy at the store?  All together now, EGGS!!! 

So as I’m putting the dry ingredients in the mixer and trying not to get chocolate on my costume, I dawns on me, I have no eggs.  Such is my life.  So I quickly jump in the car and run to the nearest grocery store to pick up eggs.  Again by the grace of God the fifth cake turns out beautifully and I am now ready to go cavity collecting with my little guy.  We had a wonderful time but I had not anticipated the lateness of when we would return with his newly acquired candy stash.  Remember, I have only baked the cakes.  I still have to frost and decorate which I’ve already mentioned is normally my weak point.

So I say a quick prayer for a steady hand and begin to tackle the crumb coat, which also ended up being the top coat as well.  I was too impatient to let the first coat of icing dry enough before beginning the final layer of icing so there were little bits of cake in the final layer.  Ho-hum but what are you gonna do?  Also the icing did not want to stay on any of the corners or edges so a light bulb finally goes off and tells me, “Hide it with the border!” 

On to the next step, piping!  My aunt was generous enough to loan me some of her baking supplies which thankfully included food coloring and I ended up with a gorgeous blue that was dark enough to not be pastel but still taste good.  Somehow this phase of the process when off without a hitch and I finally felt like I was in the zone and the ideas and juices were flowing.  Even after all of the trouble I had to endure, I’m pretty pleased with the final result.

So the moral of the story is this.  Don’t bake when you’re already overloaded with a million other things running through your mind or when your mood is less than perfectly positive because your emotions will affect your baked goods.  I can only hope that this cake tastes good and not of exhaustion, crankiness, or orneriness as I experienced all this and more while baking it.  I hope that you can all learn from my misadventure in baking and check back soon to see what other fiascos I will encounter in my life as a single mom.

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