Sunday, February 9, 2014

Christmas Cakery: Doubling Down on Disaster (And What I Taught Myself) - Part 2

Christmas was barreling down on me as though it was a runaway sleigh and I was a human frozen in the headlights of a mutant reindeer with a glowing nose. I'd done wrong by the six-inch cakes, leaving two of them in cryogenic sleep. I had a fall-back plan, however. And you know what they say about fall-back plans: The best laid plans of bakers and cooks often fall flat on their backs.

Things Went Horribly Wrong Dept. - Molded Cupcake and Mini-Bundt Cake Division

It seemed like such a simple plan: use the remaining cake batter in the mini-bundt cake pan I found in my storage facility (I'm really going to have to clean that out one day – mainly because it costs too danged much every month) and in the butterfly silicone molds.

Colorful butterflies!
These molds came from my little sister, the ever-brilliant Miss Kee. She also included a set of flower-like cupcake style and a set of a kind of star-pattern style. About one hundred per set. I had no idea what I was going to do with them but she seems to have faith in my ability to figure things out. I ended up using them for handheld pies. Here's another look at what I did with them last year (as I said, I'll either tell the story of how these came about, or chronicle a new adventure):

Butterflies and flowers
Bite-sized!
As for the mini-bundt pan, I'd never used it before, even though I've owned it for well over a decade, so I was venturing into new territory, as is my way with so many of my baking projects.

Bah-weep-graaaaagnah wheep mini bundt!* *No-prize for anyone who gets the reference!
Let me go on record as saying I'm not a great lover of cupcakes. The trend that swept the nation for the past several years seems like it's receding; it just left me with a mouthful of "meh". As the competition for the public's pocketbooks heated up, the purveyors promoted baked goods that got farther and farther away from what a cupcake is supposed to be (in my purist opinion). So, the fact that I was considering what were essentially cupcakes as the fall-back position for my holiday cakes was saying something about my desperation regarding the time constraint under which I'd foolishly put myself. Still, it was a sound plan. Or so I thought.

I introduced the batter to the baking containers. This is the point at which things went south. Because even though the silicone molds worked brilliantly for the pies, and the bundt pan seemed as though it would work as well, non-stickiness proved to be qualities they lacked when it came to this cake batter. Once I pulled them out of the oven, I couldn't pull the cakes out of the molds or the pan! After they'd cooled, they never released! Absolutely. Held. On. For. Dear. Life! No amount of shaking or threatening (and I did a fair amount of that) made them let go. It was as though some chemical binding process happened that caused the cakes to merge with the molds and the pan at the molecular level. I mean, even after I conceded and put everything in the sink to soak and clean, it was nearly impossible to extricate the cakes! I'd never seen anything like it.

I was mortified and a bit despondent. This meant I'd never make the mailing deadline for Christmas and my presents would be late. Again. Not that my family isn't used to me sending out Christmas and birthday presents and cards (very) late; I just wanted this year to be a little different. Alas. As I sort of said earlier, "The best-laid schemes o mice an men ang aft agley."

A Note On The Gaelic: I've always heard and read that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I never knew about the original version of this saying until Eddie Izzard used it as one of his tangents in "Definite Article". I still laugh my butt off whenever I see it.

A Note On The Gaelic Ends

It was here that I discovered something very important. Something that would shape the rest of my December and part of my January: I don't actually have a cake problem! The recipe I was using and my execution of it were fine. The failures actually tasted great! What I had was an assembly problem, which is an altogether different thing. I discovered this when I pulled the 6" layer cake out of the refrigerator and saw how the cold had solidified the chocolate ganache enough for me to actually work with the layers. I determined that a thicker version of the ganache, or a different filling/icing altogether, would make the cake viable again. Being one who likes to cover as many bases as possible sometimes, I opted for both.

I made a stiffer ganache to fill the layers, then refrigerated the cake to solidify the ganache on each layer. I made a stiff butter cream frosting and added a thin layer on top of the ganache. Then, after another brief stint in the fridge, put the layers together and iced the whole cake with the butter cream. The result:

Cake salvage!
One of these days, I'm going to have to get one of those Lazy Susan turntable thingies to make this process easier. No, it's not as smooth as I wanted it, but it looks pretty darned good for someone who doesn't consider himself a cake decorator. But, you may ask, how did all that in and out and in and out of the refrigerator affect the texture and taste? Didn't that dry it out? Well, I will answer, apparently not! I served this, and its cryogenically frozen companion to two different groups of friends and both were pronounced delicious! See for yourself!
Looks pretty darned moist to me!
Also, this cake was so proud of itself that it insisted on having a photo taken with everything that had made it was it was today.

The Lineup.
How did this help me with my late Christmas gifts? Confidence – as in it gave me lots of confidence in my cake baking abilities. I mean, seriously, what kind of baker would I be if I couldn't consistently make a good cake? Also, it gave me something to do while I waited for these to arrive:

Smallest springform pans ever!
I'd ordered these 4" Wilton springform pans but I knew they wouldn't arrive in time for the Christmas cakes, so that's why I went ahead with using my own 6" pans. Now that I'd spent time flailing and fumbling about as I learned important lessons about cake, they arrived and I could put all that hard-earned knowledge to use.

But that's going to have to wait for Part 3!

Currently listening to: Sara Bareilles - Fairytale




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