August 28th, 2008

chill relaxed

The cake is NOT a lie!

After three days of fretting and digging around for cooking supplies I *thought* I brought to Cali with me, having disasters minor and major, and in general giving us a good workout, susandeer  and I return to our traditional "Art Cake birthday present" in style, and upped the bar over our previous art cakes by a mile.

Our friend dollraves  has some rather flamboyant tastes, and is a flamboyant character, so Sue wanted to try making a sculpted cake from her Hot Cakes book that looked like a coresetted female of burgeoning proportions.  As our friend also has some food sensitivities, I asked her what flavor cake would she like, and she mentioned a cake from her childhood -- a "feather nutmeg cake", from an ancient edition of the Better Homes and Garden's New Cook Book.  Modern editions omit this cake, and she was pining for it.  As my edition is from 1981, I had a good chance at having the cake she was hunting for.

It was rather late on Monday when I verified the recipe and started making the cakes.  Alas, I couldn't find my heart cake pans, so we were going to sculpt the shapes from a loaf and a simple round pan.  I had to substitute a couple of things, but failed to check the ingredients I had on hand prior to starting the whole process.  I noticed a faintly nutty smell while pouring in the flour but couldn't pull up the reason why it bothered me to my conscious mind.  The cakes took longer than the recipe's suggested bake time, requiring the 'toothpick test', and then some rest time on the baking racks.  This is where the problem presented itself:  while the toothpicks came out clean, the actual centers of the cakes failed to set properly.  To Sue's horror, the cake in the loaf pan developed a sinkhole.  I was mentally banging my head on the table about not remembering that nagging feeling before:  my flour was no longer good.  That nutty smell was the start of fermentation in the flour, which means it would no longer be able to build the gluten strands that is the structure of baked goods.  No structural support, all fall down.

Tuesday morning, I had a shopping list of what was needed so I didn't have to substitute anything.  We picked up actual cake decorating supplies including a new heart pan, then picked up the groceries and headed back to start again.  Once I got the first cake in the oven, I threw together some tuna sandwiches for both of us (I often forget to eat when cooking, so this was a good thing!)  Back to work, got the first cake cooking and the second cake baking, we started delving into the world of fondant, more commonly known as sugarpaste.  It's edible sculpting dough, and many of the techniques used with sculpting dough work well with fondant.  Sue got busy making the smaller decorations while I developed a base color.  Time was running out as we got the second cake out and attached to the first.  They were difficult to sculpt into and the fondant picks up every bump underneath, and as we struggled to get the larger pieces to fit smoothly, I looked up and saw that it was already 8pm.  There was no way we could get the cake finished tonight.  Taking a deep breath, we bravely went to the birthday dinner sans cake.  Better to wait and give her a properly done cake another day than a wreck 'on time'.

Wednesday, I left Sue at home to see what could be salvaged while I went to buy fresh supplies of fondant.  Upon my return, I find Sue in a much happier mood: the cake carving really does need the cakes chilled for 8 hours, and using my little tomato knife was the perfect tool for her.  Now we were dealing with not just time but heat as the day was going to be a scorcher -- I whipped together 5 pounds of buttercream frosting, set aside some to make into a thinner icing for the crumb-coat, then we got to work.  After each 'layer', we had to put the cake back into the 'fridge, which drew out the process longer.  Rolling out very large sheets of fondant was especially challenging but the ease of application made it worth it, but the buttercream was melting in the heat and breaking through.  Finally, the decorations Sue had made the previous night were attached, and I was able to dab finishing touches when folks started arriving for the craft night. Ack!

dustykat  appeared in my peripheral vision, spotted what I was doing, and did the most glorious mime reaction I've seen in years. We kept dollraves  out of the kitchen so I could safely stash the cake, then we enjoyed some craft time together (me mostly watching) and a little dinner.  Once everyone had arrived (I felt sorry for reveille_d  who arrived with another cake! I didn't know if he knew there was a cake already here or not)  And finally .... FINALLY ... we got the cakes out, becandled them, and let the birthday girl come into the dining room to see.


Yes, we are both pleased with the results and the resulting response, but I was still waiting for her reaction to the flavor of the cake.  I mean, I like nutmeg a lot but I was still unsure this was the cake from her memory, or if it would be as good as her memory's cake.

It was.   *WHEW*

And, here's the finished cake
corset cake

So, now I can start my next cake project, as soon as jakebe  tells me what flavor he wants! :)