Friday, May 22, 2009

Cake Baby Steps

Brooklyn summer is wrapping its warm, wet, sweaty hands around my shoulders, and I'm elbow deep in my oven, as usual. This week I've been setting off the smoke alarm right and left, roasting chickens, chopping onions, and creaming pounds and pounds of butter and sugar. In addition to my usual madnesses, I'm deep in the grips of a new obsession--Wedding Cake.

This August, I'll be attending two weddings on two consecutive weeks (all blessedly in New England!). First, dear friends Stacey and Avi will be married in Maine. Now, as you may have gathered from the odd guest post on this site, Stacey, in addition to Libby and Matt, is pretty much my main partner in foodie crime. We call each other to gloat about particularly successful recipes, email lunch menus and ingredient suggestions, troll* farmers markets, and generally indulge our ridiculousness on grand scale together. She's one of the few friends that I have that I know I can never bore on food topics, and a willing collaborator and taster, as well as an inventive and talented cook, who roasts an impeccable chicken and is always up for sausage and pickles. Avi is also a foodie, curious and hungry and an inventive cook. As you see, they're a formidable team to please, and I feel very honored that they have asked me to create their wedding cake.

As if that wasn't riches enough, my fantastic cousin Becky is marrying the beautiful and stylish Michelle exactly one week later, and they have asked me to do theirs as well! The engineering bar is far lower, as they want cupcakes, but the possibilities are temptingly endless, and the style challenges complex. I am so excited. I know it is months away, but I have been mulling things over internally for weeks already, and last week started up a frenzy of samples and experimentation. I am reading everything I can find about cake chemistry, homemade wedding cakes, design, etc... and testing yellow cakes at an astonishing rate. I am already driving everyone crazy, although I hope to get it out of my system and have the whole plan in place in a couple of weeks, and move on, I'm a pig in shit here. I get to make so much cake! I have a legitimate, scientific reason to create all kinds of things that I would never get to make, to use books that have been lying lonely on the shelf, to pretend to be a pastry chef at last. Now here's where it gets interesting. I can turn out a pretty fair chocolate birthday cake, carrot cake, and coconut cake, and so I thought I was pretty together. However, when I started to think it over, and went through the Thanksgiving Princessetarte, the pink Strawberry Cake, and the Tiramisu Cake, a humbling realization ensued.

I'm not that good at making basic plain cake.Wow. That was strange to realize, especially when I'd just pledged four people the cake experience of their dreams. I'm not scared--even in the last week's experimenting I've turned out some specimens that I'd be proud to serve--but I am not as experienced in this particular branch of dessert as I'm going to need to be, so I turned to Rose Levy Berenbaum and her aging but entirely relevant classic, The Cake Bible. Rose and I are going to go it together, with ample help from Martha, Dorie, Deb at Smitten Kitchen, The Kitchn, Shirley Corriher, the ladies of Sugar Sweet Sunshine, the betrothed themselves, and, hopefully, you. I welcome all comments on the enterprise, all advice and cheerleading, and I thank you in advance for putting up with what will quickly seem an overwhelming amount of information, as I plan to overshare. Part of the original purpose of this blog was to restrict obsessive food commentary to a forum where the readers were willing participants, and that outlet has never been needed more.

Over the next two months I will keep you appraised of progress, experiments, fun facts, and tons and tons of yellow cake. Beginning right now.

* troll (v.) Gleeful grabbing and grunting of leeks, rhubarb, turkey sausage, shaking said products, and stuffing them in one's sack and running away.


Unknown said...

gimme that beater! i wanna lick it!

Vivian Darkbloom said...

I am going to begin referring to myself only as beautiful and stylish henceforth.
I am also going to attempt to keep up with your cake progress via the internets. You should know, though, that Becky and I love cake and will adore whatever amazing concoctions show up at our wedding. I've yet to eat something you've baked that disappointed, starting with the scones you made in your dorm at Barnard when I met you for the first time.
Thanks for lending your talents to our wedding extravaganza!
(The Beautiful and Stylish)Michelle

Katya said...

Wow, I don't even remember said scones. I must have always been crazy. I love cake and you two both, Michelle. Hurray for extravaganzas.