Thursday, July 23, 2009

From Scratch

This will shock those of you who know me well, but I have a bee in my bonnet. (I doubt anyone will be all that shocked that I have a bonnet). Every now and again, after what would seem to be perfectly innocent conversations or magazine articles, I find myself fuming a little and muttering, usually because someone has mentioned making cake 'from scratch.'
I've made all the arguments--doesn't take any longer, avoid chemicals, difficulty is false--but the truth is, if you're an inexperienced baker and don't keep many ingredients in the house, it IS easier to make basic white or yellow cake from a mix. I don't deny that. I think what's really bothering me is the whole concept of 'from scratch.' It's just know, 'from scratch' isn't really from scratch--someone else ground the flour, milked the cow, churned the butter, concocted the baking soda, distilled the vanilla extract, refined the'd think it wouldn't be such a big deal to mix it all together. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where I stood the other night, when UPS presented me with a large box of toys, and I looked wedding cake in the eye.
Two weeks ago, at New York Cake and Baking Supply, Stacey and I piled pans and made calculations until we arrived at what we believe to be the ideal size for her wedding cakes, which will be tiered after all. To feed her 85+ guests, I'll make a three layer cake, with 10", 8", and 6" layers. According to Rose, this size, while not traditional, will feed over 100 people, if the top layer is eaten. When we had finished our mayhem, we left New York Cake and Baking, and I priced pans online, finally ordering them from here.

They all arrived in the mail last week, and as soon as I could, I tested out my nemesis, the ten inch. I shouldn't have said my nemesis, it's a lovely pan, but it will be the base for the largest cake I have ever made, so I was a little intimidated. And that was before I started the math.
When creating cakes of unusual sizes, there is always some recipe tweaking or doubling to be done. When doing this with round cakes, it is also helpful to remember the method for determining the area of a circle. And, after a brief and embarassing flirtation with internet math sites, and a spate of forgetting that a radius is not a diameter, I am happy to report that I am back on track. The scrawled paper above is testament to my skills, and as I begin to pack for my August wanderings, there will be a great many more of those. By my calculations and observations, I slightly underfilled the 10" sample pan, and will have to use a little more batter in the final.
I may also need to use a little less baking powder, as I am very worried about holes or tunnels in my cakes. During the baking of the 10" sample, I kept the temperature very low and baked it slowly, but there still seemed to be a lot of bubbles, many of which I punctured with a skewer during baking, which seemed to help. I have been wondering if the real culprit is not baking powder or overmixing, but too much bottom heat from my baking stone. Anyone who has any advice on this point? According to Rose, the larger the cake, the less baking powder is proportionally needed.

Regardless, I am clearly capable of making an excellent 10" cake, and so I feel a lot less worried about the final project, although the icing could still be perfected even more--I sampled a Sugar Sweet Sunshine cupcake again last week and it was far fluffier than I've yet achieved--but no worries, I'm a genius, and I love my new toys.

This past week has been a blur of dress looking over (no new ones have been pleasing me, so I've been thinking of several old ones), suit shopping (he got one and will look fantastic), and other little matters, including wrapping up at my soon-to-be-former job, banging out a play, et al. But I keep looking at all my pile of pans and just dreaming of cake.

1 comment:

Liana said...

i cannot wait to eat some cake!!