Sunday, February 13, 2011

B-day Cake Crazy

I love cake.  There's no getting around it.  There are only very few cakes I've met that I haven't liked, and it takes a very messed-up cake to garner my scorn (think: dry, tough, tasteless).

This cake was not scorn-worthy.
Given that I love baking cake almost as much as eating it, I offered to make a custom creation for my coworker Sherri's twentysomething birthday (I got your back, Sher... I won't spill the beans here!)  Sherri, like me, loves pretty much any cake, which gave me carte blanche for creation.  I sent her a little quiz, however, to see what flavours she prefers and what I could play around with.  I believe the quiz was as follows:
  1. What's your favourite citrus flavour?  Answer: lemon
  2. What's your favourite berry? Answer: raspberry
  3. What's your favourite non-berry-or-citrus fruit?  Answer: peaches and mangoes (I think... I can't quite recall all answers now)
  4. Favourite nut? Answer: not really a huge nut fan overall
  5. Favourite chocolate type (i.e. dark, milk, white, etc)?  Answer: any!!
  6. Favourite type of icing (i.e. buttercream, fondant, fluffy)?  Answer: cream cheese
  7. Favourite cake flavour overall (i.e. red velvet, chocolate, white, spice)? Answer: carrot cake
Sherri had fun with the quiz, which I'm thinking I'll use for other upcoming 'Pegger birthday girls and boys.  Now, obviously, I wasn't about to make a cake that incorporated ALL of these flavours... that might be tricky (and gross).  Instead, I picked up on lemon and raspberry, partly because I'd been craving the combo myself, and partly because something light and fruity like that was a nice change from the cold wintry weather.

Recipe book, along with citrus inspiration!
As with most of my baking endeavors, my coworkers are my guinea pigs (or lab rats?  Whichever).  Having never attempted it before, I decided to make Anna Olson's Lemon Mousse Cake, modified with some raspberry jam in the middle layer.  The end product?  Gorgeous and delicious.  The journey to get there?  Perilous, at best.  I shall let the pictures do the talking.

There's a significant amount of lemon zest in this cake.  Couldn't help but take a shot of my  citrus, elevated to the level of art by my new zester (courtesy of my cousin Adam at Christmas).  I love the long, criss-crossed pattern it makes!  It also makes great long strips for garnishing... more on that later.

The genoise sponge cake, made to specs per Anna's recipe.  I've made genoise before- light and spongy without being dry.  This did not disappoint.  The idea was to trim about an inch all the way around the perimeter of the cake (which made tasty tidbits for snacking), then slice the cake into two layers.  Then, using a ring mould (or the ring from a springform pan, which you see here), pour a homemade lemon mousse over the whole shebang, surrounding the layers in light but firmly set airy "frosting" with a perfect clean edge.

Uhhhhhm... oops.  The best laid plans oft go awry.  I didn't thoroughly clean the beaters on my electric mixer between whipping up the cream and the eggs, which resulted in less-than-inflated eggs and a runny mousse.  Add to that the ability of the mouse to leak under the ring mould that I'd set on top of the serving platter.  Crap.  What a mess....
Aaaand the floor.  I was so frantic (wanting to ensure I had enough time to make a second batch of mousse and let the whole thing set up), that I actually left this splatter in place for a good couple of hours.  Figgy did not object at all... though I'm sure my veterinarian sister Ni would faint over my kitties licking up heavy cream and raw egg.  Ah well, it's not like I'm going to REPEAT this performance.
Second (and successful) batch of mousse in place.  I made swirly patterns with dollops of PC blue menu raspberry jam, and a chopstick.  I was shocked at how nice the raspberries looked mid-January!
Part of the second-time-around solution: instead of just resting the springform ring around the cake on the serving platter, as Anna suggests, I actually put the cake back in the fully assembled pan.  The paper towels are there because of a known leak in one spot of this particular pan.  Luckily it stemmed the flow of mouse appropriately, and no further massive mousse messes were made that day.  Huzzah!
And now, Honeybee's destroyed kitchen!! No real worries, though... this was tidied up pretty quickly.  It just LOOKS bad.

AND IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH THE EFFORT.  Behold, the gorgeous, garnished finished product.

Look at those lovely lemon peel curls!  Plus a few mint leaves, for good measure.
At the fête, with the lovely Scarlett, Sher, Lindsay, and Honeybee.  Sher was quite pleased with the end product!!
Cross-section.  See the nice layer of raspberry jam in there?  Added a very nice touch, if I do say so myself.  My criticism of the overall end product?  I would've liked the recipe to make more mousse, to ensure a sufficient "top layer" at least equal to the thickness of the "side layer".  The next time I make this sucker, I'll be making 1.5 times the mousse.  Leftovers are better than not enough!!
Before I go, since I'm already on the topic of birthday cakes, I want to share MY 26th birthday cake with you.  I know I've written before about my Aunt Lisa's tradition of making me my very own cake, in spite of all the other goodies/dainties that are served on Christmas Eve.  I never know what I'm getting any given year, however it's a VERY safe bet to assume it'll be chocolatey as sin.  Drumroll please, for the 2010 cake:

Behold!  A chocolate caramel sea salt masterpiece!  And yes, the jig is up.  My name is Melissa.  Greek for Honeybee.  I couldn't bear the thought of blurring out that awesome icing job for the sake of anonymity.  And I love the little snowflake sprinkles... they match the beautiful pendant that Hubs got me for Christmas!

Not the most flattering of action shots, but that's life in motion for ya!  Blowing out the candles in my Nonna's dining room, surrounded by Ellie, Johnny Cash (I mean, my brother-in-law), Ni, Daniel, Sar, and Adam (the zester cousin!)  The taste of this cake was so worth all that effort to blow out those candles!  Plus check out all those other goodies... this is why I gained ten pounds over the holidays!  Ah well, you only live once.
I'm most definitely looking forward to future birthday cake requests.  I've already got three in mind:
  • Irene has requested something with caramel (perhaps I'll ask Aunt Lisa for my cake's recipe? Or I'll play around with dulce de leche, we'll see).  Irene, if you happen to stumble across this, tell me again what your birthdate is so I can schedule my scheming!
  • Shannon requested something super-chocolatey (I'm thinking my aptly-named Super Chocolatey Cake, but perhaps with a ganache frosting instead of Betty Crocker.  There's a reason my London girlfriends call this one "sex on a plate")
  • Hubs was very intrigued by the Tia Maria torte I enjoyed last night at Baked Expectations with my new buddy Deb... and I'm just as intrigued about recreating it.  Challenge accepted!
As much as I love baking, I'll only put on more weight if I hoard the results to myself (no matter how tasty they are!)  I'm so looking forward to honing my skills and having the result be enjoyed by friends and family.  I'm also looking forward to spending more time in Bulk Barn... I've never fully appreciated what a haven that place is for cake decorators!

Thinking I need to look into a formal cake decoration class, perhaps in the fall after boards and wedding are safely behind me,

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous! You're quite the cake pro. I admire your ambition and tenacity in the kitchen!

    Also, re Bulk Barn: I KNOW! I don't know how I ever survived before I discovered this baking mecca.