Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stencil Madness

Kind of reminds me of Wedgwood China, a little, in a way, almost.

But it worked, it worked! I love how easy it was to create this design. Stencils, baby! Oh, yeah. Now I just have to get a small enough stencil for the sides of the cake. And having a non-lumpy, non-lopsided cake might be helpful too. But the main point of this cake was to test this stenciling technique.

Oh, and to take a stab at the 6" round cake size, and attempt to curb the crumbliness of the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake from The Cake Bible by partially substituting all-purpose flour for cake flour. It sort of worked, but the leavening was off, and so it got a bit more dense. Blah. Still tasty, and not objectionable, I think. Co-workers scarfed it in record time, but it was a small cake anyway.

Details of the cake:
One batch All-Occasion Downy Yellow Cake from The Cake Bible, two 6" round layers, about 2" tall each (before carving off not-fallen bits), plus several mini-cupcakes.

Substituted 75% all-purpose flour for 75% of the cake flour. (Researched viability first.)

Syruped both layers (and mini-cupcakes) with 1/4+ cup (total) vanilla liqueur and vanilla extract.

Used Magi-Cake strips (the Wilton knock-off ones).

Used Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) that was a mix of the recipes in The Cake Bible and from the King Arthur Flour Cake Class. Added 1/4 tsp orange oil.

Used blueberry jam (preserves, whatever) in a thin thin sheet on the bottom cake layer, before I put on the buttercream.

Fondant dyed with Wilton's gel colors.

Used royal icing for the stencil and piping, a mix between the recipes in The Cake Bible and Spectacular Cakes.

Cake made about 6 days before serving. Syruped when cool, prior to storage. Stored at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
Buttercream made 1 day before serving.
Cake assembled and decorated 1 day before serving.

Bottom line:
First, I think I filled the cake pans too high. Second, I think the cake was slightly over-leavened because it rose fast and then fell slightly in the center. Also, it ended up a bit dense, but not crumbly! I think I'm on the right track, but I want to try a 50/50 mix next time, and maybe tweak the leavening just slightly. Maybe not.

This is the first time I got to practice my new frosting techniques (for the crumb coat anyway) since the King Arthur Flour Cake Class. I do believe I seriously cut down the time and effort I spent on frosting. I felt so much more comfortable, without the usual struggling. What a huge relief. I may even invest in a real cake decorating metal spatula. (I use various silicone spatulas right now.)

For royal icing next time, I think I'll go more closely with the Spectacular Cakes version. It calls for almost twice as much powdered sugar as the The Cake Bible version, so I split the difference. However, it took a little too long to harden, and the color from the fondant bled into the icing around the base, slightly.

Jam layer worked well. Do that instead of trying to add a lot of booze to the buttercream. also, the orange oil worked well with the blueberry jam and the cake itself. Add a tiny bit more, maybe 3/8 tsp or even 1/2 tsp. Try lemon oil instead, maybe?

Ah, the IMBC... So lovely and wonderful when it works well, which it did this time. I like the volume of the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cake Class, and I think there's slightly more room for error, but I think it's a little too sweet, especially sitting under fondant. The main difference between this recipe and the Mousseline BC from The Cake Bible is the amount of meringue and simple syrup. Again, I split the difference, and got what I think is a very fine IMBC. Yay!

Syruping mini-cupcakes is a waste of time. See, the top is moist and doesn't need syruping. The bottom is dry, and you can't get the liquid down there, even by poking holes in the cake with a toothpick and then applying the liquid. So serve 'em within a day or two, or not at all.

I'm fairly confident that I could turn out a wedding cake tomorrow and not embarrass myself, but I still want to practice several things. But time is running short...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wedding Cake Class at King Arthur Flour

The smoothest buttercream frosting? Uh, no. The best borders at the base of the tiers? Not so much. However, the texture of the Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC, or Mousseline Buttercream in The Cake Bible) is flawless. Flawless, I say! And that is an incredible feat.

This cake is the product of a wonderful class I took at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center. The class was Tiers of Joy: Wedding Cakes with Elisabeth Berthasavage, and I highly recommend it! Visiting the middle of Vermont anytime soon? Check out their class calendar, and learn about baking all sorts of things, from pizza dough to pastries. You will not be sorry.

(Hosted a small, impromptu cookout so people could come over and eat cake. They only ate the top tier. Co-workers got the bottom tier as usual.)

Among other topics, I broadened my cake education horizons by learning how to make and shape marzipan and chocolate plastic, pipe chocolate, and smooth buttercream frosting (still practicing that part). Oh yes, that is indeed a marzipan rose atop my cake class product. And it was darn tasty, if you like marzipan. Also, Elisabeth was kind enough to see my sketch of L&M's wedding cake, and offer professional tips and advice. She looked a little skeptical, but at least she didn't say it was doomed to failure.

I met some wonderful people in the class, and I especially appreciate Betsy's expert tips about carving L&M's wedding cake and decorating it. Here are some of the practice cakes from some of the other students:

All are a bit more ornate than mine, I was definitely the slowest in the class. I also had the least amount of experience, from what I could tell. So I guess that just meant I had more to learn, and learn I did.

Details of the cake:

One batch x 3, and adjusted for humid weather of King Arthur Flour's Butter Cake, one 10" round layer and one 6" round layer, each about 2" tall.

(No syruping or Magi-cake strips, sadly.)

Torted into 2 layers each.

Total height of each tier: about 2.5".

Used 1 batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream, no extra flavoring except a tiny amount of vanilla.

Marzipan, fondant, piped chocolate, and buttercream used for flower decorations.

Marzipan, fondant, and chocolate made a few days before decorating.
Buttercream made 2 days before serving.
Cake made 2 days before serving. Stored by Baking Center assistants. (Thanks Molly and Michelle!)
Cake layers torted and assembled 1 day before serving.
Cake decorated 1 day before serving.

Bottom line:
Give me a regular cake recipe and I'll mess it up. I believe that has become an immutable law of the universe. Even this cake came out dense and heavy. A couple of co-workers said they preferred it, but I'd like a not heavy cake. The cake was not crumbly, and it was easy to work with the torted layers too. The taste was pretty good.

Now that I know how to really apply buttercream, maybe I'll use that to cover more cakes instead of defaulting to the fondant. Must practice.

Also must practice marzipan roses and chocolate plastic roses. The latter was much easier than the former, but I like the taste of the marzipan. Both media did not quite solidify to cement after being molded and left out overnight. They were not malleable anymore, though.

Excellent class. Can't wait to take another one at KA Flour, if I can justify the time and expense. (It is 2+ hours away, and any multiple day class would mean I have to get a hotel room, probably.) Rumors of a marzipan class in December. Hmmm....