March 30, 2010

On salvaging failures.

Posted in Baking, Cake, Holidays, Misc Musings, Recipe tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:36 pm by Dani

This is the story of a cake. This is the story of an inedible, nasty cake. This is the story of making a bad cake good. This is a cake rehab story. So it goes.

Cake

My mommy’s birthday is on Wednesday, so for the passover seder sunday night (we did it a night early) she requested I make her a layer chocolate-strawberry cake. Easy thing for her to ask for; not so easy for me to produce. I spent days trying to find a cake recipe that worked, but when sunday came around, I had nothing. So I used the recipe on the potato starch box, which was a very last minute decision. It was also a complete failure.

It was extremely dry. I took a bite of the pre-assembled cake and I ran straight for a glass of milk, resisting the urge to drink straight out of the carton. My throat was on FIRE. I DO NOT recommend this recipe. I know I know, passover cakes are always dry. Well, use the boxed mix then. Don’t waste your time on a from-scratch cake that’s going to be gross anyway. Or if you have a great passover chocolate cake recipe, leave it for me in a comment.

“So,” you ask, “what did you do? Time was running out, you needed a cake, and all you had was a dry, spongey, brown block. How on EARTH did you salvage this atrocity???”

I couldn’t help thinking about the mexican favorite: Tres Leches cake. It is the polar opposite of my dry, gross, THING. What makes it unique is that a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream is poured all over the cake, super saturating it.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake. This is wet, not moist.

Drippy cake was not what I wanted, and condensed milk kind of freaks me out (it’s goopey!), so I did this to save the cake:

1. Combine approx. 1/3 cup whipping cream with 1 cup non-fat milk (or alternatively, 1 1/3 cup whole milk)

2. Fold a 2 layers of paper towel in half, twice, to make a cloth thats 1/4 the size of a standard piece

3. Cut cake so that it will be layers, each about 1/4″ thick

4. Soak paper towel in cream/milk. Squeeze out enough cream/milk so that it’s no longer dripping, but still saturated

5. Dab each layer with saturated paper towel. Don’t skimp, but don’t go overboard either. Make ganache and spread between layers. Skewer to keep stable.

If you’re unsure about the cutting into layers, ganache, or skewering steps, read this post. I talk about the basics of layer cakes. But, for those who are too lazy, I’ll do a quick, concise review at the end of this post. But first: frosting!

I had a multitude of fresh strawberries (and also a lemon tree) so I made Fresh Strawberry Frosting:

1 box confectioner’s sugar

1.5 tbsp unsalted butter

3 strawberries, chopped fine

1 tsp lemon rind (Your’e all thinking, I can just leave about the rind. Don’t. Trust me, it’ll be a million times better)

1/3–1 cup milk/cream/water

Combine all ingredients except milk/cream/water. Beat on high, slowly adding milk, cream, or water until the texture is smooth, yet thick. Tastes like candy! Yum.

In the end, no one knew my cake started out as a big hot dry mess. It wasn’t drippy, and the ganache helped to keep all the milk from sinking to the bottom. From epic failure to success: that’s what I call a good day.

Alright, here we go.

Once you have your baked cake, there are 3 basic steps to layering.

1. Cut cake into layers.

I use a bread knife to do this. Put your left hand (or if you’re a lefty, reverse this) on top of the cake and apply light pressure. With your right hand, use a large knife to cut sideways, parallel to the counter, being extra careful to keep the knife level (and also careful not to cut yourself!).

2. Put something in between the layers.

I like chocolate ganache:

Combine equal parts chopped chocolate and cream. That’s it. Want something more detailed? Here: Put chocolate in a food processor, heat cream on stove or in microwave, pour cream over chocolate, let sit for 2 minutes, pulse food processor a few times. Done.

SO EASY. While the ganache is still warm (and therefore still a liquid), pour about 3/4 cup onto center of cake layer, and spread around with a knife. Avoid getting closer than 1 inch from the edge. Put new layer on top. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Alternatively, you could use frosting or whipped cream or anything your creativity fancies.

Skewer the cake from the top with wooden or bbq skewers (about 3-5 for an 8″ cake). If you don’t have those, find anything long, thin, and pointy. This will ensure that the cake doesn’t lean when you refrigerate it.

Oh yeah, that’s the next step. refrigerate it, especially if you used ganache. This will make the cake one solid unit. Now it won’t fall apart when you…

3. Frost and/or decorate it

This part is the most fun. Frost, pipe, and/or sprinkle your heart out! You can take the skewers out before you start. Enjoy!

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1 Comment »

  1. […] mom’s birthday, and it was also my sister’s baby shower. I had already made my mom an epic cake for the seder a few days earlier, so I didn’t think about doing it again on her actual […]


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