Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cake-tastrophe Part 1

Yesterday was my 5-year-old brother's birthday and, being the enthusiastic baker that I am, I volunteered to make the birthday cake. My brother told me he wanted a dinosaur cake, but not just any dinosaur cake - he wanted a pink dinosaur. It made my day when he said that.

I decided to make a chocolate devil's food cake from scratch, and then shape it into a dinosaur and cover it with pink frosting. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, let's just say that the beautiful dinosaur I had envisioned was never quite realized, and it took many, many tears to get the mediocre final result. I never understood why someone would cry over their baking disasters, but I can fully say that now I completely empathize with anyone frustrated to the point of tears.

For my first attempt, I chose a recipe from a cookbook that called for buttermilk and cake flour. Seeing how I had neither, I found substitutions that seemed legit - regular milk plus lemon juice for the buttermilk (so it would curdle), and all-purpose flour minus a few tablespoons for the cake flour. I think that these two things combined are what contributed to the disaster...

*Warning, the following images contain horrific views of mangled cake.*

As you can see, the cake didn't rise. Instead, it caved in halfway through baking, but still decided to spill over the sides. Pieces dripped into the abyss of the oven's depths, burned, and made the whole house smell like burnt chocolate. Lovely.

Even at this point, I had hope (feel free to start laughing at my bright-eyed optimism anytime now). I let the cakes cool in the pans, certain that even though they looked ugly, they could be salvaged and turned into a dinosaur cake with the help of copious amounts of frosting. When I turned them out onto a plate, however...

...they looked like a pile of mud. What should have been the height of a two-layer cake instead resembled a mud-pie that my brother would make in the backyard. Yeah... definitely no way that I would be able to turn that into a dinosaur.

I finally resorted to trudging down to the store and buying a boxed cake mix (the baker inside me died a little), and that turned into a whole other cake disaster (stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow).

The one good thing from all of this is that my flop cake tastes delicious. It's so chocolaty and rich that it's already halfway gone, despite its ugly appearance. This experience definitely showed me that I still have quite a way to go on my baking journey, but it's a lesson I'm glad I learned. I guess I'll just have to try again for the next birthday cake, and hopefully that one will go a little better.

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