Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crack! It's what's for dessert or "Oh, Crap!"

When I heard that we were putting together a surprise birthday party for Johnny Schenks for his 40th I was all in.  I declared that I would make the cakes.  After much thought, questioning and consideration I decided to make a white cake, a carrot cake and a chocolate cake.  (Stand in awe of my creativity!)  OK, I admit it, they were some very safe choices, but in my own defense I have some fantastic recipes for some very basic cakes...and let's face it, the classics (which are classic for a reason) are so poorly done these days by the mass producers of baked goods that a really good classic is almost like coming home.  Come on, if it isn't angel food cake then it shouldn't be light and airy, it should be dense and moist...  I labor on, but you get my point.

I'm still enumployed so I spent Wednesday fetching everything I needed for a major bake-off on Thursday.  On Thursday I made my cakes...  they were all perfect.  Once they were cooled through to the core, I wrapped them up and stored them away in a cooler that we got a few years ago.  The cooler is big enough to bury a Jr Hi kid in and was just the right place for the cakes (someone bought a side by side fridge that isn't big enough to put a turkey in).  The cakes were safe and sound in the cooler.

Friday came and I began the ordeal of decorating.  I started with the dark chocolate ganache because it takes over an hour to set-up (if it sets up too quickly it's to hard to frost a cake with and has to be eaten with soup spoons - this isn't a bad thing, but I didn't have the ingredients for two batches).  Then the cream-cheese icing, into which I put crystalized ginger chunks (a nice addition but to be honest the punch of the ginger was not strong enough to compensate for the fact that it looked like there were boogers in the icing).

Cricket was running errands so I asked for a box to put the white cake in and a board to carry it on.  I got just what I had asked for, but it wasn't until I put the cake on the board that I realized it just didn't rise high enough to slice and add a layer of lemon curd (which I was already in the process of making).  I had borrowed Louie's half sheet layer cake pan and used a double batch of white cake to fill it...  So, I made another double batch of white cake to create my second layer.

I made the dam of icing around the edge of the bottom layer filled the dam with lemon curd and then stared at it trying to figure how on earth I was going to plop the second layer on top without causing the lemon to squirt out the sides...  In Classic Cricket style the response was simply, "Gee, I don't know..."and I promptly found myself alone in the room.  What to do???

Now, on a separate occasion my mom had suggested that I cut a cake in half to facilitate the ease of moving and manipulating it once it was iced no one would be the wiser.  I thought this was a terrible idea, because it seemed to me that the cake would pull apart when it was moved, but now that I had all this cake to work with it seemed like a great idea.  I cut the cake into two pieces, managed to find a way to lay them in the appropriate spots on the filling without it gushing out and pulled the icing from the fridge where it had gotten as hard as a rock.

I'm a stickler about icing so I'd used a block of butter and almost five pounds of powdered sugar to make a vat of butter cream (I have an easy recipe that never fails me and tastes pretty good) [sometime I'll tell you about the time Linus, who knew I was bringing to a party a batch of cupcakes with my white icing, made a white cake himself with his own white icing just to see whose icing would win in a taste competition]  So, I had two Gladware containers full of icing that I had to get to the right temp to be spreadable on a freshly baked, mostly cooled cake.

I iced it.  It was good.

I piped a turquoise border around the cake.  It was pretty.

I wrote out the lettering with a meat thermometer and then piped it in.  It was nice.

I took the bottom out of a styrofoam cup and used the cup as a funnel/stencil for small circles of colored sanding sugar on the top of the cake.  It was finished.

Of the completed cake Cricket said, "it's gorgeous..." , and it was.

We loaded the chocolate and carrot cakes into Cricket's SUV,  I packed up a triage kit in case I need to re-pipe some of the stars around the egde of the big cake, and I climbed into the car holding the cake, on a board, in its box, on my lap...

...and I'm in Jersey...

...and the pot holes are monstrous...

and as we drove I watched the cake.  Sometimes resting it on my lap, sometimes serving as a shock absorber, I carried this thing...

..and I watched it happen, just like I would have guessed that it would happen.  First the icing appeared to have been stretched on the far side of the cake, then it split and the gap began to open.  the blue stars on the far side of the cake began to sink into the crack.  "Birthday" became "B    irthday".


Cricket looks over.

"I can't believe it..."

Cricket looks over.

"Surprise, for your birthday you get an all expense trip to the Grand Canyon."

Cricket laughs.  "Can't you fix it?"

I began to wonder why, if Cricket was so blind, I was not the one who was driving. "NO!"

"Well, it will still taste delicious."

"Great!  Close your eyes and blow out your candles and keep em closed until I have a chance to cut this mess into squares."

I had worked the entire day on something that would "still taste good".  Oh, Yea! for me...

We got there as the continental divide happened on Pangea.

I brought the cake to the kitchen in the basement and stared at it.  Louie responded to my distress text and said I should just fill the crack in with icing...  I said that I couldn't fill the grand canyon with one truckload of dirt... 

I came up with a Plan B and decided that I wouldn't stress, but enjoy the party.

As we stood in line for the dinner buffet Wgeoff bent over (he's 6'8) and said to me, "Did you see the cake down stairs?  What a mess!  they spent all that money on a cake when they could have had you make one that would probably have tasted better; even if it wasn't decorated as nice."

Call me crazy, but this was one of the highest compliments of the night; he had mistaken my cake for a professional cake gone wrong!  I couldn't have been happier...

When it was all said and done I piped a big "40" on the carrot cake and called it "decorated" - thats' where the candles went and it was lovely...

...and Cricket was right, even with a crack right down the middle, the white cake filled with lemon curd and frosted with white lemon butter cream icing was still delicious.



Anonymous said...

What a shame! But I'm sure it was delicious. I love your ideas of using a meat thermometer to stencil letters and making circles on the cake to fill in with sugar. How creative!

I was bringing a shrimp and orange appetizer to a friend's party last year. It had lots of ingredients, one of which was tomato paste. I got in the car and Richard handed it to me to hold and then he got in the car. Before we even pulled out of the garage, I accidentally tilted the bowl filled with the appetizer and even though it was covered tightly with plastic wrap, the sauce spilled all over the crotch of my white pants. Needless to say I had to go back inside and change. And we were already late to begin with. Fond memories...

SillyStud said...

WB-My biggest beef with plastic wrap is that it never clings... I made a platter full of cupcakes decorated like jack-o-lanterns, put it on the front seat of my car and when I stopped in traffic (not at a high speed) the wrap let go and all the cupcakes slid to the floor...

I'd have so few stories if I didn't have so many disasters.

Little Ms Blogger said...

You should have told them you were making an earthquake cake.

Just remember - everyone would rather have ugly & yummy over pretty & icky any day of the week!