Part II: A Cake Failure

I love cake. Cake is delicious, and just *seeing* a beautiful cake fills me with anticipation and joy.

I also love the creative process of making a cake — although it doesn’t always turn out the way I’d planned. Cue this post with photographic evidence.

You might think that because I obsess over food enough to publish this blog that I would never have failures in the kitchen, and you would be wrong. 

Today I will walk you through a classic yellow cake, complete with implosion, and how I fixed it.

First, lemme say that baking at altitude can be a challenge. I usually just round my flour to a “heaping” cup of measure, and it works out. Not so, this time.

Hmm. Not what I’d planned.

After uttering some choice language (which, studies show relieves stress), I let the cake cool, then set the cake on a turntable and, using a serrated bread knife, sliced the tops off of each to create a more even top. I then used some cake scraps to fill in the hole. In my experience, it is nearly always necessary to slice some amount of cake off the top to even it out.

Once you have your cake evened out, you can frost or fill it with whatever you like. I was in experimentation mode this day, and in addition to the never-tried cake recipe, I also decided to fill it with chocolate mousse instead of buttercream frosting and opted for a chocolate mirror glaze. One thing I learned: mousse is a great filling (but not a great frosting), and mirror glaze looks MUCH better if you pour it over a smooth, frosted finish (which I did not do).

Side notes: 

  • I like to make mini cakes, because I don’t need a humongo cake living with me, and because mini baked goods are just darn cute. 
  • To create professional-quality cakes, it is helpful to have these inexpensive tools: 
    • Turntable
    • Cardboard cake base
    • Offset spatula
Mirror glaze requires no other addition!

Dark Chocolate Mirror Glaze

  • 70 grams dark chocolate (88% cocoa)
  • 40 grams water
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 40 grams condensed milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 grams powdered gelatin
  • 10 grams Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Bloom the gelatin in a small amount of cold water; set aside. Heat 40 grams of water, sugar, cocoa powder, and condensed milk in a saucepan. Bring it just to a boil and turn off the heat. Stir in the vanilla and bloomed gelatin until it is fully dissolved. Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is fully melted. Using an immersion blender (or poured into a blender), process until it is very smooth. Be careful not to introduce too many bubbles since every minor imperfection will show on the surface. For the same reason, strain the glaze through a sieve to remove any stray particles. When this mixture has cooled to 90 degrees, it is ready to pour. Place your cake on a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet (to collect the excess).

I could feel badly about the aesthetics (or lack, thereof) on this cake. But like I said, I was experimenting with recipes and techniques, and it just didn’t go as planned. Oh well. Still tasted good.

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