Monday, August 13, 2007

Making Patrick's birthday cake

Today, I made my first failed cake - a yellow butter cake that utilized the one-bowl method. Had it worked out, it would have been a breeze to make. Sigh.

The batter looked and tasted good, but halfway into the baking time I noticed that the middle was baking and browning much faster than the sides (the opposite of what I know usually happens with butter cakes), and that instead of baking into a nice golden, smooth, gentle dome, it was bumpy all over.

Maybe it was my unfamiliarity with the one-bowl technique that is to blame. I followed the mixing times faithfully, which I read is critical to the one-bowl method. Butter was room temp, as were the other ingredients.

The only clue that I have as to what may have happened is that the cake had a heavy and distinct firm layer near the bottom from which the rest of the cake can be peeled off. I searched on over to Baking 911's list of cake problems and their possible causes. There it was listed, "heavy layer on the bottom." Could I possibly have added one too many eggs? Were my eggs too big?

Anyway, I did not have much time to do further postmortem analysis on that cake.

Instead, I ran to an old stand-by from Flo Braker whose book, "The Simple Art of Perfect Baking," is apropos for this situation. I picked her buttermilk cake, which is a variation on her classic yellow butter cake.

Here is the inverted cake:

I used water-soaked cakepan strips that retard heat from the sides of the pan to create an even cake. This cake rose from a 1" batter to a flat cake very slightly over 2" while baking and finally settled to just under 2" after cooling.

This will be tucked away in the freezer and brought out on Sunday for Patrick's birthday.

It is full of promise. I want to make this one simple but special. I am not sure what I'm going to fill and ice it with. Right now I'm leaning on a lemon buttercream icing with lemon curd filling.

It's a good thing Patrick doesn't read this blog too often. I know he'll be in for a surprise!


laura dot said...

Sorry to hear about your baking disaster.

The lemon filling and icing sounds really good. I'd really like to hear how everything works out. Have you frozen cake layers before?

Julius said...

Thanks for your comment, Laura. :)

I usually freeze cake layers because I only fit baking in my day (well... save for today when it took all morning).

I follow Dorie Greenspan's advice and put the completely cooled layers in a large ziplock, then suck the air out, then repeat with another ziplock. I then wrap them in foil.

When I have time, I thaw them in the fridge overnight in their wrapping. When I don't have time, I thaw it at room temperature and give it an occasional poke to see if it's ready.

I find frozen cakes easier to ice because they don't go crumby all over (especially true for chocolate cakes).

:) Julius

Rebecca said...

You're right. Flo's book is so great. You can trust that her recipes work everytime. I love that.