Saturday, October 20, 2007

An ambitious project

Occasional Baker on a Diet
second in a series of eight

Because my baking has been more than occasional, I will be going on a diet for the next few weeks. During this time, I will blog about my very early baking as well as my initial attempts at photographing food. The entire series is compiled here.

After my very encouraging first attempt at baking a cake, I decided to take on Martha's Birthday Cake in 2006 for Patrick's birthday. I thought this cake would suit him perfectly because it is white, prickly and burnt at the edges:

I remember announcing boldly to several friends that I would be taking on this endeavour. As Pat's birthday approached, I began to get a bit nervous. What have I done? Doubt began to set in. What if it fails? The worst part is, I couldn't back out of the project.

I began reading up on the subject of baking. My first cake was made on the fly, and I didn't think this would work this time around. Eventually, I stumbled upon Baking 911 - hands down the best baking resource on the web, ran by cookbook author and prolific baker Sarah Phillips. So good was the online content, I decided to buy the book of the same title.

"Baking 911: Rescue from recipe disasters" - just what I needed! And as you can see, this 911 call prevented a lot potential disasters:

Of course, it's nowhere nearly as finessed as Ms Stewart's creation. But as said in Baking 911, "perfection is highly overrated."

It is from this book that I gained an appreciation precisely why proper measuring, correct mixing, adequate pan size, accurate temperature and appropriate baking times all matter in making cakes that are consistently better than store-bought. What is so good with this cookbook is that it goes through great lengths explaining these "why's." There is a particularly good section on creaming butter and sugar - all-important in buttercakes - that has been expounded upon even more on the website. There is also a very active forum of supportive bakers on the site, and Ms Phillips graciously answers many posted questions.

This cake also solidified certain baking preferences that I now have. First off is my preference for buttercakes that are made via a creaming step versus the two-stage method (where high-ratio shortening or butter is first added to the dry ingredients followed by gradual addition of the wet ingredients). Also, I love Swiss meringue buttercreams, particularly because of John Baricelli's recipe which was used in this cake. I have since adapted the recipe to make many different kinds of buttercreams.


Julie said...

That's awesome! It's like meringue on steroids--I love it. And I agree--I'm advocate swiss meringue buttercream, too. It's the only buttercream I like the taste of!

SimplePleasures said...

looks great! I applaud you in your courage, I've been wanting to try this recipe for he longest time now, still afraid to do so. what does it taste like? is it any good?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, really gorgeous looking! You are very courageous and talented!



Julius Elefante said...

Thanks, guys! =)

kellypea said...

That is some kinda birthday cake! It's gorgeous. The 911 link is great. I hadn't heard of it before.

Elle said...

Wow! That is a magnificent looking cake...all those beautiful meringue looking strands and so beautifully colored. Mmmm!

Megan said...

That is one beautiful cake=)

Lori said...

that IS perfection. Great job.