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.