Saturday, September 10, 2016

A week of four cakes

Summer is drawing to an end and it is cool enough to bake again! I've been yammering about baking a cake for months but not acting on it because baking a cake is more of an event than baking cookies, which is pretty "whatevs" in my book. Perhaps it is because cookie making is more casual and can be done in stages--I have no compunction walking away from cookie dough after I've creamed the butter and sugar, but once I start on a cake there is a time bomb waiting to explode in your kitchen.
*tick, tick, tick*

Sunday: Cake #1 Genoise with Cherry Cake Syrup and Chocolate Ganache Mousse

I didn't want to make my normal foolproof go-to cake, well, it is foolproof and that is boring. The Genoise, meanwhile...I royally screwed that cake up years ago and never re-visited it. 
Fresh outta the oven!
My first and only Genoise attempt/failure was right up there with the infamous Vert Vert cake (never. again.1 Monet was apparently a sick man with an unhealthy butter fetish.) for a common-to-me reason: I didn't follow the directions. I did not grow up with sponge cake (apparently those also require cake syrups?) or any other syrup-requiring cakes so I ignored that part of the instructions and hated the dry cake results.

Lesson #2 of cake syrups: actually get the syrup to the edge of the cake.
Trust me on this one. I put a bad photo up simply to illustrate my point.

If you are also unfamiliar with them, a cake syrup is pretty much just a simple syrup plus your flavor of choice and lemon juice, and the Genoise is flaky and disappointingly crunchy without it. When the cookbook tells you the cake needs a cake syrup, by golly it does.  This time I dutifully followed all of the instructions and made a cake syrup with some Heering Cherry Liqueur we had on hand because...yeah. How else are you going to use cherry liqueur? It is undrinkable. And cherry obviously goes with chocolate ganache. Obviously.

Sunday: Cake #2 Chocolate Genoise with Orange Cake Syrup and Chocolate Ganache Mousse

Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
This cake was around when I figured out that my life might actually be better with a) a proper whisk, and b) a candy thermometer. As it was, I consistently scorched my fingers.

The internet instructions say, "Place the bowl over but not touching simmering water in a saucepan and gently whisk until the mixture registers 140°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 minutes." However, my cookbook says bring it to 160°F for a nebulous "couple of minutes. Bringing the mix to 160 takes ~over ten minutes, for sure, and at one point I even ran out of water in my double boiler. Huh.

After this cake was done, I determined that yes, I like the Genoise. It defaults as a single layer cake, which is nice because it is a more approachable amount of cake. When you make a two-layer cake you're swimming in cake for a week and eating cake in clean-up mode. Poor choices. Also, the Genoise is really versatile based on how you can change of the cake itself (e.g. this version was chocolate) or the syrups, or the frosting. And I quickly came around to liking the whole syrup aspect of it, not soggy at all!

Wednesday: Cake #3 Genoise with Cherry Cake Syrup, Lemon Curd, and Whipped Cream

There is no photographic evidence of this cake because I made it in a rush after work on Wednesday night, whipped the cream for the frosting the next morning, and actually frosted it in the break room at work. It was gone within 20 minutes of being frosted so...there you go. Instead, here is a slice of the chocolate cake (2nd cake of the week).

Saturday: Cake #4 Hershey's Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This was for Heather's birthday party so I had no wiggle room for goofin' or potentially screwing something up. I also wanted to spend some more time fancying it up since it is for a BIRTHDAY. And that biz is important! In other words, time for a foolproof cake. However many months ago there was some video I came across with fancy pants cake frosting techniques so I thought I would try that out, even going so far as to do the whole "crumb coat" thing. After the crumb coat had set for an hour, I tried the smooth frosting approach using Chris's bat'leth (Bialetti, whatever) and a Lazy Susan.
This is a warrior's cake!

While the Lazy Susan definitely helped, I may only use the Bialetti for high-drama cakes in the future; otherwise, a basic knife more or less does the same job.

After all of that, the cake looked nice but not whoooooaaaaaa! Luckily, I had also picked up some flowers to step this up to the next level. 
New territory for me! And yes, I washed all the flowers. :)

Notes about this cake--I don't think I would use coconut oil  again, stick to vegetable oil like they tell ya! Either that or all my frosting futzing somehow made it denser than usual. I choose to blame the coconut oil. So in other words, I somehow slightly goofed on the foolproof cake. Huh.

 1 While I say never again for the Vert Vert cake, I have been thinking of giving it another go--nine years have passed since I made Michelle a melting blobby cake for her birthday, maybe I can somehow make it work now? I'm smarter now, right?