Sunday, January 31, 2016

Turning an Ugly Duckling into a Ugly Swan

I love to bake.  I love to bake cakes and pies in particular.  There is something so homey and satisfying about home baked things.  But let me be clear about something, I am no cake decorator.  As a matter of fact, I am a cake decorating dropout.

A few years back, my sister-in-law and I signed up for classes in the Wilton method of cake decorating.  After the teacher told us she used a hatpin to retrieve stray hairs that fell on her cake while she was decorating, we looked at each other and knew that we would not be returning.  We were too germ-o-phobic to consider such things ( reality though they may be).

As a result of my decoratus interruptus, I am a lousy cake decorator.  If you throw in a particularly crumby and fragile cake, there can be all manner of ugliness in my decorating.  Case in point, my Uncle's birthday cake this weekend.

His favorite cake from days gone by was the Entenmann's Marshmallow Iced Devil's Food cake (non-New Yorkers see this for reference), so I knew I wanted a rich, moist chocolate cake, with a fluffy vanilla buttercream.  With a little web research, I found a NY Times recipe for chocolate "Dump It" cake  (huh, huh, you said dump).  The icing recipe that went with the cake was a sour cream ganache, which was not vanilla and  I had made before and did not like it, so I used my own stand-by buttercream recipe.

The recipe warned that the cake was prone to sticking to the pan due to its intense moistness, so I prepared the pans as instructed, adding a parchment paper liner for extra insurance. This approach worked as the cakes came out of the pans without incident, but I could tell by the crumbs that fell during the removal process, that there would be crumb/frosting infiltration. Generally speaking, this is nothing that a crumb coat and second layer of icing could not address, but this was not the usual crumb containment issue, this was crumbageddon.

After the first round of frosting, I knew I was in deep doo doo. The cake as utterly un-presentable.  I knew I was going to have to MacGuyver that shit.  Here is a little photo essay on the rescue mission that ensued:

 It all started off with a creamy, white frosting that contracted a pox when applied to the cake.

I tried to chill the cake to seal the crumb coat.
And yes, I always have that much vodka in my freezer. 
Don't judge.

Alas, no amount of chilling would seal the disaster sufficiently to keep the frosting clean.
My hero to the rescue.

 I turned the white icing brown to hide the crumb laden disaster beneath the surface.

And voila! A cake that is neither pretty, nor impressive...but also not a total disaster and VERY tasty.  And you wonder why my freezer is filled with vodka?

The real trickery came when I put it on the table.  Pretty glasses and linens distract from lumpy cakes Ooh, look! Shiny object!


  1. I admire the quest to bake. For me, things never work. Never. Crumbs everywhere, cracked cakes, pans that are gummy, and hours later? Nothing spectacular ... I think things taste better when someone makes them for you. That's the secret right there, Im sure of it. This cake looks scrumptious. And pretty. But I'm surprised you didn't find a way to sneak some vodka into the cake batter.

    1. Good point. I'm not working hard enough to use up my obviously generous store of vodka. And thank you for complimenting my ugly cake. You are a kind woman.

  2. I think it turned out GREAT! Good clean-up. Do you watch that Great British Bake Off? they BAKE. Wow. I like to watch other people baking while I sit and drink vodka. It's the only way, I tell ya.

    1. I need to find that show. I have heard of it but don't know what channel its on. I love cooking shows...and vodka.