Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Meltdown

I'd like to blame some abstract cosmic force who is obviously working against me in the kitchen, but it's me. It's all me. I have an inability to follow directions. I don't plan on it. It just happens. I get to the bottom of the ingredient list and think "SIX egg whites! I have this meringue powder that should be a perfect substitute." And there it is. I've strayed ever so slightly from the instructions down the precipice and into the canyon.

Difficulty arose with my stubborn refusal to make another batch of hideous frosting. That buttercream frosting truly makes me want to yack. There was no way I was going to make an entire cake that I didn't want to eat. So I went to who we all know is the master of home baking: Ms. Martha Stewart. I decided upon her orange-almond cake with Swiss meringue buttercream--a buttercream recipe that calls for actual butter not Crisco. Using my new KitchenAid mixer (!) I whipped up the most delicious batter. The recipe calls for folding in egg whites--who knew how glorious egg whites could be when whipped to a frothy tower! So easy with the KitchenAid. The orange gave just a touch of zing to the moist cake littered with barely noticeable crunches of almond. For a filling, I used the remainer of the strawberry-peach-orange jam I made last summer.

I made an orange-flavored crumb coat, and moved on to the frosting while the crumb coat dried. We already know I substituted meringue powder for egg whites in the Swiss buttercream recipe--to my eventual detriment. But the frosting went on fairly smoothly, plus it's edible. A touch on the too-sweet side, but a fine balence when teamed with the cake. And I made the traditional buttercream frosting for the decorating portion of the cake--thank goodness. My sister Allison was standing by in case disaster struck but more to witness an emotional breakdown.

I carefully hauled my cake to the decorating class, taking every turn at calculated pace. One member of the class was not so lucky as I. By the time I waltzed into the classroom cake in hand, Desiree was red-faced and grumbling. Her cake broke en route--the top separated from the bottom and she was busy spackling it back together with the loathed buttercream. I offered a simpathetic glance and we mumbled about how horrible the frosting tastes--her fix was to substitute lemon juice for the water in the recipe (an excellent idea).

Together I and Desiree (my cake-decorating kindred spirit) fumbled through the final session. Once I coaxed my icing away from neon hues, I aced the roses. Desiree struggled with cabbage-like constructions until the light bulb clicked, and she got it too. I mastered the sweet pea, the simple rose bud, the leaf and the ribbon with almost no tribulation. Transferring my skills to the cake was more of a challenge, but it came out pretty well. I was the first one in the class finished with my cake, received my "diploma" and headed out to meet up with friends. I would trade my spendid cake for a meal of stir-fry.

I precariously balenced my cake in the front seat next to me and drove off. A little frosting transferred to my purse, so whilst driving I lifted the cake and balenced it in my right hand and steered with my left. There I was driving down Center Street with a cake in one hand. Not five minutes into the drive, I noticed that the butter-based icing was indeed melting in the 85-degree evening heat. My green-dot border was not-so-slowly sliding down the side of the cake and onto the stand and my arm. At a red light, I placed the cake back in the passenger seat. I couldn't have cried--it was too funny. I'm a lost cause with the cakes. If only Desiree could have seen me, she would have felt so much better about her own cake. I parked quickly at Dan's and ran up without even grabbing my purse. Once inside, Laura and Adam licked off the dripping frosting with their fingers while Dan snapped a quick photo (below). Such a delicious disaster.

Here are only the successful portions of the recipes, including the buttercream, which does taste horendous but works great with the roses.

Orange-almond Cake:
1 cup butter plus more to grease pans
1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
6 large eggs, separated
orange zest from 2 oranges (I skipped this)
2/3 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely ground almonds
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two 8- or 9-inch baking rounds and sprinkle with flour (that's a new trick I learned). Set aside.

In a medium or large bowl, beat together the sugar and egg yolks until light and fluffy with the whisk attachment (because I have that now!). Add the orange juice and zest and both the extracts and mix well. Using the paddle attachment, gradually mix the almonds and then the flour into the batter until combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the salt and the last 3 tablespoons of sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry. Set aside.

Melt the butter. Fold the butter into the batter using a spatula. Then gently fold in the egg whites, being careful not to deflate the whites. Pour batter into the two pans and bake for about 35 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Crumb Coat:
1 cup powdered sugar
orange juice

Put powdered sugar in a small bowl. Pour orange juice into the bowl one tablespoon or so at a time (very slowly). Mix with a fork between each tablespoon. Add enough liquid to make the icing runny, but still viscous. It should be about as thick as corn syrup. Pour onto the cooled cake that has already been stacked (if it's a two- or three-layer cake). Let dry.

Buttercream Frosting:
1 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 or 6 tablespoons water
2 pounds powdered sugar (!)

In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening with the paddle attachment of a standing mixer (or just any old attachment for you commoners without a KitchenAid, yes, I'm already a snob). Add the meringue powder, vanilla and butter flavoring, salt and 5 tablespoons of water. Mix until smooth consistency. Add the powdered sugar one-third at a time. I left out probably 1/2 to 1 whole cup of the directed amount of powdered sugar and the consistency was totally fine (this was according to some tips from one of my aunts).
Add more water as needed to get the right consistency to frost a cake and/or make silly decorations like the roses and leaves (don't even ask me how to know what consistency is right).


Megan said...

don't eat the rice pudding!!!! that's not nutmeg! it's chili powder! haha i love kitchen disasters. eh?

Megan said...

hey, did you use the egg white strainer with the smiley face? : )... okay i'll stop commenting every 4 seconds.

Anonymous said...

That's my girl!