Let Them Eat Cake!

I’ll start with a confession.  When I saw that January 27th was National Cake Day I knew immediately that would be the week for the BAKE SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH challenge.  It wasn’t until I took the picture of the date in my calendar that I realized it was actually National CHOCOLATE Cake Day.  I’d already purchased the items for a white cake with white frosting but no harm. You can never have too many options for cake.

I started my search again.  Checking out Pinterest, flipping through my own cookbooks, searching books at the library for the perfect chocolate cake recipe.  Since I’m a novice baker I needed a basic cake.  Most of the cookbooks on my shelves are about cooking not baking.  The problem with most books dedicated to cakes is that they really want to WOW you.  That’s not a problem if you are an experienced baker but I wasn’t ready to start with a checkerboard cake or one covered in fondant.  I needed a basic layer cake recipe. I did look at my Mom’s (very) old copy of Better Homes & Garden’s New Cook Book.   Those cakes were basic alright.  Find me cookbook today that has six cake recipes on one page.  I was going to need more than a paragraph to make this happen.

new-cook-book

Finally walking across the library I spotted a new cookbook by Ina Garten called Cooking for Jeffrey and on the cover was this beautiful chocolate cake with white frosting.  I’d found my cake.

I received some good advice about baking: make sure your eggs and butter are room temperature, grease and flour your pans, weigh your ingredients.  My ingredients were out and at the (hopefully) correct temperature, pans were greased and floured, and the oven was hot. I was ready. When I work in the kitchen I listen to music or audiobooks or podcasts or pretty much anything but not during the baking of this cake.  I felt like I had to focus so precisely on what I was doing that there was no room in my head for anything else.  It was like when you turn down the radio in your car so you can figure where you are going.  (Admit it, you do it, too.) The whole process took a lot longer than I expected.   The butter took a long time to soften. Weighing the ingredients took longer than just scooping them.  The cakes took longer to bake than they said they would.  The cooling took forever. By the time I was done my back hurt, my dogs had relocated to the kitchen floor, and I understood that bakers start at the crack of dawn so that they aren’t baking until midnight.

dogs-in-kitchen

I did not end up using Ina’s frosting recipe.  It requires six sticks of butter!  If you are using your scale you’ll know that’s 1 1/2 lbs.  I’d like to say that it was just on principle that I thought it was too much butter but actually I just didn’t have that much butter left.  Luckily, I was already prepared to attempt a beautiful buttercream frosting.  I didn’t frost the cakes the night I made them.  After a couple of frantic texts to my friend, Terry, about cooling time I let them cool, and wrapped them loosely in plastic wrap so they’d be ready to frost in the morning.

unfrosted

I didn’t get up as early as a professional baker but I did rise before the sun did to get my cakes frosted.  Ina suggested that a revolving cake stand would make the job easier but I don’t have one of those. Luckily, one of the brilliant people on Pinterest suggested that a large-mouth bowl flipped upside down with a plate resting on top works just fine and they were right.

cake

And then it was done.  I didn’t promise you a beautifully decorated cake. Just one that was made from scratch and that would hopefully be edible.  It was edible.  I thought it was a bit on the dry side but overall a baking success.

So, did you bake something from scratch this week?  Did you eat something that someone else made from scratch?  I’ll admit I did enjoy this challenge and I will make another cake from scratch.  In fact, now that I’ve gotten the first-day-on-the-job jitters out of the way I’ll be able to relax and enjoy it a bit more. Lessons learned: 1. the paddle attachment on the stand mixer is the one you need to cream butter not the whisk. 2. cleaning up after making cake is not fun. 3. your value to your co-workers will rise exponentially if you bring them a cake.

cake-at-work

Before you go…the cake was devil’s food made with both expresso and sour cream.  It was supposed to be a four-layer cake.  But I know my limitations and when Ina Garten has to use skewers to help her evenly slice her cake layers in half horizontally to get four layers, I’ll just stick to two.  Who am I trying to impress?

On Your Marks, Get Set…Bake!

Anonymous good deed? Check.  500-piece puzzle? Check. Mastering a new favorite song? Check. Now, it’s time to BAKE SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH.

My mom liked to bake.  She made bread shaped like teddy bears and even baked her own dog biscuits! So, genetically it seems like I might have an advantage in this challenge.  But my own experience is fairly minimal.  I went through an “artisan bread in five-minutes a day” phase for about a year when we lived in Northern Virginia.  That’s rough on the waistline.  I make a mean Texas sheet cake but I’ve never baked an actual layered cake from scratch. Turns out that National Chocolate Cake Day is Friday, January 27th.

national-cake-day

So, I’m going to bake a chocolate cake from scratch. I’ve watched all of the episodes of the Great British Baking Show.  I’ve even watched some episodes of the Great American Baking Show (not as good as the British one but better than I thought it would be).  I’ve watched every season of Top Chef.  Those crazy-talented chefs never want to tackle dessert.  They want to cook, not bake!  Baking is difficult. It requires more precision than I’m used to using in my life.  I’m not a precision person. Wish me luck.

What about you?  Have you ever baked a cake from scratch? Do you have any tips for me?   I’m excited to give this a try.  I now like puzzles (Andrew and I are working on a 1,000 piece puzzle!) so, who knows, maybe I’ll never buy another cake mix again!  You certainly don’t have to bake a cake.  There are a lot of things you can bake from scratch.  If you make something, I’d love to hear about it. Hopefully, I’ll just manage to make something that I’m not embarrassed to give to my co-workers on National Chocolate Cake Day.

Before you go…if you’ve never heard the stand-up set about cake by the comedian, Jim Gaffigan, you need to!  As a 10-year-old, Andrew could recite the whole thing.  Probably still can.