2007: a cake odyssey

it took me weeks of drooling, a weekend of planning, and two days of cooking, but i did it.
i made a cake. a real cake. with layers. and pastry cream. and frosting.
and i served it to people. real people.

i did it all in honor of my birthday.
or maybe i used my birthday as an excuse for the cake.
does it make a difference?
it was my first real cake.

it started weeks ago, when i was trying to find a recipe for my photography potluck dessert. i was flipping through dorie's baking book, thinking about new recipes. i was mulling over a red velvet cake. i'd become enamored with the far breton. but in between, i spotted a brilliantly delicious idea: chocolate black-and-white cake. four layers. chocolate pastry cream. white chocolate whipped cream. all kinds of chocolatey decadence. i briefly considered it for the dessert but decided to save it for a better occasion. i admit, at the time i sort of expected that the occasion would never arise. i almost never get a chance to make a real cake. even the cupcakes i make, i have to halve the recipes and freeze portions of that.

i was patient, though. i waited for inspiration. and then i remembered the perfect excuse: my birthday. last year, i used my birthday as an excuse to make a gigantic chocolate buttermilk cream cake with cherry compote (yum!). but that was kids' stuff. a sheet cake, chopped up and dolloped with pastry cream and cherries.

this year, i chose the chocolate black-and-white cake. this was a real cake. it has layers. it needed multiple cake pans. i knew i'd never be able to do it in one post-work baking session. not if i wanted to stay sane. and while sanity may be overrated, it's much harder to earn a paycheck without it, so i opted for the two-day approach. monday night, i came home and baked the cake layers. tuesday night, i came home and made the pastry cream and the whipped cream.

in the usual order of things, the pastry cream would have taken me two or three tries and the whipped cream would have taken me two or three minutes. but this cake demanded more of me. the pastry cream, complete with cornstarch, took but a few minutes of stirring and thickening. the whipped cream, because--well, basically because i was stupid--took 3 tries and a grand total of four hours. (and a recently-discovered stash of white chocolate ghiradelli bars.)

when it was all done, i doubted my ability to slice the two thinner-than-expected cake layers into the four that dorie describes, so i slathered chocolate cream on both halves and sandwiched them together. i got up early this morning and did a crumb-coat layer of frosting, chilled it for 20 minutes while i took a shower, and finished it off. it didn't look as pretty as dorie's, so i shaved some dark chocolate bits over the icing. it still didn't look as pretty as dorie's, so i decorated it with fresh raspberries. i wrapped it up and brought it into work (a co-worker joked that if i had gotten knocked over on the metro, i would have had to call in absent on account of homicide).

i am pleased to report that my cake was a total success. it lasted about 5 minutes from the first slice. people came scrounging back for crumbs. my baking prowess was praised.

i was a happy birthday girl.

No comments: