Monday, February 14, 2011

Cake Disaster; When A Chocolate Cake Goes All Wrong

There’s something about baking that just doesn’t suit me. What is it about chemistry that is so hard to understand? I wasn’t so bad in my high school chemistry class, but I wasn’t that good either. I guess I didn’t make the wrong career choice by not becoming a scientist…

This weekend was my brothers-in-laws’ birthday (twins!). As Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, I thought chocolate was an absolute must for the dinner party. So I found this amazing looking chocolate cake recipe. Little did I know that I was in for an afternoon of hell preparing this monstrous cake! Everything went wrong! Starting from the size of my pans (I used 8-inches pans instead of 9-inches), to my icing (I used granulated sugar, as the recipe indicated… but realized too late that there was a mistake and it should’ve been icing sugar), to my timing (I needed an extra 30 minutes that I didn’t have, which means my cake collapsed… not being cooked enough). It was sooooo frustrating, not being able to complete my cake correctly. Having to see this ugly, disappointing looking piece of chocolate.

What have a learnt from my experience? Well, first of all, when you bake a cake, make sure you have enough time ahead of you. Baking does not accept any rule bending so there’s no cutting time (which was my first mistake!). Also: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Not the Aretha Franklin song, but the ingredients on the list. Don’t cut back, don’t approximate. Chemistry requires exactitude. Finally, make sure the recipe has no mistakes (yes, that does happen). I’ve also learnt that if I cooked like this all the time, I would not like it… Which made me understand why so many people hate cooking. I guess it’s possible to be terrible in the kitchen.

In the end, I did serve my cake at the party. And guess what? People loooooooved it!! Yes, it did look a little weird and certainly wasn’t perfect. But the taste was all there and in the end, it’s pretty much what matters most. So I got to serve the entire cake, not leaving any leftovers behind. Will I ever bake this cake again? YES. Will I do it differently? Without a doubt!! So do take the time to try this one out. I’ve made sure the recipe is correct this time. And please, let me know if yours turns out to be amazing looking. I know it’s got the full potential to be an amazing crowd pleaser.

Disaster Chocolate Cake
Makes 12 servings and more!

What my cake ended up looking like...
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
8 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oilt
1 cup buttermilk (or sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ 35% cream
5 cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa powder

It looked ok to begin with...
The beginning of the disintegration...
Preheat the oven at 350˚F.

Line two 9-inch round pans with parchment paper, butter and flour. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Set aside.

In another large bowl, beat the eggs, the cream of tartar and sugar at high speed until the mixture doubles in volume (about 5-8 minutes). Add the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Reduce the speed of the mixer. Add the dry ingredients.

Pour into the pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack. Cut each cake in half horizontally.

In a large bowl, beat all the ingredients together until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Layer the cake with frosting. Finish by frosting the cake evenly. 

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