Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect (I Hope)

As you know, dear readers, I have a Strawberry Shortcake Extravaganza coming up rapidly approaching.

As you might remember, I have a goal of making a fondant cake I am pleased with, and I saw one on Pinterest that I thought I could use for inspiration.

If you know me in real life, you know that I am kind of completely anal and detail-oriented.  (If I were to go to culinary school, I'm pretty sure I'd go to pastry school.  Detail and precision, steady-handed work?  That's me.  I've always loved that.)  So it's probably no surprise to you, then, that I made a practice cake.

Here it is --

I'm pretty pleased. I learned a lot.  I don't, however, get to cross the fondant cake off my list (yet). 

Some of the bigger things I learned:
  • First, don't stack the tiers, other than for measurement, until after you've put the fondant on each one.  (Duh.)  Oh well; it wasn't that hard to backtrack on this one.  And now I know that my dowels will hold.  I was so proud of my dirty icing, I wasn't thinking about how I was doing fondant, and not just icing.  (Although I think it holds true regardless: stack later!)

  • Second, here in Georgia, I definitely need to cut my buttercream with 50% shortening and 50% butter. Using all butter made it impossible for my piping work to hold any shape -- or really, do do anything but turn to mush.  (That's why my squiggles on the bottom are just worms, and I didn't even bother piping completely around the cake.  I gave up and just experimented to see how "drop lines" would work with the mush I had, and then I gave up on that and just started making it ugly for no reason.  One spot even says "Practice!")
I attended a cake decorating demonstration at Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago that was filled with little tidbits that I was able to incorporate into this process, and although I won't list them all here, they proved invaluable.  I felt like I had an advantage before I even started.

I also purposely made two decisions:

First, I chose to buy ready-made fondant for this go-round. I know that it's easy enough to make, but I wanted to have a back-up if I made too little, without having to make more and panic.  So I chose that as my crutch.

Second, I opened the ready-made fondant, and realized it was divided into two portions.  I knew that one portion wouldn't QUITE be enough to do this cake properly, but I chose to allow for places where the fondant didn't reach, rather than waste an entire box of fondant.  So you can see some gaps and uneven spots in the cake, but that was intentional.  The stuff's not that expensive if you use a coupon, but it would have been awfully wasteful for just the tiny bit extra that I needed, and I had to remind myself:  this cake wasn't to show; it was to learn.

If you look at the cake in all its amateur glory, you'll see that I also decided to fiddle with cutting some decorations, but not too much. Once I got the gist of it, I didn't think it was necessary to dye and knead and roll and cut all the colors the real cake will use.  Or to cut 50 strawberries by hand.  :)

All things considered, I am pretty psyched.  I have a great sense of how long this will take, a few tweaks I want to make to the buttercream and the actual cake recipe, and in the end I really don't think it's all that hard to do a decent job, and not that much harder to do a great job.  I'm not going to have my own cake show any time soon, by any stretch, but I absolutely can do this well enough to be proud of what I create. Most importantly, I am confident that I can do this for CAM's party without freaking out Friday at midnight!

Mick jokes that this is going to end up costing about as much as a wedding cake, but that's not really true.  I did have to buy tips and my turntable and offset spatulas -- but hey, those have been on my list for a long, long, while and this just forced the issue!

Wahoo!  Time to eat!


No comments:

Post a Comment