Saturday, 16 January 2010

Cake Calamity

So last night we were out for dinner at Vermillion in Manchester. The decor is certainly as spectacular as I had heard, and the food was something pretty special too. As it is an 'asian-fusion' restaurant the cuisine was thai/japanese/indian, and although they are not combinations you would typically see together, It certainly worked. We chose the set menu as we do love to try a few different things while out for dinner rather than just settling on one dish. Although you do end up with enough food for 3 people let alone 2, it is so much fun to have a selection of little starters, and a few different mains. It is decadently excessive but well deserved on special occasions, like this one to celebrate the fact that my beloved Jel has made it relatively unscathed through the first 29 years of his life. We tried not to dwell on the fact that it is now only 365 days until he is 30, we will think about that closer to the time and plan the appropriate alcohol dosage required to adequately numb the sting.

As I cannot rant on about my own culinary achievements today, I will instead string a few sentences together about my first experience with cake decorating. I have made many a cake before but never have I attempted to cover one in marzipan and fondant icing. The art of fancy cake decorating does fascinate me and I am actually looking for a cake decorating course to do at the moment, but without training or experience, I attempted to go it alone for my darling Jel's birthday.

First I needed to make the cake. As Jel is not a huge fan of fruit cake, I decided to go with a madeira cake. But I did not want a normal, boring, plain flavoured madeira cake so I decided to concoct my own flavour.  So in went all the ingredients and some coffee granules and some Tia Maria and some Amaretto. Into the tin and into the oven. So all was going smoothly on stage 1, or so I thought. You can imagine my surprise when I have baked the cake precisely accoring to the recipe, and I ended up with a brick-cake. A rock-cake. A cake so dry that it could be used to soak up a week's worth of Manchester rain. So that one was chiselled up into bits and thrown into the garden to see if the birds would attmpt to eat it.
Cake recipe take 2 was much better. Firm enough to cut and cover but still moist and tasty.Why couldn't it have been like that first time round? Only the gods of baking know. So after cooling and cutting it into 2 small rounds my mini-cake was ready for marzipanning. I had found what claimed to be the 'best ever marzipan recipe' online and was stocked up with ground almonds and all the other lovely ingredients. It all went well until the time came to knead the marzipan and roll it out. It was just far, far too sticky. It stuck to everything. From the counter top to the rolling pin to my hands and apron. But it was nothing that could not be remedied with much, mucg more ground almonds, icing sugar and caster sugar. The rolling out and covering went without incident, although the marzipan was not very strong and how on earth you'd cover a large cake with it heaven alone knows. I am dying to go on a course to find out how this seemingly impossible task is achieved.

After a day of drying out it was time to make the fondant. Now as a fan of 'Ace of Cakes' fondant has always appeared to me to be magical stuff that with no effor at all transforms a plain looking cake into an elegant, perfectly smooth masterpiece. Ha. Not quite. Not without out lots of practice and/or professional training. In the cake decorating my mom got me for Christmas the cake-covering section has lovely little step-by-step instructions. 'Roll the icing out into a circle to match the size of the cake. The drape over the cake and smooth out.' They do not say that after draping the icing over the cake there is an excess of icing at the bottom of the cake that will not allow it to be simply smoothed down. What are you supposed to do with that excess icing?? I did get the cake covered in the end, but it was far from the gleaming satin perfection that I had imagined. It was rather lumpy and uneven. But it was a first attempt so I will chalk it down to experience, and I tasted good so what the heck.

Happy cooking,

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