I like baking. I like baking cakes, especially. I especially like blogs that show cake baking at its finest. Like this blog and this particular cake. That is a lot of cake. And icing. And macarons. But really when would making such a cake be warranted? Can I really justify making this cake, and during the week, no less?
Sure can – because it’s World Mental Health Day today! And today at work there is a “bake-off” fundraiser. Each year, on October 10, the Mental Health Foundation holds a global celebration to promote mental health education, awareness and advocacy. The theme for 2014 is Living with Schizophrenia. The Mental Health Foundation website provides information about schizophrenia, and suggests holding a Tea and Talk fundraiser. Because this is for charity, I really wanted to bake something spectacular. I think that THAT cake fits the bill. For the bake-off, we need to name our cake. I’ve named mine “Appetite Disturbance” which is a symptom of schizophrenia. But it may also be what happens to people when they eat this cake.
Obviously this isn’t my recipe. I’m just following instructions – which are rather lengthy but very well-written. It is, however, an epic cake and I’d like to share my experience making it.
I typically make a cake, all of it, even an elaborate one, the day before I’m going to serve it.
This cake required different three different kinds of icing: Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, ganache, and a glaze. Even the buttercream was split into three different flavours: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. 2 (yes, 2) flavours of macarons. 3 cakes cut in half horizontally to make a 6 layer cake. Didn’t I say that was a lot of cake?
Even if I stayed up all night, I wasn’t sure that I would finish it. So I started on Tuesday, making the buttercream and one batch of the macarons. The next night I made the other batch of macarons, ganache, and the cakes. Yesterday I make the glaze, and then put everything together. Putting it all together was relatively easy. But here’s some problems that I had, which I normally wouldn’t have had if I would have made it all in one go.
First, the buttercream. I would normally make this and then frost/ice the cake immediately. But the instructions said the buttercream could be left in the fridge for 5 days before use. I’m good at following instructions. But when I got it out of the fridge, it was obviously very hard to spread and I wasn’t sure whether to leave it out to get warm – which would have taken forever – or what. So I stirred it to get it warmed up. And it curdled and stayed curdled. No picture here. It’s ugly. I was about to throw it out and start again, but then remembered that handy invention called the web. I internet searched for how to “un-curdle” swiss meringue buttercream. Hint: heat up about ½ cup of the curdled stuff in a microwave, until it’s runny, and then while the mixer is going, pour the heated stuff back into the mixer with the curdled stuff and the icing will become smooth again. True story.
Second, the macarons. Wanna know how many videos I watched on how to make macarons before I made them? No, trust me, you don’t. I’ve actually made them twice before. The first time, they were near perfect. The second time, they were close to inedible. The thing about macaron dough is that if you under-mix, then you get cracks in the top which is not how it should look like, and if you over-mix, then you don’t get the classic “feet” – you just get a very flat meringue/sugar disc. This time, when I made the strawberry flavour, I thought I was nearly to the point of over-mix and was worried about lack of feet. But they turned out great! You can see them on the top of the cake.
For the chocolate flavour, I really didn’t want to push it as close as I thought I had with the strawberry so I didn’t mix it as much. And while I got feet, the macarons aren’t smooth and shiny on the top, and a couple are cracked. So I think that was slightly under-mixed.
For that reason, none of the chocolate macarons are displayed on the cake top, only inside the cake.
Third, the ganache. Ganache can split/break/separate. Essentially instead of a nice shiny glossy smooth chocolate spread, you get a grainy oily mess that has no business being put on a cake. When I made the ganache the night before I needed it, it was fabulous. Exactly what you expect. Then I put it in the fridge to microwave the next day. The instructions said I could! I was very very careful about not putting the ganache in the microwave for too long between stirs, but I could see it was close to separating. It finally came together but I did have to give it a zap during the cake construction process because it kept going a bit grainy.
In the end, the cake came together fine.
I just had a few panics during its construction because of my inexperience in storing individual bits and then putting the cake together. Overall, I think it looks pretty good. I’m hoping that I won’t be able to show you what it looks like inside, in a future post, because it means the cake will be all gone. More money for the charity and less temptation for me.
My next challenge? How in the world am I going to get this cake to the office for the bake-off?