Sunday, April 25, 2004

Baked the first experiment of this project earlier this week, and I even borrowed a digital camera to document the results. Looking through my cupboard for some ideas, I found a box of instant lemon pudding that needed using up. I thought that that as a filling in a plain simple cake with a slightly lemony frosting would be nice. I happened to already have a stock of lemon juice on ice. Shopping, I picked up some white chocolate for a ganache frosting.

I wanted to make several small cakes to distribute to different people, but I only have medium-largish baking pans. I stopped by Michael's to check out their cake supplies, which I'd heard were impressive. I picked up 6" and 8" baking pans, some cardboard cake rounds, and some disposable pastry bags. Convenient place, although they were out of a few other things I might have grabbed.

I used a basic white cake recipe from the wedding cake book. Baked wonderfully, except for one thing. I'd forgotten that my cake flour (actually pastry flour) was whole wheat. Sure, it seemed like a healthy idea when I was at the store, but honestly, who's looking for a healthy cake. So, although the white cake was moist and tender and delicious, there was a little bit of extra texture in there. And some crumbliness. And it wasn't exactly white. It was, you know, wheaty. Lesson: you're making cake, not granola.

I love using a ganache as frosting. It's simple to make, melt chocolate and cream together, you just have to pour it onto the cake (after a protective crumb layer, I used simple buttercream), and I think it looks very elegant. I would love to be able to make a ganache with white chocolate, because it's very mild and could be easily flavored, but I've had bad luck with it in the past. I did some reading and decided that a white chocolate glaze, made with a little clarified butter instead of cream, and some highly reduced lemon juice, might be a better bet. I tried that, and it seemed to be going great, but was just a little too thick. "Why not add a little cream to thin it out?" I thought. So I did. Did you know that adding water-based liquids to chocolate actually makes it more thick, instead of less? Well, it's true. And documented, apparently. It was like some crazy chemical reaction. Impressive, in a way. I kept adding more and more cream until I finally got it down to about peanut butter consistency, and figured I'd quit while I was ahead. Not the smooth pourable glaze I'd hoped for, but still super rich and yummy. Lesson: respect the recipes, even for frosting, and especially for chocolate.

Final lesson: be prepared for a little improvising to lead to a lot of improvising.

I actually remembered from class how to fold the little paper icing bags and used one to do a quick melted white chocolate pattern on each cake as a finishing touch. Nobody who tasted them complained. :) Check it out:

lemonwhitecake-before lemonwhitecake-justbaked lemonwhitecake-sliced lemonwhitecake-melting lemonwhitecake-after