“This is the best thing you’ve made thus far,” commented my co-worker after taking a forkful of the zuppa inglese I made — a very simple dessert of layers: rum-moistened pan di spagna, orange and chocolate pastry cream, topped with swiss meringue and traditionally served in a martini glass. “I want this as my wedding cake,” said another of my raspberry miroir. I replied, “You’re not even engaged!” But quite honestly, I don’t blame him. When I cut into it, I think I actually gasped at the beauty before me. The layers of moistened genoise cake were perfect against the vibrant raspberry Bavarian cream. It was beautiful. And it tasted even more beautiful. Light, but full of bursting raspberry goodness (and it’s not even raspberry season!).
Despite these rave reviews, the cake module is not my favorite and I can’t figure out exactly why. It is true that although I have always loved sweets, I have always preferred a large cookie over a strawberry-filled, ganache-topped birthday cake with elaborately piped shells along the sides and top. When it comes down to it, making a cake is a serious science and even small errors could potentially lead to breaking a cake batter, which ruins the cake. That leads to a lot of time remaking a ganache, buttercream or zabaione if something in the chemistry of your mixing does not go well or right the first or second time around.
There’s a craft to knowing things like what a batter should or should not look like at different points in the process. With less than two months of mixing under my belt, it will take some more practice before I have perfected the art of making a cake. Chef Kathryn, on the other hand, can walk around the classroom and peek in our mixing bowls, letting us know within seconds if we are on our way to making a perfect batter or breaking it. If she catches us at the right (or wrong moment, depending on how you look at it), she knows exactly how to fix an almost-broken mixture which is a pretty great technique to learn.
So maybe I need to give cakes more time and more lessons. I have a few more to go in the cake world with chocolate ribbon cakes coming up next… and my all-time favorite, cookies. Oh yes, I am a Cookie Monster!