But I do find that this can be one of the fun parts of cooking. Recipes are all well and good, but there aren't many in my receipe book that haven't had one or tweaks by me after the official First Bake (where I do really try to follow the receipe to the letter). And some people (like my sister-in-law) don't even use receipes at all! (which rather scares me) She calls herself an Instinctive Cook - a bit of this, a bit of that, trying to recreate dishes she's seen. I have had some amazing salads from her, but she is also the first to admit that she isn't a baker. Which makes sense, as there is a lot of Science and Measured Ingredients in baking, and if you gets one thing wrong you can often end up with Sludge. Sometimes delicious Sludge (like my many failed attempts at Chocolate Mousse), but looking nothing like picture.
And THEN you can have a plan or receipe that you follow to the letter (and even have ALL the ingredients) and it's still not right. Or you decide half way through to change (either by force or choice) and it turns out better than the original plan. It's like the old performing adage: If you keep smiling, no one will know that you've stuffed up (or Fake it til you Make it). So here follows my latest baking adventures - for better or worse.
The first one was another Nerdy Nummies inspired baked off. She did two "roll cakes", which I think in Australia we would call it a Swiss Roll. But the clever thing was that she baked a design into the cake! A plain one and a chocolate one. So clever, and a little bit fiddly but looked really impressive. So with Valentine's Day coming up (where Hubby and would I both be working, so no chance of a romantic dinner or date night), I thought I would bake something for Work.
I decided on a chocolate heart cake and so created my own template.
The decoration batter was mixed and coloured pink, piped in hearts and popped in the freezer.
I then set about making the actual cake batter; which didn't seem to go quite far enough on my tray (I had decided to make a half batch as I had a smaller tray than Ro). So in the spirit of We Can Fix This, I decided to make another quarter batch of cake to fill the tray.
I then realised that my cake was a very lovely shade of white. Hmmmm. Must have missed the Adding the Cocoa step. It is the only disadvantage of getting a recipe from a video is that most times there isn't a written step by step instructions. Ro is great as she does have an ingredients list in the information section. What I had done was written down the ingredients (including the 1/4 cup of cocoa) but then followed the Plain Roll Cake instructions and forgot to add the cocoa with the flour. Not to be daunted, I knew there was a way to salvage what was becoming a bit of a cooking disaster: I scraped the entire cake (pink batter and all) into a bowl, added the cocoa and then added the other one-quarter chocolate batter I had made. After re-piping and freezing another load of pink hearts, I added the batter, which seemed to at least fill the tray. A quick burst in the oven and it came out looking really cool....
Hooray! I fixed it!
(well, apart from forgetting to bang the tray on the bench pre-baking which accounts for the extra air bubbles)
I rolled the cake up and left it cool over night; rather then adding the cream and strawberries then which would make the cake soggy overnight.
Valentine's Day morning I unrolled my cake and was a bit dismayed to see that it had cracked; had I left it to cool too long in the rolled up position? Had the run of warm weather we have had in Melbourne lately dried it out too much? It still looked rather cool, and with a few well placed toothpicks, it still did kind of look like a roll.
Thankfully it tasted yummy and everyone "ooohed" and "aaahed" and "how did you get it looking like that?!?". So that was positive and saved it from what may have been a total disaster.
It wasn't what I'd call a total success.
So with a piping bag still half-full of pink batter, I resolved to try again. I had a family lunch the next day which gave me a chance to be creative and try "freehand" drawing without a template.
Again, came out of the oven looking really clever.
But AGAIN, it cracked after cooling, even more than the chocolate one! Thankfully again, it held together and still looked really clever.
And luckily, Family are very forgiving and enjoyed it regardless of the cracking. "Tastes great Mum!" said Son 1 helping himself to his second slice.
So two yummy and cool-ish looking cakes. But it did leave me a bit unfulfilled in that I hadn't got either of these cakes to look as good as Ro's. In mulling over this, I may have had the cake too thick which caused the cracking: for the second cake I made the full cake mix but put it on a tray nearly half the size. So IF I ever try this again, I will ensure that I get the right size tray. It is a cute technique that could easily be adapted to a traditional round cake; kind of "icing" it before it bakes!
The next Baking Adventure was a birthday cake for me! This was inspired by another You Tube channel that I had been put on to by a baking buddy - My Cupcake Addiction. I may have stumbled across this amazing channel previously but had been scared off by her abundant use of fondant. However in my post-fear-of-fondant baking days, I was very excited by what I saw (I think I even squealed). I had seen her work before; I had Pinned a Christmas wreath cake made out of cupcakes as a potential work Christmas treat. I then saw the Christmas Tree cupcake cake, which led me to all sorts of clever Cupcake Cakes. Its such a simple-but-effective idea (bake cupcakes but ice them to look like a whole cake) and I wondered why I hadn't come across it before! So I decided to make a Star cupcake cake.
I used empty cupcake papers to decide how many cakes to bake and duly baked them. As my electric oven is not the worlds greatest, and I baked them in three different tins there were not all beautifully and uniformly rounded as they always look online. No matter - frosting will hide all manner of problems!!
I had made white chocolate ganache and was going to pipe it onto each cupcake (and fill in the gaps) but quickly realised that Piping used up a lot more ganache than the frosting method! In fact I had only piped half the cupcakes before I ran out: What to do?!? Did I do the mad run to the store to buy more cream to make more ganache that then had to be cooled as quick as possible to allow it to be piped? Or adapt?
So it changed from a swirly-piped cake to a ganache-as-frosting cake. It still looked like a whole "cake" which I guess is the idea, and considering how rich the white chocolate ganache is, less was probably a good way to go!
Next, to make the edges of the star I was going to pipe with left-over red frosting from the Lego block cake, but again it didn't look red enough, especially compared to the red cupcake papers. So I used the frosting to stick the cupcakes to the board, and used the red fondant that I still had in the cupboard from the Marvel cupcakes, which looked much more effective.
Looking good, but how did it go on a practical level? The kids loved it as they could just pull off a cupcake and eat it (well, lick the icing off the top anyway!). It was a bit weird "cutting the cake" at Happy Birthday tine; I ended up cutting half-way through one cupcake (no touching the bottom with this cake!). But overall - a success.
So there you go - two examples of Best Laid Plans going astray, which turned out all right in the end. Hooray!