The requirement for week 7 of the level 1 Cake Decorating class was to bring two frosted cakes to class; one was to be a 10 inch two layer (tier) cake and the other was to be a 6 inch two tier cake. At home, we were to bake the cakes, level them, fill them, crumb coat them, and ice them smooth. We could split and fill the layers if we wanted, and I generally want to do that so there is less dry cake.
My plan was to make the 10 inch cake with yellow cake mix; I figured that I needed 1 ½ boxes, and I had the ½ box left over from week 2. I wanted to use fillings that reflect the filling and toppings that are on the napoleons I make, so I would split the layers and use dark chocolate ganache between the halves of one layer and apricot glaze between the halves of the second layer. Then between the layers I would use pastry cream. I would ice the yellow cake with purple butter cream, and take yellow buttercream for decorating the cake at class.
For the 6 inch cake, I wanted to experiment with German’s chocolate, so the cake would be a German Chocolate mix. I would use a ganache made from German’s chocolate between the split layers, and I would use a white Whip Kreme Buttercream frosting with coconut and chopped pecans mixed in as the filling between tiers. I would ice the chocolate cake with gold buttercream, and take dark brown buttercream for decorating the cake at class.
The first day went all right; I was able to make both flavors of ganache, and the apricot glaze. I already had colored buttercream for purple and gold, but needed to add about a cup to each so I would have enough. I also had the Whip Kreme Buttercream frosting and only needed to add some chopped pecans and coconut to it. And I made new batches of buttercream and colored them the yellow and dark brown colors that I wanted. Perhaps the only trouble that first day was all the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder that went flying around. I had to give the counters and floor a good scrubbing when I finished.
Day two was baking the cakes, and Murphy was sitting right on my shoulder. I got too much in a hurry and thought I was being efficient. I took the supplies for both cakes out and had them on the counter. So first I was going to make the 10 inch cakes. Into the mixer bowl, I placed 1 ½ times the amount of water, oil and eggs that the recipe on the box said because I was going to add the ½ package of leftover cake mix. I tore open the box and the plastic bag and dumped it into the mixer bowl, and it was brown, not yellow! I had picked up the wrong box! Luckily, I had not put the ½ package in so I suddenly changed my plans; the 10 inch cake would be the German’s chocolate and the 6 inch cake would be the yellow cake. I put the ½ package of yellow cake mix bake into the pantry; I wouldn’t be using it. And I got out a second box of the German chocolate cake mix since I was certain that the 10 inch cakes would need more than a single box of cake mix. (Did I remember to add more water, oil and egg when I changed from adding just ½ a box to a full box? I don’t recall).
I was glad to see that my effort to cook the cake slow and somewhat protected around the sides did keep the layers quite level. They were not has high as I had hoped, so perhaps I forgot to increase the water, oil and egg amounts. But the results were very usable.
Now I started on the yellow 6 inch cake. Everything was going according to plan and the toothpick was coming out nice and clean. The cakes were almost 2 inches above the edge of the pans, so I would have nice level layers. When I turned them out of the pans, they didn’t want to come out. That was bad news. I finally felt them come loose and drop out of the pans, but the bottom inch didn’t come out; it was stuck in the pan because it was not cooked! My toothpick was three inches long- probably only going in about 2 ¾ inches since I had to hold onto part of it. And that length did not get down to the bottom inch of the cakes which was not finished baking!
There was only one answer; I had to go to the store and get another box of cake mix. I grabbed a box of white cake mix and rushed home. In some ways, that choice saved me from another error. I am starting over at the mixer and reading the directions and it says 3 egg whites and I hadn’t even thought about needing more eggs. I only had two eggs in the refrigerator. But meringue powder is basically egg white, so I quickly decided to add some meringue powder for the third egg. I probably added 2 tablespoons of meringue powder. (Luckily I have plenty of meringue powder around- the recipes for Buttercream and Royal Icing all use it).
So, with the cake mixed, I put them in the oven to bake. But I forgot to turn the oven down 25 degrees to slow the cooking down, so the cakes came out with quite large domes. But I did use a longer tester that went all the way to the bottom of the pan to test that the cakes were done. I let all the cakes cool overnight and thought about what had to happen on day three.
Day three was when I needed to level the cakes, split them and fill the split, fill between the layers, and crumb coat the stacked layers. The excitement this day had mostly to do with handling the cakes. I made a big mistake in leveling the cake by trying to save an extra 1/8 of an inch in height of each layer. The low spot on the 10 inch layer was about 1 inch, and my choices on the cake leveler knife were 7/8 or 1 1/8 inches. I chose the latter and left a slight hump in the center of each layer. Then I split the layer at 5/8 inches and as I was moving the top of the split, it broke. I filled the split and rearranged the pieces of the top onto the bottom as best as I could.
Leveling the 6 inch cake was the same issue with choosing the point to make the cut; again I chose to go up the 1/8 inch from where I should have- it is probably an amateurish thing to keep as much cake as you can rather than going down to where the layer will really be level. With the smaller size layers, I had no trouble with the cake splitting of the 6 inch cakes and got them filled and stacked.
Because I had left the 1/8 inch at the edge of each layer of the cakes, I had to use a lot of Buttercream to fill that gap. And then I was ready to crumb coat the cakes. I think this part went fairly well, and I was happy that the crumb coat would be able to dry overnight.
Day four is to put the smooth icing on the cakes. I started with the 10 inch cake and the gold buttercream. As I tried to put the icing on the top of the cake in gobs, it was pulling the crumb coating off! Either I hadn’t had the buttercream out of the refrigerator long enough, or it was too thick. So I worked the frosting and added a bit of water to get it to the consistency I needed. After getting the icing fairly smooth, I was planning to use the parchment paper technique for the final smoothing. This would be my first attempt at using that method, and I couldn’t seem to get it to work. So I ended up using the hot knife method. Looking at the cake now, it has problems; it is not really flat on top but instead has a slight dome so I probably didn’t take enough frosting off the center of the top. And one edge of the cake is really bad; it looks like the side frosting slipped and pulled the top edge down with it. The 6 inch cake is somewhat better. Again, it is not as smooth as I would like but the top is flatter.
Twenty-four hours later, I am looking at the cakes and as you can see, they are not very professional. They don’t really look very good. The supposedly smooth icing is not, and the supposedly nice flat top and straight sides are not. It is obvious that I should be making a lot of cakes to practice the techniques and get better at making a “smooth iced” cake. I hope the decorations to be added in class will hide a lot of the issues I have with these cakes.
So day five is off to class to learn how to put these two cakes together.