Friday, September 13, 2013

Master cake baker...or not.

I consider myself a master cake baker. My darling departed mother taught me from the age of 14 the art of fine baking, her coveted cake recipes being among the repertoire . Sift three times, perfect and precise measuring. Fine ingredients. Room temperature eggs. Don't over mix. Don't over fill the pans. Be aware of the first point of fragrance...then start testing for done ness. I've learned well...mother would be proud.

Until tonight.

The frustration started when the first cake was in the oven and I realized that the oven was not up to temp. The temperature indicator said it was at 350* but the inside thermometer said not! It was not until I checked the cake for the first time at 25 minutes that I realized it was not rising and basically batter. The inside oven temp was at about 200...oh. Dear.

At this point I realized it would mean a trip to the grocery store to restock my ingredient list of sour cream, eggs and chocolate. I tried to overcompensate by turning the temp up to 400...then 450...I finally gave up, headed to the grocery store and resolved myself to another round of measuring, pan prepping and ingredients in hope of the fine result I was used to.

I should have prefaced this by explaining that this bake-off is in reparation for the staff luncheon in conjunction with my annual Paris Flea Market Sale this Saturday. What can I say? I like cake. Tradition for the staff lunch.

Back from the store, I tested I the oven again and came up with a formula I thought would work...setting the temp at slightly over 400 seemed to render me with a fairly appropriate moderate oven. I started the process again after washing and prepping my finest pans, cleaning my trusty Bosch mixer and re measuring to a T. I prefer 9" pans. The recipe called for 8" pans...the last failure was produced with the 9" pans, so I decided I should follow,the suggestion and go with the 8" pans ( three layers).

Into the oven with confidence this time. Bustling away re cleaning the kitchen, I checked the cake 20 minutes later...Oh. My! My cakes were totally sunken in the middle...unusable. What had happened to my 50 years of cake baking success?! I took these out of the oven and had what my mother would call " cake guts". The 8" pans were too small, the batter overflowed and caused them to fall. The faulty oven thermometer was an issue as well.

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I will tell you it tasted pretty fine.

Another try.
Fred thought I was crazy, but I fumed that I was not going to let this get the best of me. The process started again. Cleaning, prepping, measuring, gentle mixing.

A dozen eggs, many ponds of chocolate and cups of sugar later, I had my third cake in the disreputable oven. I had done a cursory google search on sinking cakes and was pretty convinced that a faulty thermostat was to blame. With that knowledge in hand, I made yet additional adjustments to the temperature and tried another angle...lower temp, additional time. I went back to the 9" pans.

12:04 . I'm waiting for the final and last cake to test done. Holy. Smokes.

Three cakes later, it looks like I have a passable cake. Not a prize winner.

...and, a plate of cake guts for the staff and delivery men tomorrow. The real thing, on Saturday. Passable, not gourmet.

It's going to have to be a service call or a new oven before I bake another cake Mom.



Chase said...

Susan I love this story and I can imagine you rushing around frantic as can be wondering what is going wrong. I feel like this same story could be something that happens at our house! You make me so happy and always make me laugh, I think I must have gotten my sense of humor from you and my mom when we lived with y'all!

Love you!!

Lee said...

OMGOSH! You poor thing! I know how important baking is to you. So sorry.
I've been there before.
Can't wait until tomorrow! Paris flea Market yay!