baking club, blog, cake, caramel, Chichester, cream, egg white, homemade, jelly, lemon, Uncategorized

The Secret Cake Cavalry

Baking, essentially takes eggs, butter, sugar and a little bit of magic. And perhaps the wind blowing the right direction, the light casting radiance on my moo brown eyes and my hair flicked back just so. But with an ounce less of witchcraft that is knitting.

Like many of my time stretched friends who are mothers, I seem to suffer from this affliction which renders me pathetically unable to understand this simple mathematical equation. Sign up for less = Fukk up less. Sounds simple enough I could even write it in three different languages.

Life has been particularly hectic lately. There is a new business venture in the horizon. I am ever so excited about this but at the same time, petrified at what seems an inadequate amount of time left to settle the finer details.

Slaveboy picked up some last minute freelance sound engineering work over the weekend. His van developed a leaky radiator and Lalla found our washing machine hopping in the scullery room. Yes. Hopping. We heard it from four rooms away. With the doors shut. It was a good day to discover that we still have washing machine insurance cover.

In keeping with the whole unable to understand the law of sign up for less, fukk up less, I am also having my Mother come over to stay with us for 2 weeks at the end of this month.

And my older brother.

And his wife.

With their grown daughter.

And their 20 year old son.

Two weeks.

And they’ll be staying in our three bedroomed townhouse. One bathroom, two toilets. Dicky old boiler.

Expect plenty of blog posts from me during that two week period. Except that the posts will be coded secret pleas for help. It’ll be up to you SniffSnorters to decipher the codes.

With all that in mind, perhaps now you wouldn’t think too crazily of my altruistic plan for a baking club. Egg Butter Sugar Magik was intended for experimental baking. The type that would challenge your repertoire and enhance your skills. I was inspired with The Clandestine Cake Club and really wanted to get going a social baking ring (no pun intended) locally where enthusiastic giddy bakers could meet up, present their creation and share baking ideas and tips.

Before heading home to secretly flagellate themselves at the altar of the Cake Goddess for not being good enough. No? Just me then.

There was a choice of two pre-requisite ingredients. Pistachio and/or lemon. I decided on making a lemon mirror cake. A cake that I have been meaning to make for years. The cake suggests patience and forethought. Pristine kitchen and organised kitchen drawers. It’s a series of processes, and you know how I like my processes. I envisaged time spent waiting for stuff to cool, set and turn syrupy. Time for reflecting and forward planning.

That was until me realise that the very tin I baked the chiffon cake in became too big once the cake shrank away from the sides, rendering it almost impossible for me to spread the lemon mousse layer without it spilling over and down the sides of the chiffon cake layer.

And that agar flakes do not bloom the same way as gelatin and one should accommodate for this when substituting agar flakes for gelatin.

And most importantly, when they say 2 teaspoon of gelatin agar flakes, they mean 2 teaspoon. Not 2 TABLESPOONS. Or chuck any old amount you like and discard some if it doesn’t look right.

And that Tala measuring cup is RUBBISH for measuring fluids. This I realised three steps too late when I was making the lemon mousse. I was measuring out 2 fl. oz. of lemon juice (or at least I thought I was) when in fact, I was measuring 2 oz. in weight instead. This may account for my SUPER moist chiffon cake. And the feat of culinary engineering required to place the second layer of chiffon cake on top of the lemon mousse layer. Before the cake broke, that is.

Sigh. And all this time, I was praying to the Universe that my fellow cake cavalry members were having setbacks too.
Addendum: since writing that, I’ve just had a Facebook message and a telephone conversation with Spiker. I’m pleased to inform you that she has just managed to clear her kitchen of smoke from burnt caramel, that we will require a spoon for the pastry cream and that apparently, her cake is held up and together with cocktail sticks and edible Sellotape. Aaah, I will be in fine company. Best get that Gaviscon ready.

A lemon mirror cake is basically a construct. You bake two sheets of lemon chiffon cake. When cool, you brush lemon syrup on them. In my case, I literally had to spoon it on as the cake was so moist, I would have risked pulling away chunks of the cake with the brush. You then made the lemon mousse which involves whipping double cream, blooming gelatin boiling agar flakes in lemon juice (preferably using the correct 2tsp amount rather than 2tbsp which then meant you would have to tip out a guestimate of 1 1/3tbsp of lemon juice soaked agar flakes down the sink), tempering half the cream in the gelatinous lemon mixture and folding in the rest. That is unless you overwhip the double cream and you practically are pressing down the lumps of cream with a potato mashed.

This is why, SniffSnorters, you shouldn’t be making the Rhubarb & Custard cake at the same time.

Because the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the cake tin, you will then have to devise a makeshift mould for the construction, made out of several folds of baking parchment. It’ll be around this time also that you will realise that you have NO kitchen surface left, all the pans and utensils are piled high in the sink, the cats are trying to trip you up because their food is stored under the sink, it’s 5pm and you have no plans for dinner and all there is left for you to do is to verbally kick your Slaveboy who is dozing in the corner of the sofa.

Once you have navigated past this catastrophe, you spread half the lemon mousse mixture on top of the first layer of chiffon cake, smooth it over and then, with great care, attempt to lay the second lay of chiffon cake on top of the lemon mousse. Once you have done this, you marvel at the fact that you were deluded enough to think that you could divide the mousse equally without measuring it. Try as hard as you can to spread what measly amount is left on top of the 2nd layer of chiffon cake.

If you made it this far, and resisted the temptation to chuck it into the bin, you are practically there. Seriously.

The final staff is to make the mirror glaze. This involves lemon syrup, limoncello, agar flakes and lemonade and boiling the mixture. Once the mixture is ready, the deal is that you place the mixture in a bowl set in some icy water. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOU TO REALISE THAT YOU HADN’T READ THE RECIPE THROUGH PROPERLY AND DISCOVER THAT YOUR LACK OF A FREEZER, OR ICE CUBES HAS SERIOUSLY SCUPPERED THIS STAGE.

It was around this time the Rhubarb & Custard cake went into the oven for around 1 hour’s worth of baking. At the end of the baking time + 20 minutes, I was still faffing about stirring the glaze every so often, waiting for it to go syrupy.

Did it ‘eck.

By this time, the children are shifting away for my radar and trying to be ever so quiet.

So I gave up. I just poured it on, popped the cake in the fridge and hoped for the best.

This morning, there was a yellow, sticky puddle at the bottom of my fridge. The glaze was no more than a yellow stain on the surface of the cake.

So I cheated. I got myself a packet of lemon jelly, boiled it with some lemonade, added limoncello to it, stirred for a significantly less time than I did the first time, and poured it on.

Et voila, like Raymond Blanc would say.

So fast forward to yesterday evening when Spiker turned up with this.

Piece montee. The choux pastry was freshly made, light and crisp with a beautiful golden colour. The pistachio pastry cream was velvety and smooth. The caramel provided a beautiful contrast of sweet and crunchy. It was bloody impressive (the cow!!).

Lesley turned up with beautifully piped pistachio meringue with clotted cream. These were very Norwich (err, damn you auto-correct) delicious and very easy to eat, but with undeniable substance. They were almost like rustic French macarons – crisp and crunchy on the outside but with a chewy bit in the middle. Definitely very moreish.

We sat around my dining table, drinking tea out of Marks & Spencer’s birthday celebration mug and not even trying to put the world to right. By around 10pm, I was requiring propping up against Spiker as the sugar coma had hit me big time. Spiker’s pupils were dilated to the size of thimbles. Lesley was talking gibberish. We were banjaxed. I asked the sensible logistical question of how we were going to deal with potentially 8 cakes to try if we had 8 participants. Lesley, in her jibber jabber talk, said that we would just have to have smaller portions. It was the most stupefyingly preposterous talk I had heard that evening. Pppfftt, like my grandma would say.

Then we had another helping of cake.

We ended the evening agreeing on the date of our next meet-up and the task of selecting next meet’s pre-requisites were handed over to Spiker.

So if you are local, and you fancy joining in, do pop me a line on here.

And my cake? Well, it wasn’t much of a mirror cake, more like the surface of a pond with the residual ripples from having a pebble thrown into it. If I had to rename my cake, I’d call it Caked Under Troubled Water.


4 thoughts on “The Secret Cake Cavalry

  1. spiker says:

    Am actually crying whilst reading this. Completely hilarious evening. Should be even better with more magik members.
    The sugar coma has worn off a bit this morning I’m pleased to report. Especially glad I didn’t bring cake home as I would have definitely had it for breakfast.

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