Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Delicious Disaster

Every Monday at noon our Emmaus Reunion Group meets for lunch/sharing/prayer. On the Monday closest to a member's birthday we celebrate with cake and candles and a few small gifts. It gets a little crazy from time to time with Peggy's penchant for trick candles, those that rekindle themselves after being blown out. And the cards and gifts range from personal to goofy to downright sappy. But we have fun! Yesterday we enjoyed Amy's birthday celebration and I offered to bring the cake. The cake pictured above is NOT that cake.

I was really excited about this cake. Her favorite is white cake with buttercream frosting--just like a wedding cake. Key lime pies are a close second. Anyway, I found a perfect recipe for both white cake and buttercream frosting and enthusiastically set up my kitchen, softened the butter, whipped the egg whites, prepared the pans, sifted the flour with the baking powder and salt and set out the milk. I only had soy milk, but I've baked with it before and all was well.

The egg whites more than quadrupled in volume and even when folding them into the batter they tripled the total volume of the batter. I should have been forewarned. I wasn't. I had a minor mishap while preparing the egg whites and managed to keep yolk out of the unbeaten whites, so I thought my troubles were over. The batter was so smooth and creamy and just to be cautious I filled three, rather than two pans and smoothed it all out perfectly. About 10 minutes before the prescribed baking time was finished, I took a peek inside the oven.

The two stainless steel pans looked like they contained souffle. The batter had risen more than two inches above the rim of the pans! It was a giant disaster waiting to happen. By the time I could unlock my legs the batter started to deflate, since I had the oven door wide open. And then it began to overflow the rims into the bottom of the oven. The batter began to burn immediately and then the smoke alarm started to beep, which made Scooter the Sheltie crazy. With two pans overflowing around the edges, the centers began to sink. I shut the oven door cautiously and decided to cut my losses and let the cake finish baking, both in the pans and on the floor of the oven. Nasty!

Removing the cakes from the oven, I decided they could be salvaged if I trimmed the layers carefully and made extra frosting for filling between the layers. I allowed the cakes to cool and turned out the "extra", baked in a disposable foil pan. It looked fine. Then I turned out the first of the two baked in my best pans, and over 30% of the cake stayed in the pan, and I don't mean in a nice triangle wedge either. It came out in chunks. But they were seriously tasty chunks! So, I waited a bit longer for the third cake to cool, hoping it would be perfect, but no. It was sticking in the middle of the pan. Tally: one semi perfect layer, two that rose to great heights, fell to a crater-like center with edges that resembled chef's hats over the edges of the pans.

I thought perhaps as the cakes cooled they would trim out evenly and I could cover a multitude of sins with frosting. By this time I had burned batter in the oven. Cake crumbs on the counter tops and the floor. A sink full of dishes. Egg drippings on another counter top. Pans and sieves and ingredients and more butter softening on another counter.

I began creaming the butter for the frosting and it was beautiful. Added a bit of powdered sugar and watched it fluff. Added a tiny bit of cream, a teaspoon each of vanilla and almond flavoring and reached for the final cup of powdered sugar. I don't know if I just klutzed out and missed my timing, or if the sugar spilled into the bowl before I could adjust the mixer speed, or if I just bumped the side of the bowl before I turned the speed to it's lowest setting. But the sugar hit the frosting in the bowl at high speed and suddenly there was a fountain, a column, a geyser eruption of powdered sugar going straight up to my ceiling. It covered all the pans, ingredients, cabinet doors, counter tops, floor, fruit and veggies, and me. Sugar dusted the Venetian blinds, the window and its sill, the stove top and the counter behind me. Scooter was having a buffet off the floor.

With my delicious frosting in hand I wielded a spatula and began spreading the bottom layer with buttercream. It seemed too thick to spread. So I returned it to the mixer and added a bit more cream. This consistency was perfect. But the cake was so soft and crumbly that it would NOT spread evenly. I tried and trimmed and tried and crumbled and tried and finally I decided Amy deserved a beautiful cake and United bakery would be just the ticket. I took the frosting and made a two layer cake wreck and an additional lopsided one layer frosting blob and served a giant piece to Muffin. Two hours later the kitchen was clean and the dishwasher running. The wreck is absolutely delicious.

Monday morning I called the bakery and reserved a white cake with buttercream frosting. Then I made coffee. When I removed the creamer from the refrigerator I noticed that an avocado in the fridge had powdered sugar all over it.


Candy said...

amazing. why didn't you tell this at RG? this is a great story!!

Becky at "Cheese My Head" said...

Whoops! It was fun to read about, but I'm sure, not so fun to clean up.

Haha - my word verification was "pardi".

RowdyGirls said...

Sounds like an orange marmalade cake I once made *ahem* Tasted good, though. Right?