Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Cake Is a Lie

When a friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago to make his birthday cake for him for his birthday celebration this weekend, I didn't hesitate. I do, after all, fancy myself a bit of a baker (not so much a butcher or candlestick maker).

So, when I set out this afternoon, mis en place assembled, to create the finest in black forest cakes, I was fully confident in my abilities.

The layers rose to perfection, the extraction from 9" rounds flawless, the dark chocolate ganache and tart raspberry sauce that would snuggle up with one another to become the delectable center came together with nary a hitch.

And then?

Assembly line failure.


I think my kitchen was too warm, frankly. While the cake rounds were cooled appropriately, the ganache didn't set quite right and the raspberry sauce didn't thicken just enough. The cream cheese frosting moat I created along the edges of the bottom layer warmed too quickly and couldn't contain the squishy, squashy mess of the filling. So, when I attempted to frost the outer shell, the layers shifted, the filling squelched and belched out of its keep and, in the end, what I had was a gooey, gross, vomitous mess of chocolate, raspberry, and cream cheesy sugar that resembled a bleeding Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Just like this except bleeding gallons of blood from the deaths of a gazillion raspberries (photo credit)

It was not pretty, no.

In fact, it was hilariously warranting a crime scene investigation.

Or, I suppose, it would have been hilarious except for my tears.

By then, it was a quarter of four, too late to run to the grocery for more ingredients - particularly as the snow had begun to dump an hour before and would slow down traffic to a crawl. There was nothing to do but call him and explain the cake had been a lie...or, at the very least, delayed since the cake itself, for all intents and purposes, had been beheaded.

He was very sweet about it all (but shhhhh...don't tell. He has a rep to protect). Especially after I promised him a new cake later in the week.

As I got ready to throw the entire endeavor in the trash though, Lex stopped me, perhaps because he knew, even if it didn't look appetizing, the pieces and parts would be stupendous. Or maybe it's just because he has a sweet tooth and can't stand to see all that refined sugar go directly to the dump for the rats to chew.

Regardless, after eating two generous portions, Lex said, "Why don't you just cut it up into great hunks and take it to Mr. S just like that? It tastes fabulous...once you get past its appearance. Besides, no one would say a word about its appearance if you took it to him in its original state. It's the thought and taste that count and you've got both in spades."


I did.

I cut the rest of the cake up into great hunks of goo, placed them in as many plastic bowls as I had, and wrapped them tightly in cling wrap.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I checked my pride at the door, shrugged, and unceremoniously handed the bowls of hideously malformed cake to the birthday boy with a, "Here's your fucked up cake."

"Hooray!" he said.

And the party commenced.

At the end of the evening, as we were saying goodbye, I assured him the cake was still delicious even if it looked decomposed.

He said, "Duh, Infinitely Wise Jane! You made it. Of course it tastes great."

And I am, once again, reminded that it is not only acceptable but preferred that I am perfectly imperfect.

And now I know he'll love his cake - even if it looks like something my cat coughed up.


Jenn and Casey said...

Mmm..sounds delicious. As my Mom says, it's the taste that counts ;)

Gaelyn said...

OMG, you're not perfect! What a great lesson. Have your cake and eat it too. Thanks Lex.

BTW, not being a baker but having a sweets addiction, I'll take all rejects off your hands. Does Lex deliver

Laine Griffin said...

I would love for you to bake me a fucked up cake! <3

Lucy said...

Oh, I cannot bake at all but one thing I know is you don't throw away homemade cake, no way!!!

Elizabeth said...

I'm glad it didn't go to waste. There are definitely tears in baking. :)

cdnkaro said...

Oh, that last line got me laughing! Glad to hear you have such wonderfully wise friends- I'd expect nothing less!

Anonymous said...

I am my WORST critic, where my food creations and baking are concerned. I have actually thrown away my finished product, which has infuriated my family so. Sigh!

We may expect perfection from ourselves (or close to it), but in the end, it is they that taste it that counts. :)

Love and hugs, Amiga!

TangledLou said...

I can certainly relate to crying over a less than perfect cake. You've got that mental image of a gorgeous torte and the pile of goo mocks you.
Really, there's nothing left to do but pile it in a bowl and dig in with a spoon. All that chocolate does make one feel a little less sniffly about it.
Glad you swallowed your pride so your friend could swallow some deliciousness.

Kelly Robinson said...

I''m not a baker, but I love ALTERING cakes for friends. I buy a cake from the bakery (sometimes I scrape off the frosting and re-frost it) and put my own stuff on it. The Snickerhenge was one of my most popular creations. Part of it felt down, but that just made it more realistic.

Just Jane said...

cdnkaro: I have phenomenal friends!

Virginia: Been there. Done that. Lex doesn't allow it (if he sees it). He'll eat most anything so it doesn't go to waste.

Stauss: It did mock me! And chocolate always helps.

Masked Mom said...

May we all accept our perfect imperfections!

Frances D said...

I would have eaten it to the last crumb.