Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gorgeous, Just Gorgeous!!

A layered cake is a beautiful thing. I made carrot cake again this week, once as a gesture of appreciation to the admins at work who have been so patient with my unending questions and without whom, I probably would not have been able to deliver. I made 24 cupcakes, of which Boyfriend ate 5. He was reluctant to give up the remaining 18 (I had one too...for test purposes!). As such, I volunteered to make him his own, 2-layer cake.

Part of me really wanted to do it again because just like the first time I made this carrot cake, the second round had a great cake but a disastrous frosting. Americans tend to use package amounts in their recipes - 2 oz. packages of cream cheese, 1 package of Jello, 1/2 a container of sour cream and so forth. The packages in Europe are a lot smaller than what comes from the mega marts in the states. The first time I made the frosting, I definitely did not use enough cream cheese and the frosting was more of a glaze that dripped all over everything. The second time, I used almost enough cream cheese but with the amount of powdered sugar, the frosting curdled. I was able to save this one by mixing some of the curdled frosting with a smaller package of cream cheese that we had at home. It still wasn't quite right. So this time, for Boyfriend's Cake, I even went overboard and added just a little more creamed cheese than what the recipe called for. Yes, I realize I could do the conversion into grams and I did that for Attempt #2 but it still wasn't quite right. As they say, though, third time's the charm. The frosting for the 3rd carrot cake was perfection. It was creamy, tangy and sweet and it set perfectly. Tip: For those of us in Europe, you will need about 500 grams of cream cheese, or 2 1/2 packages of the Philadelphia Cream Cheese from the store. Also, I don't trust the light cream cheese found here in Europe - I think it also had something to do with how it didn't set properly in cake #2.

Tip: Use a triangle to make a circle. For the layered cake, I used my 2 new round cake pans that I privately imported into Norway (that's just the fancy way of saying "smuggled"). The directions called for lining the bottom with wax or parchment paper. A neat little trick that I learned for doing this is to roll out a sheet of parchment paper the width of your pan. Fold the paper in half and then in half once again, making the fold from the creased side of the paper. Now you will have a sheet of paper that has 4 creases that intersect, like a cross. With the paper folded, fold the paper again, this time in thirds to form a point. The paper should look like a long triangle, like so. Line the point of the triangle with the middle of the pan and make a rounded cut where the paper meets the edge of your baking pan. When you open the paper again, the circle should fit at the bottom of the baking pan. I had to trim mine just a little bit to fit so all I did was refold along my creases and trim the triangle a little bit more. Repeat for the second baking pan. Grease the pan and the paper before putting the batter into the cake pan.

Tip: Line the bottom of your cake platter with strips of paper. When frosting your cake, especially if you intend to frost all along the sides, line your serving plate with strips of wax or parchment paper. The strips should be about 2.5 to 3 inches wide. Line the plate so that the edges are completely covered. Place the cake on top of the strips and frost away. When you are done frosting, carefully slide the paper strips out from under the cake, revealing a clean and frosting-free plate underneath. This allows you to frost your cake all the way to the bottom while preserving the clean and neat presentation of your serving plate.
Tip: The bottom of your cake is actually prettier for presentation than the top. Uh -oh...has your cake baked unevenly? Have you found that it rose a bit more than you would like for a neat, layered cake? If so, place the topside of the cake upside down on the platter, thus using the bottom, and even side, up. The even surface of the bottom of the cake provides a flat layer onto which you can place a level amount of frosting. If you want a flat top to your cake, you can repeat the same for the second layer - simply flip the cake layer upside down so that the topside is facing down into the frosting. Boyfriend made this suggestion to me as I frosted our cake. Fortunately, this carrot cake baked up pretty evenly so I did not need to use it.

Lastly, I hope you end up with a lovely layered cake. To me, there is just something special about a layered and frosted cake. I come from a family who makes cake in one layered sheet pan and more often than not, my mom made different types of bars over cake. If she did make cake, it was in a loaf or bundt pan and with no frosting. Though very delicious, these cakes were very simply presented. Layered cakes with frosting in the middle, on the top, and around the sides, were very rare when I was a kid and still invokes a feeling of something special today. I mean, just look at it - a layered cake is a thing of beauty, don't you agree?

Some additional lessons learned:

Wrapping a towel around your hands and securing them with velcro wire organizers is a good way to protect your fingers when grating carrots, but it's a terrible way to actually grate carrots. The carrots slip, the towel restricts your fingers, and the wire organizers don't always hold the towel in place. Instead, I have purchased these. They are rough gloves that can be used to scrub dirt off potatoes and carrots. I have found another use for them. They are great for protecting your hands while still getting the job done.

When adding the powdered sugar to the frosting, add in a couple of tablespoons at a time. I'm not sure if they really avoid curdling but the frosting came out perfect so I'm going to roll with it. Be careful - it can get messy. Powedered sugar flies.

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