Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Art of Impermanance

For some reason or another, I have been putting off writing this post. Whether it's sheer laziness on my part, or the thought that I really don't want to write about food after working at the restaurant all week, I just couldn't get it started. Maybe it's the fact that I didn't want to just write another superfluous post about a wedding cake that I made for person a, and it contains a,b, and c, flavors, and it was this (insert difficult sounding adjective here) hard to make. Maybe it was the fact that I am feeling guilty that the person I made this cake for is one of my very best friends, and I haven't talk to her in far too long. Maybe it's because this was the last of the wedding cakes for the year, and I am sad to know there won't be any more for the next few months. So, here I am, holding onto the pictures in hopes that they will tide me over until the next one comes along.

But that's the thing about this industry, they are just pictures. There is no cake left (I sincerely hope not) to eat, or gumpaste flowers to swoon over, they are long gone. In my previous life as a product designer my art was permanent. It was sketched, modeled, and produced in various materials, such as plastic, metal, fabric. The sketches were filed, documents backed up, and finished products were sold to eager consumers. It's all still around in one way or another, but my new art is so much different. My new art is the epitome of impermanence and its been quite the adjustment.

I wonder if I will ever get used to watching my cakes be cut and completely disassembled in five minutes flat. Something that I put hours and hours into is destroyed in less time than it took to mix and bake just one of the many layers it contains. The consolation of course is when the client, be it your best friend or someone you've met only once, takes that first bite and an exstatic smile starts spreading across their face. This is when your nerves calm, and the heartbreak you experience from watching the knife stab through the intricate decorations starts to subside, and you remember this is what it's all about. In that one moment, you get to make someone really happy. They are celebrating something big, whether it be a birthday, wedding, baby or engagement, and they just ate something that will stick in their memory for years to come.

The satisfaction of that moment is enough, and it has to be to keep on going in this industry. Unless I start making styrofoam cakes and decorating my apartment with them...just kidding.

There were some new flavors in this cake that I just have to share with you. The groom is from florida and the bride requested that two of the tiers resemble key lime pie in some way. I went through a few variations and quickly found a winner. The cake is a richly flavored vanilla cake with buttermilk and lime zest, filled with key lime curd, and brought over the top with coconut buttercream. It was like florida on a plate, or so I was told, I haven't been to florida in years so I will reserve judgment.

Key Lime Cake
adapted from Bon Apetit
This recipe makes 2 fairly thin 9 inch rounds, I like to double it and make three thicker layers, I pretty much always go for a taller cake.

1 cup ap flour
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 tbl key lime juice
1 tbl key lime zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line pans with parchment, and lightly butter and flour sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between each addition. Add the lime juice, zest, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix just to combine, scrape bowl. Add half the buttermilk, mix to combine, scrape bowl. Add another third of the flour, followed by the remainder of the buttermilk, and the remainder of the flour, scraping well between each addition.

Divide batter between pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top of cake springs back completely when gently pushed with your index finger. Let cool in pans for about 5-10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely.

Key Lime Curd
adapted from Ina Garten
Makes about 3 cups, I add a little gelatin to this recipe when I use to to fill cakes. It makes it much more sturdy and you wont have to worry about it running out the sides of the cake (not that I have had that happen, I swear).

Zest of 4 limes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound butter, room temperature
4 eggs
1/2 cup key lime juice
pinch of salt
1 tsp gelatin
1 tbl water

Place sugar and zest in a food processor and pulse until zest and sugar are finely ground together. Place the sugar into a large, heavy saucepan, but do not place over heat yet. Whisk together the sugar and butter, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated after each addition. Add the lime juice and salt, then place over medium heat and cook until the temperature reaches 175 degrees F, whisking vigorously constantly. Remove from heat. Bloom gelatin in the water and let stand for about 5 minutes. Heat gelatin in the microwave  for 5 second intervals, just until it melts completely. Whisk the hot gelatin into the still warm lime curd. Transfer curd to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours, before using.

Coconut Buttercream

4 oz egg whites
2 oz water
8 oz sugar
12 oz butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 coconut extract

Place egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping the whites on medium-high speed. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and using a candy thermometer, heat the sugar to soft ball stage, or 240 F. The eggs at this point should  be voluminous and frothy. Slowly pour the sugar into the egg whites in a steady stream, while the mixer is on high.
Let the mixer run on high (I usually set it to one number below the very highest setting) until the mixture has cooled completely. Switch to the paddle attachment, and add the butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing on a medium-low speed. Once all the butter has been added, turn your mixer to high and whip for 3-5 minutes until frosting is light and smooth. Add the vanilla and coconut extracts.

Special shout-out to my mom for helping me with these cakes, and the over 100 cake pops that were made for this wedding, especially for helping me cut out each and every of the hundreds of fondant flowers that cover the sides of this cake. Thank you to Erica for taking all the lovely pictures, so that I didn't have to! Last but not least, congratulations to my best friend Heather, and her best friend Matt, you two are so incredibly lucky to have each other, and I love you both.

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