Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Layer Cake, A Testament to My Intelligence

I don't really bake cakes, mainly because they're kind of impractical, especially if you are a household of two. I guess I could bake cupcakes, but unlike everyone else on the planet, I have not been swept up in the all too enthusiastic cupcake trend. Plus, I think of cake as a dessert that only really goes with birthdays. But since my dear friend Taylor was celebrating a birthday this weekend, I promised to make the cake. A lemon layer cake to be exact. The taste and texture turned out perfectly, and the recipe came from my friend Katie, but none of that is as interesting as my attempts to actually assemble the tasty, perfectly-baked cake and fluffy frosting. Consider this a tutorial on how NOT to put together your layer cake.

Okay, so when you bake a cake in two round cake pans, the tops come out a little bit rounded. No surprise. So you're supposed to remedy that for proper stackability by shaving off some of the dominess. Well, I'm cheap and hate wasting stuff, so I did minimal shaving. In fact, I took off so little it didn't really do much except let me taste the cake before I served it. Then I started spreading frosting to "glue" the layers together. Okay, going good so far. Then I plop the top layer on, and start frosting the outside of the cake.

At this point I realized something clearly wasn't going according to plan. First of all, the space between the layers was more like an abyss. Second, the icing probably needed more confectioner's sugar or less lemon or something because it was a wee-bit on the runny side and was pooling at the base of the cake. The only thing I could think to do was throw the whole thing in the fridge and hope that that would make the icing set, or something.

About an hour later Nic took the cake out of the fridge and tried to help smooth out the icing. The only reason it looked somewhat presentable was because he did this. My attempts only further damaged the cake's appearance. So I sliced up some lemon, and we decorated the cake in an attempt to distract the eye from the mishapen cake and its melting frosting.

At this point, I called my mom while I was waiting for everyone to come over for dinner and explained to her my cake decorating dilemma.

"I think I should have shaved off more of the rounded part of the cakes so that they stacked better," I said.

"Well yeah, you should really shave the bottom layer until it's flat," she said. "But at least you don't have to shave the top layer since it's already flat."

"It's already flat? What do you mean?"

This is the point where I realized that instead of stacking the cake the way any normal person would, with the flat part of the second cake on top of the first cake, I (for some yet unknown reason) stacked the cake rounded side to rounded side. I think I was thinking that I had to do this so that the top of the cake would be flat. (And look at that cake again, the top IS perfectly flat!)

"I thought you were supposed to be smart," my mom said. (The other quotes were sort of an approximation of the conversation, but that right there is an exact quote, albeit said while she was laughing at me.)

Also, that icing definitely need less lemon juice or more confectioner's sugar because by the time my friends got there to eat the cake, the lemon had separated out of the frosting and formed pools on top of the perfectly flat top and along the sides. Chris called it a "Hurricane Katrina" cake, i.e. flooded.

But hey, it still tasted good!


Anonymous said...

OH NO!!!! Hahahahaahhaahahhaha. I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at my poor instruction and my sadly leaving you down this path of cake-hate-dom. Yeah, so that's a word now...moving on! Haha. I'm sorry, but I'm glad it tasted okay (or you are just saying that).

I'm totally going to have to lend you some of my cake pan insulators. They make it so you don't have to do any shaving. Much less wasteful. AND icing can be very finicky. One day you need 2 Tbsp and one day you need 4 Tbsp. it's all about the temp/conditions. So don't blame yourself. Blame me, it's cool. I can take it. haha.

Chris said...

Speaking as someone who presently has a slice of said layer cake in my refrigerator, eagerly awaiting my return, let me attest this: the cake rocked. Moist, dense, not-too-sweet and delightfully lemony, this cake is yet another winner from Kate's seemingly-bottomless bag of culinary coups de grâce. Perfect for a summer out on the deck, or for a sunny lift in the midst of a bleak midwinter.

Taylor Robinson said...

I requested this lemon monstrosity and I'm glad I did--DELISH! Tremendous job on the whole meal, my friend. : )

Carrie said...

The cake looked great from your pictures and I know it must have been delicious!