Monday, June 27, 2011

2 Relatively Successful Cake Experiments

So last week I completed two cake experiments: and ice cream cake and a fondant covered cake. Here's how they went:
The ice cream cake was first. I was asked if I was able to make one and said I never had but could attempt it. Well, the woman changed her mind (it would have been too hard to transfer nicely from an hour away anyway) but it really got me thinking. I wanted to make an ice cream cake and started looking around. I didn't want to just stack ice cream with fudge. I wanted true cake + ice cream. I also wanted some aspect of it to be homemade. I had a cherry chip cake mix in the cabinet, so I started there. I made the cake according to the box and baked it. I read online how people went about freezing their cakes. One woman said she flips hers AS SOON as it comes out of the oven and puts it directly in the freezer. Well, I know this isn't a great idea but if I didn't try flipping immediately I would have constantly wondered if that would have been better. Turns out, it wasn't.
Clearly, it fell apart. But! that didn't deter me. It was just an experiment so I didn't really care much about how it looked. I froze it from here and continued to work with it.
While that was freezing, I made the ice cream. I knew I didn't want it to be just ice cream because it would be too hard after freezing. So I combined vanilla ice cream with Cool Whip (next time I might try making my own whipped cream?) and then blended together frozen blueberries and cherries. I put that back into the freezer to harden while I "cut" the cake in half (it more or less fell appart among fault lines you can sort of see there). Then I layered cake, ice cream, and more cake. I froze that back up and then covered it with some remaining whipped cream. It might not have looked very pretty, but it tasted delicious.

Next I started making a bachelorette cake for a friend. I decided I wanted to attempt to cover a cake in fondant, to make a two-tiered cake, and to try a lace pattern. The cake was supposed to be sort of classy but still fun.
The top tier I made out of two 6-inch cakes. I wanted them to be sort of thick so I filled them quite a bit - but that also meant I had to cut off quite a bit of the rounded top. It was hard to get it perfectly level, but really I could have gotten my small leveler out of the work closet. Oh well. I then made some of the fondant blue and cut strips. It was hard to keep them even because I don't have any fondant cutting tools and so it kept pulling. I knew I wanted a man popping out of the top, but darn it if Ken dolls are hard to find and more expensive than Barbie. Plus, they're too big to put into the top. I found this wrestler instead - luckily they're already topless! I made his bow tie and the garter for his hand, ripped off his legs and then stuck him in there!
The bottom tier I made using 3 8-inch cakes, each made real thin to avoid too much rounding. I guess I forgot to mention above that I mixed blue food coloring in one 6 inch tin and green in the other to make a tie-dye-ish cake. Here I layered blue, green, blue. All layers had butter cream in the middle. After layering the cakes, I covered them with buttercream and froze them again. Then I pulled out each tier and let them warm up just enough to make the icing tacky. While waiting for it to warm, I flavored my fondant using coconut rum (an ingrediant I also put into the cake in place of half the water). I then rolled out the fondant to about a quarter inch thickness and tried to make it circular, about the diameter equal to the diamter of the cake and twice the height (so here about 14 inches). Still needs work but I was happy with how well I did for the first time. I used my rolling pin to lift the fondant onto the cake. I smoothed it out using my hands - I have no fondant smoother. It didn't get as smooth as I would have liked though. I think I had too much buttercream on the outside of the cake. I didn't have any air bubbles but the fondant was still lumpy because of the excess of icing.
I tried a few different lace patterns on cake board before deciding on this one. I used the buttercream to draw the scrolls on the side of the cake. Again, not great but I was still happy with how it turned out. I put edible pearls in all of the places where multiple scrolls touched. Then on the top I wrote "One more fling before the ring" although it came otu a little messy because my icing was really warm. I had placed the top tier to figure out where to write, but then took it off for transport (about 8 hours).
When we got to the hotel where we were staying, I put it all together. Everybody loved it, bride included. I got a bunch of comments like "I've always heard fondant tastes gross but this is delicious!" and "At work we always pull off the fondant before serving wedding cakes because it's too much - but you have the perfect amount." I guess this was a job well done!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I've Learned

I last wrote in October and these are just a few things I've learned since then:
First - The things they didn't tell me far outdo the things they did tell me:
1) Nobody told me that I would need to take a nap every day when I got home. I have been told, now that it's all over with, that this is a symptom of first-year teaching. However, I put so much of myself into every day that I don't know when I will ever "get use to it." It is so tiring to be constantly monitoring children, answering 2 questions you prepared for and 3 you didn't (all at the same time), rearranging examples and lessons in my head and in general being constantly on my toes - in both the literal and figurative senses. I love the fast-paced world of teaching but it is so emotionally and mentally draining that it often pulls from the physical also. Chores? Ha! Making dinner? Bah! I often neglected every other aspect of my life because I was just too darned tired! Nobody told me that.
2) Nobody told me that I wasn't supposed to put books on my bookshelf. This is just one of the general, procedural knowledge nuggets that people take for granted that the new people would know. As a veteran, you know how to set-up your room at the beginning of the year and how to clean it up at the end. Ideas such as not putting books on shelves that need to be moved for floor waxing - well those just didn't occur to me. I thought I was nearly done with my books and had arranged them neatly when the principal happened to mention in passing to "be sure your books are stacked on your counters." I didn't know that when I was given grades of transfer students, they wouldn't be entered into the grade book by the guidance / resource counselor who takes care of every other aspect of grades and reports. I didn't know I had to print report cards out by assignment and with a signature line. Nobody told me that.
Second - Reading is relaxing, unless you're at a really exciting part.
I love to read and I have neglected it for far too long. I have read about 5 books in the last 8 months and still have 5 more to go before I go on another book-buying binge. (I also have plenty of other un-read books on my shelf that I don't consider my "must reads" of now.) It is so hard to read during the school year because it keeps me up at night. I always need to know what happens next and feel compelled to read "just one more" chapter. It's also a lot more fun to read when other people have also read the book, so I think I am going to start blogging about the books I read and hopefully will find people to respond. So far I can write about Beautiful Lies, Secret Life of Bees, House Rules, The Help, and another book whose title happens to escape me at the moment.
That takes me to the third thing I've learned:
Just because I'm a math person doesn't mean I can't write - it just means I can't spell.
I want to write a blog - a more specific blog. But I realize it also can't be forced because then I have interest in writing. Clearly I can't keep up with something just on whims. I just helped my boyfriend write his resume - believe me I can make working at a grocery store sound like the most important job you've ever held. I would love to write a book - but about what? I just love writing. Everybody assumes that you are either a numbers person or a words person, but why can't you be both? I would also like to pick up some sort of freelance writing job, but I wouldn't really know where to begin. Really, is it possible to get paid for all of your passions? Teaching, writing and cakes? Can I combine them all into one? Hmm.
Oh and the spelling thing - I love playing Scrabble. I know plenty of winning words but it's the darndest thing: I can't spell worth a lick. Oh well, that will maybe come with time.
Well that would be it for now. Luck to you and luck for me!