Thursday, August 4, 2011

On a Roll

Brace yourselves.  This is going to be the longest post in history.

Those of you who are my Facebook friends are well aware of what's been going on with me and why I haven't posted anything recently.  To make a veeerrry long story short, I agreed some months ago to make a wedding cake for my son, Andy's best friend Jermaine (and his lovely bride Megan, whom we love like a daughter).  Now, that doesn't sound too daunting, does it?  I mean, it's only cake!

Well, yes.  But did I mention that the wedding was taking place in New Orleans and I live in Atlanta?  As usual, what was I thinking?

My catering instincts kicked in and I spent tons of time plotting my course.  As any good caterer knows, you can NEVER trust that the kitchen you're working in will have anything you need, so it's imperative that you bring EVERYTHING, even down to the potholders and paper towels.  I can do that.  Check. 

Arrghh, but the thought of baking all of those cake layers in a foreign kitchen did not sit well with me.  Too much margin for error.  Since the wedding was taking place on a Saturday, I wondered if I could bake the layers on Tuesday.  If so, it meant we could load up everything in the car on Wednesday and drive to New Orleans, leaving me with Thursday to make the frosting and Friday to assemble the thing.  (Sorry, Henry - there goes your fantasy of taking an old-fashioned Amtrak trip.  You get to drive your packed-to-the-gills car for 7 hours instead).

I spent several months testing recipes.  I knew Hummingbird Cake would hold its moisture, but I was wary of the nuts in it, as some folks are allergic.  Besides, I found out that they turned blue after three days.  Fail.  Then I tried Red Velvet, but it just didn't do anything for me and I wanted something a little more special than the usual accompanying cream cheese frosting.  Lemon-Poppyseed?  It didn't hold up, as the crumb was too fine and the cake dried out.  I also tried a basic yellow cake from a wedding cake book I purchased.  Way too dry for my taste.  Another fail.  Uh-oh.  It was now a week from B (that would be baking) - Day.

The lesson here is that sometimes you have to get out of your own way and do what you know best.  I turned to my favorite cream cheese poundcake and cha-ching!  The cream cheese and butter worked together to hold in the moisture and frankly, it was better on Saturday than it was on Tuesday.  Alrighty, then.

If you are one of the two people who read this blog, then you know I have a perverse sense of humor.  So I will just cut to the chase, without being politcally correct.  The groom is black.  The bride is white.  With that in mind, what could possibly be better than a marble cake?????  My apologies if any of you are offended, but I knew it was the perfect cake for the perfect couple.  I doubt that all of the 130 people at the wedding got it, but for those of us that did, it made us smile.  C'mon, a little humor never hurt any of us!


1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. cream cheese
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 325-degrees.  Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.  Butter parchment well and set aside.

Cut butter and cream cheese into pieces and place in the bowl of electric mixer.  Cream well, scraping down bowl, then add sugar and salt.  Continue beating for 10 minutes, scraping down bowl several times.

Reduce mixer speed to medium and add eggs one at a time.  Incorporate each egg before adding the next.  When all eggs are added, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute until mixture is no longer grainy. 

Reduce speed and add flour.  When just incorporated, add vanilla and blend briefly.  Remove from mixer, and use a spatula to combine by hand.

Remove 1/3 of the batter to a medium bowl.  Add the melted chocolate and fold with spatula until blended.

Divide the non-chocolate batter between the 2 prepared pans and spread evenly.  Drop 1/2 of the chocolate batter over each pan with a large spoon in dollops.  Use a knife to gently swirl in the chocolate batter.

Rap each pan sharply on the counter to remove air bubbles.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool slightly, then remove from pans onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Yield:  One (1) 8-inch, two-layer cake

I made the recipe X 12 in order to end up with 4 tiers plus
5 sheet cakes (a caterer's trick - make extra sheet cakes that can be cut in the
back of the house then served to the guests).

Once I got the cake part figured out, I turned my attention to the frosting.  To me, this thing screamed out for chocolate frosting to enhance the chocolate swirls in the cake.  My favorite recipe is incredibly good but it is also extremely temperamental as it's loaded with butter.  Given the heat and humidity in New Orleans, I nixed that idea.  I guess I could have done the standard butter, cocoa and powdered sugar routine, but that just didn't have the finesse I wanted.  The wedding cake book I mentioned had a recipe for making frosting by combining chocolate and sour cream.  That looked promising.  Until I tried it.  Yuck.  That stupid book failed me twice, so I threw it away!

Once again, I went back to what I know.  There is a local Boston bakery chain which is owned and operated by Judy Rosenberg.  She published a book in 1991 titled "Rosie's All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed Baking Book."  Now with a name like that, how could anything in it be bad?  One of the best things in it is her recipe for chocolate frosting.

This is another one of those recipes I am embarassed to give you because it's so elementary.  It has just three ingredients and it is a total breeze to make.  All you need are your three ingredients and a blender.  I know, I know - you are going to read this recipe and say "no way."  Oh, but resist your impulse and try it out.  You will be stunned at the result.  It's rich, shiny, chocolate-y, it holds its shape and it is absolutely fabulous.  Trust me.

After  Isplit and  frosted the tiers, I placed them in the refrigerate to set up.
Heaven forbid they should slide!


6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water.  Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, blend the evaporated milk and the sugar in a blender on medium speed for 10 seconds.  Add melted chocolate and blend on high speed until thick and shiny, about 30 - 60 seconds, depending upon your blender.  The blender's sound will change when the frosting has thickened.

Spoon frosting into a bowl and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Do NOT refrigerate, even if not using for several days.  It will keep in a cool, dry place.

Yield:  1 1/2 cups or enough for a 2-layer cake

Is that frosting gorgeous or what?

Sheet cakes.  As usual, I erred on the side of too much.
The kitchen and waitstaff were happy campers.

Now for the fun stuff.  The wedding reception was held at a local barbecue joint.  Gotta love that, and the barbecue was awesome.  Even better?  The name of the place! 

We scouted the place out a few days before the wedding.  We also visited the kitchen where I would be making the frosting and assembling the cake.  It became immediately clear to me that we needed wheels.

In a perfect world, we would have ready access to a rolling cart.  Yeah, right.  So we headed to Walmart (haha, when was the first time I ever shopped there?) with Henry bitching the whole time about how it was going to cost a ridiculous amount of money to purchase something suitable. He forgot he was dealing with Liz Lorber.

I hit the ground running in that cavernous, disgusting place and immediately got my hands on a rolling television stand.  The posted price was $39.99, but when I got to the cashier, it rang up at $19.99.  Way to go, Liz!  Now we had to deal with the scary part - ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.  As a veteran of building more IKEA furniture for my kids that I care to acknowledge, I'm pretty good at it.  But Henry?  Not so much.  And of course, it was his job to deal with it since I had to work on the cake.

He managed to put it together, but not without a lot of moans, groans and "oh shits."  I could have done it in half the time!

Then it was time for the rubber to meet the road (ouch).  Time to transport the cake.  Oy veh.

Naked on the now-assembled TV stand

Please be careful, Matt and Henry!

In the car.  I sat next to it during the trip to Squeal.
I don't think my leg has woken up yet.

Long story short (well, not really), the cake made it to the reception and was enjoyed by all.  Even by me.  Now that's saying something!

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