Sunday, April 27, 2008

Emily's birthday cake.

I have been trying to make Emily's birthday cake for a few weeks now.

I have decided that in order to become a better cook/baker, I would need to begin conquering my "food" fears. While I am competent in the kitchen for the most part, there are still many dishes, both simple and complicated, which I have not made yet because they intimidate the heck out of me. This is the reason I have never made an omelet (simple scary) or homemade pasta (medium scary) or lobster (super scary). I am also afraid of certain ingredients (in particular, tofu, most seafood, vegetables like leeks) just because I have never used them before and I am not even sure if I like them. Certain cuisines cripple me. I begged Dan to get me this Japanese cookbook after reading an article in the New York Times that the author is the Martha Stewart of Japan, but have done little more than admire the pictures. So in an effort to challenge myself and get to the next level--something I am aspiring to do in all aspects of my life--I am going to get over it and get my hands dirty.

Emily's birthday cake will be my number one task. Her birthday fell on April 10 and we had tentative plans to see each other the following Sunday, but that those plans fell through and then the plans after that fell through and it took me until today do make this cake. What makes Emily's birthday cake scary? It's a lemon cake (her fave) from Martha's Stewart's Baking Handbook. I have never made anything lemon (reason being, I am not a huge fan of lemon-flavored anything, but being on a diet, that works for me now). Second, it's multi-layered lemon cake with lemon curd filled on the inside. Third, it requires some basic decorating with one of those cake decorating tubes. (Yes, I had to buy some new kitchen gadgets which I had to promptly hide from Dan).

The cake was time-intensive, but wasn't too hard to conquer. The scary parts were naturally the most disasterous. When it was time to cut the two cakes in half to make the layers, one came out perfectly, the second fell apart. Which meant that my four-layer cake suddenly turned into a three layer cake. The icing didn't feel right to me. It was not as thick as I expected, and when it was time to design the cake with lemon curd, I was startled by how runny it was--which meant my designs were based on where ever the curd dripped. It didn't help that Dan was standing right over me going "oof, are you sure you know what you're doing?" and then when I was done, saying that it didn't look right. It didn't, but I didn't need him to tell me that.

Luckily, no one at Emily's seemed to notice (or at least, kindly refrained from saying anything) about the yellow squiggles, and everyone said that it tasted good (which frankly, is the most important thing). I had some, too, of course, but since I don't really like lemon cake, it wasn't anything spectacular for me. But at least I have got tiered cakes and decorating with a tube down pat. Okay, not really, but there's a small notch on my belt.

Decorating the cake requires lots of water.

My random cake design.

Cake transport.


Emily said...

Don't let this self deprecating post fool you-we all thought that cake was delicious AND beautiful! In fact, I'm enjoying the leftovers RIGHT NOW! Thanks again, and I'm even more flattered to know that this was a cooking challenge for you.

Annette said...

The cake looks awesome! (even if I'm not a fan of lemon cake either!) Good Job!