My cake exam was today, and it appears that all the practice paid off. I cut a reasonably even cake layer, although, as you can see, the top was thicker than the bottom.
Looking at the top, the cake was nicely iced with buttercream and evenly hot-knifed so that you can't really see where the knife touched the surface of the cake. The cake is also nice and flat on the top, with straight sides all around, another plus. Points were docked for an uneven buttercream border at the edge, for some mottling of the buttercream on the side of the cake (which you can't see here), for the unambitious lay-on decor (the white cluster of flowers...it DOES look rather puny, but I had dish duty all this week and it crowded out my regular practice/project time), and for thick chocolate piping. I was aware of that last issue, although with 10 minutes to the buzzer, I decided it would be a better strategy to accept that 1 point loss instead of chancing an overtime penalty. I was 8 minutes late for my first exam and it cost me 8 points off the final grade. At least the cake tasted good though. I got points for that, too.
Yesterday we started working on mousses and bavarians, which are very similar. After a basic introduction and a demonstration of a mousse and a bavarian, we were split into groups and each given a cake to work on. My partner Kell and I got a joconde dot with coffee and hazelnut bavarian in a half-pipe. Translation? A lot of work and careful organization. To start, a joconde is a cake with a pattern baked right into it. A different-colored batter that's about the consistency of brownie batter is laid down first using a stencil, and the contrasting cake batter is gently smoothed out on top in a thin layer. As you can imagine, Silpats are essential here. The example here is what Chef made using a Chinese Basket stencil. "Coincidentally," Kell and I had made an oval-dot joconde the day before, and this was what we had to use it for the walls of our cake. The cake would be constructed inside a metal half-pipe tube, so in order to cut a wall and a base that would fit precisely and not leak bavarian, we had to measure out the circumference and length. We also had to check the volume of the mold so we could guage whether our bavarian recipes would yield enough to fill it. After that, we were given leeway in deciding how to add some crunch, color, etc, to our cake...the little je ne sais quoi that would make it a truly great eating experience. Kell and I decided on crumbled japonaise (almond meringue). That only gives a somewhat chewy crunch, however, and halfway through we decided to toast and finely chop some hazelnuts to mix in with the japonaise layer and give a boost to the hazelnut bavarian at the same time. Our careful measurements paid off - that's me in the picture fitting the sponge cake base onto the finished cake, and it fit perfectly. Even with the joconde already prepared, it took the two of us two hours to get the two bavarians cooked and the cake measured out and assembled; it was truly a project that required careful planning and organization, and we were lucky to work well together. The cake is in the freezer at school and will be unmolded next week, so I'll post pictures of it when we do so. It should be a real sight, what with its black and white polka dot jacket! You can already see a sliver of it there in the foreground.