Friday, August 10, 2007

Wonderful Wide World of Cakes?

We've spent the last two weeks learning how to make and decorate cakes, from the key to making a tall genoise, to a buttercream icing smoothed to an airbrush finish, and perfect chocolate piping.

In the course of these exercises, I have learned something important about myself: I cannot slice in a straight line. Doesn't matter if the occasion calls for a vertical cut (such as a loaf of bread) or a horizontal one (such as a cake layer) - I have no ability to keep my knife at a consistent straight angle. Since we have a cake exam coming up on Thursday, I have been anxiously slicing everything that I can apply my serrated knife to - loaves of bread, eggplants, a savoie sponge cake, boiled eggs, even. Alas, it has been to no avail. I suck.

On the plus side, I'm pretty good at reassembling my butchered cakes so that they are somewhat level, and all my chocolate piping practice has begun to pay off...The words came out pretty well, but the decorative edge is still a little thick.
In an effort get some practice in before the big test day, and in order to make a cake for couple of very special guests this weekend, I decided kill birds with one stone and make a Zugerkirschtorte. What, you may well ask, is a Zugerkirschtorte? It's composed of a sponge soaked in brandy, sandwiched between crunchy almond meringue disks, and the cake is glued together by cherry brandy-flavored (aka kirsch) buttercream. And this is not just any buttercream - this is the real deal, ladies and gentlemen. It's the type made by combining Italian meringue (sugar cooked to softball consistency dribbled into softly beaten eggs) with twice its weight in butter. It's so light and silky, it's like eating a cloud. The cake is decorated with sliced toasted almonds on the sides, and dusted with two layers of confectioner's sugar on top and finished with pistachios and a glaceed cherry. As you'll see I have a plain old cherry on my cake because didn't want to buy a whole bottle glacees, which I detest. Luckily, I managed to cajole the staff at the local health food store to give me two perfect cherries, "Just slip 'em into your bag, quick!" It's amazing what a full shopping basket and blinking eyelashes will do for you!
It may not look like much, but this cake took a week of planning, four trips to the grocery store and about 6 hours of active time total. I had something to do after school every day. The meringue was made on Monday, the sponge cake on Tuesday, the buttercream on Wednesday, the syrup on Thursday, and everything was assembled on Friday. Of course, the cake is lopsided because I couldn't cut the darned sponge straight.


lost or found said...

looks amazing and yummy!!

greeeenwithenv said...

I think your special cake is lovely. Is that the way a traditional... give me a minute... Zugerkirschtorte (whew!) is presented? With the almonds and sugar and pistachios? If not, kudos to your design. It looks so clean and modern!

MooCow said...

It IS yummy! The middle is cool from the brandy-soaked sponge, every bite is light as a cloud but with a little crunch from the almond meringue, and elegantly sweet. I wish you could taste it - it's the nicest cake I've ever had! The decor is traditional, although I took liberties. Like I said, I replaced the glacee cherry. The pistachios should be little pinches of finely chopped pistachios, but those are hard to find and cost ~$40/lb. The almonds and confectioners sugar is also traditional and I didn't take any liberties with that.