I baked two Cuddle Cakes--a standard cake for Katelyn's celebration, and a half-size recipe for my husband and I to enjoy. I wanted plenty of the ganache and the whipped cream topping to work with, so I made double batch of each of those recipes.
This was not a difficult recipe, but it was rather involved, hence the "Five Acts."
ACT ONE: The Cake
Before I continue this narrative, let me comment on how hilariously preposterous I sound to myself, like such a baking authority, "a straightforward sponge-type cake..." I'm no expert! After baking with Rose's books since 1989, I just have a lot of experience following her recipes. So, laugh along with me, and if I start taking myself too seriously, PLEASE, somebody--jerk a knot in my tail, will ya?!
This summer my husband Smitty and I went to part of "The World's Longest Yard Sale" in Crossville, TN. What an experience! I was thrilled to find an antique angel food cake folder--pictured in a line drawing in the "Equipment" section in the back of the Cake Bible (p.458). You can see it put to good use in this next photo. It really won't deflate meringue, I love it! Keep your eye out for one at antique shops, it is a great find!
I improvised a bake-even strip the old fashioned way. I folded wet paper towels inside a pocket of aluminum foil and fastened it with paper clips. It was easier than dealing with my old Wilton strips that have to pinned--especially for the second half-size cake baked in a six-inch springform pan.
Unmolding the cake was easy. The parchment liner slipped off without the need for the damp towel treatment.
One note here--the telltale cracks at the center of the cake were very small. I was watching it carefully, (one might even say with extreme paranoia) per the instructions. Because it was a birthday cake for a friend, I was particularly anxious to get it right!
ACT TWO: The Ganache
Cooling is an essential part of this process. When I read the recipe, "make the ganache at least three hours in advance," I took that to mean that it would be ready in three hours. However, I found that it took closer to four hours to cool to spreading consistency. Fortunately, on page 521 of the Baking Bible, Rose notes that ganache can be beaten with a whisk to thicken it if you need to use it before the cooling time has elapsed. This worked perfectly! I didn't notice any change in color at all.
ACT THREE: The Caramel
Cooling is critical to this component as well. It took about 90 minutes to cool my double batch of caramel.
ACT FOUR: The Caramel Whipped Cream
The cream is stabilized with unflavored gelatin and sweetened with that amazing heavenly caramel.
Whisking along as directed, the caramel and cream are becoming a lovely, uniform color...when suddenly, the cream seems to be deflating. My heart begins sinking with it. What could I be doing wrong? I followed the instructions to the letter! In desperation, I reach for the hand mixer. Dear God--is it getting worse?! I stuff the bowl into the fridge. My blood pressure rises.
ACT 4.2 Mousseline crash and burn
The birthday party is in 90 minutes. I picture a wonderful young woman with a terrible cake because I messed it up!
Quick change of gears. I am a Girl Scout, after all. I turn to my old reliable Cake Bible. I will make a batch of Rose's foolproof Mousseline Buttercream to use instead of the whipped cream. I have made that recipe so many times, I'm petrified to even attempt Rose's new sequence (in Rose's Heavenly Cakes) for fear of forever jinxing myself!
All is going well. I'm back in The Zone. Meringue is perfect, butter the right temperature....and then for the first time in 20 years....curdling. More curdling, even more curdling where there isn't even room for more. RUINED icing. Throw-it-out, irretrievably bad icing. Trying hard not to break down in sobs in the kitchen. Panic is thick in the room.
ACT 4.3 The Whipped Cream is....Okay After All???
ACT FIVE: Icing the cake (and the photos continue!)
Then I used my favorite up and down spatula strokes to make an easy vertical pattern on top of that. If you want to do this, just add about a tablespoon of icing for every two or three vertical strokes. It won't take you long to get the hang of this. I like this charming, old fashioned look. (Shown a couple of photos down.)
Remember--the "secret" to icing a cake is to keep the spatula between the icing and the cake. Never touch the cake with the spatula--only touch the icing. Not always easy to do, but that's the rule of thumb. And of course, you can always put two layers of icing on a cake--the first layer is to seal in all of those crumbs--it's called the crumb coat! Then go back over it a second time and you might be surprised how much easier it is to get a pretty result.
For those who may be interested, here is a low-tech method of dividing a cake evenly for decorating.
First, ice the top of your cake with a thin coat of icing. Trace your cake pan on a piece of waxed paper or parchment and cut out the circle.
Fold the circle in half and then in half again, creasing it as many times as you like.
I took one extra step and used a piece of uncooked spaghetti to mark lines from the center to the edges of the cake to create "wedges."
I used the whipped cream and decorating tip 86 (my favorite!) to pipe ruffles inside the wedges. I chose that quick design so that the cream wouldn't have to be in the bag for more than a couple of minutes. Even so, the ruffles began sagging. This is a very simple design, even if you don't have any experience piping. Give it a try! You can do this, I promise!
All reports are that the birthday cake was devoured and declared "wonderful." I didn't trust the whipped cream to hold up under the heat, so I sent along a pretty glass dish filled with glass marbles to hold the 21 birthday candles! No one took photos of the birthday "moment" with cake. Oh well, happy birthday, Katelyn, on the threshold of your life! You bring laughter and joy to all who meet you!
All of the components--the cake, the ganache, the caramel, and the caramel whipped cream--are exceptional in their own right. Together, they are so good, it is one of the best desserts I have ever tasted!
I hope my readers will try this recipe! I am anxious to hear how my fellow Alpha Bakers liked it as well.
Wishing us all the blessings of the new year--
Michele at home with my Artful Oven