November 11, 2009
“Let them eat cake!”
As the semester winds down for my Careers in Writing course, I figured it was time to blog about a dessert that is nearest and dearest to my heart: Cake! One of the most scrumptious desserts ever, cake is a wonderful medium that satisfies the sweet-tooth and can be manipulated flavor-wise, and in its physical state as well.
The history of the cake goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who seemed to possess vast skills when it came to baking. These cakes typically contained dried fruits, and lasted for long periods of time. Differing forms of cakes can be found in the Bible as well, showcasing the expansive time frame over which “the cake” was developed. What you and I consider the traditional “cake,” however, actually came onto the scene in the eighteen hundreds with the introduction of baking powder and a ‘lil more flour.
(If you’d like to delve deeper into the history of the Cake, take a look at this website. I thought it was a great find! http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes.html)
Flash forward to 2009. The modern cake includes ingredients such as liquor, beer, minced meat, sour cream, and all kinds of nontraditional add-ins. With the growing fascination in all things culinary, the world of baking and specialty cakes is taking the United States by storm. Such noteworthy programs as Food Network and TLC, with its own take on food shows and challenges, are broadcasting more and more segments dedicated to making cakes that mirror art more so than the “typical” dessert.
I am one of the many foodies who has taken a liking to the idea of dressing up a cake as much as anything else. Fondant, thanks to the French, has made American bakeries all the more chic with beautifully decorated culinary pieces that sometimes look more life-like than not.
Just for your entertainment, I’ve posted links to various well-known Cake Decorators/Pastry Chefs whose work is phenomenal. These pieces of edible art will make you appreciate the creativity that goes into producing these amazing cakes:
One cake, in particular, that I am especially proud of is my “Doctor’s Coat” cake, which I made a year or two ago for the CEO of Cardiovascular Medicine, the company that I’ve been with for almost five years now. Now, to be totally honest with you, I cannot remember whether I used a vanilla or chocolate cake base, but which ever one I used, it was yummy. However, it is the outside of the cake that I am extremely proud of.
I am one of many self-taught bakers who, through hours and hours of Food Network Challenge episodes, taught myself the basics of cake baking and decorating. Add in a Wilton class on cakes, and you have the start of my cake-making frenzy. With that said, this cake was an opportunity to practice with Fondant and make a cake that reflected our practice and showed off some of my skills. So, I set off to baking and somewhere around six hours later came out with two very sore ankles and a cake that I’m still quite fond of.
Cakes like these take time, and a lot of labor-intensive work that not a lot of people realize goes into making a cake like this. Add in the cost of all of the ingredients, especially if you’re making EVERYTHING from scratch, which I typically do, and you’ve got quite the bill on your hands. But, in the end, the smiling faces and admiration for all your toils and labors are well worth the trouble.
*If you’re interested in making your own cake, Southern Living has great recipes for cake batters and a menagerie of buttercream flavors that are sure to delight everyone. I absolutely love Southern Living and the recipes are easy to follow! (Always a plus!). Also, if you want to expand your horizons and try to use Fondant to cover your cakes, go to Michael’s. They have boxed Fondant that will cover two 9-in. rounds (I think), and they’re around $6.00-$7.00 a box. You can color it, you can flavor it, you can eat, or (like most people) you can peel it off your piece of cake and throw it away. (FYI: the taste of Fondant is an acquired one, so if you use it on a cake and your guests don’t like it, don’t get offended. Just tell them to peel it off. You should always have a good layer of buttercream underneath your Fondant anyway, so your guests will still get a lot of yummy frosting!).
For more information on Wilton, visit their website at: http://www.wilton.com/