April 03, 2011
Last weekend I made another cake. This time I used a recipe from another blog. It turned out really good, but I learned that I still have an awful lot to learn about frosting and decorating cakes.
I made a Tropical Carrot Cake, using a recipe presented on one of our favorite blogs, Annie's Eats. I tend to like carrot cake anyhow, but this one sounded unusually good due to the addition of ample amounts of tropical elements, such as pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts. I was sold!
The recipe makes a three-layer cake with cream cheese icing. Everything else about the cake is pretty easy, but I had quite a frustrating time with the frosting.
The biggest problem was temperature. My kitchen was pretty warm when I tried icing the cake, and before I was very far into the process, the icing got warm, and more liquid, which made spreading it a bit of a chore. Since then, I've read recommendations that after preparing this sort of icing, one should refrigerate it for a half hour or so before putting it on the cake. I'll definitely do that next time.
As if the basic frosting wasn't enough of a chore, I had the brilliant idea of coloring some of the frosting and using that to add some decorative elements to the cake. This was my first time ever using a pastry bag, and I now understand why people who make a lot of cakes take classes in cake decorating. It didn't go easily. I had assumed a pastry bag would be a pretty straight-forward tool, but I was wrong. The warmth of the frosting was a bit of an issue here as well, but I think the primary problem was that I simply didn't know what the heck I was doing.
Nobody would mistake my cake for a professionally-decorated one, but despite all the above, I think it came out okay for a first time using this sort of icing and for my first try at using a pastry bag. More importantly than how the cake looked, though, was the flavor, and in this area, I had no complaints. The cake was really, really good.
The interior was moist - more so than most carrot cakes I've had - and very flavorful, and it had a bit of chew to it due to the bits of pineapple and coconut and nuts. It was also somewhat lighter in texture than I'd expected, and in a good way. The richly-flavored icing went well with the cake, though it did make it so rich that a very thin slice was more than enough for a serving (the first slice I took from the cake, as shown, is probably enough for three servings!
Juli and I had a bit of this, but I took most of it to work to share with my colleagues. I was not surprised, but was still gratified, that it was a bit hit with my coworkers. We recently added a new nurse to our staff, and when I introduced myself to her, the other nurses described me as "our baker." I think I have a lot to learn before I claim any sort of expertise with baking, but their description was still among the nicest things I've ever been called.