Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chocolate Cake: Another Attempt



Please check out today's episode of Strangerville, above (and at the bottom of this post, because we're persistent like that), featuring a story about what happens when pen pals don't end up murdering each other.

Also, don't forget that our Strangerville Live show is NEXT WEEK (March 30). Please get tickets at this link if you haven't already.

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You may recall that a little while ago TV lied to me and made me think that it was sufficient education for baking. I spent basically two full days trying to make a mirror-glaze cake from a British recipe that may as well have been written in another language.

Whatever I ended up with was definitely not mirror-glaze and it probably wasn't even technically a cake, and after that experience I decided that I would never bake anything ever again.

Then last week happened.


It was Anna's birthday and we were going to have some kind of celebration for her and all of the other tasks had already been called by various people and so, since I spent a small fortune on baking supplies for January's disaster, I thought it wouldn't kill me to give cake baking another try.

I looked up an American recipe online, wondering if this would make a difference for me. This time the recipe called for ingredients that I didn't have to google at the grocery store with the words "American equivalent" preceding them. And the recipe used units of measurement formally endorsed by CMT and the NRA, so I was pretty confident I could get this one done.

The recipe was for a three-layered chocolate cake. Not mirror-glaze, for that is Satan's work, but just a simple chocolate frosting. It also called for some candy work on top.

The candy work was supposed to be simple. Melt some sugar in a pan and then dip nuts in it. Use the remainder to make long strings and gently wrap those strings in a loose ball that would sit on top of the cake.

Within five minutes I had severe third-degree burns all over my right hand and there was a trail of melted sugar hardening into cement from my stove top all the way to the opposite end of the kitchen.

So the candy work was a bust.

But it was never going to be the star of the show anyway.

The cake. That was the part that mattered.

And so, I started mixing and baking and mixing and baking and then dumping and starting over and mixing and baking and eventually I ended up with three eight-inch round cakes that were so lopsided that you all have vertigo just for having accessed this website today.

But I was all like, "it doesn't matter, Eli. Because you're going to put cream between each layer and then frost the Hell out of this thing and in the end no one will know the difference."

I thought that, because whenever something looks a little unpleasant coming out of the oven on the Great British Baking Show they're all like "we'll just cover that with frosting" and then they do and it looks so beautiful that it actually obtains world peace.

Well. I know I already told you this, but let me remind you: TV is a liar.

Because I put cream between each layer and then played this really stressful and messy juggling game where I was running circles around the cake to wipe up cream that was dripping out all over around the sides and it was somehow even more lopsided and finally I just go so freaked out that I shoved the whole thing in the fridge thinking that it would "set" and I don't know what that means or why I thought it but it definitely didn't "set" because when I opened the fridge 10 minutes later the layers had slid off of one another and were just in a messy pile at the back of the fridge and I had to grab them with my bare hands and try to slide them on top of each other while I reached for cocktail sticks with my bare toes so I could stab the cake in 9 different places to hold it together and the cocktail sticks were supposed to be used for the candy making process but they ended up being more helpful for engineering purposes and in the end my cake looked like this:



Just kidding.

This was it:





All I did was try.

And now, please enjoy this week's episode of Strangerville:


This time in Strangerville, two people fall in love from opposite ends of the Earth without ever seeing a picture of one another.

Story:

Pen Pals, By Mark and Marisa Sheldon (music by bensound.com)



~It Just Gets Stranger

52 comments:

  1. New, best YouTube show: Baking with Eli.

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    1. Rated R for strong language, violence, and brief graphic nudity.

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    2. Well, it wouldn't really reflect the true Eli audiences would adore and love if you didn't accidentally get naked by misunderstanding a recipe now and again now would it?

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    3. literally about to suggest a youtube channel. you can have all the strong language you like, pretty sure they have rules against violence and nudity, but if the violence is against cake, and the nudity is implied, i think you'd still be good.

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  2. Something you might want to check out so you can see you are not alone in your baking misadventures (if you haven't already seen it)... There is a Netflix series called "Nailed It". Haven't watched it yet myself, just heard about it this morning actually, but apparently they have amateur bakers attempt recreate these professionally done elaborate baked masterpieces with varying degrees of success. I'm assuming that hilarity ensues.

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    1. I tried the first few minutes of this “nailed it” show, and maybe it is great but i turned it off after a few minutes, blah, blah, blah. Then i found a new show called cooking with the family or something like that and it is exactly the same as the Great British Baking show, camera work and background music and style and everything and even Nadiya is one of the hosts!!! I also only watched about ten minutes of this one because apparently that’s a thing with me sometimes, but this one I plan to go back to!

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    2. I binged Nailed It this weekend, and all I want in life now is to see Eli compete on the show!

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    3. I love NAILED IT! I can totally see myself on that show!

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    4. Nailed It was little too obnoxious for my taste. I watched one episode but probably won't watch anymore.

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    5. I am reporting back for all of you that care: (someone cares, maybe?) I finished the first season of “The Big Family Cooking Showdown” and it is perfect. It made me believe in families again, in kitchens, in food, in British accents, that there is love in this world, and it is all the beautiful things wrapped up in, like bacon and oxtail gravy. With a bone marrow garnish probably. I have not gone back to Nailed It yet, so we’ll see about that. I am still finishing up my (third time) through White Collar. So I will be super busy with that for a while.

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  3. Tiered cakes are tough! Whoever came up with the expression "piece of cake" was not indoctrinated by Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood but admittedly had a less stressful baking experience. The cake decorating class I took a couple years ago helped me understand why most of our family cakes we're prepared in a 9 by 13 casserole dish instead of a tiered cake.

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  4. You got me good. I totally believed the first cake was yours and that you’d been exaggerating about how badly it was going.

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  5. Replies
    1. Then it must have been the best cake in the world!

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    2. Then this is all that matters!

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  6. But, how did it taste? Looks aren't everything. Isn’t that what our mothers told us?

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, fedex me a slice and I'll review it.

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  7. Tip for next time, trim the top off of each layer so they are flat before you stack them. Put the cut part down into the frosting so that the crumbs get trapped there. If doing anything over two layers I normally use sticks too. Cut them to size before you put them in and they will get covered by the frosting. Most wedding cakes do this with dowels. If you have time to freeze the cake it makes it easer to build with too.

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  8. You probably know this by now, but whipped cream as a filling for layered cakes is a disaster waiting to happen. Most professional bakers use stabilized whipped cream if they want to fill a layer cake with cream, it's basically just whipped cream with gelatin. So, what I am saying is that's it's not you, it's physics.
    The cakes looks like a nice bake, though.

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    Replies
    1. "It's not you, it's physics" needs to be on a tshirt.

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    2. I would by this shirt Suzzzz.

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    3. Here you go Sarah, I couldn't find a decent clip art image of a cake fail, so this will have to do.
      https://www.customink.com/designs/physics/xce0-00bc-15fq/share?pc=EMAIL-40778&utm_campaign=shared%20design&utm_source=share%20link&utm_medium=shared%20design&utm_content=shared%20desktop

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  9. I would still eat that cake. In fact, it looks fine to me, what are you even talking about? And...this is why I triathlon...the inability to discriminate against cakes of any kind. Also, my middle kid is always asking for some kind of insane cake. Not flavor wise, I'm not sure she even cares about that, but always in the shape of some kind of animal. This year is was a wolf. But I do give my best shot.

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  10. For your next cake, go with an ice cream cake. You make your three layers of chocolate cake just like you did her but then freeze them. Instead of frosting or whipped cream in the middle, you put ice cream in the middle. Then your regular frosting goes on the outside, and it stays in the freezer. Just make sure to take it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you're going to cut and eat it. If the cake isn't frozen when you put your ice cream in between, though, it will melt all over, so just make sure you plan enough time.

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  11. Please, please, PLEASE watch Nailed It on Netflix and discuss it on the next Strangerville episode. And then please, please, PLEASE compete on the show.

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    Replies
    1. Yes! You'll notice down below I commented without reading everyone else's. So my comment is now redundant, but I totally agree!

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  12. Oh, bless your baking heart.

    Loved the pen pal story! I was pen pals with my grandpa's brother from the time I was 6 years old until he passed away while I was in college. I miss his writing style and the effort he would put in to keeping in contact. We never had the chance to meet in real life as he lived in the country in New York and I lived in Utah.

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  13. Go buy a cake leveler next time. Some people can just eyeball and level their cake with a knife, but the leveler is much easier. It's a metal tool with a wire across the middle. You adjust the wire to the right notch, then saw it across your cake. Voila, flat cake that won't make your layers slip! As a bonus, you can take out your baking frustrations and pretend you're garrotting your cake. ;)

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  14. While I appreciate your persistence and desire to be all fancy and impress your friends...I don't suppose the thought of ordering a cake from a bakery ever crossed your mind? There are professionals who will do all the hard work for you. As a mom of many years, I've also learned the perfect acceptability of boxed cake mix. Canned frosting...meh. But the cake itself is just as good or better than what I can do from scratch. You do have a knack for jumping feet first into the deep end...maybe start with some cupcakes and work your way up to full-sized cake. I believe they still sell Easy Bake ovens, too, so that's another option for you.

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    Replies
    1. My favorite cookbook is actually all about how you can make box cupcakes better with slight adjustments of ingredients. It's fabulous. I don't remember the name of the book, but I think it came from Costco many years ago.

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  15. I'd still eat it! Looks great. Also, have you checked out 'Nailed It' on Netflix? It's a baking show that I really feel would be up to your standards...and to mine if I'm being honest. Please please apply or whatever it is you have to do to get on it. I think you'd be very entertaining to watch.

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  16. Haha so great! Hey it’s food so if it tasted good that’s all you need 😂😂. Srsly though, please go to YouTube and search, “how to torte a cake.” Game changer.

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  17. You did let the cake layers cool down before you assembled it, didn't you"???????? Anyway if it tasted good you are winning!

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  18. Are those poisonous mushrooms on top of the cake?

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  19. Go binge watch Man About Cake on YouTube. Another fine production that will make you feel qualified to cake.

    And then please make one from their line up. I need an average person to attempt things so I can truly gage the skill level required for such tasks.

    I thank you in advance for your sacrifice.

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  20. So I'm good at making cakes. In fact - people ask me to make cakes and pies all the time. My secret to a good cake: make it a sheet cake - only use a jelly roll pan. This equalizes the cake to frosting ratio and people enjoy it more.

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  21. Being from the South, all I can say is "bless your heart".

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  22. So Meg doesn't like Barbie on Netflix (which I agree is brutal). But has she watched Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse? THAT IS SO FANTASTIC! Seriously, it is social commentary on life and Barbie. Please tell her.

    Also, I loved Gummi Bears. I wasn't allowed to watch the Simpson's because Bart had a t-shirt that said something about school being dumb.

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    Replies
    1. Yes to Barbie in the dream house! And I also wasn't allowed to watch The Simpson's, because Bart swore.

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    2. My girls started watching Barbie and the Dreamhouse (which my three year old called “Barbie Broke the House” for years because of the episode where she... breaks the house. Anyway, at first i was all panicking and like “oh no, my girls are going to be THOSE girls, that play with Barbies...”(we have no barbies and I had managed to avoid them even knowing about them until Netflix) but when i was done rolling my eyes and i listened for a second, I was like wait is this satire? Of... itself? So kudos to the show for that.

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    3. "Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse" actually has made my husband laugh.

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    4. And, as far as I can remember, Ames, correct me if I'm wrong: We were allowed to watch Reading Rainbow and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. We were also allowed to watch Full House, sometimes, and as a family we would watch Star Trek.

      When I turned twelve, we moved and stopped having cable, and I didn't know that local channels existed. One day in high school, I came home and found my mom watching television. I was shocked and amazed. She sheepishly told me that if you go out to the garage, pull down the ladder and climb into the attic, flip a specific switch, then it would turn on the old school antenna on top of our house, and thus we could have local channels.

      I remember once in middle school, I had to ask my teacher if I could write a paper about my favorite book, because the assignment was to write about your favorite TV show, but we didn't watch TV, so I didn't have one. Ha.

      Other than not being able to contribute to conversations about television shows, I haven't really missed TV too much. I'm 32 years old and still don't really watch it. Listening to you and Meg talk about TV is more television than I've had in my life in a long time. I do occasionally watch Modern Family, because my husband likes it and turns it on every now and then.

      This might make me unpopular, but TV shows kind of feel like movies that never end, and when they do finally end it isn't because it was actually a good place to end but because it became unpopular or ran out of funding or something, so the writers just made some sort of something up. It just seems like a lot of hours of my life to give to something. I actually usually hear of a show that people find interesting, google recaps and read the summaries of the entire series, and then call it good.

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    5. Because my last comment wasn’t long enough, I’m going to make it longer. Ha. It has been brought to my remembrance that my sister went to college and bought the Smallville DVDs, and I definitely watched hem. We also checked out Alias DVDs from Blockbuster. Oh, Blockbuster.

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  23. You are better than me. When I am volunteered to bake a cake I head to Costco and buy their triple chocolate cake or I bake cupcakes from a box.

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  24. Next time just go to Sam's club and get what my friends have taken to calling "Bucket O' Cake", then hand everyone a spoon and dig in.
    https://www.samsclub.com/sams/triple-chocolate-scoop-cake/prod16810592.ip?xid=plp:product:1:3

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    Replies
    1. My mom makes something that looks like this - brownies, cool whip, and chocolate pudding. It's DIVINE!!

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    2. Why am I just discovering this!?! This looks amazing!

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  25. Not related but did you see this? Ha ha haaaa: https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/essential-oils-linked-to-male-breast-growth/ar-BBKtDom?li=BBnba9O

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