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Friday, October 19, 2012

Cake Writing Series #4

Originally Posted June 30, 2010

Filling, Stacking and Icing
Now that we have a cooled and trimmed cake, it is time to make our yummy filling, stack the layers, and ice/frost the cake. (I don't know why I say ice the cake instead of frost the cake. Just humor me.) Here is the Mousse recipe again. I found this a year ago on Cheeky Kitchen. It was part of a beautifully decadent chocolate cake in honor of Stephanie Nielsen (whom I adore and respect beyond words!) 
Mascarpone Mousse
1 c. whipping cream
¼ c. sugar
1 c. 60% Bittersweet cacao chips
8 oz. mascarpone

In a large bowl, whip whipping cream until fluffly. Add sugar & mascarpone and whip until smooth.

In a small bowl, melt chocolate chips in microwave, stirring every thirty seconds until smooth. Chocolate should not be warm to the touch, if it is, allow it to cool just slightly before spooning the melted chocolate into the whipping cream mixture & beating until light and fluffy.

Spoon carefully atop one layer of cake. Spread evenly, then top with the second layer of cake. Refrigerate until ready to frost.

You will see that my example cake is rather larger than the 10inch round I'm having you make. Making this cake, I remembered why I don't normally "layer" my sheet cakes. I don't have the fridge space to firm up the cake and it was a bear to stack. It cracked and started to fall apart. Luckily, frosting works like glue and I "glued" it back together. After frosting it, you can't even tell that it was in three huge pieces.

Now is when I'm supposed to give you the writing side of the analogy, but my brain has quit on me. I remember thinking something along the lines of the filling being the yummy surprise in the middle of the cake. It's one of the things I look forward to. Writing the middle of the book is sometimes the hardest to do. The challenge is to make it wonderfully surprising enough that the reader never knows how hard it was to work through during the writing stage. Eh, that was one crummy sentence, but I'm actually craving cake so the writing part of this analogy might be lacking today.

Oh! I guess I should give you a buttercream icing recipe too. It is super easy. Put 1 cup REAL butter (please no margarine--it isn't pretty!) and 1 cup white Crisco (or equivalent vegetable shortening) into your mixing bowl. Also add 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of flavoring (my favorites are: vanilla, almond, mint). Mix until well blended and then add (slowly! or your kitchen will be covered in powdered sugar) 1--2lb bag of confectioners sugar.

This gives you a thick consistency icing (good for making roses. Add a little water (about 2 tablespoons) to make it thin enough to spread over your cake.

As you can see, I like to use my giant bag and large tip #1D. This allows me to pipe the icing all over in an even amount without ripping up the cake underneath. Now it is just a simple matter of smoothing it out.

This smoothing is called the revision process. You've been doing that (remember the trimming stage?), but now things are pretty much in place. These final revisions are more editing. Cutting and adding is done (except for the occasional surprise--hey, you know it happens!). Now you are smoothing away the awkward sentences, the passive voice, and so on. Each swipe makes the words flow better.

Even after a little smoothing, it isn't perfect. It is time to send the wip to your Beta readers. Have them read over it, looking for any cracks or lines. They can help you find those tiny spots that need smoothing.
When it comes to smoothing a real cake, here is what I've learned works for me. HOT WATER. Oh yeah. I run my metal spatula under my faucet, and then smooth it over the cake. The heat melts the icing just a bit and whala! Smooth...and shiny (until it dries again.) I'm still working on this, but it is smooth enough that when I decorate, no one will notice any wonky spots.

Sometimes listening to critiques feels like we are sitting under hot water. It isn't comfortable. We sweat, we writhe, we want to run away and hide our head under our pillows. However, we have to remember that critique, when given constructively, is simply smoothing out hard work.

It's hard work to write a novel. You put in hours and hours of thought and writing. You do it for your sanity, and you do it because we all harbor that secret hope that one day our baby will go out into the world. I for one want to make sure when it does, it's trimmed, filled, and smoothed out to the best of my (and my critique partners) abilities. That way the decorating stage won't be so painful.

Tune in Saturday for the wrap up of this series.

1 comment:

DEZMOND said...

'tis a lovely way of icing cakes! I like it.