We all have them. Bad Cake Days. They happen. This is a story about one of my bad cake days that wouldn’t go away. Hang tough, you can get through it if I did!
Because I work alone, I have to bake ahead. After 500 cakes in the last 2 years, I had one repeat customer ‘not complain, but just pass along’, that the most recent cake she ordered was a little dry. (Why do I not follow what I know, be rational with myself, and think: 1:500 is not too stinking bad!)
Anyhow, I was prepping for the week and turned the oven down a few degrees, thinking this would make a more moist cake. The cake I was baking was for a wedding, it was in a 9 inch pan. I baked my cake. It was golden brown and sprung back when poked. (my usual test) I let my cake cool, popped it in the freezer awaiting to be finished for the wedding, a few days later. As usual, I pull my cakes out the day before, put the in the refrigerator to thaw.
I cut into the first 9 inch layer thinking, hmm, it looks a little doughy inside. By this time, my husband stopped in to check on me on his way home from work. I trimmed the top off of the 2nd layer. It was a more then just a little bit doughy inside. I cut the layer in half with my husband standing across the work bench from me. something wasn’t right. I lifted the top layer off, and the batter was still raw inside the cake! (Oh why, oh why don’t I follow and do what I know!)
I threw the cake right in the trash. Because I work a full time job (like most of us!) my time is very limited and I have little time for mistakes. I just have to roll with the punches and move along. (me, having pity party for myself!)
Time to rebake the cake. (this is for tomorrow at 3pm, it’s now 5:30 the night before and I have to rebake and finish the wedding cake.
I remixed the the cake batter poured into the pans and re-baked the layer. It looked a little shorter then usual, but I felt like I had to run with it. After the cake cooled on the work bench about 30-40 minutes, I popped it in the freezer to get it cold enough to work with. After 30 minutes in the freezer, I checked on them. My goodness, they layers looked awfully thin, but what could I do? By now it’s 7:00 pm. I have worked a 12 hour day and I am losing my sense of good judgement. (Did I mention my mother was in the hospital?)
I kept moving in a forward direction as I baked the replacement layer, I worked on icing the top layer and prepping the rest of the cake as far as I could, waiting for the 9” to be ready. By the time the 7” layer was done, all I had to do was ice the 9” layer and stack it.
And I did.
And it looked like crap.
An now it’s 9:30 pm, I’ve now worked a 14 1/2 hour day and my mother is still sick in the hospital 500 miles away.
I put the cake in the fridge and went home feeling totally defeated. I talked to my husband about it telling him the cake was crap. I had used extra icing on the bottom layer because it was so short. If anyone asked me what flavor the cake was I would have to say, “Buttercream flavored cake”, because I had used so much darn icing. Because I had used so much icing, there was no lip on the bottom 9” layer after the 7’ layer was stacked on top. I showed my husband the above photos of the cake and he said, “I don’t like it. This is our business, you have to do your best.”
I complained that I didn’t have time to do anything. I had to get up the next morning and be at my full time job at 7am.
He was right. I brainstormed. I had a 10 inch layer in the freezer. Maybe I could do something. My husband and I ran out to the bakery and I took the 10” out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. I took the butter out to let it come to room temperature overnight. (I had to make more icing, of course!)
Murphy was having a hay day! (Murphy’s law?)
I had a plan. I would come in before work, head in a forward direction and see how far I could get before I had to go to work.
I woke up the next morning at 4am. (of course) I hopped in the shower, had my coffee and headed to the shop.
I started taking the wedding cake apart.
Take it apart you might say? Yes, here is the turning point towards perfection. Several years ago I had a friend who was teaching me quilting. She said, “Sometimes we have to do reverse sewing.” Sometimes, correcting the problem can take as much time and making the final product.
I scrapped off the icing:
I took a icing spatula, inserted it into the layers to reach the cake board under the top tier and removed it. I placed it on a cake board, removed some of the icing and smoothed out the icing on the cake.
(It’s always magical when you can successfully remove the top tier of the cake. I’ve never had a problem when I have to do this!) (I saved both tiers)
So now I had a good 7” top tier, now for the base tier.
I got the 10” out of the fridge, iced it up, stacked it and moved forward.
I was able to finish the cake and it looked good.
My layers were nice and tall. I could feel good about the cake I had to deliver. I put the cake in the fridge, cleaned up and went to my full time job. I was actually able to make the corrections and get to my day job on time.
That afternoon, I delivered my cake and the bride said, “It was perfect!” “Exactly what I had asked for”.
I took the bum cake layer to work and put it in the work room with a sign, “Free Cake”. No one complained and several people e-mailed me telling me how good it was and thanks for the free cake.
I didn’t tell anyone why it was really there. You don’t have to give away all your secrets. ;)
Why am I sharing this story? Several reasons.
1. We all have bad cake days. Don’t be afraid to reverse the process to get a better product. You’ll feel better about yourself because you did.
2. Sleep is way over rated and you can get a good cake buzz working on cake at 4 a.m. (jk)
3. Don’t beat yourself up because you are exausted both physically and emotionally.
4. Always try to move in a positive forward direction.
5. Follow your gut, do what you know. If 1000 people love your cake, don’t listen and make the changes for just one.
6. When you are tired and can’t make sense of anything, listen to those around you who know you and care the most about you. That is the advice you can take to heart.
Each cake teaches me more about myself.
(my mother is still in the hospital and should be home soon. She is doing much better and requested that I not come at this time which is good, I have more wedding cakes ordered in the next 2 weeks!)
-- Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.