vrijdag 30 november 2007

Gingerbread townhouse cake -part 2

The cake is done! And on its way to 2 dozen weekend-working collegues who are going to perform the taste-test :o).
If you want to give the cake a go yourself, go to http://www.marthastewart.com for the recipe and instructions and tell me what you think.

As I wrote before, I was quite well prepared for finishing this cake. I had the genoise in the freezer (it held up beautifully) the daquoise at hand (you can definately keep it for more than one day, unlike the recipe states), the soaking syrup in the fridge and all cookie decorating finished. What was left was making the buttercream and constructing the cake. So I read the directions twice, and started the buttercream. I have to confess I don't have a lot of experience with buttercream, as it's not the first type of filling I turn to when making a cake. I prefer ganache and pastry cream type fillings over buttercream, but you have to venture out and be open to new things, and a gingerbread-flavored buttercream can only be good, right?
So I started heating up eggwhites and sugar in a double boiler. I was armed with my candy thermometer and followed the instructions to the letter. Let it warm up sufficiently, then started beating the crap out of it in my beloved stand mixer (that deserves the name 'thunderbird' for the noise it produces, but is simply THE best ever). It behaved as promised, turned paler, thicker, stiffened up nicely, only, after 15 minutes it didn't seem very cool. It wasn't much cooler after 20 minutes either. What to do? According to the recipe it should be ready for adding butter at this point, and being nervous of overbeating the stuff, I hesitantly started adding the butter. More so, because the recipe said that if the mixture gets too cold, it might curdle. Definately didn't want to deal with that. So I added the butter by the tablespoon as directed, and it looked all fine and dandy, except it still wouldn't cool.
This is when I started to get the icepacks and wet towels out. It didn't help one bit. I don't know what it was, but it stayed warm and when all the butter was added I had a soupy concoction at hand (granted, it tasted great). I tried to calm myself down, having visions of running to the store yet again and buying yet another dozen of eggs and 2 lbs of sugar. I figured I had nothing to loose and put the whole bowl in an ice bath, stirring gently. It got more manageable, never curdled or broke down, so I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and started slathering it on, waiting for disaster to strike. And guess what, it was all fine and it just stiffened up beautifully in the fridge. Victory!!

After this ordeal, I noticed time was running away from me. I still had to bake the last batch of cookie dough I made earlier that morning, before my oven was hauled out of the house for a check up (WHAT was I thinking?). And of course the oven had to be cool again and cleaned before pick up. So I baked cookies, ran around frantically trying to clean up the kitchen that looked like a battlefield at that point, while at the same time trying to look in control when waving at the neighbor who was looking at what I was doing from outside the window ;o).
I got it done, everything looked reasonably normal and tidy, when with 15 minutes left before the repair guys came, I thought I'd better unplug the oven. Then I couldn't find the plug. I called my husband at work, who told me I needed to look for the plug in the basement. When I did just that, I remembered we had recently covered the pipes and cords and all that pretty stuff with a piece of plywood twice my size. It was screwed in position with what seemed like 79 screws. At this point, I was in hyperventilation mode. My husband was trying to calm me down, telling me to give it a try and if I couldn't manage, he'd jump into the car that very moment and be over to rescue me. So I got going, screwing as if my life depended on it. I somehow managed to move all the boxes in front of the darned wall, get the board down without breaking it or hurting myself (don't ask me how I did it), and finding the plug. Of course I couldn't reach it and I climbed on a rather wonky construction, stuck my hand into a cobweb-covered black hole, trying to find the plug. And I did, thankfully. I banged my head and was covered in cobwebs, but I did it a full three minutes before the arranged pick up time.
I washed my face, combed my hair, tried to look in control once again and calmly made myself a cup of tea ;o).

Is it even necessary to say that the pick up only happened TWO FULL HOURS LATER? That I tried to decide whether I could start that cranberry curd, to use up some of the 21 egg yolks in my fridge, or not, for two hours? I guess everything worked out eventually, but that was one crazy day. The curd turned out, the cookies turned out, the cake was in the fridge, and the oven got picked up. Now I'm left with a big hole in the oven cabinet and the kitchen is just empty without the oven. Of course I can only think of dinner options that need to be prepared in the oven. And I want to bake bread and scones and everything else like I will never get another chance. It's official: I'm really crazy.

But, this is getting awfully long and I still haven't talked about finalizing the cake. The thunderbird was in full swing again this morning at 6.00 a.m., whipping up a batch of 7-minute frosting (again that didn't cool, what's up with that??). I slathered it onto the cake that still looked in fine shape, pressed in the cookies, took a few snapshots, listened to my husband who was insisting he was running late, made breakfast and hauled husband, cake and breakfast into the car and drove off.
So what have I learned in the proces?
1. Selling a house is stressful
2. Selling a house is awfully stressful
3. Preparing for a possible move is extremely stressful
4. Do not make this zillion-component cake when you don't have a lot of time on your hands.
5. Do not try to bake another batch of cookies 15 minutes before your oven gets hauled off the house. There WILL be other occasions.
6. I still love to bake, it keeps me both sane and insane :o).

Without further ado: here's the master piece:

19 opmerkingen:

Anoniem zei

Wow, that is just beautiful! Between you and RuthWells, I just marvel at your patience and skill to create these masterpieces! I'm sure it tasted as good as it looks.


Anoniem zei

There is no other word I can think of except FABULOUS!


RuthWells zei

Heleen, that is a tremendous achievment! Good for you, and you will so enjoy having the story of the trials and tribulations to go back to and laugh at after a suitable amount of time has passed.

Now, did I hear you mention CRANBERRY curd?.... I would love a recipe for such a thing!

Toni zei

I am impressed with your baking skills. Even that you ATTEMPTED that cake leaves me speechless. It looked beautiful. I hope your husbands co-workers appreciate it. It looks like it would serve at least 20 people.


Heleen zei

Thank you all so much :o). Ann, it did taste good, but to be honest, it will never be my favorite. All that buttercream is just too rich for me! It was a fun project though.

Regality: thanks, you make me blush!

Ruth, yes, I know it would have been funny had I not been hyperventilating at the time :o). Once the whole moving thing will actually happen, I'm sure I can appreciate it much more :o). The cranberry curd was posted over at FC and it is really nice. I can post it to you if you like!

Toni: you're right, I think it could have served 30 people if necessary, mostly because there's no way you can eat chunks of this in one sitting. The receivers were very appreciative (they always are) which is very, very, nice and makes me look forward to surprising them with something new. Thanks so much for the kind words :o)

Anoniem zei

So, now, how are you doing? Two days without an oven? You must be exeriencing withdrawal pains by now? ;-)


Heleen zei

Definately in withdrawal :o). The kitchen is so sad looking, with that big hole in the cabinet. I did make a triple batch of lemon curd yesterday though, for future baking adventures!

Megan zei

Wow, your cake turned out amazing. I think I am going to attempt it in a week or so.

Well, I may at least try out the cookies. The house shapes are too beautiful.

Good work :)

Tara zei

Heleen, that cake is absolutely beautiful. I love to bake, but I'd never have the patience for something like that.

So is the house officially sold now??

Heleen zei

Thank you Megan! I'd love to see yours when you make it :o). Or the cookies, which I think are absolutely adorable. I do doubt that they would hold up as ornaments though. I know mine wouldn't, I'm still thinking I might have slightly underbaked them.

Heleen zei

Thanks Tara :o). You know I'd love any recipe you could recommend, I'm always looking for new things to try!
And no, the house sale isn't final yet. We're doing the waiting game right now, in two weeks we'll here if it's final or not. It's the waiting that is getting to me. I don't mind packing, moving, adjusting, but uncertainty is not my idea of fun.

bobby_z zei

Heleen, the gingerbread townhouse cake looks fabulous! I am thinking about making it myself and have a question or two: I am having 2 small gatherings within a few days of each other and was wondering if the cake would still be 'fresh' after sitting 2-3 days, in your opinion. Could I serve about half the cake on day 1, then 'shrink' it into a square for the second gathering and reassemble it -- or does that just defeat the purpose of the whole thing?

Heleen zei

Hi Bobby and thank you :o). I think keeping the cake without the decorations for a day or two wouldn't be much of a problem at all, the only thing that probably wouldn't keep is the seven minute icing on top and on the sides of the cake. Also, I think the cookies might not benefit from being covered in the seven minute icing for two days and get soggy. I think that I would make all components of the cake in advance (everything except the 7 minute frosting can be made days in advance) and then assemble them before you plan to serve them. You could easily use the génoise recipe and make two smaller squares out of it (I multiplied all ingredients by 1.2 and baked in a 10 inch square pan, maybe you could do that and bake in two 7 inch square pans? Or even in rounds?). THe same goes for the daquoise. Just make smaller squares before baking the layers. Buttercream and everything else would stay the same. Did that help at all?

bobby_z zei

Thanks Heleen, yes it does help. So let's say I want to make 2/3 of the cake (with 2 cookies on each side instead of 3). Could I just multiply every ingredient in the génoise by .66? What size pan would be best? Of course, I guess I could just bake using the directions and then cut 1/3 of it off after it bakes. What would you do? I think I have decided to serve it at just one gathering for 10-15 people, so I prefer a slightly smaller cake.

Heleen zei

Bobby, if you want to make it a 6 inch square cake instead of a 9 inch square, you need 6*6 /9*9 the amount of ingredients
(36/81). I think I'd go with half the ingredients for the génoise in that case, for a 6 inch pan. Of course, I remember off the top of my head the original recipe called for a 9 inch pan, right?

I do know the cookies varied in width though, so I'd measure two cookie templates next to eachother and see what size cake you need (I think the cookies were three different sizes).

Christina zei

Heleen, I cannot believe you actually made this cake! The magazine has been sitting in my house and I've been showing it to all my friends with the comment, "Martha must be crazy to think anyone would have the time and the bravery to make this thing!" I tried the cookies this weekend and it took two of us five hours from start to finish to make a batch (not including decorating!). Your version did come out beautifully and you ought to be congratulated for such amazing skill!

Heleen zei

Thank you Christina! Actually, just like you say, the cookies were most of the work. I thought I was going nuts with all the rolling - freezing - cutting - freezing - decorating - freezing routine. That was really a bit over the top. Took me just as long as it took you apparantly. Next to that, the cake was a breeze ;o).

Anoniem zei

Hi. I am the food editor at Martha Stewart Living that created that cake- it was so fun to read of your trials and tribulations with it- I am so happy it turned out so well in the end.
I did want to let you know what I think might be the problem with your buttercream and seven minute frosting not cooling down- i just might be your mixer. Is your mixer an older model? Does the motor feel hot to the touch after all that mixing? Since both of those frostings take so long to whip up, your motor might be overheating and causing the frosting to stay warm....just a thought.
Again, thanks for having a go at one of our more complex recipes- so glad to hear someone out there made it!

Heleen zei

Jennifer, thank you SO much for your comment! It's an honor to hear from the creator of this magnificent cake. As I said, I fell in love with it the minute I saw it, and knew I had to try and make it myself. I have learned a lot in the process as well, which is always a nice bonus. I hope to see many more of beautiful pieces like this, and I'm determined to try more challenges like this :o).
I appreciate your troubleshooting as well. My Kenwood 1400 Watt mixer is not a spring chicken, but it's not antique either, and performs very well. It does get warm after heavy mixing, but is very powerful and does not feel overheated I think. But I might be wrong and in need of a new, bigger and stronger one ;o).
Anyways, thanks again for your comment and thoughts!