Adventures in Cake part 1

Divarat is my guest blogger- she’s taking classes in cake decorating in anticipation of making a cake for her friend’s wedding.  She promises pictures are forthcoming. – Jane

Do not inhale the frosting…

Last night i made the cake. Today I will make both buttercream frosting for the cake and royal icing for the flowers. I’m starting with royal icing as the slightest hint of oil in your bowl when working with meringue can ruin the process. Royal icing is, essentially, a form of meringue, made from nothing but powdered sugar, powdered egg whites and water in this ratio:

3 level tbsp meringue powder
1lb confectioners sugar
5-6 tbsp water

The key, again, is the grease free bowl. to be sure you’re working on a grease free surface, wet a paper towel with distilled white vinegar and white out your bowl and then white down your wire whip attachment for  your mixer and allow to air dry.

How it should go:
Sift 1 pound by weight of confectioners sugar into a bowl and three level tbsp of meringue powder. It’s vitally important to sift as little balls of sugar can form and they will not break down during the mixing process. These will then remain in your icing causing a blockage when you attempt to pipe. It seems a time consuming and annoying step, but having now experienced  one of these blockages utterly ruin an otherwise perfect rose I  see the importance of taking the extra time now! Mix the powders and slowly add 5tbsp water. It should look lumpy and sandy at first, like grout. If it looks like fluffy dry snow or sand add the 6th tbsp of water.

Mix on low until blended into a lumpy pasty possibly yellowish grout consistency. Now turn up your mixer to medium and set your timer for eight minutes and walk away. Yes, really!  This is the hard part. eight minutes! you’ll want to mess with it and you’ll be convinced it’s not going right, it’s too thick or it’s being pushed to the sides. Well, like a watched pot never boils, a worried royal icing never fluffs up and dries out.  Let the mixer and ingredients work their magic without your help!

In the end you will have a voluminous, white and creamy consistency with an almost matte finish – not shiny. If it’s shiny you need to beat it a bit longer.  This should be immediately stored in an air tight container. Makes about 3 cups of royal icing. again – air tight! it is the nature of royal icing to dry out when exposed to air, so keep it in a container and keep the lid on at all times!

How it’s actually going:
Set up mixer and white out it and wisk with vinegar, open meringue powder and curse self for having grabbed a can with no lid, thus needing to find and label another airtight container ‘meringue powder’ for the duration, look for measuring spoons and internally curse that nothing is ever where it belongs and wonder what i did with them this time. dig through drawers and look in dishwasher. Not finding one of the three sets grumble, sigh, take a deep breath, look up and find them hanging right there in front of you on the hook where they belong. I swear there are kitchen gremlins who do this to me on a regular basis just to convince me i’m insane.
Measure three tbsp meringue powder, leveling each as i go.
break out the 2lb bag of confectioners sugar cursing myself for not spending the extra money on 2 one pound bags. Break out the digital food scale, the purex 4cup measuring cup and the sifter. Place measuring cup on scale and reset to zero. Place sifter in measuring cup and begin pouring in sugar. Sift sugar into cup and then notice the number seems way off, realize I did not reset the scale after putting the sifter in, sigh dramatically, and make a small snowy mess attempting to pour the sifted sugar back into the bag. Place sifter in masuring cup on scale and press the set button. Pour sugar in and begin sifting again.  A small cracking sound and my sifter literally fell apart in my hands… the handle cracking off completely, washer and screws falling to the counter and floor. Question the stupidity of this ridiculous step. Lumps! really? who cares! so one flower gets ruined! sigh, grit my teeth and determinedly make the sifter work without a handle, manually moving the metal inner arm and wonder if the ace of cakes started out like this. Keep adding sugar and manually ‘sifting’ until that little number finally arrives at 1.0!  Hooray!  triumphantly pour the sugar into the mixer bowl with great abandon resulting in a cloud of sugar that coats my nasal passages and will cause everything to smell sickening sweet for the rest of the day. Roll my eyes and curse again for my own stupidity. I’ve written it all down after realizing I was narrating this like a cooking show in my head.  You gotta laugh or you’ll cry, and there’s still the icing to make!

(I didn’t know there was so much dramatic sighing involved, but I should have after watching cupcake wars!)

*continues to narrate in my head* “Add five tbsp of filter water to powder and ‘stir’ on low. Stop mixer to scrape down the glue that is forming to the bottom and sides. Stir some more. Repeat.

Repeat again. Note that you have created sand.

Add 6th tbsp of water. Stir. Note that you have created a thick shiney paste that clings to the whisk while the rest of your thick, hard and matte creation clings desperately to the sides of the bowl. Turn up the speed to medium low. Breathe sigh of relief as the wet center starts to spin out and combine with the this hard sides creating… big, hard lumps. Stop. Scrape down again. This takes intense effort as a near translucent 1/16th inch thick glue seems to have formed on the bottom. Scrape harder. When all is loosened ease up to medium. Note that nearly everything is clinging desperately to the sides avoiding the whisk attachment entirely. Bite your lip, hard, to keep yourself from adding more water. remember that in class you had the stiffest consistancy and clearly this  means you should add more water now. Pick up water and measuring spoon. Pause. Put down water and measuring spoon. Breathe deeply. Remember your own advice. Walk to stove and set timer for 8mins and walk away to start typing this. The magic will either happen or it won’t.

Bites nails and wonders if 8 mins is…. beeeeeeeeeep!

Ladies and gentleman, the spackle continues to cling desperately to the side of the bowl.

I HATE royal icing!!!

Scrape, ads tbp of water, turn up mixer slowly from stir to 4. Curses self for forgetting to take a picture of the result. sets time for another 8mins and return to computer.. wait.

2mins in can’t take it.. check…

Now we have fluff! That’s it! from now on i use 7tbsp of water. Maybe this house is just really, REALLY dry. Maybe it’s because we keep the house at 60 degrees. Maybe both, either way, i think i may finally have a recipe that works for me!

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