A few weeks ago, Tim had the audacity to claim that he is a better baker than me. Last week, my sister said I was a merely adequate baker.
They are both wrong. Very wrong.
While I do not claim to be the world’s best baker, I think I’ve baked some pretty tasty treats in my day. I can make a delicious berry pie. I make darn good chocolate chip cookies. I can bake up a storm when I’m in the mood.
If there is any problem at all with my baking, it can only stem from one source: my dislike of cake. Quite frankly, I lack motivation to hone my baking skills beyond my already-stellar capabilities because the pay off is not high enough. I just haven’t had enough good cake in my life to make it worth the effort. Honestly, I’ve had a lot of bad cake. Dry, flavorless, greasy, or otherwise unappealing cake can ruin a girl’s day.
This brings me to my main point: I have challenged Tim to a Bake-Off (at some yet undetermined point in time). While he may think his innate baking abilities are already at the top of the game, I will undermine him and win because I am going to practice. My disciplined regiment of pastry-making began last week.
Tim was finishing a family practice rotation at a clinic which apparently has a tradition of baked good goodbyes. I offered to make one of his favorites: red velvet cupcakes. I had never made them before but thought it would be the perfect opportunity to perfect my culinary skills before our competition and to make cake that I actually like.
After scouring the internet, I found a seemingly delicious recipe for red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. While I may not be a cake fan, I do like some good frosting and this seemed like a winner.
If nothing else, the batter for these beauties was fabulously red (I used 8 oz. of red food coloring, yikes!). I quite enjoyed the process of making and baking the cupcakes from scratch. I doubled the recipe so that would have plenty for my experiment. After delivering 28 to Tim’s office, I still had over two dozen to play with.
My goal was to take the cake to “wow” level. Thinking that I would like any cake better if I got to enjoy chocolate simultaneously, I made two kinds of ganache using a recipe similar to this. My proportions were a little off however. I used 3.5 oz. of Lindt milk chocolate with about 1/2 cup of hot cream. This was much too thin. For the semisweet version, I used about 8 oz. of chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of hot cream. That thickened the ganache but it ended up being too thick once it cooled.
Despite my consistency disappointments, I filled the cupcakes with my too-thin and too-thick ganache using a pastry bag for the side-by-side taste tests. The flavor of the ganache was what I was most interested in anyway.
After tasting original red velvet cupcakes with no filling, cupcakes filled with semisweet ganache, some containing milk chocolate ganache, and others with both kinds of ganache, I tallied the results. The pressure heightened as I braced myself for the big reveal. After slaving over experimental recipes and techniques I’d never tried, I couldn’t wait to see the marked improvement in my finished product.
The end result: I still don’t like cake.
The fillings were okay. The cake was okay. The frosting was delicious. Maybe I’ll try another recipe. Maybe I’ll avoid the over-hyped red velvet creations in the future (who likes those anyway?). Maybe I’ll try a new technique or a new experiment. But for now, I’m blaming the cake and not my mad baking skills.