Redemption

…or at least, an attempt.

Behold, the result of another attempt at “turtle cake”, this one born on Wednesday night:

It still isn’t really pretty, but I’m calling it “good enough.”

I’m also calling it “really fucking delicious”.

I’m also also calling it “not a craft fail or cake wreck.  This time.”

I’m also also also calling it “holy hell homemade caramel!”

If you can look past the yellow, 10:00pm light and the messy kitchen, I think you’ll agree that this is an average-looking (average! woohoo!) cake which – you’ll just have to trust me on this – tastes absolutely exquisite.

I did pretty much everything differently this time, and with great success.

~~~

Last time, I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, the Johnson family recipe.  It was too soft; it couldn’t stand up, structurally, to the toppings.

This time, I used the Devil’s Food cake recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook.  Usually when I make that cake I substitute 2 1/2c cake flour for the 2 1/4c all-purpose flour called for, but this time I actually wanted the cake to have a bit more density to it so I stuck with the all-purpose flour.  I wasn’t worried about the cake losing moisture because I knew the caramel would more than provide.

~~~

Last time, I made a caramel syrup by melting down store-bought caramels with butter and sweetened condensed milk.  It looked good while the syrup was warm, but hardened as it cooled.

This time, I made my own caramel and added 1c whipping cream to form a syrup.  It was – is – divine.  I want to have this syrup’s babies.

~~~

Last time, I stirred the chopped pecans into the caramel.

This time, I just sprinkled them on top (and between the layers).  A purely aesthetic difference, but I like it.  The pecans are from my grandma, and I picked ’em all myself.

~~~

Last time, I made a horrible, horrible frosting by Paula Deen, which she’d promised would be “fudgy.”  It wasn’t, unless by “fudgy” you mean “sort of gelatinous with an unappealing skin on top”.

This time, I made my tried-and-true chocolate ganache.  As you can see in the photos, I didn’t put the ganache on the cake before serving.  I brought it to work in a Pyrex container and told people to add it themselves (I was still worried about the ganache making the caramel slide off.  It also showed me who in our office is a real chocoholic 😉

~~~

But even though I’m incredibly happy with my success this time, there are still a few things I’m going to change for next time:

  • I really want to make this with three 8″ rounds instead of 2 9″ rounds.  It’ll be more impressive looking.
  • My cakes didn’t come cleanly out of the pans.  This was my own fault; it was late and I was tired and didn’t want to wait for them to cool properly. I know this.  I knew what would happen.  I did it anyway.  But I did learn from my mistakes last time, and didn’t attempt to put any toppings on the cakes until they were fully cool.
  • I added the caramel to the cake at the exact right temperature this time – it was completely tepid, without the slightest bit of warmth or coolness.  Yet as you can see, it drizzled down the sides of the cake most appealingly.  I think I may have put a bit too much on though.
  • I think I’m going to toast the pecans, for that added little bit of crunch.
  • I’m going to try drizzling the ganache on top, after it has cooled adequately.  The only way to find out if it’ll work or not is to give it a shot, right?

Baking is very much a science – you can’t play fast and loose with ingredients or proportions or timing – but it’s also an art.  The Big Mac looked great on paper, but obviously didn’t come together well.  This second cake was a learning experience, and I think it sent me much further down the road toward my goal.  But there’s still work to do before I have a turtle cake I’m completely happy with.

Luckily, my father-in-law’s birthday is Sunday, so I’ve got the opportunity to give it another go.

Would anyone be interested in a recipe and/or PW-esque photo tutorial of my Sunday baking adventure?

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One response to “Redemption

  1. (golf claps)

    I am always interested in your recipes/photo tutorials when baked goods are involved!

    CONFETTI ANGEL FOOD CAKE. Yeah, I said it. Again. 😀

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