Saturday, March 6, 2010

A cake for Naitlin, part 2

After separating approximately 70 eggs this week, I'm getting pretty good at it. No errant shells or broken yolks here! The wedding cake recipes require only egg whites, so in an effort not to let all those yolks go to waste, I've decided that green tea ice cream will be a byproduct of these cakes.

All the baking was finished late Tuesday night: I've made four 16-inch orange layers, two 10-inch matcha layers (not counting the one I was about to put in the oven when I realized I'd forgotten baking powder) and two very purple 6-inch blackberry layers. And I disassembled the inside of my freezer only partially to shoehorn all these things in there. Here's a warning that I read many times before starting this project but didn't heed: measure your oven and freezer!! It's only because of luck that mine can barely fit in things that are 16 inches across — I'd guess the oven must be 16.2 inches front to back. What would I have done otherwise? Panicked, that's what.

But that hasn't happened (yet), and in fact a lot of this project was done with great ease thanks to Melissa's borrowed KitchenAid, a library copy of The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and this spreadsheet made by my friend Joanna.

The spreadsheet was a lifesaver. You see, unlike rice or meatballs or pretty much everything else edible, making a bigger cake isn't as simple as making more batter. Instead of just doubling the recipe, it must be scaled to the size of pan with — most direly — the right amount of baking powder. Beranbaum has spent years of her life perfecting charts for all kinds of baking situations, and her work on what she calls Special Occasion White Butter Cake really saved me from a lot of guessing. I should point out that she is a woman who, according to the book's introduction, wrote a masters dissertation on sifting flour for yellow cake, got an A+ for it, then dumped her boyfriend after he read it and told her the subject was trivial.

She's kind of like a teacher who says "look it up in the dictionary" when a kid asks about a big word. Beranbaum invites you into the madness that surely went into creating her charts by requiring you to do your own dang math for your particular size of pan. She has you refer to the chart to determine your pan size's "Rose factor," by which you multiply the ingredient amounts of the base recipe. However, I know Joanna. And Joanna knows Excel. And she embedded some formulas into some columns so that I had an ingredient list for each tier multiplied by the correct Rose factor. Then, she went the extra mile and figured out how much of each ingredient I'd need to buy, i.e. 84 tablespoons means I should pick up 11 sticks of butter. She's great.

So, to bring you fully up to date: the wedding is this afternoon! Right now, I have 96 ounces of cream cheese coming to room temperature so I can whip up the frosting, frost and box the layers, then take them over to the house where the wedding's being held. I'm hoping that's as easy as it sounds condensed into one sentence!


  1. So the question from the Telep household is: do you own and use an egg separator? Is it a fancy Williams & Sonoma one? Or is it one of our egg guys?

  2. I do have one of the egg guys, and I think the name he came with is Yolky. But I didn't use him this time because I realized how easy the shell method is, plus he just seemed like one more thing to wash.