Monday, January 01, 2007

I'm just a sheet cake sort of gal

As a science teacher, I'm used to doing labs that don't necessarily work out perfectly. That's part of the game, and actually ends up being a good thing because it leads to good discussions with the kids about why something didn't go as planned. I think they learn more that way.

However, as a cook, I'm not used to failures. Especially big grand failures. But oh, I had a humdinger of a failure for New Year's.

When we go over to the Littlebird's, I often bring dessert. Not that I'm any great baker, I actually like cooking main dishes more, but because it's easier to bring a dessert than, say, a pot roast. And I like to do desserts because there's usually a recipe I'd like to try, and it gives me a good excuse.

Iin the November, 2006 issue of Southern Living magazine, they had this recipe for a banana cake. Mr. Bluebird loves banana pudding and banana bread and this looked like a fun recipe to try. The picture was gorgeous - a triple layered cake with chunks of banana and gooey white frosting between the layers, all topped by more snowy white gooey frosting.

The batter was easy, the baking went fine, I made my three round cake layers, cooled them, whipped up the butter cream frosting, cut the banana slices, tossed them in lemon juice, drained them, got out my grandma's depression glass cake plate, and began to assemble my cake.

And this is where it all went wrong.

I put the first layer on the cake plate, added the 1/2 cup of frosting (just like the recipe said), topped that with a layer of 1/4" banana slices (just like the recipe said), frosted another layer and inverted it (just like the recipe said), and repeated (just like the recipe said). In other words, I did everything exactly like the recipe said to do it.

By the time I'd stacked my three layers and was ready to do the overall frosting I realized that we had a problem.

The banana slices didn't want to stay put in between the layers.

At all.

They were migrating from in between the layers to the edge, then creeping down the sides. I'd push in a banana piece, and another one would squirt out on the opposite side of the cake. The cake itself was starting to lean precariously. I secured it with some bamboo skewers. The motion was too great and the cake simly kept moving, taking the skewers with it. By this time the cake, which should have had lovely, smooth sides, looked like it had warts as the bananas were popping out and sliding down the sides, and creeping across the cake plate.

This was not going to work.

And I didn't have time to run to the market and make something else.

So I improvised.

I took a deep square glass baking dish, picked up the cake and sliding bananas off my lovely cake plate, dumped it in the dish and basically threw the remaining frosting and bananas on top. It looked like a rather odd shaped mountain with boulders sticking out all over the place. If I'd been clever, and not just annoyed, I would have rigged up a ski lift with toothpicks and thread.

I took what I was now calling "Banana Mash Cake" (because it was sort of just mashed there in the dish) to the Littlebird's and told them the entire story. Between the deer and the baking disaster, it wasn't my day, but it turned out okay in the end. The cake tasted great (and was best served with a large spoon) and hopefully the car repairs won't be too expensive.

But I don't think I'm ever going to try a layer cake again.


EHT said...

Most of my Southern Living cakes have been disasters, however, I usually can salvage the other kinds of dishes. They generally look slightly like the picture in the magazine.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

The looks don't matter as long as it tastes great, which you say it did. Relax! I'm sure everyone appreciated your efforts.

Happy New Year!

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

You are so much braver than I am! I do not bake. It's better for everyone that way.

Trust me.

Kat said...

OK...let me give you a little help, for the next time - because as a teacher, you must know that there is always a next time! LOL! Chill the frosting layer beween putting the next cake layer on top. That way, it sets up with the bananas and keeps the fruit secure.

And, you could've saved some major face by calling your "mash creation" a parfait! You pay big bucks for those in a restaurant!