Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hidden Flag

I saw this cake and knew immediately that I needed to make this cake for the 4th. Little did I realize that this was going to be one of those recipes that from start to finish is just frustrating to say the least. So sit down with a nice cup of tea and read my tales of woe - it's going to be a long one....

Last Saturday: While this was definitely a complicated cake that required a little bit of advanced planning, I apparently made it even worse.  The recipe says to make 5 layers-2 yellow, 2 red, and 1 blue.  But the recipe is for 1 layer so I went in search of a recipe that made 2 layers so that it would be easier. But the recipe I chose was a little deceiving in that it said in one place that it made 1 layer and then called for 2 cake tiers. I apparently did not read it carefully enough. As I was pouring the batter into the two pans, it looked a little skimpy. Well it also cooked in less time - duh! Big clue there. And of course, I had decided to make the red layers first. So now I have two thin layers of red cake. Well I froze them and have future plans for them.
2 red and 1 blue layer done
Last Sunday: Of course, I had run out of red food dye with those layers and was now short cake flour. Off to the store I went. Well after that I had my five cake layers made, wrapped them in plastic wrap, then foil, and off to the freezer they went.

Cake (Adapted from Food52) 5 layers - recipe makes 1 layer - totals are in parenthesis

8 T butter, softened = 1 stick (5 sticks total)
1 1/2 c sugar (7 1/2 c total)
2 eggs (10 total)
2 t vanilla extract (10 total)
3/4 c buttermilk (3 1/2 c total)
1 1/2 c cake flour, sifted (7 1/2 c total)
1 t baking powder (1 T + 2t total)
1/2 t salt (2 1/2 t total)
red food coloring (1 t)
blue food coloring (1/2 t)

Grease 1 9" round pan and line bottom with parchment (or silicon mat). Cream butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well to incorporate. Add vanilla. Add food coloring (1/2 t of food coloring about 20 drops) In a small bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Begin alternating between the dry ingredients and buttermilk using 1/2 of the ingredients.  Starting with the dry and ending with the dry.  Scraping the bowl down between each addition. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 30-35 minutes.  Toothpick should come out dry. Cool in pans for 15 minutes and remove from pans.

Sunday Evening:  Blue food coloring on my left toe and bottom of right foot - how did that get there?

Monday: Sous Chef has blue food coloring on right calf - how did that get there?

Assembly:
Thursday 6:00 PM:  Remove cakes from freezer

Thursday 6:30 PM: Now the fun part-cutting the cakes.  Cut the yellow and red layers in half about 3/4" thick. Do not cut the blue layer in half. I cut the layers when they were still partially frozen. I think this makes it easier to cut as the cake is a little firm.  You need a good serrated knife.  I use a long bread knife.  The easiest way to do this is start cutting in about an inch deep all the way around.  Turn the cake as you cut.  Next go round, go a little deeper about another inch - still turning as you are cutting.  Continue until you reach the center.  Using this method you don't have to mark with toothpicks, use dental floss as some suggest, or use other complicated methods.

Stripes all ready to go. I left the plastic wrap under the layers so they would be easy to move around

Cut a 4" circle in 1 yellow layer, 1 red layer, and 1 blue layer.  You will use the outer circle of the blue layer and the inner layers of the yellow and red.
Star section and stripes section - that bowl was the perfect 4" round
You will have some cake scraps - 1/2 layer of yellow, 1/2 layer of red, outer circle of red, outer circle of yellow, and inner circle of blue.  

All ready or so I thought.

Did you finish that cup of tea yet?? I'll wait while you go get a refill.  Do do do da da da la la la - got the refill?  OK so...

7:00 PM:  Now I was not that thrilled with the butter cream icing recipe.  Obviously I had not learned my lesson from the cake tier incident and decided to go with a cream cheese frosting instead. Since it was about 180 degrees Thursday and at least 200 in my kitchen, this probably was not a good idea in hindsight.  So I started the recipe using 2 packages of cream cheese. I needed to chill the icing because it was so hot that the icing was really soft. That chilled for 30-45 minutes. That's OK, I had to make some tarragon butter for the bagels for tomorrow.

8:00 PM: Place the intact red layer on the serving dish. Spread a thin layer of icing. You do not want too thick of a layer or it will not look like a flag.

Top with a yellow layer and repeat. Now you have 4 layers of cake - the stripes. Now top with your blue "outer ring" and insert the 4" red layer and add a layer of icing. Insert the 4" yellow layer.

Your flag is now complete. All ready to ice the outside now.  I started to ice the cake and  realized that there was not going to be enough. I also realized something else, you could actually see the cake color through the icing. Never fear - I had just made some cream cheese. Well apparently when you make your own cream cheese, it's a little softer probably because you don't put in thickeners. The icing came out very liquid and even after 45 minutes in the refrigerator, it was not thick enough to ice the cake.

9:30 PM: Off to the store I went to buy some more cream cheese.  I bought 2 packages as insurance.  I decided I only needed to make a half a batch of icing. Off to the refrigerator again for a chill.

10:45 PM: As I began to ice the sides, I realized that this was still not going to be enough. It was enough for a skim coat on the sides. I thought well I will refrigerate this whole mess and then tomorrow make the remainder of the icing since it was supposed to be cooler.

As I put the cake lid over the cake - I realized that this VERY TALL cake dish was not tall enough for this VERY TALL cake. It is really 3 9" layers after all. The top layer was now stuck to the lid of the cake dish. UGH!

I would not be bringing this cake to the barbecue - how could I transport it even if I could fix it. If you ignore what the outside looks like (won't be posting a picture of that!), the inside you have  {dramatic pause} a flag:

It did taste good

Friday 6 AM: Baked my reliable banana bread to bring.

Lessons Learned:

Some recipes are just not made to be made when it is hot out
It takes a lot of cream cheese to frost a 3 tier cake
4 tiers + cake dish = HOT MESS
Food coloring gets everywhere!
I would make this cake again, if I didn't have to transport it anywhere and I didn't need to cover it!

Notice I keep calling it the 4th of July and not Independence Day? The Sous Chef has a theory that people have started calling it Independence Day. He thinks that there is a push to call it Independence Day so that it is not tied to a specific date as they want to tack it onto a weekend to make it a three-day weekend holiday.  Similar to what they have done with Martin Luther King Day, President's Day, Columbus Day etc.  I don't know but I still call it the 4th of July (sometimes it's easier to just say "Yes Dear").

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