I'da Baked a Cake
I took one of the few cooking classes I’ve ever taken in my life the other day at L’Ecole Culinaire on the Plaza. I signed up with a couple of friends for a cake baking class. My husband just looked at me. Really? His expression spoke loudly.
He knows I’m not a good baker (other than chocolate chip cookies) and I know the primary reason is my sloppy measuring and my theory that if the ingredient is really good, like butter, chocolate, or nuts, add more. And I tend to measure by the cup and tablespoon rather than getting out my scale. (Scales of all kinds make me shudder with fear.) But I often do occasionally make desserts of all kinds and I thought it’d be fun to learn more about the art and skill of cake baking.
L’Ecole Culinaire is a great place to take a short class (or start a career I’m sure). The kitchen is huge, with shiny metal tables and all the equipment one could possibly want. Even better, the students had measured out all the ingredients (for my trio, correctly) and they were placidly sitting there in little bowls, awaiting the magic. And then they were whisked away, to be washed by someone other than me. Hoo-hah, just like TV.
Probably the coolest part though was that our instructor was dessert chef Joseph Jackson, a man with impeccable European classical training whom I last saw at Affäre when he demonstrated how to set desserts on fire, beautifully and scientifically. I talked about this in Chris’ Corner last April. So it was a lovely surprise to see he’s now teaching full time and loving the change (and challenge) of impacting future chefs, both regular and dessert.
I learned several things that one could say I should have known, but didn’t. For instance, a killer chocolate butter cream frosting. Or that cake flour is really half flour and half corn starch. Always whip butter first with sugar so it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl or beater so much. And always mix your dry ingredients before you add them at the very end of the beating process (oh, stop now) and incorporate them as lightly as possible. Brush a light glaze on top and side of cakes before you frost them – look ma, no crumbs!
Our chocolate cake turned out perfectly and our birthday cupcakes were glorious. I may go into cake decorating, learning that the real pastry bags are manageable (and better by far than a corner scissored off a baggie) by even a klutz like me, if I’m only doing swirls and dollops.
Let us all eat cake!