I would be understating the fact if I said that I don't particularly love cake. Teacakes, carrot cakes or cheesecakes I like just fine. I speak of the fluffy, bland, layered variety. While the rest of my pastry class avidly practiced piping skills and whipped buttercreams, I wondered when we would be allowed to bake bread, like REAL bakers.
Just kidding, of course. Building layer cakes takes a ton of skill and work, something that non-bakers probably don't realize. There's baking the cakes, slicing them into perfectly equal layers, building them so that they don't droop or list to one side, coating them with a gazillion layers of icing until they look silky smooth, finishing them with schmancy decorations... they take for freakin' ever. And what are you left with after all is said and done? Some sweet, dry, white fluff.
Sadly, nine times out of ten when I am asked to bake something it is cake. Why we as people honor occasions with these horrific concoctions is entirely beyond me. Wouldn't you prefer to remember your 18th birthday/going away party/bat mitzvah with something that actually...tastes good? Wouldn't you prefer a nice, gooey brownie, or a scoop of silky ice cream, or a slice of juicy pie? I know I certainly would any day.
And please don't get me started on wedding cakes. They epitomize all that I find loathsome about the whole business. Come on, brides: do you really need a designer, five-tiered extravaganza that costs more than I earn in a year covered in 100 magnolia flowers handmade out of edible sugar paste in order to live happily ever after?
Ok, enough of my ranting. When my very bojon friend (and I say that as the highest form of a compliment - remember, bojon is a state of mind) Vanessa asked me to gift a cake to her wedding reception, of any sort, size or shape, I gladly agreed. Vanessa and Lincoln had been engaged for as long as I'd known them, when Vanessa and I worked as baristas at our local coffee shop, Farley's, and spent most of our shifts telling dirty jokes, preferably to the customers. Vanessa took a firmly un-bridezilla stance on her wedding, and, as a result, seemed to enjoy herself on the big day. ('I'm going to take my first married pee!' she gleefully told a dozen different people on her way to the loo.)
I used 1 1/2 times my go-to chocolate cake recipe, the one-bowl chocolate cupcakes from Martha Stewart Baking. (I love Martha, or at least her recipe writers, and am not afraid to admit it.) I poured it into two half-sheet pans and baked them, then cut them in half, for a total of four cake layers. For the filling, I whipped together 1 pint each of mascarpone and heavy cream, sweetened with a bit of sugar and vanilla, and sprinkled them with 4 pints of strawberries, chopped. I swathed the whole thing in a batch of chocolate buttercream, also by Martha. The final cake measured 14 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 5 inches tall, and weighed about 10 pounds. I'd say we got about 40-50 servings out of that bad boy.
And you know what? Not only did the cake taste great, but I didn't even loathe assembling it. The components came together with a mere hour or two of active time, and the assembly took less than that. I got away with a mere two (two!) coats of icing. I guess I'm getting better at this. The cake was devoured, seconds were gone back for, and one guest who had worked catering weddings for ten years said it was the best cake he'd ever had.