Friday, May 27, 2011

Black Forest Cake

I'll confess, I'm starting this blog somewhere near the middle-start of the journey. I've been happily baking away for the last five months or so, and have finally gotten to the point where I was looking for more of a challenge. Enter: Dog. Dog is the best friend of my husband, and he's having a birthday party this weekend. Naturally, I offered to make a birthday cake for him, and asked what type of cakes he likes. He mentioned the Black Forest cake. So I looked through my Joy of Cooking and decided that this might just be the challenge I was looking for. Then I started making it and had to wonder.

I suppose it wasn't all that difficult, merely tedious. Very. Very. Tedious. And it taught me that I really need to get a standing mixer, so I don't have to stand for twenty minutes with a hand mixer instead. And I should really get more counter space.

The Chocolate Genoise, the chocolate cake base, was a bit of a pain, but it came out looking and smelling wonderful.

I let that sit and cool, then groaned as I looked over the tiny little steps that were to fill the piece up and make it a Black Forest Cake. Now, as per Wikipedia, the Black Forest Cake is of German origin, around the 16th century, and is mostly named for the Kirsch that one uses to stick the layers together- Kirsch, as I discovered, is a type of cherry based liquor, and sadly, my cake is lacking the tint of alcohol. By that, I couldn't technically call it a Black Forest Cake if I were to be making it in Germany, but as it is commonly made without the alcohol in the United States, I can't feel too guilty.

Assembly of the cake was a bit... sloppy. I don't have proper tools for decoration, and the whipped cream icing was quickly warming up and getting hard to work with, but I did finally accomplish my goal, and even made some nice looking rosettes that I then ruined by shoving cherries into the middle of. However, I'll be amazed if the thing survives the four hour drive up to the party, both because of the lack of refrigeration, and because, well, it's four hours and it's not a very sturdy cake.

Still, I'm pretty proud of myself. It is far and away the most complicated thing I've ever attempted to bake, the individual parts have been delicious, and in general it came out well, if not gorgeous. Not bad for a first attempt without formal training or proper equipment!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It is hard to be an academic. The schooling is long and exhausting, the competition is fierce, and the job prospects are slim. Then, if you do find a job, assuming it's more secure than the nightmare that is being an Adjunct professor, you have the joy of teaching uninspired students and the pressure to publish. Intellectually rewarding- yes. Emotionally fulfilling- perversely. Easy- absolutely not.

I spent seven years going to school to get, first a Bachelors, and then a Masters degree, in Literature. I love books. I love reading them, I love buying them, I love researching them, I love talking about them, and, hopefully, someday, writing them. But I also have a yearning for visible creativity, challenges I know I can master, and short term successes. And, frankly, I hate being an Adjunct. So I've decided to become a baker instead.

The shift is less dramatic than it sounds. My life goal for a long time has been to be a writer, and I thought I'd just teach Literature to pay the bills while working on my novels. Any other possibilities didn't really stand out to me.

I've been baking since I was a child. I used to help my mother in the kitchen and I've been baking holiday cookies, with her and on my own for a few years now. Then I tried my hand at baking bread, and it was good. And then I slipped into pies and cakes and it was love.

When I found myself daydreaming about cakes I'd like to make, smiling wistfully to myself, I realized that maybe there was another path for me, one that would give me a creative outlet, a higher likelihood of job security, and a wider range of potential jobs. The moment I started seriously considering going back to school, not for literature, but for baking, I felt a great joy and contentment settle over me. My life looked much more hopeful, and tasty, and so the decision was made.

I already know I can bake yummy things, now I just need to hone my skills and learn the all important art of decorating.

I created this blog to record my journey through the kitchen. I'll share my successes, and, if I'm feeling brave, my failures. Hopefully this will show the progress of a gifted novice hobby baker to the rank of successful businesswoman, or, at least, a happy employee baking for a nice company, with a large personal kitchen of her own waiting for when the shift ends.

Wish me luck- and cupcakes!