Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cake Decorating and Banana Cake

I feel as though I should apologize for my lack of blogging these days. It’s not that I don’t want to blog … I love it. It’s just the unpredictability of life and being super busy this summer combined with the very slow and painful death of my computer. It would take my computer 20 minutes just to turn on, never mind load another webpage. Simple tasks that should take a maximum of 3 minutes, such as checking ones email, took at least half an hour.  Don’t even get me started on how long it took to edit photos and write a blog. I began to loathe that hourglass symbol turning over and over and over again. Endless was its torment.

I would like to say that everything has changed and I will be back to blogging on a more regular basis, but I don’t think that will happen quite yet. I have fixed the computer problem by purchasing a Mac book pro, which is super fast, efficient and just plane amazing. But I still have a busy summer ahead. Last weekend I spent several days on Hornby Island enjoying the beaches, neat rock formations, lavender lemonade and open air rock concerts. This weekend my friends and I are hiking the North Coast Trail for about 7 days.  Next is toobing the Cowichan River followed by Cirque Du Soleil. My evenings have been spent recouping from busy workdays and prepping for camping/hiking trips. It takes time to cook and dehydrate a weeks worth of dinners for large hiking trips.

In amongst hiking trips, biking trips and visiting with friends and family over the past month or so, I have also been fitting in a cake-decorating course during the week. I was inspired by a co-worker on the mainland who does what I do and took a cake-decorating course. When I saw her prepping the icing for her class that evening, I thought …. Hey, I can do that. I’ve always wanted to learn how to decorate a cake and use that kit I have, but have never done it. Then of course, being Celiac I thought that a cake-decorating course might in fact be the last place I should go to have fun, as it would be gluten city. But I did some research and found a course held at Michael’s Craft Stores where you bring your own cake and icing. That meant I could make gluten free cakes and icing and not worry about getting sick.

So every week for four weeks I faithfully made my way to Nanaimo to learn how to ice a cake. My course was basic so that meant starting off with the basics.  We learned how to actually ice the cake and make it look nice. Apparently you start with something called the crumb coat. You thinly coat your cake in a base layer of icing. This base layer catches all of the extra crumbs, so when you go to do your second coat (kind of like painting) you use a thicker layer and there will be no crumbs to catch because they are already stuck in your first layer. If you continue to get lines, reset the icing by cooling it off in the fridge and try to smooth it out after it’s a little cooler. It should work a little better. 

We learned how to make basic dots, shells, leaves and flowers. We learned that you ice the main cake or cupcake with a tasty icing (butter cream is most common and SOOOO good) because it is what you will taste and then use a shortening based icing to make the details as it is stiffer and whiter and will work better for the decorations. 

We also learned that flower nails (metal) help with baking cakes! This I thought was essentially priceless as gluten free baking has a tendency (at least for me) to be totally gooey in the middle and dry and over baked on the outside. The trick, I learned was to place a metal flower nail base down in the middle of your cake (8-9 “ cake, more nails if it’s bigger). The metal in the nail heats the center of the cake and helps to bake the cake more evenly.  WHY had no one told me this before?! Seriously, I’ve thrown out many cakes for this exact reason.

Our teacher also taught us that store bought icing sets you up to fail instantly. Sure it tastes yummy but they make it so thick that it will be disastrous to actually ice a cake with. Add a little water to thin it out and you are good to go. Just make sure the store bought brand is gluten free. Most aren’t so it’s best just to make your own (1/2 cup butter, 0.5kg icing sugar and 8 teaspoons of water should get you close to a good tasty icing).

So as you can see from my pictures I went from basic and horrible to a tiny bit better by the end of the classes. The first cake (butterfly) was obviously a first go at it, the cupcakes would have actually been pretty nice if it wasn’t sooo hot out and I hadn’t made my icing to thin as it melted everywhere and finally the orange cake was my last class … much improved but still needing improvement. It’s a fun task to work on though and I plan on taking a few more classes to work on it and learn new things.

The orange cake in the pictures is actually Banana Cake. My Mom used to make this when I was younger and it is super yummy and highly underestimated as cake goes. Try it and see for yourself!

Banana Cake

2.5 cups of Bob's Redmill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Xanthum Gum
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup of Margarine
1 cup of Sugar
3/4 cup of Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
3-4 ripened Bananas
2/3 cup of Buttermilk (lactose free milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice added)
1-2 batches of Buttercream Icing

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 8 inch round pans. In a large mixing bowl blend together butter, sugar, eggs,  and vanilla. Mix in flour, xanthum gum and salt. Once well combined add in bananas and buttermilk. Pour batter evenly between two cake pans and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire wracks. Once cooled, layer cakes and ice as desired.

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