Temper, Temper!    

September 23 1998
Whipped Cream
is not just for breakfast

The task of the day:

Cakes, Torts, and Tarts

Today Dan and I started putting together the final versions of the cakes we've been working on so far this week. Today it was a wine mousse cake, iced with whipped cream, and a Dobos Tort, which is iced with buttercream.

We had built the mousse cakes yesterday, but they had to sit overnight to firm up. Today we iced them. Chef showed us a really nice method of icing cakes using a spatula, a board scraper, and a cake turntable. It's quite fast, and almost foolproof. There's a small amount of skill needed right towards the end, but that's about it.

The reason that I know that this method is great, and idiotproof is that I can't ice cakes. I've tried before, and I just can't do it well. A well iced cake looks like a perfect cylinder, with very sharp corners at the top. The first cake I iced today looked -- perfect. I was using the buttercream, which is pretty easy to ice well with. Hmm, let's try the whipped cream. Perfect again. Wow, this method really does work. I've never been able to do this before.

We were showed how to ice cakes in our Basic Baking class, but it was nothing like this method.

  • Put cake on a cardboard cake circle. Place on turntable.
  • Glop lots of icing on top.
  • Hold a spatula perfectly level and rotate the turntable to shave off the extra. The top is now perfect.
  • Use a piping bag to put lots of icing on the sides.
  • Hold a board scraper vertically and rotate the turntable, shaving the sides until you hit the cardboard cake circle. They are now perfect.
  • Using the spatula, knock off any extra icing on the top. This part needs a bit of skill.
  • Garnish as you desire.

Of course, after one or two, you go faster. And they do look better than your first one in small ways. But it's amazing how good the first one looks.

* * *

The Dobos Tort has seven layers, the top one which is coated with caramel and broken into wedges to form the decoration on the top of the cake. It came out looking pretty neat, but I'll certainly improve upon it the next time I make it. I will make it again, as it's mocha and chocolate flavored with buttercream.

Our group was also assigned the task of tempering four pounds of chocolate. Tempered chocolate sets up quickly and with a nice smooth shine on it. It's not a trivial task when you do it the way we were taught. The problem is that it takes a while to happen, because the chocolate has to cool from 110 degrees down to 90 degrees. In the past, I've always tempered chocolate using a marble slab. I asked the chef if I can use that method tomorrow, and he agreed. Thank goodness.

* * *

This week has been very good, although so far, we haven't made any startlingly amazing things. I have been taking snaps of all of the finished cakes, however, and hopefully they turn out well.

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Copyright 1998 Tom Dowdy
Comments? dowdy@poubelle.com