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Moka Cake

The past two practical classes have been kind of disastrous for me…

Let’s start with the mocha cake. We watched the demonstration, which was very straight-forward: make a spongey génoise cake, douse it in syrup, and then buttercream and pipe a design on top. Great. I had never made a génoise cake before, and was looking forward to it. It is a really simple cake made of eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter – no leavening agent! The leavening comes from whisking the eggs and sugar together to ribbon stage, which the chef made look really easy (especially with the help of the French version of a Kitchen-Aid mixer).

In practical, making this cake was anything but easy. Our practical turned into a really busy class quickly, with everyone dashing around like headless chickens. From my observations thus far, I think classes that involve a lot of whisking stress people out. You just can’t tell how long the whisking will take, and that gives everyone anxiety attacks. We had the nice old chef who gives harsh grades, and he actually made us stop whisking before we reached ribboning stage. I’m still not sure if I was down with that decision, but my arm definitely was. The cakes were popped into the oven, and we moved on to making the buttercream. I whisked my egg yolks, cooked my sugar syrup and tested with my fingers for the “soft ball” stage (dipping finger in 117-degree Celsius boiling sugar), added the sugar syrup to my egg yolks, and was about to start whisking to bring down the temperature to room temp when disaster struck.

I dropped half of the mixture all over myself and the floor.

I was in shock. It happened because when I was walking behind some people to get to my station, one girl move a bit just then, and I overreacted. She moved back maybe an inch to re-adjust her whisking position at the work bench, but I threw my bowl out of the way – and the hot mixture inside flew out.

I stared at the mess. Called to the chef uncertainly (hoping he had a secret stash of ready-made buttercream…a girl can dream) and finally admitted defeat and wiped up the floor quickly with paper towels and began boiling sugar again. UGH. The chef also asked me to use a wet mop to mop up the floor. I was so upset at that point because the whole accident just threw me off my rhythm. I was working a little bit ahead of schedule and feeling good about the recipe when it happened, and afterwards I swear I had involuntary shakes. My friend asked me if I was OK but I didn’t dare respond because I probably would’ve teared up if I uttered even a word then.

By the end, I caught up with the buttercream because of the time people were spending on smoothing out the top of the cake, and piping on the design. Finishing off the side was harder, but since it was going to be covered with almonds, I didn’t bother too much with making the edges look pretty. However, the top was a bit of a struggle. The chef helped me smooth it out, but didn’t really answer me when I asked why he was OK with the air bubbles and the cake peeking through at its tallest point. Taking matters into my own hands, I re-did the top, adding a bit more buttercream and smoothing to the best of my ability so that the chef couldn’t come back later and take points off for having cake showing.

You’re subjected to as many pictures as possible because this cake was the bane of my existence.

When I finally moved on to piping, I was feeling much better. I love piping – it is one thing that I have always liked whenever I made cakes. I took a few classes on cake decorating a couple of years ago and really got into piping then (remember this crazy piping feat?), so I guess I can say that so far the requirements for piping designs onto our cakes haven’t fazed me too much.

Something else happened during this class that was quite unexpected. Two of my classmates who are kind of intense/competitive came by and complimented me on my cake. I was really taken aback by this random act, since they are not normally chatty with most of the students. My friend and I were really surprised – and she made a not-so-discreet remark about the uncharacteristic display of cordiality. I didn’t really know how to react, but hey, at least my cake was turning out OK after that disastrous episode that’s left me slightly scarred (and covered with egg yolks).

Apparently piping in straight lines challenges me, baha.

At the end of the class, I was happy with my cake – on the outside. Once I got home, after I had complained to Alex and then to my mom at work about the horrible spill, I cut into the cake and realized I didn’t imbibe it well enough. The coffee syrup should’ve soaked through the cake, but as you can see, my cake looks multi-layered because only about half of each layer is imbibed (coffee-coloured) whereas the rest is still light. The cake the chef made for demo was too drenched, and mine feels a little too dry for me. Ah well, lesson learned.

It looks kind of cool from afar with the half-imbibed-ness.

My friend suggested that I get imbibed with alcohol that night after I told her my cake wasn’t imbibed enough, but I ended up puttering about the place, cleaning myself up and then the apartment, for Terence’s arrival the next morning. I do think that all this stress from the kitchen will eventually lead me to a drinking problem, though!

One last picture. I really need to appreciate this, after all the grey hairs I developed that day ;)

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