Saturday, March 14, 2009

Repeat After Me....50 Is Nifty

My brother-in-law John, turned 50 this weekend.

Now ordinarily I would pelt him with lots of age-related jokes and good wishes in addition to an age appropriate birthday card........however, since John is a year younger than I am, this year I bit my tongue. I sat in that hot seat a year ago and I know what it feels like to reach that horrific milestone. Even though some people will proclaim that it isn't a big deal, trust is. So if you want to argue the point, be forewarned, I will smack you with my cane.

Although John didn't want a party, my sister secretly invited family and a few friends to a sort of "Open House" type of gathering to help him celebrate. She asked me to make the cake and since John eats and sleeps the Boston Bruins, she asked if I could make him a "hockey puck".

"'re a hockey puck!"

Perfect choice.

Since we didn't have an exact guest count, I decided to make him a nice big, rich double layer 12-inch round Chocolate Espresso cake with Milk Chocolate frosting. ( Wait, I just fainted.) I wanted a cake big enough to make a nice presentation as well as to easily feed 25-30 people.

Since I was going to use commercial sized cake pans for this project, I decided that this was as good a time as any to test some theories from my Baking Science textbook. One thing I have always questioned is the use of parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of the cake pan. My mother always did it for her cakes although she never explained why. The fact is that when you bake a cake in a metal pan, the batter around the edge (next to the metal) will bake the fastest. Since the cake will cook from the outside in, the remainder of the batter in the middle of the pan will have no where else to go but........up! When you line the bottom and sides of the pan, not only does it make it easier to remove the cake after baking, but the parchment helps to re-direct the heat generated from the side of the pan. The temperature of the pan remains consistent throughout all the batter and the result is the cake will rise evenly. So I tried it.....

See?? The cakes are evenly baked all the way across......

(Dang it! No more cake scraps to nibble on.)

Even though no one was really expecting it, I baked a third cake so I could make Cake Balls. Partly because they're always such a hit at parties, and partly because my nephew Cam wouldn't let me in the door without them.

While the cakes were cooling I whipped up a large batch of Milk Chocolate Frosting to use as a crumbcoat (of course I could share this decadent family recipe with you..........but then I'd have to shoot you). Even though I was using fondant for this cake, it still requires a light coat of frosting to give the fondant something to stick to. Now, for those that are not familiar with the term, a "crumbcoat" is an extremely light undercoating of frosting. It serves to bind any little crumbs together and act as a "primer" for the other layers of frosting or in this case, fondant. After the crumbcoat, I refrigerate the cake for at least an hour. I don't roll out the fondant until I am ready to cover the cake(s) or the fondant will dry out too quickly.

While I usually always have basic black and white fondant on hand in "convenient" commercial sized 10 lb. tubs, I will usually use food coloring/flavorings to make any other colors I need. The Boston Bruins are an easy gig to work on. Their colors are black, white and gold.

I use a commercial food coloring gel instead of paste. I think the colors are more vibrant and it is easier to mix into fondant. See how only six drops of Lemon Yellow and three drops of Juicy Orange will make a fabulous Bruins Gold!

Now, the whole secret to working with fondant is SPEED! The faster you can roll it out evenly, get it on the cake and smoothed out, the better the end result will look. I use a sprinkling of cornstarch to keep the fondant from sticking to the rolling surface, and a variety of designated tools to smooth it out once it's actually on the cake. The rest is all just measuring and cutting.

So, have I already mentioned that my brother-in-law is a huge Boston Bruins fan?? My nephew Cam, was born at about the same time that Cam Neely played for the team. Coincidence? Hmmmm. Maybe.

One year, (I can't remember if it was for Christmas or his birthday) my sister used some of her former corporate connections to get John a hockey stick which had been personally autographed by the famous Bobby Orr. Just the mere thought of it still makes him tremble. I think he holds his breath and genuflects when he walks by it hanging on the wall. Sometime a few months ago, one of John's co-workers won a contest to "Skate with the Bruins". He took John with him. They both got to wear the Bruins uniform and actually get on the ice and skate with some past and present Bruins team members during a practice. You couldn't talk to him for weeks afterward. For John's birthday this year, a friend gave him a hockey stick autographed by all of the current Boston Bruin players. The oversized flatscreen in my sister's house is almost always tuned to a hockey HD and stereo surround-sound of course. It is a well-known fact in our family that you will be banished from the room for attempting any type of conversation other than "hockey talk" while a game is on the television. Because of this rule, my sister and I have become almost fluent in both lip-reading and sign language, although I have to admit that most of the time our "signing" is directed at John. :)

So to say that John is an avid hockey fan is merely an understatement. I personally believe that fifty years ago (that's right, count 'em and weep), John was born with hockey skates on his feet and a hockey stick in his hand, so I have become accustomed to his obsession for sport of hockey and the Boston Bruins. I know that he is much more than a week-end "couch skater"........

He is truly one of them. :)

Happy 50th Birthday John!!


Aunt Grace said...

So that is why she used parchment or wax paper, I used to cut rounds of that out for her (never completly round) I too never knew. You are your Mother's daughter, just a bit more patient. Happy B'day John.

Lisa said...

Oh! My gosh Ann! This cake is just beautiful. Even if it is a hockey puck.

Did you let John eat it?

I had NO idea that is what parchment paper was for!

Do you think we could use this class for a high school cooking 102 you need a prerequisite for these??.... can we skip the 100 and 101 cooking classes and just jump right in?? What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Oh WOW! HE'S 50???????? ;-0! Seriously! Wow! I'm a hockey fan to, ya know..... What's a puck? ;-) Marg.

Annnne Marrrie! Mooovve Souuth! This is your conscience calling.
Mooovve to Simmpsonnville. The Souuth neeeds Youuu! This is your conscience. (swear)