So, chocolate cake, an all-time classic. What could be better as the starting point for all my baking dreams and aspirations?
I can pinpoint the exact moment when my interest in baking and cake-decorating became an ambition. While I’d been a home-baker for years, dutifully practising the same recipes over and over again until they were perfect and endlessly searching for new ones to try out, for a long time, baking was just a hobby. Something to do at the weekend, in my spare time. I’d always enjoyed it, the satisfaction that comes with combining various ingredients, stirring them together, putting the batter in the oven and turning out a perfectly baked cake at the end of it. It was calming and therapeutic for me; I have never found baking to be a chore and unless I have a serious disaster, it’s always fun too. But until recently, it really was just another hobby, like learning the guitar and reading.
As strange as it sounds, discovering that we received the Food Network channel on our TV was an important turning point for me, because that’s when I discovered Duff Goldman and Ace of Cakes. It opened my eyes to the possibility of cake as a creative medium. It was suddenly no longer just the stereotypical two-layer cakes with icing poured wonkily over the top, but a whole new world of opportunity, cake as an almost art-form (if you will allow me to say so, as over-the-top as it sounds). Charm City Cakes inspired me with creations like the Taj Mahal, a Porsche speedster, an armadillo dressed as a paramedic, a Lego castle, Hogwarts, the Brooklyn Bridge…the list is endless and awe-inspiring. It seemed to me like there was nothing you couldn’t make, if you really set your mind to it. That’s when my interest in baking really manifested itself. I started thinking to myself, “I can bake good cakes. What if I could design and decorate them too?”
The only real problem is, I’ve never had any formal training in cake-making or decorating, so I literally had to start from scratch. Where better to begin than with the simple, standard two-layer sponge cake, filled and frosted? That’s where the chocolate cake comes in…
Actually, this is a bit of a cheat, if I’m honest. It’s not really a chocolate cake – it’s vanilla sponge, sandwiched and covered with chocolate cream frosting. But it was my first attempt at a two-layer cake in many years. Previously, I stuck solely to single layers with little or no decoration. However, as my interest grew, I felt it was time to branch out and learn all the basic skills of putting cakes together. I learned how to stack cakes. I learned how to cover them with frosting. You would be justified in thinking that these were easy skills, even for an amateur baker, but having never had the need to make elaborate cakes before (except out of my own curiosity), these were all things I had to teach myself. For what is essentially a first-go, I don’t feel that this one turned out too badly at all. It might not be aesthetically perfect, but it sure did taste good…and the important thing is, I learned something new and I set the flame to my (now-obsessive) passion for baking.
So here it is, the cake that set my ambition towards cake-making. This is just the first step on a long path, but the journey has begun and I will see it through.
(Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the cake when sliced – this will probably be a recurring theme for the first few posts, so I’ll apologise now and promise to remedy this in the future!)