I am slowly but surely learning that all of life's most important lessons can be learned from baking.
First there was the mint chocolate cupcake debacle in which I learned (a) that sometimes listening to authority really is important to do, (b) sometimes listening to authority involves actually reading directions and not deciding that you are the queen of cupcake baking and so rules and ingredient lists do not apply to you, and (c) when your gut instinct tells you that your batter is too dense...then it's probably right. Because your gut instinct has eaten a lot of batter.
It would have been nice if I had actually learned those lessons.
Especially the first two.
Because then maybe, in addition to learning the genetic mutations of every autosomal recessive disease known to man along with the chromosome on which they occur, I wouldn't have had to also learn that sometimes bad things happen to good cakes.
Sometimes you really do need to line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper. Sometimes PAM For Baking just won't cut it.
Sometimes your roommate will find you lying on the kitchen floor in fetal position because all three of the layers of the rubix cube-designed cake that you were going to make her for her birthday broke into a million pieces when you tried to invert them onto a cooling rack.
Sometimes you realize that you really need to vacuum the floor next time before you decide to lie on it in fetal position.
See. Many life lessons. All wrapped up in one cake.
But then, of course, there's also the final and possibly most important life lesson that is to come of this. Which is that everything happens for a reason.
You see, it was Sophie's 27th birthday. And she, being the true (adorable!) engineering school nerd that she is, was super excited about the fact that her age is now a perfect cube (3x3x3=27). (Not that I think you guys didn't know what that meant, but when I told my physical therapist that her age was a perfect cube, he looked at me like I had six heads...so I'm just covering my bases.)
So then I got it into my head to make her a rubix cube cake. Basically, a triple layer square cake filled with mango curd, topped with ganache and decorated with fondant to look like a rubix cube. It was going to be a real masterpiece.
And then I ended up with cake broken all over my kitchen table. Really delicious cake. But broken, nonetheless.
I had already made the curd, so I did what any normal person would do in such a situation. I made cake pops. Using the mango curd as the binder instead of butter and confectioner's sugar. And covered in a vanilla-infused chocolate ganache with sea salt mixed in.
Mini rubix cube-shaped cake pops. Which, though they are not as gorgeous as I would have liked them to be (hey, it was my first time working with fondant!), were amazingly delicious. Jaw-droppingly delicious. Addictively delicious.
So...yeah. Sometimes bad things happen to good cakes, it's true. But sometimes bad things are really a blessing in disguise.
Ah, the profundities of cake baking.
As an aside, I will be donating baked goods for a virtual bake sale that will run from May 4-6, in which all of the proceeds will go to Massachusetts Komen for the Cure. If you ever wanted an Eats Well With Others treat sent right to your door, then this is the opportunity! Specifically, I'll be offering up a batch of my crazy insane crystallized ginger dark chocolate brownies. You don't want to miss out on this! I'll remind you when it's time to bid.
Vanilla Bean Cake
Makes enough for 1 8-inch triple layer cake, 15 HUGE cake "cubes" or probably 60 cake pops, adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 sticks plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups almond milk
5 egg whites
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter the bottoms of the 8-inch round cake pans. Line each with a round of parchment and butter the paper. NOTE - This step is critical! I didn't have any parchment paper so I decided to be all cavalier and do without...and then the cakes broke when I tried to invert them. Doesn't really matter if you're making cake pops but if you want a functional triple layer cake, then do this!
2. Place the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your mixer. With the mixer on low, blend well. With the tip of a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl. Add the butter and 1 cup of the milk to the dry ingredients and mix to blend. Raise the speed of the mixer to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with the vanilla extract and remaining 1/3 cup milk. Add this to the batter in 2-3 additions, scraping down after each one. Divide among the three prepared pans.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Remove the paper and cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Mango Curd
Makes about 3-4 cups, an Eats Well With Other Original
2 cups sugar
8 tbsp corn starch
4 tbsp flour
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups worth pureed mango flesh
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 egg yolks
4 tbsp butter, softened
2 cups boiling water
1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Gradually blend in cold water, mango puree, and lime juice. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and mix.
2. Add the egg yolks and butter, blending until smooth.
3. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
4. Place the saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom to prevent burning. Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
5. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Vanilla-Infused Chocolate Ganache with Sea Salt
An Eats Well With Others Original
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized heatproof bowl.
2. In a pan on the stove, heat the whipping cream and butter until just boiling. Turn off the heat, mix in the vanilla, and pour over the chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted. If the mixture is still lumpy, microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth. Stir in the sea salt. Let cool until you can stick your finger in for 5 seconds without burning it.
For the Cake Pops:
When the cake is cool, put it into your stand mixer and mix, using the paddle attachment, until it is completely torn apart. Add the cold mango curd to the mixture and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate mixture for at least an hour.
Remove from the fridge and roll the dough into cake balls of desired size, placing them onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Mine were HUGE almost cupcake sized masses, but I was going for excess. Put in the freezer for 2-3 hours.
Dip the cake balls into the ganache, either using toothpicks to dip them if they are small or chopsticks if they are larger. Put back on the baking sheet and put in the freezer until chocolate has set. Decorate as you wish. I made marshmallow fondant to get the Rubix cube look, following this recipe, but I think they'd be great with some white chocolate drizzle over the top!
This is my submission to Dessert Wars! The prize pack this month includes:
I am also submitting it to the Culinary Smackdown: Mango Desserts!