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The worst night in baking EVER
Posted: 12 March 2009 11:46 PM   [ Ignore ]
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So someone tell me if they ever just have a night that is completely ‘off’????

Tonight I made a cake. The choc fudge cake with bills buttercream frosting.  The cake came out wonderful. Tasted awesome (I cut the top off one of them and ate it grrr). So then I started on the buttercream. It came out horrible, not at all like frosting but like SOUP. Apparently, I did something wrong and I can think of a couple things.
1) I had a little tiny tiny bit of yolk in the whites (I was rushing) and I didn’t think it would matter when it came to whipping the whites. Could this be why they didn’t stiffen up??
2) Also, I was unsure if I were to make this like moussline (mousseline adds 1/4 c sugar to whites and Bill says to add 1 cup of sugar to water).

So I followed the directions as listed and heated up the syrup, and waited and waited….and the temp stayed at 225. Wouldn’t go up any higher! Then my thermometer went off, and i went to turn it back on and it burned my hand. Then i gave up and put it into the whites….and out came soup.
THen I threw it away.

Then I started making a regular moussline (since I have made that 5-6 times now). I did everything as normal…whites looked good, syrup reached 249….looked awesome. Then I noticed it didn’t look “curdled” like it normally does. It stayed VERY soft. I tasted it, it tasted good, but definately WAAAY soft. I thought, maybe I can use it anyways. I put it on the first layer of cake, great. Then I took the top layer, flipped it over on the cake…bam, the right side of the cake broke off. I tried to ‘glue’ it back on, but it wouldn’t work. The moussline was waaay too soft, and almost ‘oily’. I then scraped all the mousseline off and stared at the cake.

Then I got in my car and went to the store and bought STORE bought frosting, because right now it is almost 11pm and I am usually in bed by 10!!  I tried to frost the cake with this, but of course, the moussline residue made it oily!! So then I tried to pipe it on…of course store bought frosting doesnt pipe good so it looked like shit. Then i took my finger and did circles all over the cake.

All in all, it is COMPLETLEY lopsided, has mounds of store bought frosting on it and I am very sad.
I don’t want ANYONE to see this cake but I promised my friend i’d bake her a cake (for TOMORROW) since she is coming for dinner. Even my boyfriend said “that doesn’t look like one of your cakes”.....honestly, it looks like a kid made it.

Has this EVER happened to anyone??

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Posted: 13 March 2009 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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WOW - I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I know how bad it feels when one baking disaster becomes another and another. I have never had your exact problem but I have had parts of it happen to me. I think it all started with that small bit of yolk in your egg whites. It doesent matter how small it is but one smattering of fat - even if it is residue left on the bowl from previous use - will prevent the whites from whipping. You can run that mixyure all day and it will not happen. Instead you will end up with a coudy or opeque white soup that teases you with some thickness but will never build up. Of course it is always best to break your eggs seperately and divide them imdividually before adding them all together which helps ending up with the problem in the first place. However I can share a trick I learned in Pastry School. If you do have a small bit of yolk (it really works with a broken bit of shell) in the whites you can use one of the shell halves to scoop it out. For some reason egg particles - especilly shell bit but it can work with yolk - are attracted to the shell half that you use as a scoop. Trying to scoop with a spoon or some other vehicle is an endless and frustrating process but using the shell half really works. As to store bought frosting I find it incredibly thick and it tears the cake when it is applied. You might try heating it to soften it up or add a bit of butter to break down some of the thickness in the additives but it is really hard to work with. I sometimes think it was made more to last on store shelves than to actually use. I tried to pipe with it once and the bag broke because it was so thick.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ve totally had days when everything I touch in the kitchen turns to crud. 

I remember one year at Thanksgiving after I’d moved out of my parents’ house (and left many of my baking ingrediants behind) that my mom was almost in tears when I came over to help her cook.  Her world famous pie crust had failed repeatedly the day before and she’d ended up using one of those refrigerated rolled up pie crusts.  Turns out, she’d been using my cake flour to try and make her pie crusts!

I think most of the time when I can’t do anything right, it’s because I’m in a hurry and not paying close attention to the “rules.” 

Sorry you had a bad night.  Nothing to do now but laugh and promist your friend a world class cake the next time she comes for dinner!

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Posted: 13 March 2009 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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thanks that makes me feel better knowing i am not the only one. I did learn some lessons. I know i was rushing and I think that is the #1 reason why it didn’t work out like it should have.  It just sucks lol. I am going to cut the cake before ANYONE sees it.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ski, I’m so sorry, it sounds like you had an incredibly frustrating night.  If there’s a silver lining, it’s that you will learn a lot and become a better baker.

Yes, any tiny speck of yolk or oil (from your fingers, left on the beaters from beating butter, etc.) will totally ruin meringue.  For what it’s worth, I find the yolks far less likely to break if I separate the eggs while still cold, then let them come up to room temp while I get everything else ready.  Some books recommend separating the eggs when warm, but I always find myself having to make a meal of scrambled eggs when I do that.  I also use the three bowl method- one for clean whites, one for yolks, and one to separate the egg into- Rose’s recommendation.  When separating, you put the white into the third bowl and the yolk into the yolk bowl.  Inspect the white, and pour it into the clean white bowl if it appears clean.  If, however, the yolk broke or you suspect oil got into it somehow, put that bowl aside and get a clean one to replace it.  I’d much rather eat scrambled eggs for breakfast than deal with a failed meringue!

Sugar added to soft peak whites can help keep them moist and protect against overbeating.  It isn’t ablsolutely necessary to always add sugar to the whites, but just be aware that you have to be careful not to overbeat (they get dry and clumped and are no longer able to expand when you add the hot syrup). 

Regarding your sugar syrup, it sounds like it never did reach a high enough temp.  It is common for syrups to plateau, then climb higher, they don’t seem to always climb steadily.  This is especially true if you need to take it off the heat (for instance, to tilt the pan to get enough depth of syrup to take a temp in).  I find it’s also true if you don’t heat your syrup on high, and some books say that heating a syrup on a lower heat will affect the outcome (softer).  However, I always turn down my heat as the syrup approaches 248 so I don’t overshoot.

I admit don’t know what to say about your mousseline, I’ve never made a batch that didn’t curdle at least a little.  The recipe recommends a butter temp of 65F, was yours close to that?  Was the moussseline smooth?  Maybe it would have worked to cool it a bit in the fridge?

As for your disappointing store-bought frosting results, I’m so sorry.  Perhaps it would have worked to make ganache (takes just minutes if you have a food processor), and either use it as a glaze while still warm or let it set up overnight and spread it on in the morning.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I just had another thought about your mousseline- did you wait until the meringue was cooled before adding the butter?  If you were rushed, it would have been tempting to start with overly warm meringue.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I THINK that butter wasn’t at the correct temp for mousseline, i think it was too warm maybe. The last time i made moussline I put the butter in the fridge and then I read something where it said you didn’t have to, so I didn’t, and maybe that was the problem??  My kitchen was very hot as I was baking for HOURS so another lesson learned…

I would have made a ganache but I was out of chocolate, and was ready for bed so I figured store bought was easiest. Now the cake is covered with storebought/mousseline mixed frosting, piled onto the lopsided broken cake that has cake bits all over it.

Seriously, you guys would LAUGH if you saw this cake.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I don’t know how much time or energy you have to continue fiddling with the cake, but you could consider pressing something onto the sides, like nuts, broken cookie bits, heath bar bits, or chocolate chips- these hide imperfections. You could even press those cylindrical cookies onto the sides “pirouettes” or arrange them on top. 

I mentioned in another thread, don’t throw away your overly soft buttercreams, use them as sauces or make cake pops.  Also, if the trouble with mousseline was warm butter, you could try chilling it and beating it some more at about 68F.

Good Luck!

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Posted: 13 March 2009 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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thats what my mom said I might try nuts or cocconut. Either way though it is lopsided haha.

I threw away the buttercream i was so frustrated i threw it in the garbage in a very angry matter.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Skiweaver9, you’ve already got good advice from the others but I just wanted to say I feel your pain. Stuff like this has happened to me too and I know how frustrating it can be. At least you KNOW your cake tastes really good.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Andy,
I just wanted to caution you about using egg shells as tools. Frostings because they are not well cooked are especially susceptible to contamination and there are few things in our kitchens more contaminated than egg shells. Even the classic method of separating eggs with the two halves of the shells should be avoided.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I am so terribly devastated to hear such night to not-remember.

Julie is right in every count to make great mousseline.  Why buy store bought mousseline?  I always make a 15.3 cup recipe on my 6 qt mixer, and store left overs in the freezer well over a year.  Much faster than running to the store.

Here are my mousseline rules, when I say mousseline rules I mean RULES.  Unfortunately, and there is no discussion or work around this, this recipe requires a few rules.

1- Egg whites and anything touching the egg whites must be pristine grease free.  This includes the mixer bowl, beaters, your hands without skin moisturizer, and specs of yolk.  I alway run my mixer bowl, beaters and hands thru tap hot water, then wipe off with new paper tower (a kitchen towel will have specs of grease!).

2- Sugar needs to reach 248oF.  For every 10 degrees lower, you will notice a serious loose on stiffness on the mousseline.  Train yourself without a thermometer first, Cake Bible explains how, to spoon a drop onto water and see if it forms a ball…...  Then you an buy an accurate thermometer, my favorite is the CDN Pro Tip, very inexpensive.  Be sure to know how to handle the sugar when it reaches 248oF, transfer to a pyrex, etc, etc, otherwise it will quickly go over that temperature and ruin the egg whites.

4- Yes, butter should be cold but not hard, 65oF is ideal.  What I do, is let the butter soften at room temperature until it is whippable, so pretty soft, then I whip it, then I put it inside a cooler with some ice packs, around 55oF.  Because the butter is whipped, even at 55oF it will be scoopable to the meringue.

3- I can never keep beating my egg whites till the mixer bowl feels cold to the touch.  So indeed adding the butter at lower than 65oF works for me.

Good luck!  This is one recipe where temperature handling is a RULE.

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Posted: 13 March 2009 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I DEFINATELY learned some lessons. I will always follow the RULES now,....

now i just need another occassion to try again lol

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Posted: 13 March 2009 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Ski,

I SO enjoyed your post.  Of course, we all have had baking disasters - that’s what helps us improve our baking.  I bet you learned more last night that you have in months of everything working out!  Thanks so much for sharing.  Please try this combination again - the fudge cake with Bill’s mousseline is truly superb.

Annie

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Posted: 16 March 2009 09:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Ski,

  I’m sorry to hear about your troubles but you are definitely not alone here. The first time I tried to make the Buche de Noel (not the one in TCB) I failed miserably. It actually took me four attempts to get it right, and even then I still messed up the pastry cream filling part when I rolled the cake (it’s the one in the S&T thread that you’ve already seen). My worst attempt, my second one if I remember correctly, went horribly awry. I’m not sure exactly when the wheels fell off of that one, but in the end all the fat and oil in the cake collected in the center leaving it raw and disgusting while the outer edges baked just fine. I think I didn’t have my egg/sugar mix beaten thoroughly enough before I folded the cake flour in. I’m afraid I’ll never know for sure, though, as I was not keeping a pastry journal then. Since then, I have been keeping one where I keep track of all conditions that I can monitor (i.e. temp, humidity, barometric pressure, mass of ingredients, mass of batter in pan, and the times the cake went into the oven and the times they come out). Good note taking can really help you go back later and figure out where things went wrong (if they did), or if things went well then you know in the future that under those conditions things turn out good. It’s just like being in the lab but in this case you don’t need all the fancy machines with the bells and whistles to tell you the product is good or not. All you need is a good working set of taste buds to confirm taste and a good set of eyes to appreciate the beauty of the product. Good luck with all of your future cake endeavors and thanks for sharing your story. It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one who has a bad night once in a while.

~Matthew smile

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Posted: 17 March 2009 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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sorry to hear about your bad night!

everyone has them. recently, i had a last min order for 200 cupcakes and broke my toe, dumped a huge bowl of mousseline on the floor and broke the layers of another order i was working on.

i got down on my knees and cried!

jen

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