Decorating the Almond Cake
Last Sunday was the second week of the Wilton cake decorating course that I've been taking. We were required to bake a cake, and to make A LOT of icing.
Now, when I think about making a cake, the first thing I want to do is make it taste good. I also knew that I would be making this cake to celebrate my brother's belated birthday and he doesn't like chocolate, so I needed to work with a different kind of flavor combination.
My second challenge is that I needed to use the basic Wilton Cake recipe -- and I needed to convert it to a dairy free option. Well, I baked that cake using almond extract (although I really wanted to make a proper almond cake) and I swapped out the butter for Earth Balance and the milk for coconut milk.
I sifted my cake flour and followed the recipe (otherwise) exactly. The cake came out extremely dense, but still tasty. I didn't have time to re-bake it before class, so I needed to work with what I had.
For the Icing, I made an apricot flavored buttercream (again the Wilton recipe compared to the amazing meringue based buttercreams that I prefer to eat) using apricot extract. I would have much rather used real apricot puree in my icing, but that was not allowed in the course instructions -- we needed to use their recipe unaltered. I at least got to work with Non GMO vegan shortening and sugar, so I could feel better about it.
I did prepare some tricks to make the cake shine a bit more. First, I mixed a batch of vanilla simple syrup with amaretto and brushed the cake with the syrup. Then I made some frangipani to fill the cake with, and I added a layer of slivered almonds in between the frangipani and preserved apricots in vanilla syrup (like a thick jam with whole apricots).
When I got to class, I had a vision of how I wanted to decorate the cake. I wanted to cover the top of the cake in rosettes and make a star border at the bottom, with smaller rosettes dripping over the sides.
Near the end of the class, when the instructor went to show us some new techniques, she was going to have us to a picture transfer onto the top of the cake, but I did not want to do that, so I watched their techniques, but went forward with my idea.
I learned a few things... first, large rosettes take A LOT of icing, which makes for a pretty cake, but unless you have a lot of layers and other flavors, that icing can overpower the flavor of your cake. Next, 4 layers are much better than two. Frangipani is absolutely delicious (I kinda knew that one already) and going forward, make meringue based buttercream. It's not as cloying as the wilton recipe (which is the same as any supermarket cake recipe) and gives you a much richer and more delicious flavor.
When this class is over, my next challenge will be to work with meringue based frostings to get them to medium or even thick consistency. I know it's possible, I just have to learn how to do it.
Next week's class is "small treats," like brownies or sugar cookies.
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I'm a home cook with a lifelong passion for learning, exploring and experimenting in my kitchen. You can find me at @Debs1 on Twitter and @Debs121212 on Instagram.
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