When I heard about the Great Bloggers’ Bake-Off (read all about it here) I knew I had to participate. I love baking, and I had a birthday party this weekend, so the timing was perfect. I’ve been hooked on cooking competition shows for a long time, and I sometimes imagine myself as a contestant, especially when I’m trying a new recipe. I could picture it all in my head…
Meet the Contestants
Host: Amanda, what are you going to make for this challenge?
Me: I’m making a chocolate mousse cake.
Host: Have you ever made this before?
Me: Not exactly, but I’ve made cake, and I’ve made mousse, and I’ve made frosting, so I think I can pull this off.
Host: And who is your partner in this challenge?
Me: A great cook, awesome teammate, and all-around wonderful person…MOM!
Host: Hi, Amanda’s mom! Are you excited about this challenge?
Mom: Absolutely! This is going to be a lot of fun.
Host: And are you bringing some baking expertise to the team?
Mom: Actually, Amanda has a lot more baking experience than I do, so she’s taking the lead, but I know my way around the kitchen.
Me: She’s being modest. Mom almost never fails.
Mom: That’s partly because I don’t do a lot of complicated recipes. That’s more your department.
Me: Which is why I frequently fail.
Host: Sounds like we’re in for an interesting evening. Let’s get started!
First things first: we needed to get the cakes in the oven and the mousse base chilling in the fridge. We used a tried and true chocolate cake recipe, and it went off without a hitch.
For the mousse base, we beat four egg yolks, then combined them with cream and chocolate on the stove top. No problem.
The air was thick with the smell of victory. (Victory smells like chocolate.)
Host: So what’s the next step?
Me: The mousse has to stay in the fridge for about two hours, and the cakes need to cool completely.
Mom: So we’re going to do the first round of dishes and then make dinner.
Host: Are you feeling confident?
Me: So far.
Host: Do you think you have a shot at winning the challenge?
Me: Absolutely not.
Host: (Blinks in surprise) Amanda, you’re a very optimistic person. I’m surprised to hear that from you.
Me: Oh, I live in hope, but…you know how Tom on Top Chef always says “You eat with your eyes”?
Mom: Amanda isn’t great with presentation.
Me: Mom’s a lot better at it, so we might be able to pull it off, but usually my food comes out tasting good-
Mom: Tasting great.
Me: -but looking, well, somewhere between a little odd and “just close your eyes and pick up your fork”.
Host: So you’re hopeful, but realistic?
Host: Well, I’m rooting for you. We’ll check in after a few hours.
To finish the mousse, we whipped up some heavy cream, and folded it into the chilled base. A quick taste test showed we had been successful, and we were ready to put the cake together. So far, we were killing this challenge.
We carefully cut each cake round to give us four layers (and for once I actually cut them evenly), and then stacked them with mousse filling. We finished by coating the outside with mousse.
Then we ate everything left in the mousse bowl. (I am proud, not ashamed, to share that with you.)
We put the cake in the fridge to set, and made the frosting (milk, butter, cocoa power, and powdered sugar).
Host: So it looks like things are going well?
Mom: You bet!
Host: What’s next?
Me: We have to let the frosting cool for a while, and then we pour it over the cake.
Host: Did you say “pour it over the cake”?
Mom: Yes. We have to wait until it’s…(checks the recipe) “at a consistency similar to a thick syrup”.
Me: So we pour it on and let it coat the cake, and then it’s going to harden into a kind of soft shell.
Host: Interesting. Is this a technique you’ve used before?
Me: No, but we read up on it, and watched a video, so I think it’ll be ok.
Host: Any plans for decorating?
Me: We have sprinkles. And these “Easy Writer Decorating Pens”.
Mom: Which we hope are actually easy.
Me: Yeah…you should do that part.
Mom: I was planning to.
I will always regret that neither of us was taking pictures at this point. What I really wish is that there was a video.
It went something like this:
“Ok, pour slowly”…”Let me get in there with the spatula”…”Oh, look, it’s coating the sides, just like in the video”…”Ok, let me turn the cake”…”I can’t see that side, is-“…”Wait, there’s something-“…”Is it melting? It didn’t melt the other side-“…”Maybe it’s too heavy-“…”Try to scoop it-“…”It’s an avalanche!”…”Cakeslide! Cakeslide!”…”What do we do?”…”AHHHHHH!!!!!’
Host: Oh, no! And you were doing so well.
Mom: It’s still going to taste good.
Me: And “eating with your eyes” is just a metaphor.
Mom: It doesn’t even make sense.
Me: This cake has so much character.
Mom: Totally original.
Lots of giggles.
Host: Are you still planning to decorate?
Mom: (Still giggling) I don’t think we should even touch that cake again.
Me: (Still giggling) Heaven knows what we would do to it.
Host: What are you going to take to the birthday party tomorrow?
Me: This, of course!
Mom: It’s a masterpiece.
Me: Abstract art.
Host: Well…maybe you should sleep on it.
By Saturday morning, the cake was working towards total collapse. The layers were sliding, the patchy shell was cracking, and I began to seriously doubt the long term survival of my masterpiece.
Clearly, that meant it was time to decorate.
The Taste Test
Party Guest 1: What is that?
Me: It’s a cake.
Party Guest 2: Are you sure?
Party Guest 1: What did you do to it?
Me: That’s a long story.
(Five minutes later)
Guest of Honor: I love this cake. It looks awesome.
Also, when we cut it (on the more stable side) it didn’t look half bad. And everyone agreed that it tasted awesome.
Host: Are you ready to face the official judging?
Me: You bet. I’m already a winner.