Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I know it's almost two months after Christmas, but this is still a story worth sharing. Long story short (because words can only do so much to tell this story), as part of my Christmas gift for my girlfriend, I decided to make her a cake. I enjoy* cooking and baking, and having fun with recipes, putting my own creative spin on them. In the end, I decided that I would try to make her a cake in the shape of a snowman. But this wouldn't just be a two-dimenisional outline of a snowman flat on the counter, this would be an upright snowman, with three large "snowballs" for the body and a carrot nose and whatnot.

The plan was actually to make a series of three different flavors of cake and stack them to make somewhat of a tower. Then, I would round off the edges of the cakes to have the shape of a snowman. In theory, this would have been a great plan. Could have. Should have. It should have been a great plan.

In any case, it's time to go to some healthy visual aids. In this first shot, we see four cake pans (two chocolate, two vanilla) before the cookie sheet on which the snowman would be assembled.

In addition to using three flavors of cake (the third, strawberry, was cooling in another room), I also wanted to use three flavors of frosting, one for each layer of cake. I was hoping to use some sort of whipped cream frosting, but wanted to make it from scratch, rather than buying it from a plastic tub. After searching for a bit, I found a nice-looking double-boiler recipe, but I lack a double-boiler. A trip to the library led me to a book with a ton of frostings, and one recipe looked simple enough to be used and modified with the different flavor concentrates. The name of the recipe: Emergency Frosting.

For the first batch of frosting, I used a "tutti frutti" concentrate, which I'm still not quite sure if it qualifies as a legitimate flavor or not. In any case, I whipped up the first batch of frosting... and noted that it was still rather runny. Maybe it'll thicken a bit on the cake, I said to myself.

I finished the first layer of the cake, chocolate with tutti frutti icing, and continued on to the second layer, vanilla with creme de menthe flavored icing. (Honestly, I'm not quite sure where I chose these flavor combinations. They at least made sense in my mind when I picked them out.) After completing putting the vanilla layer on the cake and carving the edges to make it round, I added the frosting, but felt something sticking to my hand on the outside of the bowl. I put the bowl down and went to the sink to wash my hands. Then I heard a very strange sound, sorta like a "fwap" mixed with a bit of "foof. A "fwoopf?"

At this point, it was clear that this snowman wasn't gonna fly. Nonetheless, with the stubborn intent of giving my girlfriend some sort of cake, I picked up the two layers of vanilla cake off the ground, threw away the layer that had touched the ground, and slapped the other layer back on the cake. A few hasty moments later of not really caring anymore, the strawberry layer went on top (with strawberry-kiwi frosting, a semi-logical choice), and...


Needless to say, this was not my proudest baking moment. (I'd actually rank this event below the time my sister and I made sugar cookies that were so burnt, they tasted like bacon.) In any other case, I took the cake to my girlfriend's house, thinking that at least some of it was salvageable. Ish.

The weird part was, despite how generally crappy it looked, she loved it. And she could even see how it was originally intended to be a snowman. (Quite unlike her mother. "Oh, I see the snowman!" "No you can't." "No really, that's the nose right there, and there are the eyes..." "That's the torso." "Oh.") She invited me to sample my work, and much to my surprise, it didn't taste too* terrible. The individual cakes and frostings actually mixed well, and what I had been jokingly calling "The FailCake" actually was a moderate success.

Morals of the story: Nobody's perfect. And things don't have to be perfect to be good. Even one's failure's can be enjoyed, so long as you don't put too much of the flavored concentrates into the frosting. And I have one amazing girlfriend. Love you, Beth!

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