Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Birthday Cake

Do you know the litmus test for determining whether or not you live off the edge of civilization? When you spend an hour calling every establishment you can find and learn that NOBODY will bake you a sugar-free birthday cake. Nobody. They cannot or will not explain why. They just won't. I suspect the nefarious influence of Big Sugar lurking somewhere. But I digress.
The Epic celebrator provides a cake for his wife's birthday. Without question. A Tarte Tatin will not do. Nor a Sacher. When the need is for a sugar-free vanilla/almond cake with white icing, one would think that in the eighth year of the SECOND MILLENNIUM one could procure such a thing with relative ease. Not so. Not here. This placed me in an odd situation where the choices were stark indeed. Neither travel to a major city to buy a cake and bringing it all the long way home (with the associated risk of loss and spoilage) nor hiring or blackmailing some one's grandmother to make one seemed quite the thing. No. The Epic way is to entertain oneself in times of difficulty by having a little baking class. And by consulting experts. Consequently, I lined up a murderer's row of authorities beginning with

In his "Republic", Plato held that "Necessity is the Mother of Invention". Although Plato is not generally considered a great dessert chef, I thought this was a good foundation for my project.
There are only two cookbooks everyone MUST own. Sure, there are millions of them, and I own a few, but only two that you must have on the shelf. The first is ...
Irma Rombauer.
The Joy of Cooking. Do I really need to lay this out for you? It is THE American Classic. It covers almost every sort of dish in simple terms that are (more or less) easy to do. I looked up her basic cake recipe. Do NOT do this on line. Please. Nowhere is a cookBOOK more of a tactile necessity than when you are actually trying to cook. All right, bake. Here is photographic proof from my counter top that I own this book...

The other great authority you must consult at all times is...

James Beard.
American Cookery. Just go out and get one. It looks like this:

Finally, for inspiration I turned to:
Duff Goldman, "King of Cakes".
My project was WAY too simple for this guru, but the Future Rock Star and I love his show on The Food Network and I could not resist adding his photo to balance out the one of Plato.
Thus armed with careful study, a bevy of experts, and a glass of cognac (for me, anyhow), the Future Rock Star and I sallied forth to bake his mother a birthday cake. Well, we also enlisted the aid of a good sous chef:

Grammy. Epic Dog.

Following the Joy of Cooking directions for baking a simple vanilla cake is not that hard to do. Simple, actually. The trouble was that due to some medical restrictions, I could not use sugar OR butter in the recipe. Or "real" margarine. But, batter was finally produced and poured into pans ...

...with only one major mishap using the mixer...

The mixer actually spewed a LOT more on the backsplash than this. Must be a product defect of some sort. The stress of this malfunction required medicinal application of more cognac. Finally, we had finished tiers of cake on the drying rack...or, rather, the COOLING rack...

The "Joy of Baking" website (http://joyofbaking.com) states that "cakes started in ancient Egypt as round flat unleavened breads cooked on a hot stone." Sounds like tortillas to me. In any case, the three cake layers produced by the FRS and me were a long sight better than the Egyptians' version.
At this point, we were very confident that the finish line was in sight and victory was in our grasp. A nice cognac was in order. Later, I was reminded of...
David Niven

who quoted a proverb in his autobiography to the effect that "warm winds blow the seed of weeds into your garden". Or something like that. Anyhow, the "seed of weeds" in this noble project was the frosting. Which also had to be made from scratch. With no sugar or butter.

Say what you will for sugar substitutes and whatever it is that passes itself off for "healthy" margarine these days, they are very difficult for the novice baker to press into service. After considerable effort (and a glass or two more of cognac), it appeared that a suitable frosting had been produced that would at least taste somewhat like "real" frosting while also adhering to the sides of the assembled cake. A bit more cognac was needed at this point to celebrate my application of frosting to cake. That gave the FRS time to use his artistic talents to finish off the decoration using pink icing gel and some star candles I found. The finished product...

TA DA! One birthday cake. The birthday girl was QUITE pleased. As were we. It had been awhile since I was able to give a birthday gift and receive one just a nice. The Food Network can reach me here if they want to sign me to a big contract...LOOK OUT DUFF!!!

1 comment:

Petunia said...

Very cute sous chef! And your pastry chef did a fabulous job on the decorating!