I know I have said this before, that life is better with cake. I may not always believe it, but it seems one of those things that if you don't keep telling yourself it to be true, something in the universe will go wrong.
Cakes are light-givers. We use them to celebrate happy occasions, to satisfy sweet cravings, and to bring cheer when things are looking a little down. To those of us who bake they represent enjoyable time spent in the kitchen - often also spent with good friends - and unless a veritable disaster occurs, are generally a monolith of great achievement. Sometimes that takes great effort, but the satisfaction in seeing someone's eyes light up as they take their first taste and emit a simple "Oh..." usually makes it all worthwhile.
Here at Team Pretty Bake we have been skewing towards the effort side of late. Last month Miss Rose finalised her elegant beauty, and in a few weeks time my wedding commitments will also be complete. It has been a hard slog, and as much as we have enjoyed the challenge and been honoured to help our lovely brides-to-be, I think we'll both be rather glad when it's all over. But for me there's still some way to go, and a few glitches needed sorting, so we weren't off cake duty just yet.
Having consulted The Oracle for guidance on icing some further testing was required, and so rather than give away the full plan for wedding cake extraordinare, we settled on a base of ding dong. Our go to for many occasions, the ding dong never fails (well, ok, maybe once...), and is perfect for those days when you just need to get in to the kitchen and find some baking cheer.
Well, that's what I'd been thinking at the start of the day anyway. You see, I have a slight problem with test bakes. I know things are meant to go wrong, after all the whole point of the exercise is to push boundaries to find out what works and what doesn't. And I know things won't look right if they're taken out of context or form just some part of the whole. But I also have the expectation that no matter how experimental we are being, I should still be capable of creating something presentable.
Things did get off to a reasonable start. Our little six-inch ding dongs were tres cute...
And filled with some strawberries and cream, they were certainly on their way to being delicious...
Miss Rose had a Swiss meringue buttercream and some piping practice in mind for hers, and while a light and luscious icing and some gorgeous little curls did eventuate, a covering shortfall and some wonky cutting left her feeling a little underwhelmed.
I was up for some recipe fine-tuning, and although my white chocolate ganache lived up to textural expectations, what would form part of a larger construction and ultimately be covered in ribbons and bows did look decidedly mundane on its lonesome.
So while we'd answered many questions, we were a little disappointed that our usual creative spark had been measured and found wanting. As such, my advice to those undertaking a test bake is this: (i) be prepared for disappointment, it is inevitable, but it does serve a purpose; (ii) don't listen to Miss Rose when questioning whether or not to whip things; (iii) persevere with the Swiss meringue, it will come together eventually; and most importantly (iv) always keep sprinkles on hand so that should you produce a lacklustre offering you can poorly decorate it and pretend you had some kids help in the kitchen.
And since all cakes are deserving of an occasion, I would like to wish all the dad's out there the happiest of father's days, as you mean the world to the people who love you. To those who have gone, we love you lots, miss you more, and hope against hope we turn out just like you (although I might pass on the beard).
You gave us life, love and laughter, and more than you could possibly know, and while we can no longer tell you this, we are ever so grateful, and know you will always make us smile...