Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Think I Made a Mousse-Take

Recently I made this cake for the birthday of one of my co-workers kids. If you haven't already guessed, his name is Josh and he turned 3. I've done some things for other co-workers in the past, the Angry Birds cake for example, and am asked now and again to do birthday cakes or other cakes for various occasions. In this case I was asked to make a Toy Story cake based on some pictures I was sent with the request for a yellow cake with a chocolate mousse filling/icing. No problem. I took a look at the pictures and sketched out what I wanted to do. I decided on the sizes for the cakes and took inventory of what I would need. I have a go-to recipe for yellow cake that I've been using for awhile. It's easy to do and I personally like the cake. I do not however have a go-to recipe for chocolate mousse. Normally when I get requests for cakes the customer opts for buttercream. So, I had to do some research on what chocolate mousse recipe I wanted to use. I found one I liked and went with it.

With my lovely stand mixer the baking process was relatively simple and pain free. When I bake for a request I usually do it over a 3-day period. On the first day I bake the cake(s) and make the fondant. On the second day I make the icing, cut/shape the cakes if necessary and decorate. The third day is pick-up/delivery day with any last-minute fixes beforehand if necessary. For the Toy Story cake the process didn't start out any differently.

I'm always a little nervous when I bake per request because I always want the end result to be perfect and for my customer to love it. Especially since in most cases they're paying me for the cake, and because it's usually for an important occasion in their family that I want to help make special with a cool cake. I was confident with the Toy Story cake until I realized one thing after it was too late to do anything about it (as usual, perfect timing). The mousse would need to be refrigerated after it was applied to the cake so it wouldn't melt. It was at least 80 degrees out when I was working on the cake, and very humid. Even keeping it in the basement, which I normally do with buttercream cakes when I'm not working on them, wouldn't work for the mousse. I didn't want a runny cake. I use a marshmallow fondant that I make myself and I knew it would be a gamble putting it in the fridge and using it to cover a cake iced with chocolate mousse because of the moisture factor. When marshmallows meet moisture it can equal a sticky, yucky mess. But, I weighed my options and in my eyes, I would rather have a cake that tastes good (the whole point of a cake is to eat it, especially for a birthday) and doesn't look perfect, than a cake that's perfect, but tastes like garbage. So, after I was done with everything, I was ecstatic with the result. I thought it looked great, maybe my best yet. I wrapped it in Saran Wrap (mistake!) and tucked it safely in the fridge for the night.

Every once in awhile for the rest of the night I opened the refrigerator door and peered in to make sure it was still there, and looking the way it did when I first put it into the fridge. All looked well until I woke up the next morning, a half an hour before the scheduled pick-up time to check on it. The fondant on the top layer was becoming a sticky, soggy mess (just like I feared it would!) and was stuck to the Saran Wrap so when I pulled off the Saran Wrap, I pulled off the fondant too. I wanted to cry. Luckily it was only on the top layer (in hindsight had I used a thicker layer of fondant, I may have been in the clear and avoided this problem entirely). My mind immediately began racing... how am I going to fix this?!?!?! There I was in my Hello Kitty bathrobe (dig it) in the midst of a panic attack. Then I remembered that I had saved some already colored fondant (hooray for doing something smart) that I had used for that layer. I grabbed that, a cutting board, some confectioner's sugar and a rolling pin and got to work re-covering the spots of mousse that had been exposed. I couldn't recover the whole thing because I didn't have a lot of fondant left, so it wasn't a seamless fix. But, it was either that or a hole in the cake, and I didn't want that. It was the best I could do with the time and resources that I had. The final result didn't make me want to completely cry, though it was extremely disappointing to me that it wasn't perfect. I am and will probably forever be a perfectionist. This quality causes me great stress in my life, thanks mom and dad. In great news, I found out the day after the party that the cake was a huge hit. Everyone at the party loved how it looked and most importantly how it tasted. I couldn't have been happier. In the end, that was all that I wanted.

As with anything I learned some valuable lessons from this whole process.
1. Always save some back-up fondant just in case.
2. Covering a mousse icing with fondant probably isn't going to work out in the long run, or
at least not when it's very hot and humid.
3. Refrigerating a mousse-iced cake with fondant isn't going to work either.
4. Wrapping a mousse-iced cake covered with fondant in Saran Wrap also isn't going to work.
5. Moisture and humidity are no cakes friend, no matter what it's made of.

Anyone make baking mistakes like mine? What did you do to fix them? Could you fix them? Misery loves company... and advice!