Undercooked Cake = Fail


We were invited to a Russian New Year party, and the invite suggested that guests of Russian heritage bring something Russian.

We lack Russian heritage, but we decided to bring something reminiscent of a beloved Russian export: Tetris! in cake form!

I used my new 10″ square pan and this chocolate cake recipe from BBC Good Food, not only because it not only looked good but it was a good match for the chosen pan. All the comments mentioned how big the finished layer was, and they weren’t kidding.

At 1650, The alarm went off for the oven. I thought it was due out at 1730, but I tend to easily lose track, so the timer is much more reliable than I am. I checked that it was done using a cake tester, which came out clean, and removed the cake.

After that, I mixed up some chocolate buttercream while waiting for my behemoth cake to cool. Unfortunately, the cake takes an age to cool because it’s so big, and I’m an impatient person, as I tried to take it out of the pan too early and minorly cracked it. oops.

As impatience rules supreme, I put it in the fridge to help the cooling process, once the pan was cool enough to handle. Much clock watching followed. It took more than four hours.

My second attempt to remove it from the pan revealed that the center was a tasty chocolate stew, rather than cake. This is when my husband and I realized that there was a reason why the timer seemingly went off earlier than planned… my dear husband set the timer for 1:50 – 1h 50m, not 150 min. I had removed it from the oven 40 minutes early!

Grasping at straws, I crammed it back in the oven and read numerous websites telling me that I should just abandon all hope. I was still optimistic that if I could bake the center, I could just cut off the outside of the cake, eliminating the overbaked bits, and still have enough to cover in fondant and decorate.

60 minutes later, it seemed more done with a few checks, yet picking at it revealed a smallish spot that still was very underdone. It seems you really can’t salvage an underdone cake. Cake Fail!


My First Cake

The Finished Product

In preparation for our annual mulled wine bonanza, I decided to put my new cake decorating know-how to work, mostly to see if I could reproduce what had come so easily in the classroom.

For starters, I actually had to bake my own cake. A quick google led me to Mark Sanford’s How to Make Cakes blog, and more importantly, his recipe for Victoria Sponge cake.

After making the sponges on Sunday, I allowed them to cool before mummifying them in cling film and popping them into the freezer. I did this because I wouldn’t need the sponge for another 6 days, and also because I was advised that it’s much easier to apply buttercream to frozen sponge because it is less crumbly.

On Friday, aka: Decoration Day…

(I had great intentions of taking lots of photos, and I completely forgot to do it. I’ll do it for Cake #2)

I thawed out the sponge a bit, and leveled it, using a cake leveler to make each sponge perfectly flat – cakes rise, so baking a flat cake is pretty impossible. This gadget is much easier to use than I expected.

Next up, the filling. I put a thin later of buttercream on top of one of the sponges, followed by a thin layer of raspberry jam, before stacking the second sponge on top.


All stacked, it was time for my least favorite part, applying a thin later of buttercream to the outside of the cake. The buttercream isn’t applied just for tasty reasons, it actually serves to stabilize the cake. Applying it is difficult because the cake crumbles, and one must be careful to not use too much buttercream, as otherwise, the fondant layer will slide off.  It seems that the key here is to just heap this viscous goo on and then scrape off the excess with a hot knife.

Buttercream applied, I put the cake in progress back in the fridge, in preparation for fondant time.

There are a few key points when rolling out fondant:

  1. Nonstick mat and roller really are that necessary, unless you like crying.
  2. You’ve really got to knead this stuff until it feels like chewing gum.
  3. The spacers allow you easily to roll the fondant so it’s perfectly even. If the fondant isn’t of uniform thickness, the cake will look crooked.
  4. You have to be speedy, else the fondant will crack and you’ll have to knead it again.

Admittedly, I took the easy route and used Dr. Oetker’s Ready to Roll, rather than making my own. I found the Dr. O’s super sticky, and I had to add a lot of icing sugar to it to stop it from adhering to the nonstick mat. In the end, it worked just fine.

    Now, Once the fondant is all rolled out, you pick it up by rolling and draping it it around the pin and unfurling it over the cake with the bottom side, i.e. most likely the flawless side facing up.

    Once the fondant is on top, you use smoothers along the top of the cake. This removes the bubbles and seals the fondant to the cake. Once the top is smoothed, you can gently arrange the fondant around the sides of your cake, eliminating bubbles before using the smoothers along the sides. If you miss an air pocket, just prick a hole in the fondant, deflate, and smooth. You can always hide the hole later,

    Once the fondant is in place, you can remove the excess with a knife.

    On to the more creative bit… what to put on top. I decided to keep this simple, as it’s the first time I’ve done a normal sized cake (8″ diameter).

    To make stars for the top, I used florists paste, which much like the fondant, requires a fair bit of kneading before you can really mold with it. Florists paste is much firmer than the fondant, and it is typically used for making flowers and other small decorations.

    After rolling out the paste, I cut lots and lots and lots of stars of varying sizes, and glued them to the fondant surface of the cake using edible glue.

    After that, there’s nothing to do but clean up the mess and eat the cake, the latter we’ll do tomorrow.