“Shall we bake a cake for Lomography’s Anniversary Potluck?
My boss volunteered to contribute a cake on behalf of Nylon Singapore.”
Ummm when do we ever say no to cake-baking? Feeling quite honoured, we set off armed with alarmingly pink fantasies… Neon pink block letters spelling “Nylon” made of gum paste or royal icing. Deep, almost crimson pink layers covered with pale petal-pink frosting. Ruffled borders coloured to match the cake layers.
The idea was to adapt a roux-based frosting by substituting the white chocolate with cream cheese, and simply add pink colouring to the previous whiteout cake recipe. We could have been more ambitious and tried to make a more “authentic” pink velvet cake by putting white chocolate in the cake itself (which would parallel the chocolate goodness of classic red velvet cakes better), but admittedly we were not bothered to go that far because (a) we both have full-time jobs and didn’t have luxury of time to sit down and re-engineer the entire recipe; and (b) we had a feeling that incorporating cream cheese into the frosting would be challenging enough. How true that turned out to be… Anyway, we shall file away “Work on Ultimate Pink Velvet Cake Recipe” at the moment and whip it out when the mood is right again. : )
Anyway back to the cake story – so we baked the cake, and it turned out well, with the desired deep crimson pink colour even after baking. We then progressed to the frosting … and with some (or perhaps a little more than some) paranoia we added a lot more flour to the roux base, hoping that it would further thicken the frosting before adding cream cheese. That seemed to work, however the taste of flour became too pronounced so we cooked the roux for a longer time and crossed our fingers that the taste of cream cheese would mask the taste of flour later (which doesn’t sound very appealing!) After cooking the roux base for as long as we dared, we added the butter and the cream cheese. (Initial) result – a beautiful, fluffy and seemingly stable cream cheese frosting. Feelings of happiness pervaded the household and we went to sleep content.
The next day, the frosting still looked fine (ok, well it had been in the fridge for almost 24 hours so actually it was super hard) even after we beat it the first time. Once we began to decorate the cake, however, we watched with dismay as the frosting became gloopier and gloopier, running down the sides of the cake. We knew that it wouldn’t hold up to any additional borders, banners, ruffles or anything else.
We tried everything to save the frosting – multiple attempts with icing sugar, multiple attempts at chilling and re-chilling, even white chocolate and meringue powder. The wonderfully smooth and fluffy consistency that we caught a glimpse of earlier was gone… but we managed to salvage a sort-of workable consistency, and we ditched our ambitious plans for crimson banners. It was getting late in the night too… but with great determination, the cake was finished. : )
- Before dispatching it off…
The next day, the Nylon cake was dispatched to the Lomo potluck and we hoped that no one noticed the sloppy frosting too much.
In the end it wasn’t a roaring success, but we’re glad that people seemed to like it and the cake was appropriately demolished. That’s the important thing. Yippee! : D
Hope that everyone enjoyed the cake! And thanks to the people at Nylon for the cool photos!
So what did we learn from it? Below are 5 tips for better frosting that we’ve gleaned from this experience. Here’s to more learning in the future (but not to more runny frostings please!)
5 Tips for Better Frosting
#1 – Cream cheese can be a tricky ingredient to work with in frostings. When adding cream cheese to frosting, we should only add just enough cream cheese for the frosting to acquire the flavour. No more! Especially not in the humid Singapore weather.
#2 – Don’t re-beat any frosting with cream cheese too much. We knew that adding too much cream cheese could make the frosting too soft, but we’ve now learned that too much re-beating of any frosting with cream cheese will make the cream cheese even more slimy. Result – too soft frosting again! But we still think there’s possibilities in combining cream cheese with a roux-based frosting. We will not give up! Which leads us to…
#3 – Keep experiments as experiments, and don’t attempt a new frosting the night before the cake is due. Being experimental is good, but we should have practiced the frosting and perfected it before letting it out for public consumption : P
#4 – The refridgerator is frosting’s friend. Especially in our hot Singapore weather, chilling a frosting is a must. However chilling a cake too much can lead to dryness, so it’s a fine balance.
#5 – Sprinkles can save the day with gloopy frostings, especially scattered along the sides of the cake where gloopiness is most pronounced. Ok, this isn’t exactly a tip to improve frosting, more of a tactic to salvage a cake when the situation is already quite desperate ; )