COOKING ADVENTURE #85: Campfire Cake
First of all, “LOOK AT WHAT I HAVE CREATED! I…HAVE MADE FIRE!” Okay. Now that that’s settled. Making that fire sucked in every which way possible. It wasn’t easy, not in the least bit. It probably would have helped if I’d had the exact kitchenware to pull it off but I improvised with what I had. I should get some points for that. Honestly, I had a feeling that something as complicated as this cake idea would probably be a lot more trouble than I was imagining. But, it’s all for a good cause.
This week, the place where I work is hosting the Camden showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour. This is a film tour where we show 6 to 7 films all based around adventuring. This can range from cycling, to base-jumping, kayaking, skiing, and even sometimes is just a cultural piece about someone’s experiences in another country. This is one of my favorite times of the year. The show was organized by my boss, who does a huge amount of work every year setting up, organizing, and promoting the event. This year, I wanted to do something really nice for him to show my appreciation (and everyone else at work, too), for all that he does. Hence, the campfire cake idea… which is about as close to adventuring as I dare go with cake themes. That being said, here’s this girl’s adventure in the land of baking…
In order to make a cake that everyone at work will enjoy…presumably…I had to find a gluten free cake mix. Unfortunately, my local grocery store is rather limited on options. In fact, it only has one, so that decision was already made for me. I then stocked up on my other ingredients: eggs, milk, butterscotch hard candies, and frosting. There were also supposed to be cinnamon hard candies but those don’t seem to exist in the store I go to. Most disappointing. A few days later, at about nine-thirty, I decided to make my two cakes. I’d been lazy as all heck that day and felt that in order to redeem myself, I should get this step of the recipe done before going to bed; this step being making two nine inch cakes.
I followed the directions on the box which combined the usual eggs, butter, cake mix, milk, and such. To be honest, I don’t remember much of that night or what happened in the kitchen because I was half-asleep. I stayed up until midnight doing everything. I remembered being in a panic about not having two nine-inch cake pans but ended up using my spring-form pan for one of them. So much easier to get the cake out…but a butt to clean. I also decided that I wanted the cakes to be chocolate, so I added in some cocoa powder at the last minute. This left the batter slightly lumpy and I started worrying that I hadn’t used enough cocoa about thirty minutes into their bake time. I ended up leaving the cakes on the counter to cool overnight, and set up obstacles on the counter top so that the cat couldn’t possibly get to them.
I chilled the cakes for a couple days. I honestly didn’t mean to do them so early in the week. But I was working with a weird time line. The milk that I had bought expired the day after I bought it. And yes, I know I could have just returned it to the store. But I didn’t want to drive all the way back over there. Yes. Lazy. That would be what I’m the queen of. Get used to it.
On my next day off, I decided that it was time to do the most difficult part of the recipe: decorate the cakes. My first obstacle was to put the two cakes together. I tried shaving off the top of one of the cakes in order to flatten it out and make an even surface. Used the wrong kind of knife. An ordinary dinner table knife won’t do the trick. Should have used the bagel cutter. But, I gave up instead and just moved on. Lazy. Yup. I wanted to do something really amazing for the filling of the cake and decided that a caramel whipped cream mixed filling would be AMAZING. So, I bought a can of sweetened condensed milk to do a recipe for caramel that I’d seen on line. All you do is submerge the can beneath boiling water and let it boil. I, however, didn’t know that it needed to sit for 3 hours and be looked after that entire time…adding water to the pot when it was starting to run low and all that jazz. I decided that I would find some less time consuming way to do it.
The filling issue ended up becoming a part of the “creating fire” issue. The recipe states that you are supposed to melt your butterscotch (and cinnamon) hard candies in two double boilers and then pour them onto waxed paper to freeze afterward. My “double boiler” is a pot of hot water and a mini wok. So… really not a double boiler at all. But it should work just the same. Key word being “should”. Apparently, I bought the most melt-resistant butterscotch candies on the planet. I tossed in about 10 and then placed the wok over the boiling water when it was time. I think it would have been more entertaining to watch paint dry or to do my taxes. It was the most time-consuming part of this recipe, endlessly stirring these despicable little discs over and over to keep them from sticking to the bowl, and then waving the spoon around like a freak when they stuck to that. At some point I tried adding caramel bits and that just made things worse. I even tried to stir a penny amount into some whipped cream…which only made them harden up into caramel strings. I finally gave up on the double boiler and microwaved the rest of my caramel bits in a bowl. Then I poured that onto some tinfoil (because I didn’t have waxed paper) and put the cookie sheet in the fridge.
Now, since I was fresh out of caramel and didn’t want to bother with the butterscotch nightmare again, I took chocolate chips and mixed them in with the soupy looking whipped cream. Then, I glopped it all on the top of the bottom cake and spread it around. Then, I placed the 2nd cake on top. As it spilled forth from the sides, I put the plate with the cakes in the freezer, hoping that when it set, I could actually frost the damn thing. An hour or so later, I took it out of the fridge and wiped away the excess whipped cream. Then, with the bagel spreader, I covered the cake in chocolate fudge frosting. It mixed with the whipped cream and created a marble texture. Even though it looked cool, I wanted to have the top brown for it to look like earth and applied more.
Next was to lay out a bunch of Pirouline cookies in a circle to simulate the logs of a camp fire. I broke a couple in varying lengths and placed them around the top of the cake. Next was the doozy to end all doozies: the fire. I pulled the baking pan out of the fridge and lifted the tin foil from it, hoping I could just peel it off the back of the butterscotch. No such luck. It hadn’t been in the fridge for long enough. What was worse is that the red food coloring was still wet and came off all over my hands. It looked as if I’d cut myself with a million little knives. I struggled with the caramel fire for a long time, pulling it off in small pieces and slowly adding them to the cake. The cool thing was that they looked wavy, almost flickering like a real fire. Bad thing was that they were thick and top heavy so they naturally kept falling over. After quickly assembling the fire, I threw it into the freezer again before it could completely fall apart. I was relieved to find that when I pulled it out later, the fire had frozen in flickering form.
The Banff festival starts tomorrow and I’ll be taking the cake into work for all to enjoy. I only hope that the gluten free cake tastes okay… we’ll soon find out!
Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ve got Chicken Enchilada Empanadas! I’ve been craving Mexican for weeks! I’m SO excited! Stay tuned.