7/1: I’ve been in a baking funk. The word “Funk” comes to mind as I sit here in this gymnastics studio waiting for my kid to finish her class. As in funky feet. I digress. Maybe it’s been because I just have too many things going on and I prefer having uninterrupted baking time which is super challenging with a kid (or spouse) around. Anyhoo…

A couple of weeks back I decided to challenge myself. It would definitely not be a bread bake. I wanted something different but challenging. I settled on making a tall cake. I figured since I still wanted to keep the spirit of my blog intact – the spirit of learning new things, that I would pick a random recipe from The Book. I chose pastry cream. Seemed like a good challenge plus it would go great in between cake layers.

7/14: Finally circling back to this draft and determined to finish it. So yeah, I made a huge cake. I settled on 6-inch vanilla cake layers and filled each layer with the pastry cream and fresh blueberries. Pastry cream was not terribly difficult but it’s one of those things that can go wrong at any minute. Egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch go with hot milk and vanilla but you have to time it right and keep it moving or you’ll have a mess on your hands. You have to get the milk and vanilla nice and hot, remove from the stove, and then temper with the egg mixture. All this means is you have to slowly add the hot milk to the egg mixture while constantly whisking until blended. Add the milk too fast and the eggs will scramble and no one wants that. Then you put everything back on the stove and boil the mixture, whisking constantly. Fail to whisk enough can cause the mixture to curdle and you’ll get lumps. (Hand raised that this happened to me.) Fail to boil long enough and you’ll get runny cream. I ended up putting my batch through a strainer at the end and it helped a little. The end result was still pretty delicious.

Finished pastry cream

Finished pastry cream

Assembly was a challenge. I made four 6-inch rounds and once cooled, evened each round out and then cut in half. I did a so-so job as some of my layers were uneven. I did an extra step of making simple syrup and sprinkling each cut layer with the syrup to ensure moistness. I think I lost a layer due to excess moisture because it crumbled in my hands when I went to assemble.

So, I had the cake layers, filling, and blueberries and it was time to assemble. I have seen enough cake videos to know that I needed some sort of support system but I did not have dowels. I fashioned some out of very thick straws I had – cut them to size. I put them into the fourth layer but in retrospect it didn’t work because the straws weren’t sturdy enough. Hence the Leaning tower of Pisa inference.

Here are some pictures of the assembly process.

Cake layer with pastry cream and blueberries

Cake layer with pastry cream and blueberries

Four layers

Seven cake layers

Now to the decorating. I had this idea to do an ombré style cake in shades of aqua/teal blue. That also didn’t quite work as expected so I just improvised. it ended up all looking the same but it wasn’t awful. I didn’t make enough frosting was the lesson there.

And finally, I practiced my piping. Because I hadn’t made enough frosting, I had to thaw some frozen frosting I had from a previous bake. Worked out great. My piping could still use some work. Practice makes perfect.

Frosting flowers and leaves on top of cake

Here’s the final view plus a bonus cut out view. The cake was delicious. Was it perfect? No. Was it awesome anyway? Totally. Did I break out of my baking funk? Yes! It was fun and I can’t wait to try again.

Finished cake

See the straw?