Friday, April 25, 2008

Baking disaster

Did I tell you about the 2-fold baking disaster I endured while attempting to create the Pirate's birthday cake? No? Well let me tell you about it now. I would love to know if any of you have experienced similar problems, because I am completely flummoxed by what went wrong, and I really want to try this recipe again.

The recipe was for an orange cake with white chocolate frosting. Sounds tasty, yes? I thought so too.

It was an odd recipe. There were no leaveners in the batter. Rather, the butter and suger were creamed together, then egg yolks, flour, and fresh squeezed orange juice added. The loftiness off the sponge was meant to come from the egg whites, which were beaten in to a meraingue and then folded in to the batter.

At least, that was how it was supposed to work. Here's the odd bit: I could't get the egg whites to beat stiff. I've made meraingue dozens of times before, but for some reason on this occasion I could not get those little puppies stiff. They just got all foamy, but stayed very wet and soupy. That was the strangest thing I'd ever seen... until I tried to make the frosting.

The frosting called for melting some white chocolate and folding it in to some creme fraiche. Except the chocolate wouldn't melt. I kid you not. I was using Green & Black's white chocolate, and I put it in a double-boiler so as not to over-heat it, but it wouldn't melt! It got all pasty, like mashed potatoes. I thought maybe there was some wierd additive in the chocolate, so I tried again with another brand, Nestle Milky Bar. Same result. I mean dude, WTF???

I wound up beating the creme fraiche stiff with some powdered sugar and a touch of nutmeg and just using that for the frosting. And actually, it was marvelous. So good, in fact, I'm going to do the same for my wedding cake. But I still want to know why my white chocolate wouldn't melt. Damndest this I ever saw.

Has anyone else ever had these problems? I'm baffled.


Hannah said...

The only thing I can think of is that the eggs weren't fresh. But I have no idea on the chocolate. Maybe your kitchen's cursed?

Dave said...

I melt chocolate in the microwave, but I've never tried it with white chocolate, so I'm absolutely no use at all, am I?

No change there, then.

Dave said...

Oh, if your kitchen is cursed, I could perform an exorcism.

I'll need two naked virgins.

Nothing to do with the ceremony, it's instead of a fee.

Red said...

If there is even the smallest speck of fat (egg yolk, oil, butter) in the egg whites they will either not whip stiff or not whip at all. Also, make sure they are room temp, and sometimes if it is very humid I can't get them to whip very well at all. Did you try putting a little acid in with them (lemon juice, cream of tartar)? That sometimes rescues them for me. Also, I never use plastic bowls; they're porous and can hid fat even when the seem clean.

As for the white chocolate, it sounds like it seized. That usually happens to me if there is excess moisture near/in the bowl.

If you don't already read David Lebovitz's blog (, you might like it. He's an American Pastry Chef in Paris and always responds to my inane email questions about my baking failures. :-)

The cake sure sounds delish though ... send the recipe!

Geosomin said...

Mmmmyou made me hungry - I want to go home and bake something.
I can tell you from my stint as a baker/pastry chef:
If eggs aren't fresh they won't beat stiff. Using cold bowl and beaters helps, but fresh eggs are very necessary.
As for the chocolate (from my time working in a chocolateir...yes I've had a lot of wierd jobs while in university) if there was any water/condesation in the inside pan when you tried to melt the chocolate it can muck that up. I usually just use the microwave...little 5 second bursts in a ceramic bowl stirring often(it burns really quick) and have never gone back to the double boiler's odd but some double boilers don't get hot enough to melt chocolate (espec. the good stuff) without cranking them...I find Callabeu (can't spell worth a damn this morning) white chocolate is best for baking...melts well and is reasonably easy to find over here in canadatown.
Good luck.
I'm off to find some chocolate and cake now for my break.

Shakespeare's Gimp said...

You should've read the instructions.

Sal said...

>I could't get the egg whites to beat stiff

old eggs

>Except the chocolate wouldn't melt

too-high content of pure cocoa

>I tried again with another brand, Nestle Milky Bar. Same result

god hates you

FirstNations said...

RED has the answers.
on the other hand, a couple of you can go get stuffed. is there any call for the snarkiness? are we six, people?

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Hannah: it was my mother-in-law's kitchen! (Is that a bad omen?)

Dave, if i knew two virgins, I would post them to you asap.

Red: I was using a plastic bowl, in fact! Normally I use stainless steel bowls, but plastic was all the MIL had. That may well explain it. Thanks so much for the tip!

Geo: I really don't know how old the eggs were. Maybe I had multiple problems going on at the same time?

*hands S.G. his pineapple*

Sal: white chocolate doesn't contain pure cocoa, only cocoa butter.

FN: thank you. I get bored with telling people off who are nasty in my comments, and most of the time they just come back nastier and yell at ME for being nasty on my own site. sheesh.

Sal said...

(was joke ;) )