Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and it seems that we have almost reached peak pumpkin consumption point. I used to tell myself that I didn’t really like pumpkin, but I think that really I just don’t like pumpkin pie, which to me has always been overpowered by the barely baked flour flavor of American pie crusts.
Remember those Pumpkin Pasties from last month’s episode of Baking and Boozing?
Yeah, I baked the crap out of that pie dough (plus doused it with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, and washed it down with some well paired booze), and it made me realize that when pumpkin is allowed to shine, it really does taste great!
As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I signed up for a few baking classes to push myself out of my comfort zone and work on broadening my cake decorating skillset. With all of the newness and whatnot of these classes, I know it might be a surprise that these mini pumpkin cakes [might] look familiar, and that is because I have definitely made mini pumpkin cakes before. Last time I did them as part of my Halloween baking/annual rant against pumpkin spice (go read that blog post. It’s not what you think!), and they were spooktacular! Now, I am doing them as a way to practice fondant work, and well… they’re ok.
While we all know that fondant can be very pretty, it just doesn't taste good. And because it doesn’t taste good, I generally refuse to work with it so now I’m very out of practice. But here I am, pushing myself out of my comfort zone AGAIN.
(Another part of this particular experience that was outside of my comfort zone is that there was so much excess cake and buttercream that I don’t really know what to do with. This class came with a workbook that included two recipes - Swiss Meringue buttercream and Spiced Pumpkin cake. The actual cake decoration portion of this class used about ⅙ of the buttercream that the recipe made, and after I baked all of the mini bundt cakes plus a few extra to set myself up for success, I still had so much left over cake batter that I used it to bake an entire 8”x8” pan of spiced pumpkin cake. I’m still not sure what to do with any of it, which I feel is poor planning from the instructors. But maybe that’s just my opinion.)
I will say that I made some interesting design choices for this cake display. The class instructor mentioned that her taller pumpkins came out looking like bell peppers, so I made sure not to stack mine with any amount of disproportionate height so they would really resemble pumpkins.
But here’s where my idiocy decided to appear - she told us to carve our cake stacks with uniform grooves to give it a pumpkin shape. I thought to myself that I didn’t need to carve the cakes evenly because pumpkins are organic and not uniform shapes (also I don’t have much experience with carving cakes into shapes, so I don’t even think carving them uniformly was really an option anyway) and I wanted them to be realistic.
Then she said something about dyeing our fondant any color we wanted, so while I chose to cover one pumpkin with orange, I also chose purple and teal. #SoReal
The kicker is that she had us do a metallic color block and/or splatter effect on each pumpkin, which I have to say is actually a super cute effect for the cakes. However, I also got it all over my counter top, my laptop, and my face 🤦🏻♀️ A word to the wise: don't do a splatter effect if you need to be somewhere after you decorate.
My tip of the week comes from the carving portion of this experience. I think by now most of us know to use a serrated knife when trimming our cakes, but if you’re like me, the two serrated knives in my house are size long and size extra long. When carving these cakes that are essentially the size of a cupcake, that size of a knife is not only impractical for the job, it can also be dangerous for maintaining the integrity of your fingers. For a tiny cake like this, I grabbed a steak knife to do my trimming and carving. The steak knife has smaller serrations which are very effective, and the length of the knife is much more suitable for the job.
Anyway this is all to say that I made some wonky mini pumpkin cakes covered in funky colors for this class and… meh.
I don’t think I really took away anything from this class, but I will keep trying. There are three other classes that I’ve signed up for, so hopefully I’ll have some cool new tips to share once I take them.
Happy eating, y’all!
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