Oh yes. To make things all a little more difficult, since this is now level 2 and a mid-term test, the cake has to be decorated in a specific theme. Our chef was kind enough to let us pick our own individual themes instead of picking an overall one as he likes to see what we all come up with and make for a helluva interesting line up of cakes at the end of the day.
So... with little time to think and plan as I was busy interning, I picked a simple Japanese Cherry Blossom theme. Very zen, and kept things simple so as to not over do things. I remembered in a demo, a chef mentioned that you can always spot the work of a young chef by the over ambitious nature of over crowding their work with as much as they can in the hopes of being able to show off their capabilities every chance they get.
We also had to produce our very first sketch in colour, of our design, and itinerary for the day and we were also graded against how well we stuck to the plan and design. So, for my written I did pretty well and got a 98, surprisingly! But even more surpising was my perfect score for my practical! This was a first for me, which got me motivated once again to do well going forward.
Here's my mid-term cherry blossom cake!
Inside was a milk sponge soaked with orange blossom simple syrup to give a floral note and a pistachio flavoured mousseline, a tinge of green to complement the green buds on the cake
First off, I baked my milk sponge on a sheet tray. A milk sponge is almost like a richer version of a genoise. Which means it has to be folded and mixed with great care so as to not deflate the meringue as that is its only form of leavening. The use of milk however gives this a denser crumb as compared to the genoise, as well as a less eggy taste that I'm not a huge fan of in a genoise.
I managed to keep mine pretty high, which I was glad for, as this will make building the cake better, making for a high cake
I then cut the 3, 6" layers out via the use of a 6" cake ring pressed down onto the sponge so that I got even circles of cake
The came the pistachio mousseline which I spread evenly between the layers and well as used as a crumb coat on the outside of the cake once all 3 layers had been stacked
The aim of the crumb coat, as mentioned in my previous post, is to stick all crumbs to this layer, such that it does not disrupt from the final layer of decor that goes onto the cake. This creates a clean cake, as well as a good structure for whatever you will be covering the cake with. A crumb coat needs to be well chilled in the fridge or freezer before covering the cake. If working with marzipan, the danger with putting it in the freezer however, is that condensation will occur on the surface of the marzipan as the cake is being covered which will cause it to become sticky and difficult to work with. So it is best to chill the cake in the fridge, but to ensure that the crumb coat layer is firm.
Next up, I mixed this pastel shade of pink marzipan using food colouring. Mixing colours, as I found out, is as much a skill as the actual covering of the cake! To get one's desired colour takes alot of kneading and mixing and experimenting to perfect. Out of everything that I did for the exam, I believe colouring the marzipan was the single most time consuming thing done that day!
I made sure to trim the sides well, as in my original sketch I had included a border around the edge but on the actual day, I decided against it as I felt it would ruin the zen look of the cake.
I then rolled out brown marzipan and stuck them onto the cake to be the tree branches, etching them with a paring knife to create a wood effect.
I then proceeded to make different sized cherry blossom flowers in a different shade of pink, marbled with white, along with little flower buds and petals. It is difficult to colour marzipan as in its original state, it is an off white ivory colour due to the high percentage of almond paste that it is made out of. So I used white food colouring to achieve the white, as leaving it off white would not have made the cherry blossoms stand out quite as much. I also added little green buds to add a little colour contrast on the cake. But not too many, once again, less is more.
Not to leave out the back of the cake, but to keep things simple, I just adhered some individual petals of varying sizes spaced out along the sides of the cake so that when each slice is cut, there will be some decoration on each slice
The missing slice you see there is the one my chef cut to taste. He took a look, tasted it and told me that he had no comments for me as I had made a perfect cake. That damn nearly brought a tear to my eye. It feels good to be validated for one's hard work.
Working with marzipan is actually pretty difficult as it is stickier and softer to work with than fondant. Colouring it is also more difficult, especially making pastel colours bright and vibrant due to the off white nature of the product. That is why, normally, cakes are iced and covered in fondant rather than marzipan. Rarely does one come across cakes these days being sold that are covered and decorated in full marzipan. A pity though, as personally I have taken a liking to the taste of marzipan. Fondant on the other hand just tastes sweet and is usually peeled off the cake and not eaten.
Well that's all folks! More to come in the week ahead is chocolate! This mid-term marked the end of cakes part 2 for us and we are now in the first lessons of chocolate. So stay tuned if you like that sweet nectar of the gods. I know you do. We all do.