Lessons 51-52: Mix It Up

“Dad is great! He gives us chocolate cake,” sang the Cosby kids on TV when I was young. It’s a song that reminds me of just how much I loved the treat of chocolate cake.

When I was growing up, the memories I have of making this treat involve a small red box with simple illustrated instructions on the back: 1. Whisk eggs with cake mix in bowl. 2. Add water. 3. Pour batter in pan and bake. As easy as 1, 2, 3. Needless to say, after ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program, the days of tastes-like-made-from-scratch but made-from-a-box are long gone.

Module III is mixing things up. We have a new Chef Instructor, a new classmate, a new topic of interest and thus, a new class dynamic. Chef Kathryn Gordon, who was a career changer into the industry herself, explained that we would be focusing on cakes for the next month or so and then we got to mixing up our first batters: chocolate cake, carrot cake and muffins. I must confess that I used to be theperson who would put ingredients together without reading a recipe in its entirety. I figured, it's all going to the same place anyway, right? But, no. I learned this week that there are at least six different mixing methods for cakes, as well as variations of those methods.

We’ve used two so far — the one-step and two-step, which sound like moves from Dancing with the Stars but are probably actually a little easier than dancing (at least for me)! The one-step mixing method is comparative to the straight dough method from our last (bread) module — mix dry and wet ingredients separately and then add wet to dry. Nottoo complicated and the muffins and carrot cake we made using this method were really good! The two-step is also fairly straightforward and used for high-ratio cakes, which are those that contain more or equal amounts of sugar compared to flour, to ensure that the batter is mixed smoothly. We made our pound cakes using this process and next week, we’ll make pound cakes using another one of those mixing methods — creaming.

Eventually we’ll work our way through all six methods as well as a combination of decorating techniques. It’s going to be an exciting Module! Next up: The creaming method… and petits fours!

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