Monday, September 8, 2014

Root beer splendor

It's my favorite actor's birthday today, so in honor of that, I decided to bake a cake!  But I didn't want to bake an ordinary cake.  I wanted to make something different.  I looked online and found this recipe for a root beer cake: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Root-Beer-Cake-369449.

All right, it sounded good to me!  I figured out what I needed and made a trip to the grocery store.  Well, I tried.  First, I went to Safeway, but I couldn't find everything I was looking for.  So, instead of doing what most people would do and ask for assistance, I decided to try Fry's instead because surely Fry's would have a better layout that would enable me to find things quicker.  I just hate asking for assistance.  I mean, I know that's what they're for, but I'm just too...shy, I guess.  Too afraid to.  I really just prefer to find things on my own, and if I can't find it, I will often just leave.

Which is what I did, haha, but it was raining so hard that I decided to go home instead to wait out the storm.  The streets were completely flooded.  I haven't seen it rain that hard in a long time!

When I went back out a couple hours later, the streets were still flooded, but visibility was good, so I decided to try again.  My Toyota Rav4 made it through all of the flooded washes, though there were a couple times when I was a little nervous.  Note: definitely do not even try to go through a wash if it looks higher than your knees, maybe even your shins!  You have no idea how powerful water can be until you're under its control, and by then, it's too late.

At the grocery store, there were a couple of fancy ingredients that I had a difficult time finding.  Ground star anise?  Nope.  Sassafras?  Nope, not even extract.  Fresh ginger?  Nope.  Whole nutmeg?  Nope.  These were spices, though, so I decided that they were not terribly important to the recipe and looked for substitutes.  Ha, me deciding what's important when it comes to baking!

It took me forever to find the molasses.  Why?  I just didn't know where to look for it, and I avoid asking for help locating something like the plague whenever I'm in a store.  After about ten minutes of searching, I finally looked up where to find it online using my phone.  I didn't think to check the syrup section!  That thought just didn't occur to me.  I didn't really know what it was, I guess.  I mean, not from a baking perspective.

Once I was back home, I gathered all of my ingredients, and there were quite a bit.


I was excited.  This was going to be AWESOME!

But alas, there is always a lesson I learn at the end of every cooking or baking endeavor: I am a horrible cook and extremely clumsy in the kitchen.  It takes me twice as long as others to make anything, and I usually forget things or skip steps or make a really huge mess.  Even when I think I've done everything right, the final result is still less than satisfactory.  Still, I was determined to make this cake.  Root beer in cake form?  It just sounded too delicious for anything to go wrong.

I'm not going to give a detailed account of everything I did, but I will say that I did numerous things wrong or clumsily.  First of all, I greased and floured a cake pan and put it aside, and when I turned back around from boiling the root boor and molasses, my kitten, Lasagna, was licking it!  I had to get a new cake pan and put her away.  She will eat anything, I swear.  My other cat is a very picky eater, but not this one.

The other kittens were too little to jump onto the counter, so I let them stay.  <3

Toulouse, six weeks old
Root beer and molasses mixture
Flour and spices mixture
Instead of ground star anise, I used ground cloves, and instead of fresh ginger, I just used ground ginger.  I wasn't sure how those would work as substitutes, but I didn't feel had much choice.

Grating the zest off of the lemons was a nightmare.  I just could not figure out how to do it without cutting myself.  I just eventually called it good enough after grating about eighty percent of each lemon.  Why don't they just sell zest?!  Maybe it has to be fresh.  What would I know?

It hurt ちょう very bad!
The brown sugar was hard and lumpy.  I tried my best to break it up, but the paste I created with it was never as smooth as I think it should've been.

Paste made with brown sugar, kind of lumpy
When I put the cake in the oven and started on the glaze, I realized something horrible: I forgot the baking powder!  The cake had been in the oven for some time, so it was too late, but thankfully, the batter had tasted good, so I wasn't too concerned.  Still, that's a very typical Kayla thing to do!  :b

For the glaze, since I didn't have sassafras, I just used root beer.  I figured that the glaze was supposed to taste kind of like root beer in the end, so I might as well just use the real thing.  When I finally made the glaze, the directions said to only use as much of the cream mixture as needed to make the glaze thick, but silly me, I used all of it...and, well, I didn't find out until later how much of a mistake that was.

Cream mixture just chillin' in the fridge

Glaze mixture
When I took the cake out, I had a hard time getting it out of the pan, but at last, I did, and then I poured the glaze over it...and the glaze was so runny that it spilled down the sides of the cake and onto the counter.  Oh, it was a mess!  I think there was more glaze on the counter than there was on the cake.  :(  It took forever to clean up since there was so much of it and it was so sticky.

Just out of the oven and looking awesome
The final result was, well, a cake with a thin layer of glaze on it.  I can't say it looks beautiful, but it doesn't look terrible.

A little sunken on one side
Looks good from this angle!
I had tried some of the extra pieces that stuck to the bottom of the cake pan with some of the extra glaze, so I already knew it tasted good.  In the end, that's what I care about the most when I cook or bake, the taste.  My culinary creations almost always look awful, so I've just accepted it.  As long as it tastes good, I don't really mind how it looks.

When I tried it later, it tasted good, but it was a bit spicier than I would've liked it to be.  To be honest, I was actually looking for a sweet root beer cake, not a spice cake, so next time, I will look for a sweet recipe.  I am overall happy with the way this cake turned out, but I am once again reminded how much of a klutz I am in the kitchen!

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