Sometimes you can even pass on the lesson to other people, and this is precisely the intention of this blog entry.
Some beautiful friends of mine had their engagement party on the weekend. They are the most adorable couple and I wanted to make a cake that reflected the beauty of their relationship. I envisioned a deliciously moist orange an almond cake of three graduating tiers, surrounded in smooth walls of white chocolate, decorated with sugar encrusted pink rose petals, finished off with a bouquet of fresh rose buds on the final layer. The challenge for me was going to be the white chocolate collars surrounding each layer, which I had never attempted before, and I did my homework and it didn't seem at all complicated.
Basically you take a piece of firm but flexible plastic sheeting, cut it to the size of the circumference, paint it in an even, thick layer of melted chocolate. Then you wait until it is beginning to set, then apply it to the side of the cake and peel away the plastic when it has dried. Sounds easy, doesn't it? I made lots of mistakes and learned so much about chocolate by attempting this seemingly-easy task.
First of all it was 30C plus sort of weather and extremely humid. I live in a sub-tropical climate and we all know that moisture of any sort is chocolate's worst enemy. Well that combined with the heat was a recipe for disaster, and I ended up trying to construct the cake inside the refrigerator!
I learned a lot about what type of chocolate to use too. Who ever knew chocolate was so complex? I've always just melted it in the microwave and used it, but I fear there's a whole lot more to it than that.
Tempering. Real chocolate vs compound chocolate.
Well here's a tip for those who aren't pros at chocolate decorating--go for compound chocolate. Yes it may not taste as rich and delicious as real chocolate but it will at least set, without a doubt, and you don't have to worry about tempering it. Just evenly melt it and go for it! I wish I had known that before I started. 1 kg of chocolate later, and the cake was looking *presentable*.
And it tasted delicious! But had to be cut very quickly as the sides started melting off again! so if you decide to try the chocolate collars, here's what you have to know:
Use compound chocolate to save you from failure
Make sure you don't make it in 30C weather!
Don't expect to get it perfect first time around.