Of Baking and Other Uncelebrated Capacities

I think of myself as a downgraded version of the Renaissance man only because I have no idea if there’s anything I am really good at aside from being pitilessly good looking. Haha. I can do a little of this, of that, but not master any. But despite this brazen acknowledgement, there are still a handful of things that I can’t do (or learn) until now. The list begins with

Math,
Technology,
Business and Finance,
RPG,
Gardening,
Twitter,
Sewing,
Woodwork,
Visual Art,
Musical Instruments,
Chemistry,
Foreign Language,
Baking, etc.

I realized that the more items I put on the list, the more degraded my well-being becomes. Anyhow, I am writing an entry today because I finally could cross out one from the list. I finally was able to bake—not cookies or brownies or bread, but a cake. Yes, for my first baking experience, I helped in baking a three-tiered wedding cake. *applause*

It happened when my class was assigned to prepare a dessert for a banquet in a stage play, and since the play would end with a wedding and the banquet would be a wedding banquet, we decided to make a wedding cake. I have two students who know how to bake well—but the other was still tired then from baking cupcakes for our fundraiser, so I asked Claude if she could bake a three-layered cake and she said it’d be easy.

After talking to some of my colleagues, I learnt that a three-layered cake is entirely different from three-tiered cake. I went back to Claude and told her it’s three-tiered, and she hesitated for a while if she could take the role as head. After some thinking through, she agreed and there began our week-long cake project.

She immediately searched for ideas and recipes and finally, we arrived to a conclusion. We agreed to create a two-layered vanilla cake with lemon curd as filling.

The play was to be staged on a Saturday, and we only had four days (after-class hours) to do the cake. The class was divided into half: one group would bake on Wednesday and the other would make the frosting and fondant on Thursday. I joined both teams so there would be someone to look after them. Claude volunteered to buy ingredients on Tuesday and put the frosting and fondant on Friday. Then it was on.

Since Claude spearheaded the project, we did it in her house, which was good because she had all the ingredients and equipment ready. All we needed to do was follow the leader’s instructions. For the first day, I was assigned to sift and measure the sugar, to make sure that there’d be no lumps in them. I also helped in making sure that the butter was properly mixed and creamed using the automatic mixer (in short, I just pushed buttons).

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The cakes’ sizes differed (of course); the lowest tier was 12 inches, middle tier was 8 inches, and the top tier was 6 inches. The middle tier was supposed to be 9 inches but Claude couldn’t find a pan of that size.

The baking was apparently easy to do. All you needed to do was mix the right ingredients properly, with the exact proportions. All you need to have is the right oven temperature and right amount of oven time.

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I guess it really pays that you follow instructions and respect the recipe, otherwise you’ll be into deep trouble.

For the second day, the team was divided into three teams: butter cream, lemon curd, and fondant. I was assigned to team lemon curd, which was awesome since I have long been wanting to know how to make a curd. And again, apparently, it’s just really easy. All you need to do is scrape the lemon to get the yellow portion of the rind and mix it with the right amount of sugar. Afterwards you put the lemon juice and eggs, let it simmer under low heat while stirring consistently until it thickens. The tricky part is that you shouldn’t let it reach boiling point, because you will make a–tadah–scrambled eggs with lemon juice. And you have to begin at square one. Luckily, my team and I did so well. Haha!

The butter cream team also did a good job with the frosting; team fondant was also effective in kneading the fondant, ensuring its right consistency.

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Pardon my oven selfie–but if not now, when? HAHAHA

We were really tired but it was rewarding, thinking that everyone was efficient. For those two days, we would get home by 11PM. I would arrive home last to make sure that all my students were safe. What’s awesome about my class was that everyone was having fun while baking. They would fool around, sing, tell stories, eat, and dance. They reminded me of my teenage years–minus the baking part. When I was a teenager, the most successful food I made in school was salted eggs.

As for the cake, we entrusted the frosting and fondant design to Claude and her sister (and my former student), Clara.

On the day of the play, Claude arrived at the venue holding three lovely white cakes of different sizes. The task now was to stack them carefully and design them with ribbons and flowers. We agreed to not overdo the design so as to highlight the cake. The freaking wedding cake that’s product of our hard labor. And love, yes, sure. Haha.

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Claude made sure that on the process of designing the cake, the fondant didn’t get soggy.

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Clara helped with the ribbons and flowers.

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I’m not sure if you notice it here in the photo, but the cake was punctured with multiple rods so when you stack the cakes, they don’t fall out. The rods we used were big lollipop sticks, which were really sturdy. And do you know that there is a special way of cutting a wedding cake? You have to divide it in a different way such that everyone gets a slice. It was designed that way because in weddings, there are multiple guests and there’s only one cake. I took the liberty to illustrate it, thanks to Microsoft Paint.

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We used the rods as the marker for the inner circle. It’s so ingenious, right? Hahaha. Also, in case the guests asked for extra lemon curd (because it’d be so good that they would want more, haha), we brought a squeeze bottle-full of curd.

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Then we nervously put the second tier. We really trusted Claude could take care of it so we let her. It was a terrifying moment: what if the fondant crumbles, or the cakes fall out because they were not put evenly, or the cake stand topples? We held our breaths and prayed for the cake.

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Now we put the third tier. The cakes didn’t fall! Hooray for Claude!

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And finally. Look at that. Look at our lovely baby.

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from left: Raz’s half face, Pao, Claude, and Jules.

I was not able to take a photo of the sliced cake because we were already busy cutting slices for the “guests,” who congratulated Claudia and the rest of the class for creating such beautiful and delicious cake. People honestly loved it, especially the curd which gave a zing to it. It was a proud moment: for the class who helped to make this almost impossible project a possibility, and for me who had zero knowledge about baking five days before the last piece was finished.

Maybe I could bake something on my own one day; cookies or brownies or banana bread. Maybe not as good as this cake, but something I made. Then I would feed it to my students and force them to patronize me for doing a good job. Hahaha. But kidding aside, I’m just happy that I did and learned something different before this year ends. And phony as it may sound, but it served as a validation for me, like, hey, I didn’t know I could do that!

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