Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Cooking

Readers reflect on fond cake memories

We asked our readers to share any memorable cake stories they had. Here is a taste of those sweet memories. Michelle Stark, Times food editor

My husband and I are celebrating three years since our wedding day. It was a day full of torrential downpour, a last-minute officiant fill-in (because of preterm labor two days before), a wrong first dance song — and the list goes on.

But this cake was exactly what we wanted. Three layers of cake, designed by Let Them Eat Cake in Tampa, each with a distinct flavor. People still talk about it and we still recommend them. Because of the rain (literally coming in sideways), the cake sat in a van waiting to be placed on its table. And waited. And waited. Finally, the delivery driver had to put it in with the groomsmen (who vowed not to touch it) so the other cakes could get to their final destinations. The rain finally let up, and the ceremony went on with lots of laughs and a few tears.

My two sisters-in-law grabbed the cake from the holding place and carried it through a winding garden path in heels to the table, while their husbands "helped" guide them, during the first dance (the one with the wrong song). From there, I knew the day was perfect. The love, the laughter, it was all exactly what it was supposed to be: two love birds making the most of a little rain.

Michelle Chernicoff, Largo

• • •

Here is a tidbit of cake nostalgia from my Italian family I wanted to share with readers. Many years ago (50), my Aunt Marie from Brooklyn was the baker in the family. I think I inherited the love of baking in my DNA because I am a self-taught baker. No one in my family showed me how to bake. Every Sunday, our family would get together for dinner at my Mom's house on Long Island. ... My Aunt Marie would always bring a special cake for Sunday dinner. We would comment on how lopsided the cake looked. Not just tilted, but not round! We all laughed, but the cakes were always fabulous. We found out from my cousin that Aunt Marie always cut a piece of the finished cake to taste before bringing the cake. She then pushed the cake back together so no one would notice. I can understand now that I am the designated baker in the family. I would really like to taste a piece of my creation, too, but I wait for the event and hope the cake has turned out perfect.

Stevenski also shares this recipe for marzipan, which she tints and molds into decorations for the top of her cake.

EASY

Marzipan

1 ½ cups almond flour

1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons corn syrup, plus more if needed

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until all the lumps are broken up and a dough forms. If too dry, add more corn syrup. If too sticky, add more confectioners' sugar.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead the mixture into a pliable dough. Use gel colors to tint according to your design. Knead until the color is uniform. Refrigerate the molded pieces until you're ready to decorate the cake. This dough works best at room temperature.

Lorraine Fina Stevenski, Land O'Lakes

• • •

Unfortunately, there is no picture of the beautiful cake my best friend made for me several years ago. After a wonderful birthday dinner with many friends, a crew of waitresses and waiters brought me a cake while all sang "Happy Birthday." What kind of cake did you bake? I asked my friend, knowing she had no oven. She replied: "Sponge cake in a new countertop appliance I just bought."

Well, I proceeded to cut the first piece with the knife they handed me, and it would not cut. So I asked for a sharper knife and everyone burst out laughing. After stabbing it, the bottom was a car washing sponge, double layer. I am not easily fooled, but the whole restaurant staff pulled it off, and this was the most unforgettable cake ever.

Susan Broesler, Gulfport

• • •

I love cake: chocolate cake, vanilla cake, dry white wedding cake, buttercream frosting (my favorite), whipped cream frosting, many layers, two layers, no layers. I love cake. One of my favorites is chocolate zuccotto cake from Maggiano's restaurant.

One year, for my birthday, my husband bought me a whole one that cost $64, as they would not sell him half. It looked like a huge round chocolate bomb and took days to eat. I did share.

... My fondest memory of cake would have to be yellow layer cake with mocha buttercream frosting from Sibley's bakery in upstate New York. Sibley's was a huge department store that had a bakery. Ladies in white behind a glass case served customers baked goods that were put into white boxes and tied with string from metal string holders suspended from the ceiling. It was a real treat to have something from Sibley's bakery.

Occasionally, my mother would purchase a day-old cake for one of the kids' birthdays. The mocha cake, as my mother called it, was my favorite. Yellow layer cake thickly frosted inside and out with a light chocolate, slightly coffee-flavored frosting. I have tried several times to duplicate that mocha frosting from Sibley's. Somehow, it just doesn't taste quite the same.

Gina Rehberg, Wesley Chapel

• • •

My favorite cake story? In May of this past year, my brother got married in Brooklyn. He had asked that my 15-year-old daughter Kira make cakes for his wedding. I was very reluctant to submit to his request because she had only made a chocolate ganache on a few different occasions but never anything else, let alone for a wedding. I wasn't worried about her baking prowess as much as I was worried about the logistics and potential disasters of this adventure.

We brought all of the ingredients and supplies with us to Brooklyn, to the row house my parents rented for the week. Amazingly, the baking went off without a hitch. Kira orchestrated the baking; my mom, wife and myself were her help. Seven different cakes baked a thousand miles away from our house and she received rave reviews from the guests and restaurant staff. The seven cakes were: a chocolate ganache, key lime Bundt, carrot cake with honey spiced frosting, Italian cream cake, champagne vanilla bean, red velvet and a chocolate cake with chocolate Italian meringue buttercream and caramel drip. According to my daughter, she just threw that last one together specially for the groom. That is our cake story — really my daughter's cool cake story. We just got to be a part of it.

Dan Watson

• • •

Claudia Gunzelmann shares this cake that she made for her husband's 50th birthday. She says cakemaking is one of her hobbies.

"The cake is a highway with all his life accomplishments, and the route has the different cars he owned in the different stages of his life," she wrote in an email.

To make the signs, she started working a week in advance, rolling out fondant and cutting it with a rectangular cutter.

She also shares part of her decorating process: "I cover each layer of the cake with cream cheese frosting. ... To make the decoration, I use cookie cutters to create the trees, the sun, clouds, hills etc. For the road, I also roll out black fondant and made the center line piping royal icing. ... Because my writing with royal icing is not good I use the computer to write the sign. ... It took me more than 6 hours to get the cake complete."

Claudia Gunzelmann, Tampa

     
   
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