have I created a new life form in the kitchen?

alien life form or runaway icing?
Am I having a Victor Frankenstein moment in the kitchen? Have I created a new life form? Or could it be that my icing has just made a bid for freedom?

There are days when you know that things just aren't going to turn out well; that it will probably end in tears - very likely your own. I've been having a couple of those kinds of days.

I baked a chocolate, hazelnut and orange torte. It looked nicely even as it came out of the oven. I was quite pleased that it was relatively even, as this is not always the case! I rested the torte, in its tin, on a wire cooling rack before transferring it onto a cake board. That was my first mistake. Too lazy to clear any kitchen clutter out of the way, the corner of the cake tin caught the edge of the kettle. It was the cake equivalent of stubbing your toe; the cake leapt out of the tin and broke in half. Curses!

Fortunately I had made a heavy chocolate-orange ganache to cover the torte, so I knew that I would be able to hide the evidence by icing the torte in such a way that the crevasse wouldn't show. And what the eye doesn't see . . .

I iced the cake, not very well to be fair. It was pretty uneven (although at least it was shiny), but by now I was feeling less than equable and was craving a large gin (which since I don't drink gin, shows how irritated I was). I very carefully carried the cake to the dining room - with all the slow majesty of a royal procession; (well you can't be too careful). The dining room is rarely used and as a result is quite cold. In fact it is the perfect temperature for proofing bread or, as in this case, letting icing set.

where did it all go wrong?
Unfortunately last night was the night that some local ne'er-do-wells decided in a fit of high jinks or perhaps just high (the scallywags), to use the dining room window as target practice. When I went in to check on the cake this morning, I discovered a small hole in the window, an air gun pellet rolling around on the table and tiny fragments of shattered glass.

Fortunately this had missed the cake, but I had to make sure. So for the next 10 minutes or so, I had to get up close and personal to the damned cake with a magnifying glass. (More Inspector Clouseau than Jane Tennison). By now I was beginning to believe that the cake was cursed and that perhaps I was channelling Jane, because what I really needed was a very stiff drink; it was only 10 o'clock in the morning!

Now I live in an old Victorian cottage, built at the time when peasants and the lower classes weren't expected to enjoy light. Consequently, my kitchen is very dark. (Yes, I do have electricity and lighting, but the kitchen is still quite dark!)

As a result, on a sunny day, I try to work by one of the larger windows to use as much natural light as possible, no matter what I am doing, whether it is icing cakes, or just chopping vegetables. Today was one those days. No snow, no rain, no grey clouds. It was a lovely, sunny winter's morning, so I placed the cake at the end of the kitchen table, nearest the biggest window and got down to work.

I had made a simple royal icing - just icing sugar, egg white, a little food colouring and orange flavouring. I wanted one that was runny enough to use to decorate, but stiff enough to set. The icing was possibly a little too runny, but a test run on a piece of cardboard proved that it was still stiff enough to use. (Besides I didn't have any icing sugar left and was too idle to go out to buy any.)

Using the smallest nozzle with my icing bag, I decorated the cake with a few delicate filigree daisies; there were a couple of flourishes, curlicues and dots for extra cover. It may have been a bit amateurish, but its charm was in its whimsy.

Distracted for a few moments, once my back was turned, the icing made a bid for freedom. "Come on, girls, she'll never notice . . ." and off it raced.

When I returned, moments later, the whole cake was flooded with icing. The delicate filigree had disappeared to be replaced by something that looked like the kind of thing you see on the beach when the tide has gone out. (I'm sure I've seen an episode of Blue Planet that covers this.)

I know why it happened. I can't even castigate myself for being distracted. The icing was just too runny and I probably shouldn't have left the iced cake in a warm sunny spot. I have only myself to blame.

I managed to rustle up a bag of Skittles and a few Smarties, hoping to turn the decoration into something nicely retro, possibly with a psychedelic 60's vibe - all dots, circles and big flowers in bright colours.
Sadly the sweets just enhanced the appearance of alien life forms, or possibly amoebas, or sea creatures. (I swear that one of the daisies now looked like an octopus, who I have decided to call Reg).

Oh well, another day and another baking disaster. Having cut the cake up into slices (and yes, I am afraid Reg is no more - a short, but eventful life, but it's what he would have wanted), scoffing on a small morsel of cake proved that while it wasn't a thing of beauty, it tasted wonderful. The combination of chocolate, ground hazelnuts and orange was perfect. The torte was dense and moist, the ganache thick and rich. The whole torte tasted gloriously decadent. And if the orange icing didn't feel like hanging around, it is their loss, poor thing!

R.I.P. Reg
Gone but not forgotten!

Reg (R.I.P.)


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

I love it.This is compelling reading all inclusive of the Kentish town mafia,bullet holes in windows and to boot.
I have often created a stigmata in my roasting tin when I oven roast tomatoes or beetroot.I have even been convinced the Turin shroud was in my oven.Must photograph it next time.

Liz Thomas said...

Well, I have to say I think that looks rather splendid!! Very colourful.


Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Algarve - I too have had those stigmata moments. Also those occasions what I remove from the oven bears very little resemblance to what went in - I have the local priest on speed-dial for exorcisms!

BTW - local police came around to check on bullet hole. Said it wasn't a crime because there were no witnesses! Ah, that's why the crime figures are falling. No cake for Mr Policeman - although I am thinking of going round to the local nick with a box of fudge!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Liz - cheers my dear. I have to say that despite its runny texture, it was rather nice. Sadly I don't think I'll ever be able to make such a glossy icing again if I tried :)