The third week of Advanced Cake Decorating required the production of the Fuerst Pueckler Torte. Why it's called that, I have no idea, but it's basically a neapolitan of three different colored/flavored mousse. On the bottom is a chocolate cake layer, and then a dome is built on top of it with the three different flavored/colored mousse. Chocolate ganache is poured over top and then it is decorated with chantilly cream.
So, going in to class, I know that this isn't a layer cake in the traditional sense. I knew I wouldn't have to slice three or four even cake layers and build a flat cake to cover the sides evenly and the top flatly with buttercream. So, I thought, this would be a nice break from that typical process and I may actually do better with something a bit different.
I go into class with this great attitude. I watch the demo and think, "Well, it doesn't look too bad. I think I can handle this." So off I go.
I don't have to slice a chocolate cake layer because we are using ones saved from the previous week. There's a freebie. I prepare my chantilly cream, and flavor some of it with pineapple to build my first layer, in a small dome shape in the center of the cake. Not too bad to start. Things seem ok so far.
I then flavor some of the chantilly cream with raspberry and I put it over the pineapple cream dome. I think I'm getting the shape correctly, so it seems ok so far here as well.
Onto the chocolate chantilly cream. This requires the proper temperature in the melted chocolate, so the chocolate doesn't chip up when it gets added to the cream. Mine wasn't the right temperature - it only chipped very minimally, but I of course overwhipped it - I used to do this a lot in my other cakes class, so I'm not really surprised, but since it's on the inside of the cake, I'm not too worried about it. I get the chocolate on there, Chef agrees that the dome is "good enough" so I put the torte in the cooler to set up.
At this point, I'm generally feeling fine about my progress. It's not the best it can be, but I generally strive for mediocre in this sense so I feel like I'm right on point.
Chef continues his demo. He takes his cake and covers it with chocolate ganache. And then demonstrates the proper decoration. A ring of chantilly cream around the bottom edge, 16 equal slices, 16 rosettes, and 1/4 slices of candied cherries. I'm obviously not looking forward to rosettes because I still haven't managed to do them properly in the past, but I figure I'll get Chef to show me and it will be fine.
It's supposed to go something like this; these are from Chef's demo:
After setting up my ganache, Chef discovers that mine and my bench partners is thinner than the other students so he's concerned we screwed something up. We figure we probably mis-measured the chocolate but we can't remember for sure, so we go with it. The ganache covers evenly and sets up, so we're fine to complete the torte, but it's less shiny in color.
I begin to mark my cake with my knife into 16 equal slices. It's generally slightly difficult even though you don't think it will be. This time, it's even worse for me. On the first try, my knife goes too far into the ganache so it looks sloppy. Chef immediately points this out to me, as if I didn't notice or as if I did it on purpose. I kept moving along, and even being aware of this, continued to screw it up five more times, which Chef continued to point out to me. This is the biggest reason I currently have a strong dislike for cake decorating. My brain knows WHAT to do, and I'm fully aware of how it should look, but my body never cooperates. It's not like I purposely try to screw it up. I purposely try NOT to. It just always happens.
So at this point, I'm pretty irritated. But I keep progressing. I get my piping bag and I start piping the bottom border, and it's a complete disaster. It looks easy to do. For a lot of people, it probably is really easy to do. For me, well, again, not so much. And of course, Chef immediately points out how bad it is, which I'm already aware of. But once you start, there are no do-overs, so I continue the process and it generally doesn't get any better.
Now, at this point, I'm really irritated and I haven't even started on the rosettes. I ask Chef for a demo because I'm not convinced I have ever done these correctly in the past. He shows me, I practice. I get to the torte and make my first one, which I realize is too small and too far up in the slice. So that's not obviously good, but it's there, and I can't remove it, so I have to move forward with the other 15 rosettes in the same wrong place and of the same wrong size. Chef immediately points this out to me, again, as if I didn't already know it was problematic. I get the candied cherries on there, and call it quits.
I'm obviously extremely irritated at this point. Chef knows it too. I'm obviously not pleased with the downward progression of my attitude during the course of the class. I really hate the person I become in the cake decorating process. I like to tell myself over and over and over that I just need to do my best and be fine with it. But it's so damn frustrating. Like I said, my brain knows WHAT to do and HOW to do it, but my body fails me repeatedly. It's such a vicious cycle.
As I'm writing this, part of me thinks it's probably not in the greatest light to share these frustrations and these moments in which I'm not proud of myself. People may read it and think less of me. But the truth is, I think it's important for people who keep up with me to know that pastry school is a great overall experience, but like anything else, it has its bumps in the road and its obstacles and its frustrations. I like to think that I rise every time I feel that I fall. I'm aware of my shortcomings and I'm aware of where I need improvement, both in terms of skill and attitude. At the end of the day, I think it's important to be honest with myself, and push myself to do better. Putting this out there for people to read and see, I guess, is my way of holding myself accountable and trying to do better and be better.