Recent Easy Bake Graduate Seeks Instruction From 'Real Baker'
March 1, 2007 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Two questions about baking.

Question the first: I made a cake and also chocolate buttercream frosting last night (from scratch!). Both of these wanted x so whatever amount of baker's chocolate, unsweetened, melted, and cooled to room temperature. Both times I used it, the chocolate made it somewhat into the batter/frosting, but also either made little chip like business out of itself OR attached itself to the side of my stainless steel mixing bowl and/or the ceramic-coated beater. What gives? Why did this happen, should it have, and if not, how do I commit not such a faux pas?

Question the second: Have you ever used the prepackaged fondant icing from say, Wilton? How hard is it to use? What about this other stuff? I am assuming 2 pounds is too much for one cake, so I'm really leaning toward the Wilton stuff, as I can find it locally, but I want feedback on it, as this is for a birthday cake (a character cake, and it's a vintage pan, and instructions are scarce) and I don't want it to taste like ass, as I will be feeding it to 30 people.

Thanks! I know this is long and involved.
posted by Medieval Maven to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not entirely clear on your first question but it kind of sounds like your chocolate got wet. Melted chocolate and water are enemies - the water will cause the chocolate to sieze up.
And for next time - ignore the recipe that calls for Baker's brand chocolate - that stuff is icky. Buy good unsweatened chocolate - Cooks Illustrated did a taste test and found almost any other brand rated better - with Scharffenberger and Callebaut to be the best.
posted by Wolfie at 2:59 PM on March 1, 2007

Chocolate hardens, and it does so quickly from the edges in. If you want to cool a large amount of chocolate to room temperature without having some of it harden and some of it not, you pretty much have to keep stirring it regularly and keep it as a single mass (any that splashes up the sides of the bowl will harden quick quickly).
posted by jacquilynne at 3:00 PM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: I should add I used unsweetened and milk chocolate in the second recipe, and the milk chocolate did not behave in the same way. On the whole, the chocolate was well melted and sloshed about happily. I'm not sure where it would have come into contact with water.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:07 PM on March 1, 2007

Best answer: At the professional bakery where I used to work, we'd sometimes use a butane torch to gently heat the sides of the (gigantic) mixing bowl while making buttercream. When buttercream gets too cold, it separates or won't mix properly -- and the "chocolate chip" phenomenon sounds like a symptom.

In a home kitchen, a torch may not be necessary. You can start by making your chocolate just a tad warmer. That should help. When you're mixing the buttercream, the whole mix should be a little warmer than room temperature -- enough so that the butter is soft, but not so much that it gets liquid (not even a little bit liquid).

If you do want to buy a torch (also useful for creme brulee), don't over-do it -- apply the flame around the sides of the bowl for a few seconds at a time while the mixer is on, moving it constantly. If you start to melt the butter, you've gone too far.
posted by ourobouros at 3:35 PM on March 1, 2007

Melted chocolate can seize from a very small amount of liquid (or even a slightly wet spoon).
posted by amarynth at 4:05 PM on March 1, 2007

Fondant does not taste good. It's supposed to look good-and it does-but it does not taste good. I wish it did, but it doesn't.

Prepackaged fondant tastes worse than homemade fondant. I'm going to be honest here-I pick it off and leave it uneaten. But if you don't feel up to making homemade fondant, rest assured that even if you did it would not taste great. That's just the nature of fondant.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:12 PM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fondant almost always tastes like ass I'm afraid to say. Use whichever you can get most easily but practice rolling and draping first! Draping over cakes that have "relief" images is way-tricky and you may decide to simply use a spreadable frosting.

Sounds like your chocolate chip phenomenon has been addressed above (too cool chocolate + cold buttercream = lumpy chocolate).

You can improve things a bit by having a nice tasty layer of buttercream frosting under the fondant. Also worth noting, your frosting is likely a "quick butter frosting" rather than the classic or traditional which is quite a bit more involved, especially for a newbie (unless you have candy making experience) but can result in a much smoother, tastier frosting.
posted by rosebengal at 4:16 PM on March 1, 2007

Real buttercream is full of doom and glory, doom and glory. I've made both vanilla and chocolate and really they taste like ice cream which is solid at room temperature. DELICIOUSNESS.

But anyway . . . I agree with the suggestion of making sure that things don't get too cold, and be careful about water. I've seen the chocolate+water thing happen, and it just . . . yeah. It doesn't work.

I think an important thing to make sure you pay attention to is (if you're not already), be sure to add the ingredients in the order they're stated. Mix dry ingredients together, and butter/egg/sugars together. Chocolate tends to rather like butter, so unless your butter was very cold, I wouldn't be surprised if you'd accidentally gotten some water in (from washing off egg whites from the beater perhaps). Also, making sure that most things are at room temperature helps in baking land.

Baking is delicious! Continue to experiment. Some people don't have the eye or the touch for it naturally, but improvement is always possible.
posted by that girl at 4:45 PM on March 1, 2007

In case it wasn't obvious from what was said above, you want your milk, eggs, whatever at room temperature or a little warm. You can take the chill off in the microwave.
posted by Methylviolet at 6:14 PM on March 1, 2007

While it's edible, I'm not sure fondant is supposed to be eaten. The few times I've eaten it, it was nasty foul.
posted by Marky at 6:22 PM on March 1, 2007

Best answer: On the chocolate: it does sound like your chocolate seized. Every tiny droplet of water counts (even steam if you are using a double boiler). Chocolate is a bitch. Dry everything thoroughly and then dry it again.

When you add it to the buttercream, pour slowly but steadily. Are you making simple buttercream? i'm assuming that you are. Simple buttercream can usually hold about 6 oz of chocolate per pound of butter.

On the fondant: Wilton is gross. Satin is actually pretty good. While making stuff i'll admit to having eaten it straight. (Tastes like marshmallows.) Their chocolate fondant tastes like Tootsie Rolls.

IAAPC (I am a professional cupcake)
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:36 PM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks guys! You've cleared up what was wrong with the buttercream (and it was a simple buttercream, but still tasted amazing, if a little "chippy"). And, fondant fears confirmed. While I thought that the Satin stuff would be good, I'm afraid since it only comes in bulk it's back to spreadable frosting.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:58 PM on March 1, 2007

And now I will need to go to cakelove tomorrow to get a chocolate cupcake with hazelnut buttercream frosting. Curse you, Medieval Maven!
posted by amarynth at 7:25 PM on March 1, 2007

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