The Weston A. Price Way

Monday, October 31, 2011

EDITED! Tips for Keeping the MOIST in Made-Ahead Cakes

The results were great....

This is an 'addendum' to my last post...actually, I just came back and edited the old one, adding the pictures of the cakes and two P.S.'s at the bottom...One giving details about the cakes and the other giving a few details about the remainder of the baby shower. 

I am making cakes today for my daughter-in-law's baby shower. I didn't plan to blog about this, as cakes aren't generally something on the 'okay' list for 'WAPFers', until it occurred to me that I was having to research about making cakes ahead...How to do it without drying them out. If I need to know, maybe someone else out there needs to know, too.

Regardless of what ingredients you use to make your cakes or what you add to keep the moisture content up, (applesauce, sour cream, yogurt, mayo, extra egg yolks and a host of other great ideas), there are a few mechanical tips I've learned that I'd like to pass along. I've tweaked them a bit due to toxin on.

If you are anything like me, you don't have time to bake and frost cakes, clean & order the household, decorate, etc, etc, etc, on THE day of a party you're hosting. My answer is to start as much as two weeks ahead, doing something small everyday. I am having French Onion Soup as one of the soups at the shower, for instance. Last week, I caramelized the onions one day and froze them. I made the 'dipping bread' another day and froze it, (much the same way as I froze the cakes described below.) This week-end, I made chicken stock which will be used in the other soup. There have been several other small additions to my freezer with this same ultimate purpose: Make it to the Shower Table by Saturday.

I try to approach cleaning the same way...doing the things that will 'stick' until Saturday early this week so I don't have to mess with them much or at all, later in the week...But the truth is...there's not that much to do that won't be undone before then, so I'm saving more time at the end of the week for cleaning/pick-up.

Maybe it's my older age, I think it is, that has me doing things more along these lines these days...Used to be, I could get ready for gatherings here so much faster...But what I've found is that I was so busy and hurried that by the time everyone showed up, I was too tired to feel the fun. Well, I don't want to waste time on not having fun with people I love, so planning ahead has become more of a way of life for me. Well, at least more than it used to be.

When it comes to freezing things, however, I get a little hesitant. Frozen baked items, in particular, seem to have a tendency towards dryness...and here I am again talking about time, but WHO wants to put time into baking something, no matter how good it looks, if the end result is a mouthful of dry crumbs? Have you ever done that?...You know, gone to put a piece of decadent-looking cake in your mouth only to have to frantically wash it down with the nearest liquid...all while trying to smile and be polite? (It is said that in the South, we're nothing if not polite!)

And so, I've been doing my research and while there were a plethora of ways to make cakes 'moist, moister and moistest', there wasn't a whole lot to be found for keeping cake moist in relation to freezing. What I did eventually find makes a lot of sense and it's the mechanical trick I'm using for the cakes I'm baking today. For each cake, the mechanics required only about 5 minutes, in addition to the cooling time.

You will need: cooling rack or two, depending on how many cakes/cake layers,  small spatula, (I love the one I got from Pampered Chef), wax paper and plastic wrap.

When the cakes are done, put them on a cooling rack. (Cooling is important because unless you have superior non-sticks, hot cake sticks to hot pans. BUT, they will also stick if allowed to cool too long.)
If 3 or more layers, cool only 5 minutes. If less than 3 layers, cool 8 minutes.

While layers are cooling, set up your 'work area'. For each layer, pull off a rectangle of wax paper long enough to wrap fully over the top of a layer placed upon it.

When time is up for cooling, (layers should still be quite warm), use the small spatula to gently remove one layer from its pan at a time, centering on one rectangle of wax paper. Fold the paper over the top of the cake layer from each side and move on to the second one. Without causing harm to the cake, this step should be done as quickly as possible as the goal is to trap the steam. As soon as all the layers are wrapped in the wax paper, wrap each again, this time using the plastic wrap. This will further contain the moisture while also securing the wax paper. Be sure the layers are completely wrapped. You may want to use two pieces of crossed plastic wrap for this step.

I have gotten so I label everything I put in the freezer. For a long time, I didn't because I was so sure I wouldn't forget. But as I started saving more via freezing, I began wondering what was in that little package that looked just like that other little package, and , well, you get the picture. Also, sometimes, I need to send runners out to the freezer. If they can read a label, they don't have to stand there with the top wide open staring and scratching their heads as they try to decipher what's what. (For events such as this, labeling may not be as important because the items are to be used so soon, but when long-term freezing, labeling food and date are quite important!)

Some will want to know, "Why both types of paper? Wouldn't plastic wrap alone suffice?" For the purpose of retaining moisture, the answer is, "Yes." However, because of the dangers of plastic, especially heated plastics, I would advise against it. I love the moisture-retaining and freezer-protection qualities plastic affords us, but using the wax paper ensures a barrier between known toxins released by hot plastic and our food. Yes, this is going into the freezer...but first, it's going to be heated by the just-out-of-the-oven cake.
I didn't find a time period regarding freshness, but I know mine will come out of the freezer on Friday, so for me, it won't even be a full five days. My personal opinion on that is that less is better, so think about what works best for you time-wise and freeze baked items as close to the day of need as possible.

So, here's the rest of the 'how-to'. Take the cake(s) out and frost. THEN, put the finished cake in the fridge and allow to thaw there.

Same cake already pictured, only now with 'name tag'.
Geared with this knowledge, I plan to remove the cakes from the freezer on Friday around midday and frost them. I have a small fridge that will be waiting to receive the cakes, which will thaw there so they're ready on Saturday, when I will add their final touches and put them in their places on the table.

I will come back and post further comments and photos after the shower so you can see the final results. Can't do it now as my daughter-in-law has access to The Nourished Nana. She knows I'm making the cakes but nothing else about them, so I have to stop before I give it away.

I hope your day is fully blessed.

P.S...The shower went wonderfully and the cakes turned out so nicely! The elephants at the base of the chocolate cake were made from marshmallows...and just in case any kiddos ate any, the pink ones were 'painted' with beet juice rather than red food dye. (I know, they're nothing but sugar, but every little bit helps!)
Organic raspberries are a good idea, and the frosting's sugar content is cut by adding non-sweetened cream cheese to the mix...Makes the frosting go further and taste better, too. Curls are hand-made...again, organic chocolate is a good idea. Fats in the cake are NOT canola but real butter and applesauce.

P.S.S. We also served a late lunch, with Broccoli & Cheddar Soup: Made from a base of home-made chicken stock, rBGH/rBST-free milk, broccoli and nitrate-free bacon, onion and of course, broccoli, as well as the best 2 lb. block of cheddar cheese we could find. I made it a day early and refrigerated. Although I cooked the bacon ahead and soaked up fat on paper towels, it still imparted more fat into the soup than even I am comfortable with, so cooling it helped me...The next day, it was easy to remove the excess fat, as much or as little as I wanted.
The other soup served was French Onion: Caramelized onions, beef stock, a splash of white wine, touch of thyme, 2 bay leaves and 5 cloves of garlic-(Last 2 ingreds. fished out prior to serving!) I placed a bowl of croutons and wide-shredded Parmesan beside it so guests could add as much or little as desired. After it was altogether, it cooked on 'Low' all night until the following day.
I also had a simple garden salad and my daughter-in-law's mother brought a beautiful pasta dish.
Home-made, soaked-grain whole wheat bread offered with real butter, a pretty glass dispenser of lemonade garnished with strawberries, orange, lemon and lime slices, sweet and unsweetened iced tea, and of course, a large variety of hot teas were offered, as well as coffee - all rounding out the meal.
My girls poured raspberry ginger-ale into small goblets and met guests at the door. They also did most of the decorating, (ambiance wouldn't have happened without them), and one daughter with a precious friend, did a boat-load of 'afterwards cleaning'!
I think it's fair to say, our daughter-in-law was blessed, as were the guests, as AM...I.

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