Hurray for Second Chances: Return of the Bundt Cake

Last Sunday, Daniela and I made another foray into co-baking, and it ended with a pretty spectacular fail. (I should have taken a picture of it, in hindsight. Just imagine a half-baked bundt cake plopped upside down into another pan, and then baked again. It was bad.) I’d say it left a bad taste in our mouth, but that would be a lie, since we ate it the rest of the week, and it tasted incredible. This week, Daniela wanted to give it another go. Not with a new recipe. With the same one we’d messed up the week before.

I’m all about learning from my mistakes, so I readily agreed. For as bad as last week went, it wouldn’t have taken much for this week to go better, but it went pretty much perfectly. For one thing, we both knew what we were doing when we were making the cake. Last week was tricky, but this time, we already had it down to a process. The peanut butter filling also went off without a hitch. (We used chunky peanut butter this time, and these days we’re almost only buying the natural kind (the one you have to stir). I imagine smooth Skippy would make it even easier, though I did like the crunch of the natural after all was said and done.)

This time, we only filled the Bundt pan 2/3 of the way, and we used the leftover batter (of which there was a TON) to make 12 peanut butter-filled chocolate cupcakes. The cake was done in an hour, and the cupcakes were done in 20 minutes. When the cake was finished, we were both a little apprehensive. We used a wooden skewer to check it this time (much longer than a toothpick, to ensure we weren’t missing any pockets of raw batter), and we checked it about five times in five different places. Each time it came out clean. Picturing another mess, we steeled ourselves, flipped the cake out . . . and it was perfectly done. It cracked a little on the way out, but Daniela made a ganache to cover that up.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a real baking experience if we didn’t make a goof here or there. This time, it was that we forgot to get extra butter, so we didn’t have enough for the ganache recipe we usually use. Daniela decided to pull an audible, mixing oil and chocolate chips and milk in amounts that felt generally good to her. It seemed to have turned out fine at first, but it was done well before the cake was cool enough to put it on. Once the cake had cooled, it had solidified, and when she went to reheat it, the oil separated. It looked very (very) gloppy.

I tasted it, and it was super dark as well. We were also out of powdered sugar, and we only had about a half cup of white sugar left in the house. I threw caution to the wind and added all the white sugar we had left, and Daniela added some more milk, hoping that would fix it.

It did not. It tasted good, but there was no way it was going to turn out as a ganache. After some reflection, we decided to try whipping the heck out of it in the stand mixer, thinking that might be enough to mix the oil back in. A few minutes later, that turned out to be successful. We ended up with a (very) dark, smooth ganache that went perfectly over the cake. I’m chalking that up to divine intervention.

In any case, I was happy to have such a great object lesson to talk to Daniela about how to respond when things go wrong. Take some time away, think about what you could have done differently, and then try again, incorporating those changes. We still had to improvise, but the end result was delicious.


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