A Picture Story - Aurora Borealis Cake
My mommy say's, "A picture is worth a 1000 words". So I thought I will share my journey through series of photos and some text to support it in this post.
Sometime back, I was asked to bake a cake for my best friend Avani's birthday. I already knew my friend's liking for vanilla, strawberry and blueberries. After talking to my friend's mom I came to know that there will around 30-40 kids and the location for birthday celebration will be in the Snow City and also there should be no icing/cream in the cake.
I usually make 3-4 birthday cakes(each for 10-15 people servings) in a month. But this will be a big cake. I was very excited for the challenge. I decided to design and make a plan for all elements to be organised. I thought that the flavour combinations for the cake were great but I wondered how I would make a cake without frosting and also make it look amazing.The party was in a Snow city so I thought of the theme of the cake and came up with idea of Aurora Borealis (The beautiful Northern lights).
I love painting and so for inspiration, I painted a painting of Aurora Borealis to visualise how I can transform these beautiful lights to a cake.
I got few ideas from my painting. It had to have white snow, elements like an igloo, bear. It had to have three tiers to represent the mountains. From there I drew few ideas of how to transfer colors Aurora Borealis to the cake. Some of my early ideas was to make cake layers colorful.
Then researching colour on cake, I came across the colour strokes as decoration. I liked the idea as I did not want to use deep colours in the cake's sponge.
On reflecting later, I realised that sub consciously I applied success principles I learnt from the books that I read so far to bring this cake from vision into reality. So I will share them as I travel further into this baking adventure.
Success principle 1: I have learnt that visualization is one of the most powerful means of achieving personal goals. In the book 'Secret', I learnt that in order to bring anything into your life, imagine that it’s already there. I apply it everyday. Before I started with baking, I sketched out the cake I would be making multiple times till I am able to see it with my closed eyes. I painted the Aurora borealis painting and I could see mountains, the same arch of colours on cake. There was my inspiration...below is my sketch with all its elements.
Success principle 2: I have learnt that the most effective way to achieve important goals in my life is to break big goals up into smaller ones. I do that for my homework, my baking and everyday planning.
As I work on the smaller goal, I know that I am consistently taking steps toward achieving my bigger goal. So I made list of all elements needed in this cake on my sketch(above).
Cake needs to be delivered in a box. So I researched boxes available online and their sizes. I put my pans on stack as per my design and measured it. I will need the tallest box available. So I ordered the box online and printed my brand stickers to stick on it later.
Packaging is taken care of. Now comes other elements.
I started with decoration strokes to represent Aurora Borealis. First time handling white chocolate, tempering it and then colouring it. Fortunately it went as planned (happy, as I thought the chocolate will seize the moment I will add the food colour. But since this is oil based food colour it didn't. Water based food colour would have derailed the plan. Happy sigh!)
I had fun while working on meringue.
My happiness lasted till meringue igloo was piped. I baked it and kept it to cool and then tried to remove it from the base, and it was a mess.
So next day with determined attitude, I started again on the meringue igloo.
But this time igloo was baked from outside but inside was still gooey. Third time I baked it too long solving problem of the under baked igloo inside. The meringue turned brown. Fourth time, I fixed the temperature and cooking time, it looked like the igloo was perfect, I had put parchment paper between tin and meringue to remove it easily. I got it right - crispy white meringue, intact, lines perfect and cooked like it should, inside out.
I then started on the chocolate arc which will continue the aurora borealis colours outside the cake and it will also have 'Happy Birthday Avani' text. Chocolate can be delicate and moody. So I made two of these arches. Just incase one melts or breaks.
Success principle 3: I had learnt from my parents, that celebrating the milestones achieved will make the journey beautiful!! As my father says, 'Slow down to speedup. It will recharge you to work further with more rigour!!'. So I baked a pizza on our movie night and we watched National Treasure. I loved the movie and all the characters, Benjamin Gates for his passion for the mission and the side kick Riley. I was refreshed to make my cake a treasure worthy treat.
Success principle 4: I have learnt baking from people who have learnt from a proven successful system and their mistakes. I have developed the patience to research and learn that system and work that in my baking to get similar results. Most of the time it works. I do learn from my mistakes too. So from experience I knew I had to test the cake recipe using few proportions to see which one is the best for this cake.
I researched on vanilla cakes and made four of them to test it. While the three were yellow and vanillae, one was too dry, one was too unstructured, one of them was pristine white and tasted equally good and the texture was so soft it melted in the mouth.
The proportion of sweetness was just right. So noted the recipe, proportions etc to make a larger batch. Here the knowledge of maths helped as I had to literally to tons of calculations to get every measurement right. After lots of multiplications and divisions, I got this one system right.
Next challenge came in form of the jams.
I made jam from fresh strawberries and blueberries. Usually a jam will leak into the bread/cake and make them greyish. I did not want that. Also I wanted neat definition of cake and jelly so when cut it looks appealing. So I added gelatin to my fruit jam to make it into a jelly so I could layer the cake more evenly and have clean finish on side of the cake section as it will not have icing to hide all the flaws.
Now I had the cake base cooled in the fridge, jellies ready, coloured chocolate decoration housed in compartmentalised boxes for each color of aurora borealis and the igloo, and polar bear from marshmallow(yumm yumm) waiting for assembly. Happy sigh!!
Now I ahd to start with the assembly of the cake from the parts.
Success principle 5: Focus: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. As I take up a goal, be a student, learn from the best, practise for next few years without loosing focus and adding new learnings to my practise, I will be master of my craft. I have been told this in many forums. My school, at home and also in young leaders.
I have been watching Cake Boss series where Carlos bakery bakes some most incredible cakes. This helped me with this cake so much from planning, working on the bits, assembly and most of all keeping my cool in tough times of failure like how Buddy Valastro does in his Carlos Cake Shop. I have been baking 4-5 cakes(3 tier each) per month since two years now. So all this focus and hard work helped me now.
And the Chocolate arch broke in few seconds. But I had plan B in place. So put another chocolate arch and voila...My cake was ready to be delivered.
Finally after the assembly and trial of light in igloo and photo session, we dismantled the cake igloo, packed in another box, rest of the 4 tier cake in a big box.
But the journey was not over yet. I had to carry the box so that it remained intact till the venue which happened to be very far from where I live.
Every road bump and pothole made my stomach churn.
It was time for sprinkling the magic dust.
A sprinkle of powdered sugar made the cake look like it is in Norway with all the snow. The cake looked amazing with light in igloo and snow!
I had goosebumps to see what I have achieved applying the success principles.
My biggest joy came when Avani and her parents looked at the cake. That moment was priceless.
I was so happy I could bring my vision into a reality and bring that joy into Avani's birthday and make it memorable. It took lot of courage(lifting those big cylinders of cake and flipping it on the jelly, blood (I cut myself cutting chocolate), sweat(Do I need to say more...) and tear (Meringue could be so tough in form of igloo, I came to know) and left me happy tired end of the day.
I hope this post inspired you to never give up on anything, use the success principles and to always keep reading and learning from others. Keep dreaming big and making it a reality.