The Pastry School Diaries: It's Not Always a Cake Walk

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Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

As our second unit came to an end, I was happy to be leaving breads and doughs behind for something a little lighter: cakes!

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I'm familiar with a wide variety of cakes: red velvet, carrot, angel food, flourless chocolate, pineapple upside down--you get the idea. But I had no idea how many different methods there were to making cakes, and that each method has a never-ending list of ways to tweak, flavor and recreate it into a brand new dessert.

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Of course we're beginning with the simplest methods and recipes, like the creaming method, where you beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then alternate adding your wet and dry ingredients. We've made carrot cake, chocolate cake, crumb cake, muffins and more pound cake than I can even comprehend. But out of all the subjects we've covered so far, I'm most excited about what I've learned so far about cakes--and can't wait to learn more!

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Something I'll definitely have to get used to, though, is how to tell when a cake is ready to come out of the oven. With breads and pastry dough, more color means more flavor. You can decide when your bread is done based on how dark you want the crust to be. That is not the case with cakes, as some treats shouldn't be darker than a light bronze. A few extra minutes in the oven may not seem like a big deal for a loaf of bread, but those same few minutes could dry out and potentially ruin a cake or muffin. It's a race against the clock, but I've enjoyed the attention to detail, not to mention the final product very much!

Class is breaking for the holidays (yay!), so check back in 2016 for more sweet updates.