Cooking is Art, Baking is Chemistry

For someone who can make gnocchi perfectly well on first try and find no dish to be difficult, it is funny how making pastries was never a strong point of mine. I don’t know if it is because I am not a great fan of eating them so it created a lack of motivation to meet the challenge of the frustrating measures.  Maybe there is no chemistry between us?

But lately I decided I am not letting this win over me, I should work on my relationship with pastry and get to some sort of understanding if chemistry is impossible.

Cooking always came naturally to me. It is like art:  you throw in the ingredients and missing one ingredient or mistaking a measure would be an interesting outcome, while with pastry it could mean a disaster.

I already made a cheesecake (with some help) as a challenge for the blog and to my amazement it turned out fine! It was actually a first for me, if we don’t count making custard out of those powder boxes. In my excitement to offer a dessert for the family at the time (I think I was 12 or 13) as a surprise when everyone came back, I made a huge batch.  The funniest part was that my mom and sis came back before I finished and saw me adding more and more water and getting frustrated about the thing that was making clumps. It turned out to be  normal because it is the custard was curdling. I also added instant coffee to flavor, as we did not have cocoa and I am not a fan of the vanilla taste. They were not so bad! We adopted the taste since. I can assure you I still have not advanced much since the time!

A couple of days ago I decided to get my act together and work on my relationship with cakes. With a birthday as a motivation (I see a pattern forming here) I decided to prepare a chocolate cake with some sort of cherry filling. After all they are in season and we had some really juicy ones.

I looked up some choices and decided to use a recipe from Epicurious, for cherry compote. It was made with dry cherries but I made it with fresh ones on Monday.  I also omitted the port (too sweet for my taste) and used a mix of white and red dry wines, to equal the port/wine amounts.

I made the cake base yesterday from a recipe my cousin gave my mom a couple of years ago. It is a simple recipe for a sponge cake. But my mom takes only the ingredients and considers it enough.

We already stated that I am pastry-challenged and although I have seen my cousin make the cake a million times, I forgot to mix the sugar with the eggs, instead I mixed it with the flour and the cocoa. So I kissed my perfectly beaten egg whites goodbye, because I had to beat them more with the rest of the ingredients to make the sugar dissolve.

I predicted a disaster, but the cake fluffed up and was done in the 30 minutes necessary for it to cook.

To tell you the truth it was a surprise. It was not as fluffed up as supposed to be, but was still good enough to be cut and filled. It was also moist enough.

For my pastry making capacities this was a success, I made a cake all on my own!

I peeled the crust as I have seen my cousin do it – I suppose I forgot to mention that he is a pastry chef – and left the cake to cool all afternoon.

I cut it up filled with compote and left it till today in the fridge.

Today I made the Ganache, after asking Clint (my Taste-Bud) how he makes it. It turned out perfect. I used 1 cup dark chocolate, instead of the semi sweet he recommended, for ¾ cup cream. When it cooled a little I drizzled upon the cake.

And voilà! My semi-success was not that bad. The flavors worked well together, I think also that walnuts would have been good with this compote. Maybe for another time! The cinnamon made a great mix with the chocolate. All in all it was not a very sweet cake either, to my joy, because I am not a fan of too sweet desserts.

Maybe my relationship with pastry making is not doomed and we might skip therapy…

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19 responses to “Cooking is Art, Baking is Chemistry

  1. Sometimes a little motivation is all you need :) Your cake looks to have turned out great! I know I get more frustrated with baking because I’m such a perfectionist, and get upset about frosting that doesn’t look just right or cookies that aren’t the right shape. It’s easier to be less picky with a main dish! Best of luck as you continue baking :)

    • I am sure practice makes perfect let us hope I get there and I also hope your frosting gets to meet your wildest dreams :) Thanks for reading.

  2. Hi Viviane – Baking, just like cooking, can sometimes get the better of us. But as cooking can be more forgiving – baking, as you know, is not. It’s a fun challenge with delicious and rewarding results. Very much enjoyed your post!

  3. Saw your blog on Silvia’s page. Look forward to following you here.

    Be Well…

  4. I am definitely a cook, baking and dessert making requires precision. Something I’m not good at. Basic cookies and cakes, the occasional pie, but truly great baking? I’m not so good with that. You did a great job!

  5. C’est vrai ce que tu dis, la pâtisserie c’est comme de la chimie, et moi non plus je ne suis pas une grosse dévoreuse de gâteaux, je crois que ca joue dans la réussite et motivation de faire de la pâtisserie. Quand on n’aime pas manger quelquechose, on s’applique moins. En tout cas, ton gâteau au chocolat est superbement réussi!

  6. I always loved the precision and chemistry as well as artistry in baking but realized I needed to feed my children nutritious meals not cakes and cookies, no matter how lovely they looked; so I switched to cooking savory things out of necessity and now I try to find the artistic angle in that area as well; love your cake because it is delicious, and look elegant. Love the flavors you picked I would have picked something very similar as well.

    • Thanks Joumana :) I have always been more inclined to cooking than baking, but I love the food field, it is one of the most creative and sense involving things in life. So better try to discover all the secrets of it I think. After all art is sharing an experience in a beautiful crate.

  7. I am more of a cook than a baker although in the last few years I discovered I could substitute more than I thought with baking and not be a slave to a recipe. Looks like you’re finding out the same thing – very successfully.

  8. I baked before I cooked. I was born with it I guess. Some things I have trouble cooking well…like meat. Good for you for not letting baking get you down and making a great cake. Practice will take the mystery out of it…I promise.

    • That is what I am told, so I will keep practicing. I am may not be gifted for it though, at least I am willing to admit that. But I usually end up doing well what I set up my mind to do. And it seems common that those who can bake usually have more trouble with cooking and vice versa.

  9. You are an artist with your cakes as well….I learned to bake when they sold the restaurant I was the chef at, the baker left, so I took over……I would go in early when no one was around, if it didnt come out edible, it went in the trash and no one new….eventually nothing was thrown out..lol

    Keep up the good work!

  10. Congratulations. The cake looks good.