This week’s ingredient in question: edible rose petals.
I am not generally a fan of floral flavors, so when I saw we’d be using rose in this week’s bake, I got a little nervous. Then I realized most of the flavor is chocolate and raspberry, and the roses are a garnish. Since we’re approaching Valentine’s Day, I resisted my urge to skip them altogether and began a search for where I might buy edible rose petals.
My friend found some great local recommendations for me, but between having Azula duty and generally a bad anxiety week, I decided to opt for ordering online instead. (If you’re curious, I ended up getting these).
The universe, it seems, disagreed with my decision.
On Thursday I got an email at work stating my rose petals were delivered, complete with photographic evidence of their location. When I arrived home that evening, they were gone.
I assumed someone must have stolen them, until I received a Snapchat from a very confused Andy wondering how an Amazon package containing edible rose petals ended up in our basement window well.
Apparently, they hadn’t been stolen by a person, but rather, the wind. And I hadn’t seen them when I looked around because they were only visible from the basement. Go figure.
The edible rose petal crisis averted, I only needed to grab a few things from the grocery to make this bake happen: chocolate and raspberries. How very appropriate as we make our way into February.
Saturday found me equal parts excited and anxious. Thus far in this challenge, I’ve made single cakes. One big square, rectangle, etc. Icing has been drizzled or spread, not piped.
This week, I had to produce 12 “little cakes” of equal size, cut them in half, pipe buttercream in the middle and on top.
I’ve made cupcakes and used a piping bag before, with varying results, and so I approached the bake with an understanding that things might go badly wrong, indeed.
In honor of this, I chose to wear my “I’m not clumsy, I just failed my dexterity check” sweatshirt, complete with a D20 displaying a Natural One. For all you non-tabletop RPG folks out there (which might be most of you, to be honest… no idea the crossover appeal of GBBO and Pathfinder), rolling a 1 on your twenty-sided die is a critical failure.
Right off the bat, I had to adjust a few things. The rose petals I’d purchased did not actually list “rose petals” in their ingredients and seemed to comprise dye and potato starch. As such, I didn’t want to risk attempting the egg wash and sugaring process listed in the cookbook, since I had a feeling these candy roses would just kind of melt.
It occurred to me as I faced this harrowing task that I could probably find the GBBO soundtrack online. Sure enough, a playlist on Spotify sports such classics as “Bakewell Counting” and “Early Bake.” I pressed play and only occasionally regretted it when the particularly suspenseful tracks played, making me feel I needed to rush before Noel called time out.
The familiar sounds helping me pretend to be in the tent, I set about to the first step of the recipe: melting chocolate and butter.
You’re meant to do this by putting a bowl over a pot of boiling water, for… reasons. We don’t have those nice glass mixing bowls I generally see folks using, so I picked a random bowl of appropriate size from our collection and hoped for the best. Thankfully, it was up to the task, and I had a bowl full of melted chocolate and butter shortly thereafter.
The cookbook then explained it was once again asking me to whip some eggs to the ribbon stage. It’s funny how I did not have to do this until several recipes in, but once we started, it’s been three recipes in a row.
The upside of this is it’s given me the chance to discover a preferred tool and method. My Kitchenaid hand mixer seems to work better than the stand mixer for me, as it’s easier to check the ribbony-ness of the egg and sugar mixture while you’re still whisking away.
Then came the moment of adding in the chocolate. If the eggs are too cool, apparently, the chocolate will form little hard lumps when added in because it solidifies unevenly, or something. Thankfully, my eggs were beautifully room temperature, and I did not suffer this particular pitfall.
Folding in the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder came next. The batter formed thick and chocolately, reminding me of the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting I have been known to occasionally mix up during a particularly severe chocolate emergency and eat straight from the bowl.
One of my complaints about recipes is they often don’t give enough guidance for how things should look, feel, etc. at any given stage. So, I have no idea whether the batter is meant to the thick, save the instruction to smooth the tops down with a spoon, which was certainly necessary in my case since they remained in the little balls formed by the cookie scoop until spread out.
My muffin tin in the oven for the surprisingly short bake time of 13-16 minutes (most recipes to this point have taken 40-50), I turned my attention to the raspberry puree.
I’ll confess that the chocolate and raspberry combo, while a popular one, is not my favorite. I love chocolate and I love a good raspberry jam, but together? Meh.
Still, I’ve found I quite enjoy the process of putting raspberries over heat with sugar and water, which you also use to make jam for a Victoria Sponge.
The puree called for less water and less sugar, and mainly you just sort of stir and heat until you get a thick mess of pink. Then next bit was a ton of fun–push the raspberries through a sieve to create a seedless puree.
Turns out, the raspberries like their seeds and do not enjoy being pushed through a strainer. This took ages, but did eventually produce a smooth, sweet, tart puree, sans seeds.
In the middle of this process, I paused to remove the cupcakes from the oven. The recipe simply instructs to “gently unmold them,” which I found an odd way to describe “pry the edges from the tin with a knife and pray they all come out in one piece.”
Miraculously and contrary to what generally happens when I use a muffin tin without paper cups, they all came out smoothly and with nary a crumb left stuck to the bottom.
Next came the single most complicated buttercream recipe I’ve seen, as it involves boiling together sugar and water into a simple syrup. For some reason I’ll never understand, Andy owns a candy thermometer, so I was able to actually check the temperature of my mixture against the intended one.
Add pouring boiling sugar water into a bowl of whisked egg yolks to the list of things I never imagined I’d do. I could not imagine how the eggs wouldn’t immediately cook right up, but somehow, they did not, and a second trip to the ribbon stage was in order.
Buttercream is notoriously finnicky, and I’ve never made it with hot ingredients like this. The recipe cautions that adding the butter before the mixture cools to room temp, or too quickly, will result in disaster.
I am not sure which of these sins I committed, but my buttercream did seem to split a bit. Alas, it didn’t become clear this would happen until after I added the raspberry puree, so I had no choice but to remedy it as best I could and carry on.
While the buttercream chilled in the fridge, it came time to do that which I’d been dreading the most: slice the tiny pucks of cupcake in half horizontally. That’s all the instruction you’re given in this particular recipe, as though the best way to cut a cupcake in half without demolishing it is common knowledge.
It took me four or five goes to figure out how to slice clean through without putting too much pressure on the back half, such that it crumbles when you’re only midway through. You’ve got to sort of hold the cupcake flat against the palm of your hand rather than grip it from either side, and gently saw the serrated knife through while somehow not cutting your finger (a task I only mostly achieved).
I thought I’d truly made a mess of them, but when I began picking up halves to pipe in the buttercream, it seemed they’d miraculously healed themselves, and I could scarcely tell the bad ones from the good. Either there’s a magical cupcake fairy in our kitchen, or I was being hard on myself about the first few when they weren’t actually that big a disaster.
In all, they came out okay. I enjoy piping well enough, though I always seem to make a mess of my hands with frosting.
To my surprise, the buttercream, though certainly flecked with a few solid chunks of butter, actually held its shape once piped between and atop the little cakes. From there, I just had to plonk a raspberry atop each mound of buttercream and slide the little rose petals beneath. Easy peasy.
Raspberry and chocolate not being a favorite of mine, I’m surprised at how well I like these little cakes. “Edible” does not equate to “tastes good” so Andy and I have both abandoned the rose petals, but the cake and buttercream are a delicious combination.
With the lessons I learned this time around, I think I’m willing to give these another go at some point in the distant, post Blog Off future.
Amanda Kay Oaks is a Pittsburgh based writer originally from Cincinnati.
She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Chatham University.
Currently, she works in Student Affairs and as adjunct faculty. When she's not working, writing, or curled up with a good book, Amanda can usually be found in the kitchen whipping up something delicious, sprawled out on her yoga mat, or off on a run.
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