I spent ALL DAY on Saturday baking cakes for my FIL's 65th birthday party, where we expected about 80 people. I was planning on baking four 12x12 square cakes - to make a two layer 18x12 cake, and an extra 6x12 just in case the first wasn't enough. Top ten things I learned during the day:
1. Never, never, EVER take my wallet out of my pocketbook. I got up bright and early (8am) to go to the shops to pick up the various ingredients I needed. Had a nice drive over to Wh0le Foods, picked up the 5 packets of maple sugar, maple syrup and maple flavoring that I needed (making a maple cake). Put them on the conveyor. Then realized that I'd taken my wallet with my credit card and bank card out of my pocketbook the day before and put them in the pocket of my coat. Which I hadn't worn. Argh! Add an unnecessary half hour of driving on to the day.
2. When the recipe tells you to add things in a certain order, they really do mean it. The Cake Bib1e (best cake cookbook EVER!) tells you to add the butter, then the milk, to the dry ingredients. For my first try I added the milk first. The butter never mixed in nicely. So although the cake didn't taste bad at all, the texture just wasn't right. Nor did it rise properly. Gah.
3. Don't jiggle a cake that really looks like it's not cooked! My first attempt cooked in 25 minutes. Which was less than I was expecting, but it was definitely done. So on my second attempt, where I mixed the batter correctly, I opened the oven to check the cake after 25 minutes. It was still looking pretty pale, so I didn't think it was cooked. I gave it a little jiggle just to check. Bad, bad idea. The whole thing just went phbttttttt. Number two relegated to the vultures at work.
4. Don't turn off the oven in the middle of baking a cake. Fortunately this happened for the second cake, so I didn't ruin a third one! After it fell, I was trying to shut off the oven timer. By mistake I pressed the "off" button for the oven instead of for the timer, and didn't realize it for another 10 minutes.
5. Don't invite people over for afternoon tea, assuming you'll be finished with your baking by then. I had been trying to get together with my sister and niece, and a very good friend of hers with her 1.5 year old daughter for ages. We all finally had Saturday free - I thought! Needless to say, with two more cakes to bake than I had originally thought, I was not a very good hostess.
6. Putting 60 egg shells down the garbage disposal all at once is a VERY bad idea. I had been piling them up throughout the day (each cake took 6-7 eggs, each batch of frosting another 6-7), and shoved each pile down the garbage disposal with little time in between. Just as I put the last batch down, the water in the sink started backing up. Turns out I had basically filled the entire drain from the sink to the trap with egg shells. Took us almost an hour to clean them out the next day.
7. Showering before going to a birthday party really is optional. So my choice was between getting the cake done on time and being clean. I went with the cake. tee hee.
8. Don't let the serving staff take the cake away from you. There should have been a fair amount left over... yeah.
9. Don't put on your going out clothes before frosting the cake. I ended up with a big splotch of frosting on my stomach, and didn't notice until about half-way through the evening. Fortunately it washed out pretty easily.
10. No matter how much trouble it is, the accolades at the end are worth every bit :-) I'll post a picture later today.