What does one do with a little bit of this and a little bit of that after a cake or cookie project? A few tablespoons of shaved chocolate, a baggie full of chopped pecans? A scant cup of chocolate ganache that was tossed into the freezer at Christmas time? Well, sometimes odds and ends like this can contribute to a joyful amalgam. That's what happened with the cake pictured here. On a Sunday afternoon a month or two ago my husband mentioned he would like to bring a cake to work the next day for a small birthday celebration. So, being in a baking mood (which is most of the time, of course) I set to work and quickly baked a two-layer yellow butter cake from scratch. Nothing fancy or too laborious.
Things were looking a little dicey when the new frosting recipe I tried didn't come together well. Though it tasted good, it didn't look smooth and worthy of coating a special-occasion cake. So I used it only to fill the cake, not on the outside. Afterall a cake's visual appeal is often partly illusion, is it not? Next, I defrosted a container of ganache leftover from a holiday project and used that to cover the outside; perfect, I thought. But, despite ganache's natural lusciousness, more illusion was called for. Out came the chopped toasted pecans. I think these were leftover from a cookie project, also at Christmas. But just which cookie, I can no longer recall. No matter, the pecans complemented the ganache perfectly in taste and substance. For the final touch, I sprinkled the top generously with shaved/grated chocolate, a combo of dark and milk chocolate Callebaut. (This intriguingly flavored, very high-quality chocolate can be purchased in roughly hewn chunks from a local gourmet market near my house. I use it frequently for a variety of purposes when baking. It's pretty versatile and extremely handy to have around. Not really too pricey either, all in all.) And the final touch for this impromptu celebration cake? A charming little starfish crafted in a flash with a tiny bit of the dark Callebaut, melted in the microwave and poured into an inexpensive Wilton candy mold. Voila! An easy and relatively quick cake worthy of an office celebration.
So, if anyone ever tells you there is no room for improvisation or creativity in baking just tell them to back off, because we all know that's simply not true!