It’s no small feat to (ever-so-carefully) pack cakes into a carry on and shlep them on a plane from one event to another, as we have done a few times over the last month. It is no less of a feat organizing the right ingredients, space and time to set up a cake-assembly across country. The butter acts differently, the oven temperatures vary and sometimes you can’t get the ingredients you have come to rely on. Not to mention imposing on another pastry team of three’s production schedule. We were so lucky during our stay here to get to use the kitchen at Berry Street location in Williamsburg to not only get to use their space, but also have their enthusiasm, patience and help.
Setting up in a new space with different ingredients, humidity levels, people (and aprons!) at moments made us feel like we were doing these things we have done a thousand times, for the very first time. Then finally, after assembling your seventh Thiebaud cake of the day, you feel like yourself again…maybe even settled in. It was throughout this time that we thought about all the people who may have their own copy of Modern Art Desserts making these cakes for their first time. Caitlin expresses gratitude, encouragement below for all of you brave and creative souls!
When writing Modern Art Desserts, I was well aware that many people would assume the recipes are too complicated to attempt, so I worked very hard to make everything easy(ish) to make at home. I made many modifications for how the more complicated desserts could be simplified for the home baker, and gave above and beyond instructions if you really want to go for the gusto. But, really, there isn’t really a way to make the Mondrian Cake any less complicated. Making the Mondrian isn’t impossible – oh no – it’s just that it’s a big mess while you’re making, it takes a few days of preparation and cooling time, and you don’t have anything resembling a satisfying or beautiful pattern until it’s all done and you cut into it. But then, then it’s magic! I figured that the Mondrian Cake recipe would be my version of the pig’s head terrine recipe in the Momofuku cookbook; something to aspire to, whether or not it makes much sense to try to pull it off in your home kitchen. But it’s the most popular thing we have ever made, so it had to be in the book, and I was going to work my tail off to make sure that it was really, truly do-able.
For the Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, I had the very last minute idea to use the Blue Bottle Facebook page to try to find people to help test my recipes before I turned in my part of the manuscript to the publisher. I really wanted just a few folks to use the recipes exactly how they would if they bought the book, and send me their feedback. I wanted to know how different flours, sugars, butters and baking powders worked in the recipes, and I hoped for any feedback on instructions that may have been unclear. The response was overwhelming, I had 80 volunteers in just a few hours, and more helpful information than I could ever imagine. Not to mention the peace of mind of knowing that all of the recipes in our book worked successfully.
When the time came to test the recipes for Modern Art Desserts, I went right back to the original group of testers to ask for help. And, again, the response was overwhelming. I thought it was going to be impossible to get people to ever make the Mondrian cake, but I was wrong wrong wrong. In my two rounds of recipe testing (one before copyedits, one after, just to be safe), 10 people tested the cake that I thought nobody would want to bother with. And they were incredible! So much better than my junky first attempt (which still remains my most thrilling moment in my career. I remember the exact spot where I was standing, who was in the room, and what the weather was that day)!
And so, when deciding on a sentiment for the embosser I use for book signings, it seemed natural to make a statement of encouragement about the Mondrian Cake. I know it, you can totally make the Mondrian Cake! Jennifer Ivanovich, Kathleen Emma, Kathy Ems, Lois Mead, Tami Strang, Beatrice Hsu, Lisa Pereira, Mary Catherine Cooney, Maggie Spicer and Jessica Chien proved it as recipe testers, Michael Wong made a more perfect Mondrian cake than I may have ever made, and Ronna Mogelon figured that beast out on her own – without any help from me at all!
Go ahead, you can do it! Rose Garrett, writer for SFist just did!
And if you need a little something to guide you (or a theme song) just watch this!