Convenience of Inconvenience?
My second lab at Johnson and Wales was Introduction to Cake Decorating and Petit Fours. On our very first day, we examined the use of convenience products in the work place. We tested out a chocolate and vanilla cake mix and a chocolate fudge icing.
All of previous experience in the kitchen revolves around cakes. All of the cakes I that I make are a light sponge cake with a swiss buttercream. I have always thought that using a cake mix, of any kind, was an unconceivable sin. That no professional with some tinge of a reputable palate would accept a cake, or any dessert, made from a mix.
Giving it a second chance…maybe not
During that first hour or so my thoughts were only strengthened. Pouring pounds of chemical-smelling yellow powder and water into our large hobarts only left me with look of disgust on my face. Even though my disgust outweighed my curiosity, I still kept an open mind about what the finished product would be.
After the caked had cooled, we used the canned fudge icing to finish our cakes. Not only was the fudge icing an unnatural almost-black color, but trying to finish a cake with something the consistency of play dough was practically impossible.
And the votes are in
At the end of class we were finally able to taste our finished product. Although the cake looked the same as a scratch made cake, the taste was definitely not the same. The overbearing sweetness and taste of preservatives only made me want an entire glass of milk for each small bite I took. All in all, my classmates and I all agreed that our original assumptions were correct, that using a cake mix just is not okay in our books.
During our discussion and dissection of the convenience cake, we all agreed that we would never use a convenience product. That it was a sort of a cop-out, an insult to our culinary education.
Later that day, I got to thinking more about it. Yes, some convenience products don’t belong in a professional kitchen (such as a cake mix or powdered pastry cream), that they are more of a help than a hinder. How many kitchens do you know who makes their own puff pastry? What about jams or jellies? Dried pasta? Salad dressings?
There are many products that are used even in the most prestigious kitchens that can be considered convenience products. My thoughts are this; convenience products can really help your business, you just need to know which to use. While I think that making your own cake from scratch is a must, using a ready to use preservative can save you time and money.