UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Holiday Sweets and… Experiments?

What are the holidays without treats? This time of year is my favorite for many reasons. One being all the yummy desserts we all get to enjoy without having to feel bad about them because the holidays are the perfect excuse! But the best part about enjoying delicious desserts is knowing that you made them by yourself from scratch. 

When I was younger, my sister and I used to have a baking business. While we loved to bake  for fun, it was also nice to earn a little cash from doing so. Our business was called “OMG Bakery” and our slogan was, “Oh My Goodness, These Treats Taste Amazing!”. Everyone who bought desserts from us loved them so much. Our palette ranged from Red Velvet Cake, Pound Cake, Sweet Potato Pie, Shortbread Butter Cookies, Cheesecake, Chocolate Cake, and more! 

This past Christmas, we decided to experiment and make something we’d never made before. We made Italian Cream Cheesecake. We were scared because we had to do a lot of steps we’d never done before. However, it was completely worth it because it was delicious! We made it for my mom, since her all time favorite cake is Italian Cream, and adding a cheesecake layer would create a sweet twist!

I like to think of baking as a science, chemistry in fact, because it technically is which is why I love doing it. Hence one of the reasons why I chose Chemical Engineering as my major– hah… (I’m actually serious though). Like all chemistry experiments, baking does come with mistakes coupled with trial and error. While making the cheesecake layer, my sister and I decided to try something different. We made the graham cracker crust from scratch and the recipe only called for ½ a stick of butter. When we combined all the ingredients, the crust felt dry and patchy. So we thought to add more butter to achieve our desired moistness. Terrible idea. Why? Well because of one simple dilemma… cheesecakes are baked in springform pans.

A springform pan is a particular baking pan where its sides can be removed from the bottom of the pan. The base and the sides are two individual pieces that are made into one when the base is aligned with a groove that attaches the bottom of the sides. So if your springform pan isn’t in proper shape, the two pieces may not align perfectly with each other and it will create space in between the base and the walls. Since we added too much butter to the crust, while baking the cheesecakes, we almost burned the house down! This was due to the fact that when butter reaches a certain temperature it’s viscosity decreases significantly and it becomes a very thin liquid. Thin enough to seep through a malfunctioning springform pan, that’s for sure! 

At first I did not know what that burning smell was coming from the kitchen. In all honesty, I thought my mom was burning the vegetables again. But nope! It was me and my sister! We opened the oven and an intense blast of smoke blows at us from the melted butter burning on the bottom of the oven. We took the cheesecakes out the quickest way we could and my dad came to the rescue by wiping up all of the excess butter. Look here and below for some visuals. 

Luckily my dad was able to get enough of the butter out to stop the smoking. We had to put the cheesecakes on the floor because there was no space on our countertops. In case there was still more butter that needed to come out of the pans, we placed a foil disposable pan on the lower rack to catch the butter. We continued to bake the cheesecakes for the allotted time. When they were done, we let them cool and prepped the icing for the final touch. The cheesecake served as the bottom layer, and the top two were the Italian cream cakes. 

Finally, the cake was finished and it looked wonderful! It was very tall and thick. Most importantly, my mom loved it. Even though baking this cake was a rollercoaster, we had an amazing time bonding and making new memories. Here is what the final product looked like!