I fought the cake and I won…sort of

mix mix mix

You know that list you have in your head of things you want to do before you die? I have one of those lists. It has silly things on it like “work at Starbucks and learn all their evil secrets” and “make a patchwork quilt by hand” and big ones like “have an art gallery opening with wine and cheese” and “illustrate a children’s book from start to finish.” Things like that. I’m working on my list. I’ve crossed off a few. There was the time I made a pie crust from scratch and I did have an art gallery opening that one summer that went to the dogs.

Yesterday, I decided to finally cross off the “make a cake from scratch” item. I’ve had enough of the taunting from my foodie friends who say cake mixes are for weenies. I don’t love baking but I do cook dinner every night. It’s not like I’m a stranger in the kitchen. Sheesh! It’s the only room I can call my own anymore! Which does not please me, believe me. I HATE cooking.

But how hard can a cake be, right? How dumb can I be?

Apparently very dumb. I cracked open a few cookbooks and was immediately stumbled by things like this:

Cake flour.

What is cake flour? I have wheat flour and regular flour but where am I supposed to get cake flour? And then after I’m done making this cake, what am I supposed to do with the leftover cake flour? It’s probably just going to take up valuable space in my pantry and get bugs. Phooey!

Double-acting Baking Powder.

What?!!! There is more than one kind of baking powder? The half empty can in my cupboard that has been there for the last five years won’t work?

Extra-fine sugar.

Huh? I have sugar in the raw, powdered sugar, brown sugar, sugar cubes and regular old white sugar but I don’t have anything called extra-fine. Am I going to have to mill my sugar with my make-shift mortar and pestle (which is really just a bowl and a glass cup)?!!!

These are the kinds of things that intimidate me and send me off to my laptop with my tail between my legs. I know all you bakers are shaking your heads because you know this stuff by heart but to me it’s as crippling as learning another language! Good thing I have cake-baking friends standing by on instant messenger.

To be honest it wasn’t all the foreign ingredients that were crippling me. I was having a bad day to start with. It was a day that can only be summed up by saying that I have a three-year-old underfoot who rambles on at the mouth incessantly. I couldn’t even read a recipe from start to finish without an interruption every five seconds. I was on edge to say the least.

But I’m stubborn. I really wanted to cross that cake off my list and I’ve also determined that the only way my three-year-old is ever going to learn to play by herself and leave me alone is if I ignore her. This is a battle I must fight for both our sakes.

salmonella what?

I tried to involve Bug in the cake-making process as much as I could and I’m sure she was having fun “helping” but it was an uphill battle. I’m not even sure I won the battle. I snapped at her. I got frustrated. I slunk into the other room to have a mini-cry fest. Baking a cake should not be this hard! Yet I wasn’t about to use up her precious 1.25-hour naptime on baking. That time is for ME AND MY LAPTOP!!!

my counter is a sundial

Things got a lot better after I melted some butter and added the cocoa powder. I was beginning to think that maybe I can do this after all. It smelled divine. Chooooocklate…….buuuuutttter…….mmmmmmm… The batter went together smoothly enough and everything looked great as I poured it into my cake pans.

Isn’t it cool that I actually have cake pans? I decided to skip the jelly roll pan that the recipe called for and use my fancy-dancy cake pans instead. I’m living dangerously! I didn’t grease the pans because the recipe didn’t say to. I figured there must be enough butter in the mix. Truthfully, I didn’t really even think about it. Greasing pans isn’t top of mind for me.

so far so good...

It wasn’t until I tried to flip the cakes out of their pans and they didn’t budge that I suddenly remembered that there is some rule about this. Maybe I should have consulted with someone before I switched up the pans. Lesson LEARNED. Cakes in pan 1: Brenda 0. Stupid baking.

Thankfully by some miracle (and perhaps the heart-attack inducing amounts of butter in the recipe), I was able to knife around the edges of the pan and wiggle the cakes out with only tiny little mini-cracks around the edges. The cakes stayed intact. Hallelujah!

The only thing left to do was ice the cakes and stack them! I didn’t care about making homemade icing because that is not one of the items on my list. I’ve made homemade icing before and it was nothing to write home about. I had some tub icing in my pantry fromfouryearsagobutit’stotallyokay and that was fine with me. I slopped it on, put the cakes together and just as I was spreading around the top layer of icing suddenly…

GRAND CANYON crack

The cake cracked open and swallowed me up!!!! Seriously! LOOK AT THAT CRACK! It’s like the Grand Canyon! If you look closely you can see tiny little people in rubber rafts floating down the Colorado. I hope they’re enjoying themselves because I’M NOT! SchmickenSchmackenStupidCake!

So I twittered it and took comfort in the fact that at least a few people might have some fun laughing at me. Ugh. I also remembered that even real bakers have cracks like this and they just cover them up with icing.

all fixed

So I did and it looked fine. Pretty, in fact, if I do say so myself. Never mind that the cake is trying to creep off the plate and hide behind the microwave. I have WON the cake battle. Take that you stupid cake. You better taste good.

happy belated birthday to Toby

And it did. I think. I don’t know. I guess I was expecting Toby to fall all over himself telling me how delicious it was. I daydreamed that it would be so good that he would rush out and buy me a complete new set of pans and a red KitchenAid mixer because I deserve them. Or something.

But Toby didn’t really care. He’s just not that into cakes. I think he tried to go through the motions of spending time with us and appreciating that we did all this for his birthday (that was SEVEN days ago) but truthfully he hates birthdays. I for some reason cannot get it through my head that it would all just be fine if we did nothing for his birthday. We could do laundry on his birthday and he’d be just as happy.

Poor guy. I don’t mean to make him out to be the bad guy. This is just a lesson to me (and maybe every other wife out there who has high hopes) that husbands do not change. You can’t force them to be excited about things that they aren’t. He tried, he really did. But I have truth goggles and I went to bed sad that I had put out so much effort and snapped so many times at Bug. Was it worth it? Did it taste better than a $1.98 cake mix? I don’t know.

I have some satisfaction that I did it and I can cross it off my list. I think if everyone raved about it, I could see myself baking this recipe over and over until I knew it by heart. Maybe it would be one of those things that I would pass on to Bug and she would remember fondly of us cooking together…maybe.

Or maybe I’m just over it.