Bad Mom,  I'm an idiot,  Moody Blues,  raving lunatic rant,  spilling my guts

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…


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.


  • Glenda

    LOL, oh my word B you are soo funny!! The cake really did look amazing in the end though!! Good job girl and I did see Toby smiling so I know he appreciated your effort Ü

  • franticallysimple

    Good job. It looks great and you stretched yourself and learned something. That’s worth it, right?
    About Bug, my only is eight now. I’ve been there. It’s frustrating when people say things like, “Only one? How easy for you.” They don’t realize the effort that goes into being a cruise director/only playmate/mother 24 hours a day.
    Is Bug still taking naps everyday? If she is just coming out of them, you might try to institute “quiet time”. When my daughter was three-ish, and not really sleeping during nap-time, I told her she could play quietly in her room instead of lying in bed. But, if she came out before I came to get her (1 hour) she would have to go back to her room and take a nap. It took a little while for her to get used to, but she did. And she learned to play well on her own.
    All kids are different. This might not work for Bug, but I thought it worth telling you about.

  • amy

    I can totally relate to this post. I have a friend who bakes all the time (with a 2 1/2 year old too) and I don’t get it. I just don’t have the patience. For me it’s hard to justify the extra time (especially since I don’t really enjoy it) when it just tastes slightly better. And my husband wouldn’t notice the difference either. Slap some ice cream on that cake and it’s all the same anyway!

    Bug is such a cutie!

  • Jenni

    That’s a great looking cake. And, thinking like Pollyanna, Toby put on a show because he knew how important it was to you. I think that’s awesome! Sure he just “played along”; but he wouldn’t play along for anyone else but you and Bug. I think it’s awesome that he would do that (my husband does that, too; I can see when he’s just playing along, but I love that he’s playing along…even if just to playcate me). He’s a keeper.

    I bet secretly in his man-who-doesn’t-celebrate-birthdays appreciated the effort, too; even if he doesn’t show it or doesn’t act like it.

  • Annika

    I have to pry the cakes out of the pans even when I do remember to grease them.

    I prefer homemade cake but I think that’s because box mixes are too sweet for me (I make my own icing for the same reason). Also, I find it’s cheaper–but only because I keep the ingredients around. (I have never bought cake flour; all-purpose works fine.)

  • Angella

    At the least, you got a blog post out of it ;)

    I think you did an amazing job, Brenda, and I am sure that Toby appreciated your efforts :)

  • Jen

    I don’t know what those fancy baking ingredients are and I’ve never made a cake from scratch … so I’m pretty impressed – and you even decorated it with strawberries!!

  • kj @ Where my boys at?

    Great looking cake, even with the crack.
    All of my cakes now have to be made from scratch thanks to the Evil Celiac Disease I have. So, think of me the next time you rip open a cake mix box and “just add eggs and oil”! he he.

  • Jamie

    That cake is beautiful! I will cross my fingers for you and the new cake pans and red Kitchenaid mixer. I have a red Kitchenaid mixer and I love love love it! Keep up the great work and here is to more things crossed off your list! :)

  • beyond

    the cake looks great. i think that homemade cakes are not supposed to look like the perfect kind you buy at the bakery. fun post.

  • a Chris

    If I’d made that cake, and got to the place where it looked like the Grand Canyon, it very likely would have stayed looking that way. Depending on my mood, I might have laughed AND cried…but there it would be, and then we’d eat it. I can’t believe what a picture-perfect cake you made out of that!

    If you know Toby’s not wild about cakes, and doesn’t like birthdays, you’re being mighty hard on yourself for not being able to make him go nuts over a birthday cake. It turned out gorgeous, that’s all I know. I’d guess it tasted pretty good too but the photos can’t really tell me.

    By the way, I enjoy baking (wait, no, actually I enjoy eating, not so much the baking), and I generally ignore descriptive terms like “double acting” or “cake” in front of my ingredient names. I’m sure it matters on some level but it’s not important enough in my book to get too stressed about. But then I just said my cake would look like the Grand Canyon and I’d be happy with it…

  • Clover

    Beautiful cake in the end! And way more exciting than if it just had frosting on top. I love baking from scratch, but I cannot stand letting my squirts help me. (They are 5, 3 and 1.) I feel like a bad mommy for that, so I let them help sometimes, like when it’s their birthday, but then I just sit there and boil with impatience, which they probably sense!

    I’m with you on the naptime is MY time! I am always trying to get things done before they nap (not that they all do anymore, but at least the baby does) so I can have time without kids asking 30 million questions about everything I do! I love spending time with my kids, but I think it’s good for them to realize 1. how to play by themselves and 2. that adults have their own life that’s important, too.

    I’d love to see your “list” sometime! :-)

  • DeeJay

    I baked a cake for Heather’s 16th birthday, covered it in rolled fondant that had been colored by me, too. In the end….it looked like Tom Landry’s hat. It was yum and she seemed to appreciate it. But it looked like a hat. It’s in my Flickr stuff somewhere.

    Your cake on the other hand looks YUM! You didn’t seem to over-do the birthday one bit, which I’m sure Toby appreciated.

    You are a good wife and mommy!

  • mamalang

    I totally started trying to figure out candies/ingredients/etc to use to create those little people and rafts. What a cute cake tht would have been.

    And I’ve been there…going to bed grumbling about how much work I did for something, how grumpy I was, etc. when I tried to create something nice for my hubby. But then I try to remember that if I did it out of love, and he knows that, then it was worth it. And the fact that he “goes along” reminds me he loves me, too.

    We will not succeed with everything we try. I suggest that you leave the baking to Bethany, and she can always use your graphics skills! (I wish I could leave the baking to Bethany…but alas she moved across to the country to you instead :))

  • Gretchen

    I love making cake from scratch! My favorite recipe comes out of my Mother’s original Betty Crocker cookbook.

    Your cake turned out beautifully. I’m glad you tried it, if only once.

  • Jennifer

    I will probably never bake a cake from scratch until all three girls are grown and out of my house. ALL THREE OF THEM are at me during their waking hours and it’s hard for me to concentrate on anything with them pecking at me.

    Your cake turned out really nice and it looks like it tasted good. Jeremy doesn’t say much about desserts I make either. He just doesn’t like sweet stuff much.

    Did you know that when they originally made cake mix in a box all you had to do was add water? BUT they weren’t selling because moms felt like that was too much of a cheat. So, they redid the box mix where you add the oil and water and eggs and they began selling like hot CAKES (hehe, PUN!)

  • Amanda

    I used to try and make cake from scratch, too, but it ends up costing 8 times more than just buying a mix and it never tasted 8 times better. For the record I HATE having my kids “help” me in the kitchen. For whatever reason, I just can’t take it.

    You wanna know the secret to easy PERFECT cake? Take ANY box mix (sometimes I even buy them two for a buck at the dollar store) and substitute a stick of softened salted butter (a WHOLE stick) in place of however much oil the recipe calls for. Works like a charm every time!

  • BeachMama

    I think your cake is awesome. I love baking and saw your cry for an easy recipe on Twitter, but had too much running going on here to send one off to you. There are some pretty simple yet delicious ones.

    If I can pass of one word (or two) from my experience of cooking. Know your audience (ok, that was three). I can put on the dog for my Hubby and it wouldn’t make a difference, but put it on for some girlfriends or your Mom and the raves will continue for months and months. Or if you have a Dad like mine just feed him homemade food with a glass of wine and you would never cook from a box again.

  • Kelsey

    I like your cake but if you want to bake and get bug involved try chocolate crinkle cookies Bug would love roling them inpowdered sugar. Just make sure to use a recipe that needs cocoa powder, it is alot less work

  • a madhouse wife

    OK, 3 things: one, I can so relate to “trying” to involve the kids and being defeated by that in itself. I’ve snapped many a time! 2) you fixed that crack GOOD! I am impressed. and 3) my husband is not “into” food either, and never falls all over himself praising my efforts. So I can relate to that as well! I am happy to report that my 2 1/2 yo is starting to show some interest in helping me in the kitchen though! ;)

  • lala

    that was so funny and entertaining to read! I am get all nervous about items such as “cake flour” too! the cake looks marvelous!!

  • Sarah

    I’m sure it tasted better than the $1.98 cake mix from a box that I made over the weekend – I cannot bake to save my life. I split the mix into cupcakes and one round cake – overcooked them all, and they were horrible and dry. So yours looks a million times better than mine did! I also think our frosting was bad – I didn’t even know that was possible!

  • Kathy

    I so get it about the hubby issue. I have been married for 20 years and have totally grown up together with my hubby. I always want him to respond the way I play it out in my mind–but it just isn’t him. I do think that those special times with Bug will last and make an impact. My kids are teens now and still treasure baking with mom. Bug’s prescious face is just beaming in those pictures–she is too cute!! Oh-and I have the SAME recipe file box! Mine came from my hubby’s 96 year old grandma! I love it!

  • J

    Delurking to give some cake advice: my Mom taught me how to bake, and she always said to make sure the cake cooled COMPLETELY before icing it, or it would crack. She started cooking at 10 years old for her family, and would cry and cry when her cakes cracked. I guess it took a few years to figure out what she was doing wrong. And yes, grease those pans, even if they’re non-stick–makes it so much easier to get the darned things out in one piece.

    I love to bake and hate to cook–maybe we could work out an exchange? tee hee.