Monday, January 3, 2011

Baking Cakes

I am not cut out to bake cakes. 

I can make a passable muffin, an excellent pie and decent cookies, but cakes. ... not so much. 
Cakes are the kind of thing that you can't just fudge or substitute ingredients. You have to be detail-oriented to successfully make a cake. I see myself as more of a "Big Picture" person. 

So when I saw this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens for a champagne flavored cake that basically meant adapting a box recipe, I was all in.

What could go wrong?


I started early in the afternoon on New Year's Eve. I was taking the cake to a friend's house and wanted to have plenty of time to get ready. I followed the directions, whipped up the cake, poured it carefully into two 8-inch round pans and watched it cook. 

When I took it out, each layer was about a half an inch thick, tops. I stacked them up with icing in between and it was so pathetic. I looked at my watch. Plenty of time to find a recipe online and make another layer or two from scratch, right? right! (oh, so wrong). 

So I find a fail-proof recipe on All-Recipes

I start sifting flour. Ok I only sifted it twice. (who has time to sift three times?). Then I go to grab by four egg whites. There are only two eggs left. Crap. No time to go to the store. 
"Chris, can you go borrow two eggs from our neighbor?"
"No. That's weird."
"Weird? Neighbors borrow eggs. It's not weird."
"Do you want me to go to the store?"
"No. It's fine. Whatever. I'm going to make it work."
So I use my two egg whites and hope for the best. 

Surprisingly, these two cake layers turn out fluffy and about 2 inches thick each. I take out the first one and attempt to flop it on top of the other cake layers. It cracks and crumbles as I slide it on top. I smear strawberry jam over it, and use a fish spatula to slide the other layer on. 

I go to ice it. Crap. Not enough icing. 

Ok, time to bust out the powdered sugar and thaw some butter to make icing from scratch. Can't find the vanilla, so it's "flavored" with strawberries I thawed out in the microwave. It tastes vaguely like freezer. I dump in some red food coloring so it matches the store-bought kind. Cake is iced carefully trying to disguise the chunks that have fallen out. 

It goes into the freezer, I go into the shower. We're supposed to meet our friends at 7, we leave the house 15 minutes too late for that to happen. The cake is in a glass cake stand covered by a large heavy glass dome. I don't have a cake carrier because, obviously, I don't make cake very often. As we make the drive the cake slides to one side of the dome and gets stuck to the glass. I apologize profusely when we arrive, noticing for the first time that it's the color of pepto bismal. Excellent. Our friends say we'll just call it "earthquake cake".

We eat a lovely dinner out that includes free dessert. We return to our friend's house too stuffed to even contemplate eating the pink nightmare. I end up carrying the whole thing home, intact, at 2 am. 

"Don't ever let me make a cake again. If I suggest it, tell me no, make a pie instead," I tell Chris. 

This morning, after breakfast, I take a tiny bite. 

It actually tastes pretty good. But you know what? So does Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. :)

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