It’s daughter’s birthday. She turned 27 on Tuesday, but since it was a work day and all, today’s the celebration.
So I get up early-early, thinking, “cake.” See, I bought this heart-shaped Nordic Ware cake pan – it has flowers and curlicues and stuff embossed in it – a couple of months ago at Placerville Hardware. If you’re ever in this area visiting, PV Hardware on Main Street is a must-see. Oldest hardware store in the West, I kid you not. Anyway, I saw that pan, thought of daughter's birthday, and brought it home with me.
Now, you have to understand, until about four years ago, around Christmas, I never did any baking. It was a family tradition started by my mother and aunt. Neither woman ever baked anything if they could help it, and both were pilloried each holiday season by the side of the family which did bake self-righteous and religious pies, cakes, cookies and candies. They baked, we ate. They looked down their noses while my Mom and aunt got into canned whipped cream battles while serving up the pumpkin pie, obviously not appreciating the hard work that went into the preparation ...
My sister and I, in loyal solidarity, decided that we would never, ever bake either. It was all for one and one for all, or something like that. And it was funny – an annual running joke.
Except that that this one not-so-long-ago Christmas I saw this bundt pan that made a cake in a shape like cathedral windows while perusing the narrow aisles of old Placerville Hardware. That pan called to me. So on a whim, I bought it. And then found a bundt cake recipe on the web. I tried it, sure I would screw it up. But noooooo. I made Black Russian cake from scratch, baby, and boy was it good!
So each holiday since then, I’ve made a slightly alcoholic bundt cake. The illicit alcohol and the fact that the years have taken most of my snooty and ultra-religious, righteous relatives off to See The Lord, now combine to make it OK for me to compromise my principles. Mom and my aunt still don’t bake -- this is a pact unto death -- but I’ve added a couple other bundt pans and started a little collection. I bake – literally – one cake a year.
Except this year. I've decided to bake this heart-cake for my baby. I’m up, early-early, thinking “cake.” I’m muzzy. I haven’t had a cup of coffee yet. Yesterday, I bought a devil’s food cake mix. I asked what her favorite cake might be, and she told me chocolate, with chocolate frosting. So, devil’s food. I get out a big bowl. Put the cake powder into it. Add three fresh hen’s eggs. Add a half-cup of vegetable oil. That’s all it needs, I think? The dog sits in the middle of the kitchen, watching me like a hawk. Something edible might fall. I check the directions – or rather, the little picture at the top of the directions. Cake mix, eggs, oil. Check, check, check.
I get my hand mixer, used fewer times than I have fingers, arm it with beaters and mix.
Coffee is brewing but not done yet. I tip the batter over the already greased and floured, heart-shaped pan. It … doesn’t pour. It just sits in the tipped over bowl, thick, heavy and turgid. Stuck.
That’s odd, I think. This is really going to be a luscious, dense cake, isn’t it! So I get my spatula and coax the batter out of the bowl. It lands in the pan, plop. And sits there, a gooey, cow-pie like mound. Hmmm. I tip the heart-shaped pan this way and that, trying to get the batter to ooze into the pointy-tip end, and up to the double mound part of the heart. It … sorta … does. Kind of.
Well, I think, I’ll just stick it in the oven. Maybe the 350-degree heat will melt it into shape. In it goes.
The cake box with the instructions is on top of the stove. I pick it up. And read. And to my horror, notice that I should have also mixed a cup and a third of water to the batter.
Long story short – I’m about to hit the shower running, dress and shoot off to the grocery store for another cake mix. I could just shoot myself, but that would ruin my daughter’s birthday party. And I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, baking isn’t my thing after all?