Friday, October 11, 2013

What Scares Me The Most! Baking (gulp) From Scratch!

By Margo Hoornstra

This month, October you know, we are exploring what scares us the most. To be honest, I didn't have to dig too deeply for a topic. While peril, or imagined peril to be more accurate, seems to follow me around like a shadow, the other day, I had an especially frightening experience.

It was my husband's birthday. Family and friends were calling from all over the country to wish him well. With one friend in particular, he talked for a very long time and shared some of their conversation when he got off the phone.

"He asked if you had baked me a birthday cake." An innocent enough query, one could say. Then my Dearly Beloved went on, and I use hockey vernacular here, to drop the gloves, ie he issued a challenge. "I didn't want to embarrass either one of us so I told him you had. If he ever asks, just go along with it."

Well, gees, Louise, the kids had a birthday party for him a couple of days before. A birthday party complete with dinner, presents, singing, cupcakes and brownies.  I bought steak and asparagus for him to--um--cook on the grill for his actual birthday, day dinner. Given all of that, I figured I was off the hook.

Apparently I figured wrong.

Aside from being an avowed non-cook--maybe if I'd had more culinary successes in my life I'd feel differently, but I didn't so I don't--I'm currently trying again/still to lose a few pounds. Cake isn't a part of my current diet regimen. Plus my favorite cake flavor is store bought. Not an option given the aforementioned challenge I was issued. Not to fear,  I quickly decided on a compromise.

Digging into the hall closet--I have a very small kitchen--I came up with a cookbook, a lighter fare kind of cookbook and voila, a recipe for Lower Fat Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Frosting. I was in business.

If I cut the recipe in half, I'd still have a presentable confection, right? I'm sure there's a candle in the junk drawer in the kitchen somewhere. Calculating half measurements in my head with relative ease--okay, I stumbled a tad over the exact amount of one half of three quarters of a cup, so I gave it my best estimate--I soon had the batter mixed. Then came a complication I hadn't counted on. And I quote: "Once the preliminary batter is mixed, beat two egg whites until soft peaks form, add 1/4 cup sugar (1/8 cup for me, I got it) and beat until stiff peaks form."

Okay, I got through those steps correctly, I assume. What was next?

Baking two nine inch rounds for 25-30 minutes, is the same as baking one eight inch square--relatively speaking--right? That's what I did. Pulling the pan out of the oven when the timer went off, it occurs to me I used both eggs the recipe called for, not one which would have been half. The easiest math calculation in the entire recipe and I blew it.

Oh well. As I recover from that, comes another potential glitch. The just out of the oven cake isn't exactly springing back from my touch as I understand properly baked cakes are supposed to do. Now what? Let's see what happens when the frosting--homemade as well--is prepared and applied.

After all of that, it turned out the cake wasn't half bad, which led someone to suggest I might give up store bought and bake all the cakes in my future from scratch.

I don't think so. It's best to take things slow, when facing, then conquering, our fears.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd of the month. For more about the stories I write, please visit at My Website or My Blog


Alicia Dean said...

That's so funny, Margo. I'm impressed that the cake turned out okay after all that. I prefer the mixes myself, why go through all the torture?

Jannine Gallant said...

I like baking, though not as much as I like cooking. My girls like to bake, too. My husband and I have birthdays only 2 days apart, so the girls made two cakes! Yep, they both got eaten. Congrats on your success. Move over Rachael Ray!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Alicia, My point exactly, the cake turned out 'okay'. No raves though.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Jannine. Honest, that minor success did not go to my head. I have a couple of daughters too. They are the cake bakers in the family, and do it well. They didn't get that talent from me, but I'm glad they got it from somewhere. Rachael has no worries from me!