Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's A Piece of Cake

I'm throwing my son his 7th birthday party tomorrow. First, I have to admit that I'm pretty impressed with myself and my husband for the fact that we've actually managed to keep him alive this long.

Secondly, I baked his birthday cake...myself.

Looking at the picture, you may say to yourself, "Well, that's nice, but I'm not going to lie, it doesn't blow me over and certainly looks home made." Yes, it does my friends, yes it does. But if you know my history of baking, this cake is one for the books for me.

Allow me to elaborate. I am a heck of a cook, for real. Where a person could look through their cupboards and proclaim, "There's nothing to eat," I can concoct a pasta primavera. I'm a whiz at improvising if we're missing an ingredient. I can combine the oddest things and have them taste delectable. I am able to disguise vegetables within a dish that has my children asking for seconds and thirds. I rarely use a recipe.

But when it comes to baking...I suck, royally.

It started when I was young, way back in the prehistoric days of life without a microwave. Days where, in order to pop popcorn, you first put two kernels of corn in a pan with oil, put the lid on, and waited for them to pop, thus alerting you that the temperature was ready to add the rest of the kernels. Way back when, I was attempting to make candied popcorn. Sometime after adding the two kernels to the oil, smoke filled the house, to the point that the friend helping me evacuated the house in order to breathe and to flee the blaring smoke alarm. I lifted the lid of the smoking pan and immediately faced an explosion of flame which threatened to  remove my eyebrows.  My reaction at that age, was to put the fire out with water...bad idea. The flames escalated. Extreme panic mode set in and I actually BLEW. OUT. THE. FIRE. Either that, or I was hyperventilating and manged to direct my super human breathing technique toward the pan. You'd think I'd learn my lesson, but that wasn't the last time that happened.

Fast forward several years. I was in my experimental stage (and I'm still talking baking here) and decided to make pumpkin bread. Simple enough, right? Yeah, for the baking capable person. To this day, I have no idea what happened, but I baked those loaves for 3 HOURS and the toothpick still didn't come out clean (a tried and true way to tell if something is done). Each loaf weighed approximately 5.2 lbs. It was 10pm, before I finally gave up, pulled them out out of the oven, set them on the counter, threw my hands up in disgust and went to bed. The next morning, blurry eyed, I wandered into the small apartment kitchen and realized one of the loaves was missing.   It dawned on me  that my then boyfriend, decided to take one of them to his office to share with his co-workers. I admire the faith he had in me at the time, but he had been around long enough to know better. I called his cell phone over and over and over, praying I'd reach him before he cut that bread in front of drooling male co-workers. I considered dialing 9-1-1, for it was a true emergency.

In my college years, I attempted to bake a cake for my upstairs neighbor's birthday party. I bought a boxed cake mix with the assumption that I couldn't possibly screw up adding eggs, water and oil. Imagine my horror when, upon taking his first bite, the guest of honor spit out a completely whole hard-cooked egg yolk that had managed to elude my beaters!

In an attempt at self-improvement, a subscribed to the "Taste of Home" food magazine. The pictures brainwashed me into believing that, yes, I COULD bake. I saw a gorgeous photo of a multi-layered German chocolate cake (a favorite of mine) and just knew I had to make it (Baakke, Angie...simple instructions...20 minute preparation time...). I dove in. I bought all the ingredients, mustered up some self-confidence and began to bake. Once the cake batter was complete, I realized that I didn't own round cake pans...but I owned pie tins! That should work, right? Um, no. My cakes were 1" high with tapered edges. Oh well, I would forge ahead with a vertically challenged cake. I proceeded to create the delectable frosting to go between each layer and on top of the cake. It never thickened and ended up being the consistency of soup. I didn't quit. This wasn't going to defeat me! When all was said and done, I ended up with a soggy, squat Christmas tree-looking thing, surrounded by a moat of soupy coconut Carmel mess.

I attempted an angel food cake, my favorite flavor, only to discover that I had forgotten to remove the stove rack above the one I was baking on, and ended up using oven-mitted hands to pry it loose, having baked through the upper rack. Unconsumable.

I've created chocolate chip cookies the consistency of peanut brittle, and I sliced those off of the frozen cookie dough roll for Pete's sake! Explain that one to me?!

Do not tempt me, church cook book, with "Grandma's Easy Caramel Corn," "10-Minute Ice Cream Dessert," or "Best Ever Cheesecake." Lies! All lies! You are wasting your time with me, I am beyond help.

I've mutilated brownies, murdered banana bread, invented divinity that could be spread on graham crackers, burnt rice-crispy bars and used my fudge recipe as frosting.

When invited to potluck dinners, I always ask what I can bring. More times than not, the hesitant reply is, "Um...chips?"

So tonight, after spending 4 hours on this dang cake, forever scarred by red and blue food coloring stained hands and fingernails,

Blue lips and teeth

Um, yeah, not to gross you out with my toilet, but how does this happen? Wasn't me.

you can imagine how my heart lept with joy when my son, upon seeing his birthday cake, exclaimed, "WHOA! That cake is AWESOME!!" Yeah, well we haven't tasted it yet.

And wait! There's more! For all of my baking-challenged colleagues out there, as a special added bonus (for the amazing price of $9.95) I am including a fool-proof, yes I said FOOL proof (living and breathing example here) recipe for fudge. One that even I have been able to master. No seriously. I'm not kidding. If I can do this, 99.9% of the population who own a microwave WILL NOT FAIL. Here it is:

MICROWAVE FOOL-PROOF (and it is, from experience) FUDGE
3 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (or less)

Place ingredients, except walnuts, in large bowl. (See? Easy.) Mix well. Microwave on high until chocolate chips are melted, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Stir in walnuts. Pour into a well-greased 8 to 9-inch square pan. Refrigerate; then cut into square.

Seriously, if I can't screw this up, no one can.

1 comment:

  1. Hi my name is Kristen and I am baking-challenged. Hi Kristen!!! - LOVE your stories - they keep my failed desserts company. I love the cake you made here though!! AMAZING!! Did you drink a lot before you made it or something?? (sometimes drinking makes you do things better - or so I've heard??) Happy Birthday to your son and way to go parents in getting him this far!!