The Cake That Almost Killed Me (and soon will)

In school, they teach you to read all the way through all the instructions before you begin a task.

I did that. It was still chaos.

Since settling into my new kitchen, I have been especially enthusiastic about putting it to use. Perhaps I was suffering from cooking-withdrawl. It was also one of those happy weeks where I get both of my cooking magazines, which is doubly inspiring.

Last week, I made Crack Pie (recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit). It was definitely a success, though I’d be tempted to add chocolate chips if I made it again. (Bad habit. Can’t help it.)

This week, it was Blackberry Jam Cake, recipe courtesy of Cook’s Country. I didn’t take pictures starting from the beginning, because I had no idea what sort of ordeal it would be, but the following seemed worth posting.

I started with the frosting at about 10:30 this morning because I knew it would need to sit and cool several times. I’d done a good job shopping for all my ingredients, but managed to forget butter, so I made a quick trip to the store for that. I set the required butter (three sticks!) out to get to room temperature while I started the caramel frosting base.

The recipe tells you to mix the sugars, milk, flour and vanilla together, then whisk constantly over medium heat in a medium saucepan for 5-7 minutes “until very thick.” I pulled out my medium saucepan and began whisking. Twenty minutes later, my sauce was not at all thick, but it was very, very frothy. It had doubled in size and was threatening to spill out of the saucepan. Referring back to my recipe (while continuing to whisk, resulting in some sauce on my chin), I noticed the picture of a “medium” sauce pan was a pan that looked like it could hold 7 or 8 quarts. Reluctantly, I switched pots.

It was the right thing to do. A mere 10 minutes later, I had a thick, lovely-looking caramel. I might have overdone it, because by the time I scraped it into a glass bowl, it was already solidifying to caramel candy status. About 10 seconds after I finished scraping, I realized I would need to have it in my stand mixer bowl so I had to move it again. D’oh.

I let that cool plenty long enough, then proceeded with the next steps of the recipe. As far as I can tell, there were no problems during this part. My “miracle” frosting did not do the miraculous thing the recipe said it would, but after 7 minutes of beating it, I gave up and it tasted delicious.

Next: bake the cakes. This is where my enthusiasm for participation but inability to follow directions really becomes a problem.

Step one: grease and flour two cake pans.

I don’t have two cake pans.

How is this possible? I own 76 pans.

Oh. They’re ALL pie pans. (Or muffin pans.)

Well crud.

So I greased and floured one pan, and planned to do my stupid two-layer cake in two rounds. I should have just made it a two-layer square cake.

Consulting the recipe again, I saw that my buttermilk was supposed to be room temperature. Oops. Pulled that out right quick, then went to do something else for a half hour to give it a chance to warm up. I came back down and set to work. It was all fine until I realized I needed more room temperature butter. Two and a half sticks of it. Now let’s play a game: were you paying attention above? Did you notice how many sticks I used in the frosting? I didn’t have 2.5 sticks left.

I fudged it and used the salted sticks from the freezer. A little extra sodium never really hurt anyone. I cut them up and left them to thaw while I looked at the next step of the recipe. Four room-temperature eggs. What the heck is up with all this room-temperatureness? What could it possibly matter? So I took my four eggs and went upstairs to check my email, the eggs resting in my lap like I was some sort of upside-down chicken.

Another frittered half-hour later, I returned to try again. Now, everything seemed to be going smoothly, except upon walking back into the kitchen, I realized I’d apparently used every mixing bowl we own. Really very impressive.

My first cake came out of the oven looking beautiful. Then I tried to flip it onto the cooling rack and things fell apart. Literally.

But reconstructive surgery seems to have gone well.

Just to be safe, I greased and floured the begeezes out of the pan for round two. I dare anything to stick to this!

(And now typing will go slower because before putting cake #2 in the oven, I saw the new oven thermometer sitting on the counter. Apparently completely forgetting that I’d set it there after removing it from the oven to get the first cake out, I grabbed it thinking “I should put this back.” I now have a pretty painful burn on my index finger. Gaaaah.)

The second came out twice as big as the first (the hazard of not pouring both cakes at once), but it popped right out of its pan without leaving even a speck behind. Ahh! While waiting for it to cool, I frosted the first one and jammed it up.

And now, a little after midnight, my cake is ready. I’m so stressed out by baking it, I hardly want to eat it.

But I have to. And it’s good. Dustin seconds that. I have a lot. In case you weren’t keeping track, there are 5 and a half sticks of butter in this cake. That’s almost three cups. If you don’t come over and help me eat this cake, it will probably be death by delicious butter.

The moral of the story? Huh. I can’t even come up with one. Read the directions first? I did that. Read them again? Did that too. Take all your ingredients out of the fridge before you proceed with step one? Maybe. Have more cake pans? Should do. Delicious cakes are worth the tears and pain? Definitely.

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4 thoughts on “The Cake That Almost Killed Me (and soon will)

  1. Your pain (and pleasure) is why cooking from scratch is so much fun. And your results look delicious! Mike always wonders how I can use EVERY measuring scoop, cup, pan, bowl and practically every utensil in my quest for home-baked yumminess. It’s artistry in the kitchen and well, expression is sometimes messy. P.S. I also do not have two cake pans.

  2. I am so impressed that you made it to the end, and happy that your cake turned out delicious!! I am thinking of making this cake soon for my grandma’s birthday, so enjoyed reading your post. Thanks!

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