Sunday, March 12, 2017

#SOL17 Day 12: Let Them Eat Cake

I've never been a baker.  I don't mind cooking, and at times I almost enjoy it, but baking makes me want to run and hide.  I have friends and family that bake.  I always hope their talents will rub off on me.  My sister-in-law is an amazing baker.  She whips up cakes like it is her job.  She can make a cheesecake in a blink of an eye.  Need cookies?  She can bake dozens without breaking a sweat.  Everything she bakes is delicious and there isn't a recipe she can't make better.

Baking for me as never been easy.  My friend, Julie, is also a baker.  She bakes cakes with the greatest of ease and makes a-maz-ing biscotti.  Julie makes baking sound effortless, but I'm not fooled.  She has listened to my fear of baking and has assured me I can bake.  She shared a few tips and has helped me to at least think I might some day be able to bake.

In the last few years, I've gotten braver.  I've stopped buying cake mixes and started finding recipes I'd like to try.  I've managed an oreo cake that is a family favorite.  I also have a chocolate bundt cake recipe that is sure to be a hit at any party.  I'm not afraid to dive into the cranberry-carrot-cake recipe that has become a holiday favorite and have a lemon cake recipe that's perfect for summer.  Still, every time I'm asked to bring a dessert I want to wiggle out of it.  Every time I face a new cake recipe, I wonder if I can even come close to making it edible.

Tonight, I took the big plunge:  German chocolate cake.  My dad's birthday is tomorrow so I decided I'd try to make him one of his favorite cakes.  German chocolate cake has always been a recipe I have steered clear of in my attempts to bake.  Anything that requires multiple layers AND has a special icing recipe seems like something I should try to avoid.  Since it was Dad's birthday, I decided I'd give it my best shot.  This afternoon I gathered the ingredients and started to make the cake.  As I gathered the ingredients I wondered how anyone could not like German chocolate cake; there is a huge amount of butter, sugar, and buttermilk in that recipe.  What could go wrong?

As I mixed the ingredients the batter looked pretty good as I poured it into the pans and placed it in the oven.  This is the part that always gets me.  How to get that cake out of the oven at just the right moment so it is cooked, but not overdone and dry?  That's always the challenge.  When the timer went off I wasn't overly pleased with what I was seeing, but I thought I was okay.  I decided to turn the cakes over quickly to see if that might make them come out of the pan with greater ease, but not letting them cool for a few minutes turned out to be a bad idea.  Each layer had tears and jagged edges.  I decided to grab a piece to taste it and it tasted pretty good.

Years ago, my cousin and I made a cake for my grandpa.  I can't remember what kind of a cake it was, but by the time we were done it looked awful.  Grandpa cheerfully ate a piece of that cake, reminding us that the look of a cake wasn't nearly as important as the taste.  He assured us we had made a cake that tasted delightful.  Well, he was probably telling a story, but now as I stood here years later looking at the jagged pieces of this German chocolate cake, I had to laugh.

Wondering why I didn't just order a cake, I went into the kitchen to make the icing.  The recipe said to melt the butter, add evaporated milk, sugar, and heat it until it was thick and golden brown.  I stirred forever.  What would golden brown look like exactly?   Finally, I decided it seemed thick enough, added the vanilla, coconut, and pecans to complete the icing.

Somehow I managed to carefully stack one layer on top of the other.  The icing made it simple to hide the tears and jagged edges.  When I was finished the cake was presentable.  I hoped Grandpa was right all of those years ago and that the taste of the cake was more important than the look.  (One of these times I'd like to make a cake that has both taste and presentation.  #lifegoals)

After dinner I brought out the cake and we all sang happy birthday to my dad and Lisa.  I had to chuckle to myself as I thought about all the little challenges that had popped up along the way.   Despite the earlier drama, the cake seemed to do the trick.  How can you go wrong with a little cake and ice-cream?

Another cake successfully served, but I'm still not sure I have discovered the joy of baking.  I certainly haven't mastered any of the tricks.  I'm not sure I'll tackle another German chocolate cake in the near future, but I did at least give it a try.  That's progress.

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8 comments:

  1. Yum - great choice. I'm not much of a cake eater but I love pie and I felt the same way about baking them - totally intimidated. Now it is a fall ritual!

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  2. I liked your intro where did the comparison with your sister-in-law. And good luck trying to find the joy in baking. Personally, I love it, but I know that not everyone feels the same way.

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  3. This piece made me laugh out loud. I hate to cook. And bake. My boys think that homemade cookies are the kind that you break apart and bake, not to be confused with oreos. The thing I make best is reservations. I am very impressed by your efforts, even if it didn't quite look like you hoped. And I agree with you, "Who could not like cake and ice cream?" Well done!

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  4. How awesome, to try something new as a grown-up (and to have your friend Julie cheering you on!). I bet you can always find someone to help you "polish off" your mistakes :-)

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  5. You did it!
    I'm not much of a baker (or cook). I have never made a cake. I can make brownies.

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  6. I always think effort is worth more than perfect success.

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  7. First, your post made me laugh out loud. I think you are selling yourself short. Every single one of your baked good that I've tasted has been absolutely delicious! I'm pretty sure you can call yourself a baker.

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  8. It was absolutely delicious!! I loved every bite. I also love that fact that you went head-on into this challenge. That was a beautiful gift to him, and to those of us who were fortunate enough to crash the party and enjoy it!

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