Weeks ago, my bestie Kell’s husband was scheming a surprise party for her 35th birthday. He asked if I could arrange to get the cake to the restaurant. “One of those nice Dufflet ones maybe,” he suggested.
I thought on this for awhile. “Dufflet is surely more awesome than a cake from my kitchen,” I thought, “but Kellie made my wedding cake.” That has always meant an awful lot to me, and I began to think it critical that I make a cake for Kellie’s special birthday. I consulted with Lisa, Undisputed Queen of Cakes, and my fate was put into the hands of Martha Stewart.
In recent years, my family has gotten away from the practice of making cakes and buys them instead. The tradition itself is in having birthday cake, so I guess there is nothing technically wrong with buying it. Something about store-bought cake really disappoints me though. I think you feel a bit more loved if someone makes your cake, and by the same token, it just feels nice to make a cake for someone. It isn’t really that tough to make a cake and surely you spend just as much time dicking around ordering the cake and then going to pick it up as you would whipping it up yourself.
However, maybe these people are actually on to something because the pressure of producing a decent cake for an actual party caused me a significant amount of anxiety. It just wouldn’t be Cake Baking with Leslie without some kind of drama. I refer you to the story of the last cake I made. The cake before that was one I made for Ingrid’s Christmas party last year, a gingerbread cake that was not only dry (overbaked because I insisted on cooking it in a bundt instead of the pan the recipe called for), but it also ended up looking like a casualty of war. If the recipe says “grease and flour the pan” for God’s sake grease AND flour the pan. The recipe knows what it is talking about. Sifting icing sugar over something can hide a multitude of sins but it can’t hide the fact that only 3/4 of your cake came out of the pan.
I was particularly worried about overbaking Kellie’s cake. Lisa, having previously baked this recipe, advised to set the timer five to seven minutes ahead of Martha’s recommendation. And when the timer went off and I peered into my oven what did I see? Two dark pools in the centre of each pan. The ensuing additional 20 minutes of baking time may or may not have included a nervous breakdown. The good news is, the final cake – like The Egyptian’s plum cake -betrayed no evidence of the trauma that occurred during its creation. In fact, it was a goddamn awesome cake.
Perhaps if I baked cakes more often, the procedure would become less of an ordeal. So that is what I am going to do. I found it really rewarding to bake cakes for two of the people I love most in the world. It can’t really hurt to spread that love around a bit more.
Kellie: November 20/10. She kept that birthday tiara on all night. So cute.