Something Sweet; A Baking Tale of Woe

I will try my best to explain the painful, frustrating experience of trying to put together my daughter’s birthday cake.

And the unexpected outcome.

My youngest daughter just turned 10 and It’s a family tradition that I make everyone the cake they request on their birthday. I don’t really like to bake. It’s a science which means I have to follow some rules. I don’t like following rules. Luckily the requests that come in are usually pretty easy. However, a 10 year-old little girl is too big to want a pink princess cake again this year, but not quite old enough to realize that asking for a homemade Black Forest Cherry Cake was a little out of my comfort zone. But I knew that with some simple modifications I had this one in the bag. At least I hoped.

She must have read my mind because she pointed her finger at me with a sly smile on her face and said, “Homemade Momma. That means no Betty Crocker.” I was sure I saw a glint in her eye. Would she know? Probably. Damn. So I wasn’t going be able to get away with a boxed cake mix and can of cherry pie filling then dump it all in a bundt pan (which in my opinion is pretty good stuff). But I figured I could probably still cut a corner or two.

I inwardly cringed when she offered to help me individually pit the cherries. I thanked her but quickly pointed out (with relief) that cherries weren’t in season. She would have to settle for frozen pitted cherries in her dang cake. This was just getting worse and worse.

Did the bakery in town have Black Forest Cherry Cakes ready to go?

I was standing at the kitchen sink when I felt the warm sun peeking through the dark clouds. I closed my eyes and spoke gently to myself. “You can do this. Ground and center. Your feet are firmly planted on the earth beneath you. Feel the roots spread out from the soles of your feet…reach deep, deep into the soil and find your strength…pull that energy up through your body………

Later when I had finished gathering my wits about me, I found and read through my old recipe for the cake. Other than a boxed cake mix and canned cherries, there were a couple of other ingredients I would have to do without. Cake flour was one of them. (Do people really buy that stuff?) The other one was Kirsch, but I was the only one who would know it was missing anyway. I held onto a nearly full bottle of that stuff until about a month ago because it had done nothing but gather dust from the last time I made that cake; 14 years ago. If only I had waited a little longer because at that moment I could really have used a few shots of that stuff.

My littlest girl was turning 10 and if she wanted a Black Forest Freaking Cherry Cake then that’s what I was going to make for her; to the best of my ability. So suck it up Buttercup, I told myself.

I didn’t really believe she was expecting a perfect cake. In fact there’s probably no one who expected Black Forest Cherry Cake Perfection from me more than I expect it from myself. It’s why I cringed at the thought of making one of those cakes again in the first place.

It wasn’t going to be the end of the world if it didn’t look like a picture perfect Black Forest Cherry Cake because it might still taste good. I had to at least believe in that part.

And when things I cook or stuff that I make don’t turn out quite perfect I can usually just call them “Rustic” with some degree of success.

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So far so good…

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Smells divine!

 

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Chocolate whipped cream sounded better than just plain whipped cream for the filling. Besides, I don’t think the recipe said not to tweak the filling (where is that recipe anyway?)

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It’s taking a while. Even my faithful dog can’t wait around forever. Besides I don’t think she can stand the mess in the kitchen any longer and has decided to leave me. And lo and behold, there’s the recipe on the floor next to her. I wondered where that went…(I would eventually find it…after the cake was done).

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Not bad for the third layer. The chocolate frosting seems to be a little sticky, but I’m sure it’s fine. I’m not sure but at this point I think the recipe says I’m supposed to put one more layer of cake on. But first I must sneak a cherry. I think I deserve one.

When I was almost finished I set the cake in the fridge before the final touches because the whipped cream seemed to be getting a little warm and runny and the impromptu chocolate layer was becoming more and more sticky by the minute. I did my best not to panic reassuring myself that a little change in consistency was probably normal. While it chilled, I made some more whipped cream to frost the outside. Twenty minutes later when I removed the cake it was immediately clear that the cake wasn’t going to even come close to looking like it should. My 19 year-old son came over early for dinner and after one look at the cake said, “Oh man…well, just call it a ‘deconstructed’ Black Forest Cherry Cake.” Smartass. But wait, that was actually not a bad plan! But hope slowly faded as the cake began to fall apart even further right before our eyes. In a matter of minutes the cake had split into three uneven sections and though we did our best to try and save the dying cake, we were still quickly losing it to gravity.

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Please tell me this is all just a bad dream….

At the final attempt to push it back together I finally called it. “It’s over. We did all that we could.” I was looking through tears of frustration at the big mess and was sad that I failed my daughter’s request for a birthday cake. Never had I ever created such a mess of a cake as this. Not even close. But I sucked it up and piped on the rest of the whipped cream, filling in the holes as best as I could. I then took my nerve pain meds and went to bed with an ice pack while taking deep breaths and accepting my major screw-up.

But it was far from over. We still had to transfer the cake to the car and drive 20 minutes to my parent’s house where everyone was going to meet. (The only one that would be missing was my oldest daughter). I absolutely dreaded the unveiling of the disasterpiece so I made my husband do it.

My daughter stood next to him, excited to finally see her cake that I had spent the better part of the day on. Her sweet, accepting demeanor naturally came through because her reaction was of honesty, acceptance, and above all else, appreciation and gratitude. “That looks delicious Momma!” That’s why she’s so peculiarly amazing, my perfectly imperfect child who still comes in from playing outside with skinned knees and twigs tangled in her hair. A child with a passion for taking care of animals, and is not afraid to discuss how she feels about religion and politics with anyone who will listen. A daughter who will spend hours and hours reading, singing, or writing books about magickal animals.

The cake ended up more like a chocolate cherry/brownie (brownie because I got distracted and I think I forgot the baking soda) with chocolate frosting and whipped cream. A real mess but even I must admit, it was pretty darn good. Perfectly Imperfect. The fact there were no leftovers or any thrown in the garbage told me it wasn’t a total disaster after all.

I’ll probably keep a better eye on the recipe next time and hopefully that will make a difference.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

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