by Kevin Burton
Tonight the kitchen is mine. That’s fair warning to all, all in this case being my wife.
It is two days before her birthday and I am making a cake in her honor and in celebration. My wife knows a big grocery store not far from here that makes beautiful cakes for all occasions every day of the week. Somehow she has chosen the Kev product instead.
I go into production two days early in case I need a do-over.
A week or so ago she walked the aisles of that grocery store and selected a dark chocolate box cake made by Ghirardelli.
This is maybe the fourth or fifth cake I have made for her. Some years we have in the house, brownies piled upon cookies piled upon ice cream and miniature candy bars. Some years there is no more room for more sweets. This is a cake year.
I have made my wife two layer cakes. In the years since, she has requested Ghirardelli. It makes a smallish one-layer cake. That’s really all the two of us need. That is part of the reason she doesn’t request layer cakes any more, maybe not the whole reason.
Of my first layer cake effort, I self-reported on Facebook that it leaned precariously like an old man in a cold wind.
You fix it all with frosting. You can make a cake look close to good by piling the frosting on unevenly to the inverse of the way the cake leans.
It tasted good anyway.
I have made this Ghirardelli cake twice before but the directions seem foreign to me. It has been a few years since my last effort so maybe I forgot the instructions. Or maybe I didn’t read the instructions the first time.
Both of those scenarios are very plausible.
I did remember where the toothpicks are. Yes!!
You puncture the cake with a toothpick as a test to see if it is fully baked. When the toothpick comes out clean the cake is ready. Half-baked in not good enough and would trigger that do-over.
The directions tell me to mix oil, water and eggs, stirring with a fork until it is frothy. I wonder, will I recognize frothy when I see it? I reason that the first thing the mix would be other than what it was to start with, that first stage of othernesss, would be frothy. Otherwise there would be another layer of directions, right?
When I stir in the cake mix I am to use a spoon. The spoon part is in bold type. It tells me not to over-stir without defining what over-stirring would be. Since there is no admonition about under-stirring I let that guide me.
They have to be writing these directions for guys, right? But I’m thinking on my feet in the kitchen.
When I was about twenty and had my first apartment, one of the first things I did was make a layer cake. I did this just to prove I could. It’s one of the things you can do when you graduate from a dorm room to an apartment.
I don’t remember much about the process. I am quite sure I knew nothing of niceties such as checking the cake with a toothpick.
Tonight, despite my early-life cake-making experience, I got batter on the counter and on the floor. I got some on my robe and quite a bit on my right hand.
After all these years, cake by numbers is still the best I can do. But if it’s good enough for my wife, that’s all I need to know. She says the cake was made with love.
Love yes, confidence, no.