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Pickle Me This

April 13, 2008

Metaphoric Cake

Yesterday we held a small engagement celebration for our friends Jennie and Deep, and I baked a cake for the occasion. But because I didn’t want to brag, or give the wrong impression of my domestic prowess, even before I baked the cake, I had an idea about how I wanted to approach this blog post.

I wanted to explain that though I do have a reputation for baking a lot, I am not very good at it (and you will soon see why). I wanted to explain that although I have improved since the infamous butterfly cake I baked at Kate Wilczak’s Midsummer Party in 2000, I am still very much an imperfect baker. That not being good at baking hasn’t stopped me from doing a lot of it, but that a lot of this comes down to how much I really like eating. I would have added to this proviso also that I am not especially good at decorating cakes, but I wasn’t actually aware of this fact until yesterday.

But it turns out that none of this explaining is necessary, the cake being yet another chapter in Cakes Gone Wrong, the epic tale I’ve been writing for years now. It did not go terribly wrong, as everybody finished their slice, and when I came downstairs this morning Stuart was eating another for breakfast; people don’t tend to go for seconds of outright disasters. But the cake was, I will say, a bit dense, solid. I was terribly disappointed, as there is nothing more embarrassing than serving up a cake with the consistency of cheese. And worst of all– it was all my fault.

You see, I recently inherited a Sunbeam Electric Mixer. And not just any Electric Mixer, but one that had previously belonged to Rona Maynard. It had even been a wedding present from her mother, so really I could have sold it on eBay, but of course I wouldn’t dream of it, owning too few Canadian writers’ small appliances as it is (I expect you have the same problem). I also love the mixer aesthetically– it looks terribly cool up on the shelf here in our new kitchen. And I do dream of being Nigella, so I wanted it for mixing reasons too, of course.

But I’ve never used an electric mixer before. Have you? Did you realize that when you did used one, that you don’t actually have to do anything? That the bowl just spins and spins and the batter mixes just like magic, and the effect is hypnotic, and fabulous is a 1950s housewife styly, and I was thrilled and taking photos, and the batter mixed and it mixed and it mixed?

(Did you realize that a cake batter doesn’t really have to be so mixed at all? That a quick swirl with a wooden spoon would have sufficed? I sort of did know that, but oh, it would not have been so much fun. But maybe then, my cake would have turned out something like fluffy. It seems one can love their electric mixer too much.)

I mixed my batter for ten minutes.

My dear mother-in-law once told me that anything that gets eaten cannot be deemed a failure. Under such a standard then, my cake gets a passing grade. It was most definitely not a success, though, except in terms of lessons learned: in baking logic and mixer restraint. To make me feel better, everybody at the table decided to pretend that the texture was intentional: strength and density as a metaphor for Deep and Jennie’s love.

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