So What’s With the Name?
Why would anyone want a ten-pound cake?
Siblings can be wonderful but growing up with 1 older brother and 3 younger sisters provided many opportunities for practical jokes and pranks.
Like many families, we had Sunday dinner. Our company was always my Grandma. After getting picked up, Grandma would sit with my Mother while enjoying a hot toddy and catching up with her grandkids. One of my sisters was the devil of the family but she really turned on the charm and the angel act whenever a grandparent was around.
Santa had given me an Easy Bake oven for Christmas when I was 9 or 10 years old. What an invention – a kid’s oven that could bake with the heat from a light bulb! Lured by the promise of creating baking masterpieces, I grew frustrated with the usually gooey hockey puck-sized cakes. Moving up to simple boxed cake mixes that made single layer cakes, I thought this is baking. This was more like it!
Since Sunday dinner was a break from the weekday routine and considered special, I thought about making a chocolate cake from scratch. Looking in my mother’s red gingham Betty Crocker cookbook, I found a recipe that held the culinary promise I had been craving. This was THE cake, dark, rich, and chocolatey! I carefully crafted a list of needed ingredients. My father volunteered to go to the store for me so I got busy with all the prep. I had watched my mother bake, buttering and adding flour the pans when she made a cake so I thought, “I know the cake making drill.”
Dad came home from the store with a bursting bag in his arms. However, he didn’t get the exact ingredients that I had listed. Why I don’t know. In my 10-year-old mind though, they seemed close enough. What’s the difference? I got busy and made quite a show of my baking prowess, measuring the ingredients, and using the Kitchenaid. This was going to be a chocolate cake that the family would talk about for generations.
Well of course you probably know by now, the cake didn’t quite turn out as planned. It was dense, flat, and dry. But it was my creation and all it needed was its rightful accolades.
It felt like it weighed 10 pounds when I proudly brought the finished product to the dinner table, my spindly little arms struggling to carry the dish. Grinning ear to ear, I looked at my Grandmother. She was in tears trying not to laugh out loud, with her shoulders silently shaking and her gaze cast downward. I shifted my weight to keep from dropping the cake.
My younger sister (the devil) bolted from the table and ran to the basement. She returned with some old rusty saw proclaiming she knew how to cut the cake. Then everyone lost it! I felt as deflated as my cake. I remember trying to laugh along, to brush aside any inkling of how defeated I felt.
Then my Dad loudly said he would love a piece of cake. He made a big show of eating the cake slowly and enjoying every bite. I’m sure it was because chewing the dry, heavy cake was something that couldn’t be rushed without the threat of choking. But he saved the day as far as I was concerned.
So when the cookies burn or the chicken is dry, I think back to that dinner. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Cooking is always a learning process. That is a lesson I strive to teach in my cooking classes.
One lesson I learned early though – be careful with substitutions. You may not be strong enough to carry the dish!