Friday, August 28, 2009

Story Time: Cake

Having just put a cake in the oven I am reminded of a story. Back around '90 I was going to school full time and working a few part time jobs. Our chemistry professor had an annual "Chemistry Picnic" and asked for people to bring various dishes. I volunteered for cake.

It couldn't be just any old cake, you know. I was young, energetic, and loved to bake. So I made a plan for a giant Table of Elements Cake. Four 13X9 sheet cakes put together, frosted in buttercream, with a colored-gel table of elements in blue and red. It was going to be awesome.

Now, with a plan like that it doesn't matter how you approach it - it's going to take a good bit of time. Going to school full time and working a few mall jobs takes up a lot of time, so of course it pressed into sleeping time to get this done.

Here's the funny bit.

About four in the morning it suddenly occurred to me: I could have used a mix. Yes, I was making all four cakes from scratch as well as the four batches of buttercream frosting. My Mom is an excellent cook/baker and I had learned at her elbow so it had never crossed my mind to use a mix. I looked around the slightly flour-dusted kitchen and realized that this was one time that a mix probably would have been alright. (She had also bred into me a certain snobbiness about the idea of using cake mixes.)

Now I am not quite so young and energetic and I tend to use a mix more often than not (what just went into the oven was Betty Crocker Carrot Cake and some of her Cream Cheese Frosting is ready for when it cools). I can still do some mean scratch baking but tend to do that around the holidays when we have some time off and a good reason to give most of it away.

The good news was that the chemistry professor was old enough (70 or so at that time) to know the difference between mix and scratch, with a preference for the later. Unfortunately, it didn't count towards my grade...

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