Caked Over

The weekend past, I assembled an office furniture kit for my Mom: a computer desk, return and hutch. I mention this because I happen to think that I’m pretty good at kit furniture assembly. I had to call Carl for help only once, and his advice worked. Put tools in my hands, give me a set of instructions, and I can (99 times out of 100) put it together.

Which brings me to Tuesday. Carl, bless his fuzzy little heart, bought me (as a Valentine’s Day gift) something I’ve been wanting for months – he got me a new electric hand mixer. I got the gift on Sunday when I returned home from Mom’s. It’s a good mixer, a Kitchen Aid. So I thought, “What can I give Carl for Valentine’s Day, something he really likes, that I can make with my new mixer?” The answer was simple. I’d make him a cake – German chocolate with coconut pecan frosting, his favorite. At first, I figured I’d do it the way I always do it: with a cake mix and ready-to-spread frosting. But then I thought, ” You know, he’s such a great guy, always thinking about what I want, I should really do something extraordinary for him.” So I decided to make the cake from scratch, using the recipe his Mom always used when she made him that cake for his birthday. I have the recipe in a three ring binder, and I took the binder with me Monday when I went to school. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and got the stuff I needed – so far, so good.

My troubles started when I got home from school. I tossed the grocery bag on the counter, and forgot to put the buttermilk in the fridge. It sat out for hours and got warm, so I pitched it. I went to our local convenience store to see if they had any (since going back into the city was not an option) and they didn’t. What to do? I pulled out a “substitutions” chart that I’ve had for a while, and discovered that buttermilk and sour milk were near cousins. But since I’m no cook, and I wasn’t sure what to do, I called my Mom and my sister for help. I was assured that replacing buttermilk with sour milk would be OK, so I relaxed. No problem, I thought.

HA!! Tuesday rolled around, with 2″ of snow and 35 mph winds, so school was cancelled for all three of us girls. Since I had the entire day before me, I decided to do the cake. I figured it would be best to lay out all of the ingredients first, then put the cake together. I began reading, and soon discovered that this was going to be harder than I thought. For one thing, the recipe called for cake flour. I didn’t know there was such a thing as cake flour, but my chart-thingy said you could substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour if you took out 2 Tbsp. per cup. For another thing, the recipe said you needed three 8″ or 9″ round pans, and I only had 2. What to do? Call my sister, of course. She advised me to use the chart’s flour substitutions and to use one square 9″ pan with my two round 9″ pans, then cut off the corners later. OK. Fine. I’ll do that. Later down the recipe, it said to melt the chocolate in a 1/2 cup of boiling water. I didn’t think you could do that, so I called my Mom and asked her if I should grind up the chocolate before I added the boiling water. She said no, just break the chocolate bar up into chunks and melt the chunks three at a time. You’ll be alright, she assured me. Of course she was correct, but the concept of melting chocolate in water instead of over it was a little freaky.

So now I had all my ingredients laid out, and I started mixing stuff together. I tried to use my hand mixer for the entire cake, but it soon became evident that I’d have to use my pedestal mixer for the heavy work. Finally, I had all the ingredients mixed together, in the pans, and in the oven. Whew!

HA!! again. When the cakes were done, I flipped them out onto plates to cool while I made the frosting. That was yet another adventure, but I got it done and started to assemble the cake. However, the cake stuck to the plates, so I had to scrape the cake off the plates and pile the stuck parts in the middle of the cake and “glue” it all together with frosting. But once completed, I put the cake in the fridge, wrote Carl a nice little note to accompany the cake, and started cleaning up.

This was one ugly cake. It leaned to one side, was terribly uneven, and I was scared that it would taste as bad as it looked. But fortunately it actually tasted good, and Carl was happy to have his favorite cake. But, he said, he and his Mom had always put it in a 9 x 13 pan, so the next time I try this cake I’ll have him bake it for me.

If I ever try this cake again. It’ll be a looooong time before I tackle a cake from scratch. I don’t want to be pestering my Mom and Sis with questions, and besides, cake mixes are so much easier.

Given the choice between furniture assembly and cake assembly, I’ll take the furniture, any time.

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