Thursday, April 08, 2004  

The Further Adventures of Squash Head Watkins.




I spent a good part of yesterday making my first "from scratch" cake. I can now say I understand why cake mixes were invented. Actually, I really did enjoy the process, I love to cook and it was fun to make but talk about labor intensive. And messy. I think I used every bowl and spoon in our kitchen.

I was having a few girlfriends for trash TV night and decided it would be fun to try my hand at the Very Good Chocolate Cake, a favorite dessert from local restaurant Watershed. Oh, it is a Very Good cake indeed. I had wanted to try the recipe for a while.

The afternoon went something like this:

Go to the store for cake ingredients, which included things like 1 pound and 4 ounces chocolate, a stick of butter, 2 cups sugar, cake flour, super-strength coffee, a pint of heavy cream, a cup of sour cream, etc. Mmmmmm. Get excited thinking about the Very Goodness of the cake.

Return Home. Proceed to "finely chop" 1 lb. and 4 oz of chocolate until hand starts cramping. Call Mom to complain about crampy hand and she says "Why didn't you just stick it in the Cuisinart? It would have taken about a minute." Oh. Remember the cabinet-full of wedding gift appliances that I always seem to forget I have. Vow to use Cuisinart next time I have to decimate a pound and 4 ounces of chocolate.

Hang up with Mom. Immediately call back to ask how to sift flour since I have no sifter. Stir flour around in a bowl with other dry ingredients. Brew double-strength which is so strong it is a toxic substance. Pull out another bowl for coffee and one for chocolate. And then one for eggs and oil and sour cream.

Call Mom back to ask how much flour I need to use to "flour the cake pans." Then butter and flour the pans. Mix everything all together. Call Mom again to ask why the batter looks so liquidy.

Mom has now started answering the phone "Cake Hotline" instead of hello. We discuss the liquidy batter but come to no conclusions. I pour it in the cake pans and then "drop them on the counter once to remove air pockets." Neat. I am starting to feel rather like Nigella Lawson, a Domestic Goddess of sorts.

Call Mom again to ask what temp I should cook them at because our oven is screwy and the settings seem to be off. Decide on temperature and set timer.

Look around kitchen and realize I have already messed up nearly every mixing bowl I have and I still have to make the frost. Clean up kitchen.

Cakes come out smelling fantastic. I feel a swell of Nigella-esq pride at my cake pans. Set them on the counter to cool and call Mom (aka "Cake Hotline") to report status.

Began making frosting by melting butter and cream. Add the one pound of finely chopped chocolate. Add sugar. Stir it around. Stick finger in the mixture and make a face. Ugh. It's not sweet at all. It tastes chalky. Something isn't right. Call Mom and say "Bleah. The frosting is off. Something isn't right." Go over recipe again, saying "Yes, it's the right amount of chocolate. Yes, one cup of cream. Yes, I wrote the recipe down correctly!" Hmmmm....not sure why this is happening. Began adding sugar to the mix but it only gets grainy-looking and still tastes bad.

Slap hand on forehead and realize I had used Unsweetened Baker's Chocolate when I was supposed to have used Semi-Sweet Baker's Chocolate. Arrrrrgggh! Stare at grainy-wrong-chocolate-bad tasting frosting and feel foolish. Begin to feel like Domestic Idiot, rather than Goddess. Call Cake Hotline to sheepishly report my error.

Call husband to ask him to pick up Semi-Sweet Baker's Chocolate on his way home. When asked how everything is going reply "Oh, just fine! The cake is coming along greeeeat!"

Wait for Semi-Sweet Baker's Chocolate to get home. Call Mom while cleaning up the mixing bowls and saucepans.

Chocolate arrives home and immediately get tossed in the food processor. Wow. Mom was right, it takes just a few seconds to become finely-grated perfection.

Start whole frosting-making process over again. Call Mom to report progress. Frosting mixture tastes much better this time.

Take frosting off the stove, put in bowl to let cool and thicken one hour. Cook dinner.

One hour later, check in on frosting. It looks no different. It is like chocolate soup. Call Mom for advice. She is starting to sound weary. She suggests putting the bowl in a bath of ice-cold water. Fill sink with cubes and water and let the frosting bowl float in it. Go watch "The Bachelor" on TV.

Periodically check on frosting which is getting marginally thicker but still not great. Realize that Mom and Dad have probably gone to bed by now and I can't call.

Oh, good! "The Bachelor is a special two-hour episode!" Continue to check on frosting, giving a stir now and then, things seem to be getting thicker. "Bachelor" concludes and frosting is finally of perfect spreading consistency. It only took two hours longer than the recipe said it would but nevermind. Start smearing it on the cake. Cake looks Very Good indeed.

Thursday morning. Get up and have a thin slice of cake for breakfast. It is all I wanted it to be. It is Very Very Good. Yes! I am Nigella after all! Call Mom to report cake status. She sounds relieved.

Later that night.....

Nine girlfriends come over for TV and dessert. Serve cake along with a big dollop of whipped cream. Watch as the cake is scarfed down in less than five minutes. Smile as friends compliment the cake. Think about telling everyone the Frosting Horror Story but decide it would un-Domestic Goddess like.

And still later that night…….

Try to decide if homemade cake is worth the effort and decide yes, but only if you're unemployed and your Mom is free to talk on the telephone all afternoon.

| posted by Mary | 4/08/2004 06:16:00 AM
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