What I learned from a three-layer cake

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Last weekend, I helped my mom make one of her signature desserts—a decadently rich and wonderful triple-layer chocolate cake. A cake so good that several family members fight for ownership, claiming that Nan (my mom) created it especially for them.

My kids are among those fighting for dibs. And because of that, Mom off-handedly remarked that perhaps I should learn to make this celebration cake, too, thereby letting her off the hook the next time a birthday or other special occasion rolled around.

Please. To start with, I don’t own enough cake pans to make that happen. Not to mention that I tend to get really overwhelmed when working through complicated recipes. And I presume this recipe is complicated. Because it tastes complicated.

All the back-and-forth of read directions/measure/pour/second guess/read again has always made my head spin. Which is why I do better with the whole dash-0f-this and handful-of-that recipes. But I digress. And Mom needed my help.

During my afternoon as sous-baker, several things caught my attention.

First, cake-making is part art and part science. For all of  you bakers out there, I’m sure this is a given. For a non-baker like me, I’m always a little surprised when directives like, “sift the flour” are vital to the process and not just busy work. I loathe busy work.

Second, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to make icing before electric mixers came along.

Here’s another thing that threw me for a loop. The dessert required two separate recipes from two separate cookbooks—one recipe for the cake, and one recipe for the icing. Note to Mom: these are the things that need to be written down and stowed away for safe keeping, lest the process of creating the celebration cake be lost forever, because no one could find the recipe. I’m just saying.

The surprises didn’t stop there, though. I was most surprised by how easy the whole process had been. All things considered, the ingredient list was minimal. Sifting and measuring wasn’t a big deal, cracking eggs was a piece of, um, cake, and turning on the stand mixer was a cinch. Except for mixing the icing in the double broiler for what seemed like hours—the equivalent of waiting for water to boil—the end result provided a lot of bang for the buck.

I’m willing to go so far as to admit I enjoyed the process. In fact, maybe I’ll add baking to my regular weekend repertoire. Perhaps I’ll volunteer to bring the cake to the next birthday celebration.

This could lead to a whole new side career. Maybe I can open my own bakery! All I need is a few more cake pans.

 

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