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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Caution: Baker at Work

All things baking seem to be the rage among my small group of confidants these days. One of my critique partners is taking a brave step into one of my favorite genres, chick-lit. And may I go on record as saying I love chick-lit. To me, it’s not a four-letter word. Bring it on.

My friend’s foray into the contemporary is about a baker with a special gift, that of matchmaking. I can’t wait to read the whole story. So far, it is delicious. Another of my critique partners is writing a story about a baker in regency England, and it is so funny and delightful.

As it happens, the author, Erin Kelly, is an excellent baker in real life. I met her in Chicago this April at the Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling. She won me over with a margarita cupcake, packaged so perfectly, and a dance move that had me rolling. No, she didn’t dance when she handed me the little piece of melt-in-my-mouth sunshine. That came later. Maybe after a real margarita. The details are hazy.

Erin Kelly has one of the best blogs called “Have Your Cake and Read it Too”. If you haven’t read it, you must to check out her blog.
She is hilarious and as a bonus, she shares her fantastic recipes each week. Well, I’m assuming they are fantastic, as long as I’m not the baker.

I think I am possibly one of the worst bakers on earth. I’m at least the most inattentive. On a regular basis, I ruin a pan of crescent rolls, the kind that comes in a tube. My kids wouldn’t recognize the things without a black bottom and a hard outer shell that could crack a tooth. (I’m not joking. My daughter lost her front tooth this week while biting into a crescent roll!)

So, I knew it was risky for me to bake a cake for the Fourth of July. But I ignored my past failings and set out to make a cake for an Independence Day celebration with friends later that afternoon. I placed all the ingredients on the counter and asked my daughter if she’d like to help, figuring it would be a great bonding opportunity. I also thought I’d make it low fat by substituting applesauce for the oil, two egg whites per egg and a tablespoon of flour for good measure.

I have to say those pictures on the back of the box are misleading, especially when you aren’t wearing your glasses. I swear it looked like the mix called for a cup of oil. Of course, I realize now how ridiculous it would be to make a cake with a cup of oil, but I was a little distracted at the time by the batter-shower my daughter and I managed to create with the electric mixer. So, I put in 2/3rds too much liquid. Oops. Okay. That’s fine. I added another tablespoon of flour to offset the runniness, I hoped.

I popped the concoction in the oven, set the timer then settled in to write for a bit. After a time, I began to smell the cake, like maybe it was borderline burning, but that couldn’t be given the timer hadn’t gone off yet. Still, I went to check. Holy cow! The timer had gone off and I hadn’t heard it. The good news is the cake didn’t burn, and miracle of miracles, it firmed up well. After it cooled, I happily iced it with Cool-Whip, recalling I had blueberries and strawberries in the refrigerator. I could make an American flag! Brilliant. How hard could it be? I see them all the time in magazines.

Well… I put the blueberries on then started adding sliced strawberries. I paused. I squinted to see if perhaps it might look more like a flag if I served it after dark. Um, afraid not. I thought, “My cake looks like something a 4-H kid would make to earn a badge,” or whatever it is that they earn. But then I realized that was probably very unfair to pin on a 4-H kid because they are amazing. They can raise a farm animal from infancy, like a pig, name it Bacon and sell it without blinking an eye. These kids would not be in a tizzy over a cake.

So I decided I’d blame my 7 year old. Just as I make up my mind to point the finger her direction, my daughter walks into the kitchen, curls her lip and says, “Ew! You put all the fruits on it that I hate.” Drat. She wasn’t going to take credit for the monstrosity. In the end, I scraped off all the fruit, frosted it again and then smashed the icing with aluminum foil in transit. Egads. I think if I ever wrote a book about a baker, it would be a post-apocalyptic tale.

What is your worst kitchen disaster? And please don't tell me you've never had one or I can't show my face in Orlando.

Erin Kelly's blog http://www.haveyourcakeandreadittoo.blogspot.com/.
As promised in the comments... The USS Yule Log


  1. Too funny. I am sure I have several stories but the two that come to mind, which happened in the same day, is I used granulated sugar instead of powdered for frosting. I got distracted, grabbed sugar and started mixing before I realaized what I had done. At the same time I had screwed up a cake recipe. To this day I don't know what I did wrong, but it was hard as a rock and would not come out of the pan. I ended up throwing it, and the pan, away.

  2. When I was in Jr. High, a friend invited me to spend the night at her house. When I got there, she suggested we make a cake recipe which I had previously made for her at my home.

    Her mother, obviously not a baker, was very skeptical and interrogated me as to my cooking skills. We went shopping because they did not have any baking supplies in their house.

    (Did I mention that these people don't bake?)

    So I told my friend to mix the dry ingredients while I greased and floured the pans. Trying to impress her mother with my sterile cooking, I did not lick the mixing spoon as I usually would.

    We put the batter in the oven and a few minutes later we heard a MAJOR explosion in the kitchen. The cake had exploded all over the sides of the oven! I was quickly sent home and never invited to that house again.

    Later, my friend told me she had put 1 cup of baking powder and 1 cup of baking soda in the recipe. She did not realize that those little c.'s and T's. meant anything.

  3. I once set a turkey on fire in the oven. And yes, I was over 21. Cooking is not my strong point. :)

  4. This post is hilarious! I am the WORST baker. I love to cook, but I hate to bake. I once baked a cake with my brother. I was eight and he was ten. It was for my mom's birthday, and poor mom came home to blue frosting on the ceiling and walls of the kitchen.

    I also baked a soufle for a fancy recruiting dinner for my husband's lawfirm. The soufle was runny and sank in the middle but I think aL THE hopeful recruits felt obligated to it since my husband was the senior laywer at the dinner.

    Last year I baked cookies for my son to go to a Christmas cookie swap. Great, until I realized the Crisco I had used was OLD. Who knew Crisco that was brown was old? I didn't because I don't bake. I decided at midnight that night after convincing my husband to go to the 24 hour Walmart and buy cookies for the swap that baking was not for me. I have not baked again.

    Oh, wait, I can bake ONE thing, and I do it well. If you ever come to my house during the cold winter months, I will bake you bread pudding with Whisky sauce. It's delicious or maybe I just think it is because I have tasted so much Whiskey sauce by the time I get to the bread pudding!

  5. LOL! Ya'll have me rolling. A flaming turkey, exploding cake? I didn't even know a cake could explode.

    And Julie, you're stories are hilarious! Those poor recruits. I can just imagine them choking down the soufle. I'd love the recipe for the bread pudding.

    Amy, I once made a bread brick, so I understand tossing the pan and all.

  6. Oh, my. Well, I am not an expert baker like Erin, but I have to say, I've never set a turkey on fire or had an explosion in the kitchen--or had someone lose a tooth on something I'd baked.

    I did make white chocolate macadamia nut cookies one time that came out more like hard scones. I think I accidentally used the wrong amount of baking soda and left out some of the fat. Not sure. But my cat loved them, and they at least tasted all right.

    I was all set to share my latest baking victory from the 4th of July when I saw that you were blogging about baking, Samantha. But it might sound like gloating, so I'll save it for another day.

  7. LOL Oh Lord. I love to cook/bake. However, I still make my share of screw-ups. I once had baked potatoes explode in the oven. Then there was the time I baked two round cakes to cut up into pieces that I would then fashion into a bunny for Easter. Looked more like roadkill (of course, I can't bake/decorate cakes at all) And don't make me recount all the times I roasted chickens that looked fantastic on the outside only to be raw in the middle LOL

  8. Too funny, Catherine. Thanks for saving my pride. You're the best! :)

  9. Sandra, roadkill? LOL. That is classic! How incredibly funny. Thanks for sharing. I'm so glad I'm not the only bad baker.

    I made a yule log this Christmas that looked like a wooden submarine. I should post the picture to this blog to show everyone. It was so funny, I had to take a picture.

  10. LOL regarding the bunny cake. My husband did take a picture and said "you can still sorta see that it looks like a rabbit." LOL yeah, not so much.

  11. Samantha, this is hilarious! And thanks for plugging my new project :)

    I actually LOVE to bake! However, I don't get to do it very often anymore. I did have a little side business in college, though, selling mini cakes and breads. It was super fun.

    I am a pretty horrible cook, though. I love my crockpot, but I did have a disaster a couple weeks ago. The meal looked like something that would have been served in Newgate Prison. It was disgusting and totally inedible.

    But the real kitchen disasters are from my hubby. A few years ago he decided he wanted to learn how to cook, so he bought a Rachel Ray cookbook, thinking 30 minute meals ought to be easy enough. I knew we were in trouble when he called me from the grocery store asking "what a garlic looked like." Let's just say the 30-minute meal turned into a 4-hour meal that I had to step in and help him with so that we could eat sometime that evening. Yes, it was almost midnight by the time we ate.

  12. I'm actually a good baker. Cooking is another matter. Years ago I was helping a friend move into her new apartment. After working all day we were too tired to cook so we ordered a pizza. It arrived cold so she put it in the oven to heat. Ooops. I guess she should have taken it out of the box first!

    Granted it was not a great way to impress the landlord but she did get to meet all the cute young firefighters.

  13. Jerrica, I had a similar experience with a crockpot. We ate out that night. Well, bless your hubby's heart for trying. If I had to wait that long to eat, it would not be pretty. And I'm so glad you owned up to the chick-lit project. I wasn't sure if you were out yet, but I'm super excited about it.

    Mary, What a great story and how funny that your friend warmed up the pizza still in the box!

  14. I am the absolute worse cook/baker in the world. Hands down. I avoid the kitchen as if it were the plague and my kids thank me for it.

    I was boiling water for a recipe, and I can't remember what it was. There was a small apple candle on my stove...it'd always been there...I think. The doorbell rang and I stepped outside to see one of my new neighbors. Minutes later... eer... maybe hours later we smell something. I remember the water and rush in the house, I had burned the water to nothing and the pot had caught fire along with the candle and I was screaming. Luckily my new neighbor was a fireman LOL. Too bad I was married at the time it would've made a heck of novel meeting huh? Book in the making I guess.

    From that moment on my kids told me to stay out of the kitchen LOL. Luckily, I've met a man who is a wonderful cook. We have the perfect set up, he cooks and I clean. And the children are happy that mom hasn't set any more fires!

  15. Melissa,
    It sounds like you have a good deal with your hubby. :)

  16. I love Erin's blog. And I've managed to try some of the recipes. :)

    I like baking...better than cooking. My worst disaster was when I made a cheesecake and put the springform pan together wrong. I'd made the crust, put together the batter and poured it in the pan. Lifted the pan and the bottom fell out. Batter poured everywhere - especially down the side of the oven. You know where you can't clean without moving the stove...

    I sat and cried...why because I was pregnant and very emotional. I called my husband and blubbered at him. When he got home, he cleaned everything up even moved the stove. And told me not to try baking anymore until after the kid arrived. So sweet. :)

  17. Beth,

    That was sweet of your hubby. I think that might make me cry too. I love cheesecake. :)

  18. I have no words other than OMG! ROFLMAO

  19. That story is hilarious, Samantha! That poor cake ... at least it didn't go awry in vain. You got a great stroy out of it:)
    Thanks so much for the kind words about my blog, my cooking, and my less than elegant dance moves, lol! I think my worst baking mistake (in recent history, anyway) was the first time I tried to make a cheesecake from scratch. Yeah, it was a total puddle in the middle, and I ended up eating what little I was brave enough to try with a spoon.
    The comments here are absolutely hilarious! Someone should write a book ... if only we knew a writer ... ;)