While some of my friends struggle with cooking, and some think cooking involves heathen magic and they want no part of it, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to bake. My cookies, cupcakes, and cakes are always fluffy, lightweight, and delicious. I’m not a fussy cook or a decorative cook; if it involves making layers and piping frosting I’m not interested. But the actual act of baking – not the presentation – that is so zen to me. And I’m versed enough in baking by now that I’ve tackled more-complex items. Box cake mix is like doing push-ups the girl way and only for n00bs (incidentally, I should note here that I always do push-ups the girl way, and anyone who says that they don’t count can kiss my cake-box).
So when my mother requested that I make a particular strawberry cake today made with cake mix as a base, I sighed internally before setting to it. Cake mix is filled with so many additives and questionable ingredients, but it’s Mother’s Day, and whatever Mom wanted, Mom would get. I’d made this particular strawberry cake many times before. It’s brainless and delicious, a light pink sponge cake topped with cool, fluffy frosting. A perfect antidote to the heavy humidity lurking outside. I put together the ingredients and cooked it a few minutes over, because our oven in our new house isn’t quite familiar to us. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
But the cake came out beautifully. I let it cool, frosted it, and then when it came time to eat it, Mom got the first slice.
That was a mistake. I should’ve sneaked a bite before she got near it. Because my cake tasted like Strawberry Shortcake had mated with a gummy bear and then laid out in the sun for a few days to dry out.
What happened? What happened? I survived cooking the entirety of the freaking Milk Bar cookbook but a recipe based off a cake mix threw me down? This cake was so terrible even my autistic brother wouldn’t eat it, and he literally eats his own shit if we don’t watch him closely enough. It was so violently, densely, nastily pink in the middle, it looked like the worst-case-scenario result of a prostrate exam.
The nearest thing I can figure is that maybe the box mix was old. Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough, even with the extra 4 minutes I threw in. Because somehow it was both too moist and… hard. How do cakes get hard? (Pervs, don’t answer that.)
I just don’t know what happened, but I’m never going to hear the end of my colossal failure. My first major baking fuck-up just had to happen as my entire family watched. Isn’t that the way of it? At least I was able to keep secret the time I managed to set the blender on fire with hamburger meat. But my parents have been crowing about my dazzling disaster all day, my Dad miming grotesque stomach pains (he had a few bites before giving up consuming the disgusting mush).
Baking, we’re through. We had a nice ride, and I really thought I got you. But clearly, I didn’t know you at all. If you ever want to see about getting back together again, I’m going to be at Nothing But Bundts, drowning my sorrows in a vat of cream cheese frosting.