In which I bake another substandard marble cake and refrain from stabbing it repeatedly.

Last week, as I stood in the hallway outside our bathroom door, folding clothes and listening to my husband writhe around in stomach-related agony in the bathroom, I said through the bathroom door, in an attempt to distract him from his own dance with death (but possibly more to amuse myself), “Well, that doesn’t sound good” and threw back my head and laughed gleefully. In doing so, I sealed my own destiny as thousands of tiny germs instantly began their death march towards my mouth, which was wide open in order to mock Terry’s pain.

Fast-forward four days to my own worship of the gloriously cold, hard bathroom floor, which I’m pretty sure I drooled on.

“Oh, god,” I thought as I laid there, waiting for the welcome appearance of the hooded figure in black. “I just started this blog, and now I’m never going to be able to bake again. I’m obviously going to perish as a result of gastrointestinal discomfort, and baking now belongs in the halcyon days of yore.”

“I love you, floor,” I whispered. “I’m going to leave everything to you in my will.”

But, today, I come to you mostly recovered and lacking the urge to barf every time I look at the cookbook, which I consider great progress. Am I going to eat what I bake today? No, I am not. My taste buds and appetite aren’t normal, yet, and everything except Trix cereal in super cold milk grosses me out. Thus, I bake for Terry in order to tip the karmic scale back to my favor. I bake with love, and love is poop-proof.

Hi, there. My name is Missy, and I bake crappy marble cakes.

Terry thinks they're delicious, to be clear, and the batter is QUITE good. However, the marbling . . . the marbling eludes me. And the marbling is sort of the point.

This is the cake in question from How to Bake:

Isn't it lovely? Doesn't it promise a perfect gustatory AND visual experience? It is with that thought that I first chose to make this recipe right after Christmas for my husband. Twice. Both times, I had no food scale, so I had to convert measurements, which doesn't work well at all for cake. (Cakes are so touchy, like constantly screaming 13-year-old girls with PMS.) The batter tasted great but was way too thick both times, and I thought THAT was the reason why I couldn't marble it correctly. Also, the directions indicate that the flour should be folded in to the creamed butter and eggs, so I didn't use the mixer those first two times to incorporate the flour, which always makes me feel like the resulting batter isn't as smooth as it needs to be.

So, I had plans--such big plans--to do it right this time and to unveil my magnificant marble cake to you, my beloved bloggees.

First, I beat the dickens out of the butter and sugar and eggs. I just beat the living hell out of them, which resulted in a soft, fluffy batter. Then, I sifted the flour and baking powder into the batter and used the mixer to incorporate them instead of doing it by hand. It turned out to be a beautiful batter, and salmonella or no, I DID eat a few spoonfuls of it because, damn it, life is for the living.

I spooned two-thirds of the plain batter into the pan and then mixed the cocoa and milk into the remaining batter in order to make the chocolate batter, which is required for the all-important marbling. Then, as directed, I spooned the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter and used a knife to swirl and marble. Marble and swirl, swirl and marble.

I have to admit something to you now, and this is important. I didn't line the baking pan with parchment paper like I was supposed to and like I did the first two times I made the cake last month. The roll of parchment paper was buried under all manner of cookies and bags of M&Ms and Reynold's Wrap, and I didn't feel like braving the potential dry goods avalanche that might result from parchment paper extraction. So, I sprayed the pan with PAM cooking oil, instead--but I've used it similarly for other baked goods thousands of times! It would be fine, right?! Of course! (It wasn't fine.)

This cake, although fairly small, takes quite a long time to bake--a minimum of 55 minutes at 350 degrees. Previously, it has smelled like a little bit of heaven while baking. This time, I noticed a hint of burnt chocolate in the air when it still had 15-20 minutes to go, and that, my friends, did not bode well. The parchment paper, the parchment paper! The parchment paper keeps the cake from getting too dark too quickly and burning the chocolate. Also, I really hate using dark and/or non-stick baking pans, and I don't even know where this bread loaf pan came from. I literaly have no idea. Is it someone else's pan? Was it dropped off by a pan fairy with horrible taste? Did our klepto Newfie puppy steal it from a neighbor? However, despite my distaste for it, it's heavy and cleans up well, so I used it, anyway. Big mistake--dark pans result in dark crusts/bottoms/edges. Blech. That plus the lack of parchment paper equalled disaster.

I pulled the cake out at 55 minutes because I couldn't take the smell of burnt chocolate any longer (and because the fork I stuck into it came out clean). I immediately turned it over a plate to get it out of the pan (and to stop baking) and missed the plate on one end. Sigh.

Not only did it smell like burnt chocolate, but I destroyed its appearance.

There are few things more offensive to me than overdone baked goods; I find them immensely frustrating. But wait--did I at least redeem myself re: marbling?!

No. No, I did not.

I wrapped the stupid cake up in foil so that it could at least remain a bit moist before Terry tried it, and he IS eating it. But even he said that "it's just a little overdone," and he could eat a two-day-old donut and not notice it was stale. He is our human garbage disposal. (Or, if you prefer, he's our beloved goat.) He'll eat just about anything and enjoy it. Thus, it must really be not great.

The moral of this story is that one should never allow vanity or pride to decide the bake for the day. Also, one should never mock one's partner while he's pooping himself to death. Neither decision will work out, and that's just life in a nutshell.


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