Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BATTLE OF THE BUNDT by Juliet Waldron

A “big” birthday just come and gone. (Clearly not the one above!) Our favorite local pastry bakery has gone out of business. I’m a scratch baker, but not a professional, nor a yuppie with a ton of equipment and endless dollars. Still, I bake bread weekly, and always baked all the family b-day cakes for my kids. I figured “what the hell, Archie!” This year, I will make one for myself.
I dragged a Bundt pan from the back of the cabinet and dug out the recipe book with which it came. I looked up recipes which would fit in the “mini” pan, found one that appealed, shopped ingredients and then began. I chopped cherries and prepped chocolate, sifted dry ingredients and creamed the butter, sugar and eggs. Then, I revved the mixer and was soon ready to pour batter into the pan. To my surprise, it filled almost to the brim.

I went back to the recipe book and checked again. Yes—this was specifically for the “mini” pan...

Full steam ahead.  I wasn’t listening to the shrill little voice of baker’s experience which was telling me that this cake would, shortly, be all over the bottom of the oven. Still, I didn’t put a cookie sheet underneath it. Why, I can find no reason for, except, maybe, sheer stubbornness, or a sad tendency to shoot myself in the foot.  

After all, this recipe book has never let me down before…

Well, as the voice of experience had warned, Vesuvius erupted. I turned the oven off, got gloves and the cookie sheet I should have put under no matter what “the book said.” Anyone with a bad back who has stooped to reach into a hot oven after a molten tub of something knows how scary this is, but it had to be done. Somehow I got the cake pan onto the sheet without more spilling or burning myself. I turned the oven back on, and, an instant later, the floor of the oven burst into flames. After staring for a moment, and realizing that with so much fuel, it wasn’t about to give up any time soon, I retrieved a box of baking soda. I put out the fire, after turning the oven off once again.

Okay! I’d got the fire out, and the cake pan situated so that the still lively volcanic action would no longer end up on the oven floor. Mad at myself, but not yet ready to despair, I went back to cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, putting away the mixer, etc. and then started on the frosting. Half an hour later, I realized I hadn’t turned the oven back on again.

Well, this was a duel now, between me and my own folly.  I turned the oven on at a lower temperature and began to bake -- again. By using a thermometer, I would eventually make a decision about when the cake was done. 

At last, I removed it—best estimate—and after it had cooled a bit, and after a long session of chipping the lava flow off the sides of the pan and cookie sheet, I managed to pick it up and turn the cake over onto a plate.  Believe it or not, a few minutes later, the darn thing slipped out of the pan, and in proper Bundt form! About an hour later, I frosted it and my husband and I ate it--and ate it--for the best part of a week. It was—somehow—a totally yummy, moist chocolate cherry cake, despite all the misadventures it and I had been through together.
~~Juliet Waldron

Not only is Juliet Waldron a warm and funny storyteller when relating personal experiences, she is an extremely talented and masterful author of historical novels like Mozart's Wife, Roan Rose, Genessee, and many more, including her latest, a novelist's history of Alexander Hamilton, America's first Secretary of the Treasury, which has debuted to rave reviewsClick the cover to get a copy from Amazon.

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