Friday, May 15, 2009

Adventures in Baking

I have been reading far too much of the Pioneer Woman's website lately. So, as a "I'll make it up to you" sort of treat, I decided that Aurelia and I would make her "Strawberry Shortcake Cake" this afternoon.


I figured it would take all afternoon--and it did.

But it almost didn't happen at all.

It started out uneventfully. I mixed the dry ingredients and showed Aurelia how to "sift" them with a fork. Next, we meticulously measured out our nine tablespoons of butter. Then, I got out the sugar and Aurelia was happily pouring it into 1/2 cup measures ("How many 1/2 cup measures do we need, sweetie?" "Three," she answers. "Yup." I reply. There. That was math for today) when she turns to me and says, "Mommy, I don't think we have enough."


Sure enough, the last 1/2 cup measure is only 3/4s full.

"We can make do, " she says.

"Um, no, oh dear." I don't know if we can. I'm not that sort of cook. If the recipe says 1 1/2 cups, then that is what we must have and not a smidgeon less. But the grocery store on the corner shut down this winter for renovations and never re-opened--and I have no car and my bicycle seat scares the pants off me.

"We'll go over to Mrs. D and ask her if we can borrow a cup of sugar," I say. I hate to beg, but this is clearly an emergency even if of the most prosaic kind.

We stand on the doorstop, measuring cup in hand and ring the doorbell.

Mrs. D is not home.

"Well, Daddy should be home in about an hour," I say, soothingly. "We can wait until then."

Her face fell. It was terrible to see. All the joy in life was gone forever.

Then, I had a brainstorm. Without saying anything to her, (Though, truly, how could that face fall any further?) I went over to the cupboard, and lo and behold there was the sugar bowl. And praise be, it was full.

I don't like creaming together the butter and the sugar, though.
Fortunately, she does.

She's a happy girl. "Mommy, I've been creaming for eight years," she positively chirps.
Well, not quite eight years. I did wait until she was old enough to stand before I taught her how to do it.

Not ten minutes into the oven, though, and disaster strikes.
We hear a hiss.
We hear a small plop.

Oh my word. The cake pan is too small. I chose the nine inch cake pan all right--but oh dear. There was nothing I could do but watch it ooze over the side and bake uselessly at the bottom of the oven.

After that, things were fairly uneventful. Aurelia and I did the dishes in between each step as we ought. I was quite proud of that.

The pan wasn't too bad either when it came out of the oven--and it was a cinch to clean after someone ate all the caramelized cake off the bottom of the pan.

Then, it came time to make the icing.

Now, anyone who doesn't live in the States who has used recipes not written for the rest of the world has learned certain conversions. In this recipe, I made sure to convert 1/2 pound of cream cheese to grams (so I would know how much to buy) and the "sticks" of butter into cups.

But until that moment, I had not noticed that PW's recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs of icing sugar. 1 1/2 lbs? What do you mean, pounds? What, do you all have little weigh scales in your kitchens, or what? What is this with giving measurements by weight instead of by volume?

So a frantic web search ensues. It turns out, that would be about 0.6 Kilograms. But that still doesn't tell me how many cups I need! Fortunately, there's a recipe for "Basic butter icing" on the package. It calls for two cups. I figure, we'll try that and see how it goes.

It went well.

Taste Test: Ironically, it is a bit sweet. And I missed that cake on the bottom of the oven! I think a little lemon zest in the cake batter would not go amiss, next time.


Colleen said...

look yummy!

My brother-in-law once made icing with regular sugar because he (1) didn't realize he needed a different kind, and (2) didn't think it would make a difference once he did realize. It was NOT good!

scb said...

It looks fantastic! and I love the pic of "cleaning" the bottom of the pan.

When I was a teenager, I asked a teacher's wife for her recipe for peanut butter cookies, since I'd had them at a wedding shower in town, and they'd been different to usual ones. She sent me the recipe (I hope I still have it somewhere, if I do, I'll post it sometime)... She'd brought it with her "all the way from England", and it was all in ounces and such. That was a challenge for me. (Thankfully, Mum wrote the conversions onto the recipe for me.) Turned out that her secret ingredient was a bit of ground ginger. In PB cookies! Cool...

Glad the cake turned out despite the challenges along the way. And Aurelia likely learned something about dealing with challenges, along the way.

scb said...

Does the cake maybe need a nine by fourteen inch pan instead? or two nine inch round ones?

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