Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Breaking The Crumb Curse" or "Strawberry Jello Cake Redux"

Cake and I had broken up. I'd tried for almost a year to get along with cake but it became clear that we had... issues. 

You might remember, the falling, the splitting, the ugly frosting, and the flavorless. There have been some vulgar slang terms, explictives, #[email protected]'s between us and for a while I just told myself that cake and I were just ill suited to each other. That we should go our separate ways for now and maybe revisit our problems when we were older, wiser. It was an ugly breakup filled with heartache. I often thought about going back but I've told myself this many times, I even thought it was burned into my brain, AVOID CAKE! Cake's no good for you.
I thought I knew these words by heart. That is until I realized I had promised a friend from work that I would totally bake them a birthday cake, no problem.

What on earth was  I thinking?

So after a few hours of beating myself up I started thinking about just what it was that cake and I just couldn't work out. And then it hit me, if you want to get friendly with cake you have to play by cake's rules.  But I never want to do this. When I'm in the kitchen, I tend to run out of stuff, I sing at the top of my lungs, I may or may not be wearing pants and I don't have the patience for some bossyface recipe trying to push me around.

Cake doesn't want to let its hair down, it doesn't want to negotiate on ingredients, it wants you to do as you're told and not argue. I thought to myself I don't have time for this, I don't have the patience. But I was in a bind. We're talking about birthdays here. So I invited cake over to talk it out and see if we couldn't make peace for one day.

Okay, we'll try it your way first, just please... weapons down.

'Alright'. cake seemed to say, expressionless and unmoving. I took a deep breath, and with a heavy sigh I  went about whipping up batch one (cupcake style). Cake barked the orders and I baked it into existence. I did what I was told but I was on edge, irritated. Cake was really rubbing me the wrong way. I had to bite my lip to keep from screaming. I was so annoyed in fact, that I think I left out a thing or two. But cake didn't need to know.We set the batch in the oven, and glared at each other while it baked.

 A few minutes to cool, a taste and... Eh, a little bland I think. Needs a bit more of something.  Cake just shrugged, and flipped through the pages of a dust covered Gourmet magazine, ignoring me as I rambled about just what might be missing here, you know... flavor-wise...

 I'm thinking more strawberry. You know? Or vanilla? Okay, cake.  My turn! Let's try it my way, and... just see what happens.

No measuring spoons, just a dash here and an eyeball it there. We were out of this so I subbed in that. Dump in the strawberry, give it a taste. A mix, a dash, and another tasteAnswer the door, check the mail, baking times set by smell, and with an excited giggle and a few wrist burns, batch two was born. But...

Gummy. Crumbly.

 It wan't until after I tasted the syrupy sweet tang of failure, that I realized cake never actually agreed to this idea. Hm, tricksy. I looked across the room to spot smug eyes, casually avoiding mine. Silently laughing.

Ugh!  What is the problem?! It's only cooking!

'Baking. This is baking, that you're doing'

Whatever. Same thing.

'But it isn't. You need rules.'

*   *   *   *   *

After a break to clear my head and a run to the store for a little more butter, I cleaned up the kitchen and flicked on a Jazz record as the sun started sinking into a purplish dusk. I hummed to myself as I rummaged around in the fridge and readied the counter-top for strawberry battle (round three) when I noticed that cake... seemed to be looking at me differently.
'I love this song' cake seemed to say with a certain subtle twinkle in the eye, almost a glow.

Me too,... it's really great.

 I looked at cake quizzically but said nothing more and we worked in silence for a while.  I followed cake's instructions to the letter, and while crooning the wrong words to Diamonds On My Windshield I added just a little extra this and that to the batter as the mixer hummed and whipped, and cake... said nothing. Just nodded along with a toe tap and a stray lyric here and there.

Thirty minutes passed and the record stopped, we took the warm pastry from the oven and it was... just perfect. It slid out of the pan nice and easy. It cooled without falling, had just enough sweetness and frosted pretty and clean.

As I sliced a few strawberries to decorate the top, cake squeezed my hand and started to leave.

'See you later' cake seemed to say.  Wait! But... what changed? What happened? Why no disasters?
' I already  told you, this is baking. You have to get to know the rules, and know them by heart before you can play with them... and you know them now.'

Cake put the record back on and headed towards the door to leave.

         But what about the fight?
'What fight?  You need to relax honey, you think way too much. I mean, it's only cake''s only cake.


Strawberry Cream Cake

2cups white sugar
1 (3ounce )pkg of Strawberry Jello mix
1 cup (2 sticks) butter softened
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup strawberry puree (from frozen sweetened strawberries)
1/2 cup milk
1tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 cups cake flour, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on medium low. Slowly add the eggs, one and a time,then the jello powder. When the eggs are fully incorporated, add the salt, strawberry puree and milk.  Stir in the flour and baking powder, being careful not to overmix.

Divide batter evenly between two 9 inch cake pans, that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Baked a 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

Let cool 15 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.

Strawberry Cream  Cheese Icing

1 8ounce pkg Philadelphia cream cheese at room temp
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry puree
4 cups powdered confectioners sugar

Cream all ingredients together until fluffy. Serve atop, Strawberry and Cream cake.


  1. I've had a few cake fights myself--glad to see that you won the battle!

  2. Desiree, sheldon made a pineapple upside down cake today. I don't usually eat very cake....but yum mmmmm.


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