It’s time for my annual humiliation–the night I attempt to bake a simple cream cheese pound cake for the big cake auction: The Thrilla In Vanilla. How hard could it be, you know? It only has six ingredients and a couple of steps. Courtney is making TWO cakes with ganache, chocolate mousse, chocolate curls. Jo has concocted a key lime cake and her famous burnt sugar caramel while also coaching softball. Anna just dropped off three loaves of challah, kosher for Rosh Hashannah.
And I’m giving myself a pep talk.
One year, I pulled the cake pan out of the oven and turned it upside down on the cooling rack. As I gently pulled the pan away from the cake, the entire golden crust stuck to the inside of the pan.
The instructions HAD mentioned that I should butter the pan, but I didn’t think a recipe that contained THREE STICKS of butter needed a buttered pan. I scraped the crispy crust from the pan with a spoon and contemplated just how wrong that idea had been.
The next year, I attempted to make this same cake. I buttered the tube pan then I buttered it again. Mixed up the ingredients exactly then baked it at 275 for two hours. I had gotten a late start so the cake wasn’t finished until after 11 p.m. I was about 27 months pregnant with Carlos that year and was out of my mind with fatigue. After I pulled the cake out of the oven, I thought about how my Grandmama Irene would let her tube pan cool on the neck of a bottle. I fetched an old bottle and set it on the kitchen counter. Verrrrry carefully, I turned the entire cake pan upside down and suspended it over the bottle.
In the 4 seconds that it took me to remember that upside down cooling was for angel food cakes so they didn’t collapse it was too late to save the pound cake.
Hanging upside down is definitely not for hot pound cakes.
In slow motion, I watched the pound cake slllliiiidde out of that heavily buttered pan and smash into a thousand nuggets on the countertop.
This was before cake pops, so there was no saving it. And since it was almost midnight and I was super pregnant, I stood there in the half-dark kitchen and ate my fill of shattered cake.
My favorite travesty with this cake happened the very first time I made it, back when Fartbuster and I were married. The recipe is from a family cookbook that Brett put together many years ago. I followed the recipe exactly. I’ll give you a second to put on your reading glasses and look up there at the recipe. Does anything strike you as odd? I was new to baking, so I added just what the recipe called for–18 oz of cream cheese. Two solid blocks and a little bit of a third. Over a POUND of cream cheese. My poor little hand mixer was smoking by the time I got it blended together.
The cake smelled divine while it baked. I lifted it from the oven and inverted it onto a plate. I let it cool for a few hours and we grew giddy with anticipation at tasting my first homemade cake. When it was time for the tasting, the knife sliced through the crumbly golden crust but then it…got stuck. Like it had hit a dense core.
I pulled the knife out and tried again, with more of a sawing motion. We finally got a slice cut after a little effort. The center of that cake had so much congealed cream cheese in it that it was GRAY. It was a lot like eating PlayDoh, only not as salty.
A few weeks later, when I mentioned at a family dinner that I had made that cake, Big Gay said, “You know there’s a typo in the recipe, right? It’s supposed to be 8 ounces of cream cheese.”
I simply nodded and said, “Yeah, I figured that out.”
Like so much of life, every time I mess up this cake I learn something new. Let’s hope I get a little bit better with every try and ONE DAY…one sweet sweet day…I will get it right!
If you’re close to Athens, come by the Prince One Lobby at ARMC on Friday, Sept 19 from 8 a.m.-noon. We’ll be selling goodies and auctioning cakes for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society!