Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Recipe for Disaster?

I have confession to make: I am not a good baker.

Sure, I can cook. I can roast a chicken, boil potatoes, steam vegetables, make complicated pastas and chili, and concoct a pretty good chopped spinach salad. But when it comes to baked goods, forget it. No matter how hard I try, I always manage to end up with a, let me say, oddly misshapen product.

Case in point: my husband’s birthday cakes. His favorite cake is pineapple upside down cake, and this is what he always wants for his birthday. Three years in a row, I managed to mess it up – and not just a little bit, but to the point of disaster, where I had to throw my hands up in the air, throw the “cake” away, and quickly try to order one from a bakery instead. Last year, I skipped the drama and just ordered it from the bakery from the get go.

On my last attempt, two years ago, the cake literally imploded. When I took it out of the oven, it was a concave mess, with a dip in the middle that looked like a bowl. Forget trying to flip the darn thing over (which was my undoing the year before, when the entire pineapple top stuck to the bottom of the pan and made a mess).

I’m not sure where I go wrong. I’ve the blamed the recipes – which have ranged from Internet finds to boxed mixes. I’ve blamed my oven. (Maybe it’s not cooking evenly?) I’ve blamed my husband’s taste in cakes – I mean, couldn’t he just like a simple iced vanilla cake? (But don’t get me started on the way I’ve messed this up, too. I don’t understand the way people actually get icing to look good?). Yet, I’ve also ruined brownies from mixes that turn mushy, Trader Joe’s Green Tea cake (Don’t even ask!), and cupcakes that have exploded out of their foil wrappers in the oven.

I did have one baking success, once. A few years back at Thanksgiving, I set out to make a dairy-free pumpkin pie from scratch that my then milk-allergic son would be able to eat. I diligently condensed my own soy milk, a task which required me to stand in front of the hot stove constantly stirring and boiling for nearly an hour. And despite the complaints from my family, (who know my track record and were concerned that their Thanksgiving pie would be ruined), the pie actually turned out really well. Tasty and beautiful enough to appear bakery bought.

So my husband’s birthday is coming up in less than two weeks, and I’ve been telling myself that I’m going to attempt the pineapple upside down cake one more time. I mean really, if I can write and revise an entire novel, I should be able to bake one silly little cake, right?

The only problem is, I need a pineapple upside down cake recipe. So, if anyone has a good one -- preferably one that is tested and guaranteed not to fall apart in the oven, send it to me. I’d love to give it a try. And if it all works out, I’ll post a picture of it here in a few weeks. [Actually, either way I'll post the picture -- the cake or the ruins!]

Wish me luck! I'll probably need it.


lisapatton said...

I'm right there with you, Jill. Baking seems to be my downfall, too. With the exception of an old-fashioned pound cake recipe with caramel frosting. Only problem is pound cake is usually an older person's love. It might not go over as well with your kids!

Maureen Lipinski said...

Although I love to cook, I'm not a baker at all. Who wants to sit there and slave over a cake when Costco has such nice ones? :)

If your next attempt at the pineapple cake doesn't work, just mash it all up and call it "Right Side Up Pineapple Cake" and pretend like you just invented a fabulous new recipe.

Jillian Cantor said...

Lisa, That cake sounds good, but I'm sure I'd manage to find some way to destroy it!

Maureen, I like the way you think!!

Lesley Livingston said...

I, for one, anxiously await these photos!!

Break a leg! (Break an egg??)