Last Saturday it poured all day long. Since we had all the necessities (food, coffee, food, wine, food, firewood), we opted not to set foot outside the house, something which in retrospect seems a little pathetic, but while it was happening was very nice indeed.
We ate cassoulet for lunch (which had improved overnight) and afterward I was in the mood for cake. But I had not adequately prepared: no softened butter, no room temperature eggs. Nor did I have any of those good cake ingredients, like buttermilk or sour cream, or high-quality chocolate.
I did, however, have this:
I don't think I've made a boxed cake since about 1983, when my friend Rebecca and I would experiment in the kitchen on summer days, making multi-colored (we were intrigued by food coloring) and multi-layered (four rainbow layers--hideous!) box cakes, which inevitably tasted terrible. Bless our parents who let us waste money and time in the name of being creative.
Cake mixes dropped off my radar a long time ago. I went for decades without thinking of them, until a few months ago I was in Trader Joe's and I spied their new line of cake mixes, as well as frostings, which bore the creepy yet riveting promise that all I had to do was:
I'm a sucker for cute packaging, who isn't? After all, that's why I liked the husband in the first place. It wasn't until later that I discovered how smart, funny, and sweet he is.
So, I made the cake. Putting it together took about 10 minutes. Baking it took 25 (in spite of the directions which said it would take 40-50 for two 9-inch layers--huh? Maybe if you want hockey pucks). I cooled the layers, made the frosting, and took to it with my offset spatula. I have to say, for someone without much cake frosting experience, I think it looked rather pretty.
How it tasted was another matter. Not terrible by any means -- we each put away a good-sized hunk of it (and were then incapacitated for the next hour or so) -- but through each bite we were both aware of a distinctly processed feel. It was also overly sweet, not a big surprise.
We actually didn't eat any more of the cake, although I did enjoy looking at it over the next day or two. There's something iconic about yellow cake with chocolate frosting; it's the quintessential birthday cake. But after this experience, I'm willing to go the extra mile and skip the box. It may be easier, but it turns out there are two excellent reasons people make cakes from scratch: taste and texture.
On one final note, I failed to brag on my last post that it was actually my 200th!! Pretty amazing, to me at least. I started this blog two years ago and somehow it's still going. I like to think I would do this in a vacuum, but like most everyone, I need public validation. I'm insecure that way. So thanks for reading, and thanks especially for commenting. You make the blog world go round. Now go get yourself a piece of (homemade) cake.