Thursday, March 12, 2009


Okay, okay, I know that we all mess up sometimes. Every one of us
has had those less-than-stellar performances at
something we considered ourselves to be good at.
If I am honest, I will admit I am somewhat of
a perfectionist--a perfectionist with an asterisk qualifying
a small quirk: I can give myself a break on the gotta-be-perfect
thing as long as I did my best.

But--sometimes I find myself in the midst of a
failure SO BIG that even I can't rationalize it away
by knowing I gave it the ol' college try.

This cake recipe was such an experience.

Oh, it sounded innocent enough: chocolate cake.
Anybody can manage that, right?
A chocolate stout cake, to use up another bottle
of that six-pack I had to buy for the Guinness stew I posted
about some time ago.

As a disappointed student told my first husband (a high school
teacher) after
receiving a dismal test score, "I failed HARD."
Now I know what you meant, Jamie.

The cake was dry as a fart. Three layers of this crap, no less.

The second problem with the cake was the frosting.

(Time out for a homey little anecdote that almost earned
my husband The Pillow and Blanket On the Sofa award)
My daughter is a fearless cook.
She doesn't need a recipe and can just look
at the fridge contents and come up with something
wonderful that leaves her younger brothers (and apparently
her stepfather) cheering. My mother is the same way.

I, alas, am not like that. The first time I try a recipe,
I want the comfort of knowing that I am following something
tried and true. After a couple of times around the block with
a certain dish, I feel confident enough to take liberties.
My husband complimented my daughter one day by saying
that she was excellent at improvising dishes--then he
must have seen me with the Death Ray glow coming out
of my eyes because he hastily added, "and you're really a
good cook with recipes, honey!"

What would you have done? In my head, I realized he was
trying to give my daughter an honest compliment and that's cool.
He tried his best to compliment me too, when he saw the thin ice
he was on. What pissed me off was that he was
right: she's terrific ad libbing in the kitchen, and I'm not.
I'm afraid to take chances. Maybe it's because I hate
to feel that I have to eat something bad that just
didn't work out as planned.
It may have been a pride issue, too. Maybe.
Oh, shut up. Who asked you?!

Back to the chocolate stout cake.
I took a chance with the recipe for frosting--it was supposed
to be a chocolate ganache that would drape
gracefully down the sides of the three layered cake.

As you can see, the result was less than...less than...there just
aren't words to express this frosting except to say that
it was STIFF. And the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got.

So my days of taking liberties with recipes are over for
the time being, until the stench of failure is gone and
my cheeks are done burning with shame.

No comments: