Just call me the cake fairy–but don’t assume that means I know what I’m doing

I am thinking about setting up a stand at a farmer’s market to sell cakes.

I love baking cakes.  There is something about cake baking, the licking of fingers, the consistency of batter, the sweet indulgence it involves, that speaks to my inner girl.  I immediately fantasise about frilly aprons and stodgy maid uniforms—and no, I am not that kind of kinky.  But…

I will admit to having a desire to dress up in ways that unleash my inner Domestic Goddess…and the outfits are pretty absurd.  Cake fairy might just be the perfect name…

And with all that fantasising and a “flurry” of recipes, you’d actually think I might be pretty good at it.  Well, if I am, I sure forgot myself yesterday.  

You see, I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately with chestnut flour, and more generally, working my way around the world of gluten-free baking, using dairy substitutes, egg substitutes, sugar subs, etc.  This is due in part to the influence of a certain someone.  But the whole world is changing, and healthy (or at least less unhealthy) cooking needn’t mean slops.  Right?

Well, yesterday, I thought I would play with my near-perfect chestnut cake recipe from a few weeks ago.  To say I blew it is understatement.

It all started innocently enough.  I swapped the sugar for chestnut honey, thinking it would nice to pick up more chestnut flavour, and honey would be a healthful alternative.  I should have stopped there.  I was thinking about the milk in the recipe and swapping out the dairy milk for an alternate, but because the effect of the honey was to make the batter already fairly liquid, I plum forgot.  I swapped half of the butter for acorn oil too, thinking it would be nice to see if I could pick up the flavour, loving its almost orange colour, and loving the tenderizing effect that oil generally has on cake.  So, with all that play, I forgot to put the milk at all.  But the batter was only slightly thick.

In retrospect, I might have saved things (somewhat) had I added the juice of an orange or lemon at this point, but I didn’t.

The next screw up came courtesy of distraction, a trait of the ADD mind.  I was hyper-focussed on something else and completely forgot I was baking a cake in the first place.  So, the cooking time got doubled.  Amazingly, the cake was not burned.  At all.  But it was bone dry.

I suspected it might be, and I was feeling pre-taste, post-bake remorse, so I whipped up an orange glaze and doused the cake in it.  And then I served it.

It was awful.  The cake tasted like dust.  There was a gritty texture to it that came from not having put any liquid in the batter other than what came from the eggs and oil.  But it had also lost flavour (oil doesn’t do the same joyful things that butter does).  The orange glaze went some way to improving things, but not enough.

And of course this got me thinking.  With all these food blogs out there, the message is always how easy it is, the pictures so perfect, everything flawless, look at my life, don’t you want to be me?  And, well, no, I don’t.  I like my life messy.  I like it with the flaws and failings and the mistakes.  It’s like the seasons.  Or eating with the seasons.  We can try to whitewash ourselves and our lives into thinking that constant perfection is desirable or even possible, but it isn’t—the result of that is mediocrity and a loss of zest and flavour.  

So, for once in my life, the cake made a short trip past the table and ended up in the bin.  The good news?  I get to try something different today.

So when I set up my market stand and you come and by a slice of cake from a trans person who is scattered but smiling, please note that there are probably just as many failed cakes at home in the trash, which is why the one you just bought tastes so darn good.

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