Well, readers, you’ve done it again. What an amazing set of stories about baking successes and failures! From a fabulously weird but delicious birthday cake with blue cheese and chocolate to a cake baked with nothing but love and a fork, I gobbled up each anecdote. In the end, after much self-deliberation, I chose Hector’s recounting of baking a cake with just a fork to impress his potential girlfriend and her family. But my choice was difficult – here are a few of my favorite parts of some of the other wonderful entries:
- “The request was: make a cake so unusual that most people wouldn’t want to try it based on the description alone. Thus was born the chocolate, pear, walnut, and blue cheese cake. Layers of chocolate-walnut cake, spread with homemade pear jam and chocolate & blue cheese ganache (after Harold McGee’s truffle recipe), all frosted with chocolate buttercream, and decorated with dried pear slices dipped in chocolate and walnut crumbs. ” (from Beth)
- “… I tried making my mom’s pumpkin bread … skipped over the part requiring baking powder … super dense instead of fluffy … renamed them “Pumpkin Blondies” and found a new and delicious treat” (from Lisa)
- a reader whose sweet Grandpa ate her burnt chocolate chip cookies and requested them that way from then on (from Karen)
- a pie crust perfected at the beginning of her marriage 43 years ago that she still makes today (from Diane)
- Kimberly’s grandma: “… a tiny lady with a ferocious sweet tooth that never seemed to affect her waistline, an old-school baker who believed that pie crust should be made with lard, and every little problem could be vanquished with big, soft sugar cookies adorned with colored sprinkles and jotz. … I still find that the greatest accomplishments to emerge from my humble oven are the ones made reaching for the lard and butter, channeling my beloved grandma, and infusing her love and lessons into each thing. And in that, there’s no failure.”(beautiful words from Kimberly)
- A pie crust transformed from a box mix to homemade: “I have used this crust ever since for every pie and quiche I have made, even the double crust. I love crust now and I am no longer afraid of making it. I’ve read all the rules (cool kitchen and all that) and now making a crust is like second nature and I can’t wait to have some of whatever I’m putting into it.” (from Georgia)
- A classic Dominican birthday cake made with Italian meringue and love for her sister: “So this is my story that almost resulted in failure but ended up being a baking/decorating success. Here’s the cake I made on Saturday: http://bit.ly/lqinCt ” (from Yuri @ChefPandita)
- Trying to live up to her mom’s amazing baking prowess: “I still falter when faced with Mother’s recipes, but I have learned my lesson: I Skype with her about every single detail before I crack a single egg:)” (from Lana @Bibberche)
And the winning story told with humor and love from Hector:
Well, my experience was an amusing one. A little bit of background first. My mother is an AMAZING cook. She grew up in Panindicuaro, Michoacan. She was raised by her aunts, who had a restaurant in town. She started working t it since she was 5 years old, carrying the corn to the mill and coming back with masa for tortillas and other Mexican dishes. She’s very inventive and I’ve always been amazed by her talent. One thing that she did particularly well was baking cakes. She got asked in a regular basis by neighbors, friends, relatives, and even strangers (recommended by the aforementioned) to bake cakes for their special events. I loved the delicious alchemy involved in making a cake and I tried to learn all her secrets. I can not say that I’ve succeeded, as whenever I try one of my creations, there is a pang inside reminding me of that delicious flavor her cakes evoked. I haven’t seen her in almost 6 years now.
So, a long time ago I decided to impress a woman with my cake making abilities. I got invited to her home with her family and, as a polite gesture, decided to bring a small cake. Suffice to say, her family and friends loved it. As a way to establish a closer relationship, I asked the woman “Would you like to learn how to make this cake?” She agreed and I was in 7th heaven.
I arrived next weekend with all my ingredients, ready to show her how to reproduce my last week’s effort. I separated the ingredients, measured everything to milligrams, got everything ready. I’m putting things in a bowl and I ask the woman “Can I use your hand mixer to integrate everything?” She gives me a very blank stare.“We don’t have one”
My heart fell to the ground. “Are you sure?” I asked, unable to believe that a household didn’t have a hand mixer available. She checked everywhere, asked her mother, a neighbor (he wasn’t home). No blender available.
“Do you have a whisk?” Negative.
I managed to find a big salad fork and started mixing everything by hand. After a couple of minutes, the mix was the way I wanted it. I put it in the oven and tackled my biggest fear. Frosting.
I tend to make a very simple one, just heavy cream with confectionery sugar and a couple of drops of lime juice. But I use a hand blender for that. You can imagine how tired my arm was that night.
The cake turned up great, I managed to whip the heavy cream to a good consistency and her family was impressed. A couple of weeks after this event, her mom welcomed me to their home with a hand mixer exclaiming, very excited “LOOK! We finally got one!”
And a big thank you to Emily Luchetti for providing the signed copy of The Fearless Baker for Hector. She was also interested in all of your stories! If you haven’t done so yet, Emily has a baking survey that she would love for you to fill out – it’s quick and fun: http://ow.ly/5iVIm
The unsigned copy winner was chosen at random and goes to Giselle. Many thanks again for all of your stories and follows, tweets, likes, and subscriptions. Happy summer baking!