Now I know where the expression “easy as pie” comes from–it’s in comparison to making a cake. I know that you will think it is bizarre that I could be 60 years old and that I had never made a cake from scratch until last night. But it’s true. Cake mixes were invented long before I was a child, and as a full-fledged Hart kid, I was always taught that in cooking, easier is better. Why not use a mix if one is available? What is wrong with Kraft mac and cheese? If Spam is on the shelf, happy day!
OK, I have made Texas sheet cakes and even some biscuity-type cakes for strawberry shortcake. I have made hundreds of loaves of home-made bread. I have made my own graham crackers, bagels, saltines, and scones. But until last night, I had never made a regular cake.
Chalk it up to hubris. My book group comes tonight and I wanted to make something good. We’re reading “Still Alice,” which takes place in Boston, so I got the brilliant idea of making a Boston Cream pie–which, as it turns out, is not really a pie. I looked at several recipes. A couple of them used a cake mix and instant pudding. Couldn’t go there. I found one that required cake flour, separated eggs, and filling that is thickened with corn starch. The recipe even needed cream of tartar–the first time I have used that bottle in ages.
It was labor intensive–not to be attempted after a full day of work, working in the garden, watering the lawn, and doing dishes. I didn’t start until 9 pm. Another bad idea.
I had such high hopes. I followed the recipe EXACTLY–measuring, where I usually don’t measure. The cake required beating the egg whites. They were beaten to perfection. The filling required not 2, not 4, but SIX egg yolks–and whole milk. The ganache required $5 worth of sem-sweet chocolate and another 2 bucks worth of cream.
The result reminded me a little bit of the first cake that Laura Brown makes in “The Hours.” The one that she throws into the garbage. But I don’t have that luxury. It must be served tonight. My cake didn’t fall neatly out of the pan. It fell apart when I tried to cut it in half to add the filling. I toyed with the thought of just crumbling it up and making those disgusting cake pops. But instead I will turn the lights down low and depend on my book group to be kind (which I have no doubt they will be). The ingredients are all good in and of themselves–chocolate, cream, eggs, and sugar.
As Laura Brown says in “The Hours”:
“The cake is less than she’d hoped it would be. She tries not to mind. It is only a cake, she tells herself. It is only a cake…She’d hoped (she admits to herself) it would look more lush and beautiful, more wonderful. This cake she’s produced feels small, not just in the physical sense but as an entity. It looks amateurish; handmade. She tells herself, it’s fine. It’s a fine cake, everyone will love it.”