March 20th, 2011 09:50 EST
My British Muse and the Fruitcake
I recently took on a challenge that in the past I have only dreamed about. It took courage, fortitude, preparation and all the self-confidence I could muster, but I did it " yes, I baked a cake! I am not talking a Betty Crocker mix here. Mind you, I am not making fun of Betty Crocker because she is my best friend. No, I am talking about a scratch cake.
Yes, I went to the grocery store and searched that mysterious aisle where they keep all those baking supplies. I do not normally head down that aisle because that is where all the really good housewives hang out. This is an intimidating crew. They know the difference between self-rising flour and the regular crap and they know things like how to use sifters and how to separate eggs.
Anyway, this desire to bake is because of my Twitter friend, Andy, who hails from Great Britain. Last week he was telling me how he likes to bake, and I was entertaining him with the horror stories of my baking experiences. He said he had a recipe for a fruitcake that was fool proof. Now, many people have tried to give me foolproof recipes before. Some of these recipes do not even require baking, but guess what? They are not fool proof. They can be ruined.
After much encouragement and a lot of double daring from Andy, I decided to try out his recipe. Now, I know that we in the States and the British speak the same language, but when I first saw Andy`s measurements in the recipe, I got scared. It was in the metric system. In a panic, I told Andy that I couldn`t do this baking project as it required more scientific knowledge than I possessed, but being the gentleman that he is, he offered to convert the metric measures to the backwards United States measurements, so that I could bake this cake.
I gave Andy the exact day and time I would start this project. Despite the six-hour time difference, he stayed on Twitter to encourage me through the process. I even took out my apron for the occasion. I know " an apron! I asked for one for Christmas three years ago because I thought it would inspire me. Until the cake-baking day, it had only managed to inspire the inside of my pantry.
I pre-heated the oven. Well, first I had to read the oven book on how to do that, but I did it. Then, I meticulously put together all the ingredients that Andy emailed me. He was true to his word. The recipe itself was not that complicated. All I had to do was mix. When I finished combining all the ingredients, I popped my batter into the oven and waited.
I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the responsibility for the cake`s outcome now fell squarely upon my oven`s shoulders. I set the timer and dashed to my laptop to tell my friend across the pond that everything seemed fine.
"See, I told you that you could do this!" he exclaimed. Now, you have to watch the cake because it will rise. Do you have a steel or glass oven door?""
Why was he asking about the integrity of my oven door? A momentary panic set in.
"Is it going to rise so much that my oven door explodes?" I inquired.
"NOOOOOO!" He yelled in all caps! "Just watch that it doesn`t get out of hand."
"Well, that is up to the oven now, isn`t it?"
So, I planted a chair near the oven and watched. Luckily, the chair was next to the brandy that sat on the counter, so I treated myself to a taste or two of that as well. Ninety minutes later, my cake was done. When my husband came home that night, he asked,
"What is that smell?"
"Do you mean that in a good way or did-one-of-the-dogs-have-an-accident-kind-of-way?" I asked back.
"No, a good way! Have you been baking?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, I baked " a cake! Taste!"
Well, he was hesitant, and I don`t blame him because in the past eating my baked goods have come with inherent risks that ranged from spoiled taste buds to intestinal attacks of the worst kind. But he took a sample and smiled.
Yes, my cake was a success, and I told that to my British baking coach. He was happy for me, and I was proud. Will I bake a lot more in the future? Nah, this fruitcake was my Mt. Everest. However, this experience did give me the confidence to take on new challenges. Next time, I plan on going cave spelunking. Yeah, that`s probably less dangerous.