Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Year of Heavenly Cake Baking

I cannot believe an entire year has gone by since baking my first cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes a la the Heavenly Cake Bakers.  The reason for my wanting to join Marie's group was my terrible habit of never being able to resist a cookbook only to read them like fiction.  My cookbooks are in pristine condition, except one, which my then young children's puppy chewed while on the bookshelf.  Martha Stewart was not amused; seriously not amused autographing it at a book signing lecture.  She would be absolutely mortified at Rose's poor book.  It's falling apart.  I haven't seen hide nor tattered piece of the outer cover in months.  And yet Rose couldn't have been kinder when she signed the book in San Francisco.

"Oh, this book has been used!" she happily exclaimed, cocoa powder dust and all.

That was a few cakes ago.

So here I am, still struggling along with my non-sequential right brained ineptness, yet I love it!  I eagerly look forward with anticipation each week to see which cake is up and how big of a headache am I going to get?  Sometimes I have to call in for back up.  My daughter will patiently read the instructions while I pull my hair out, drop whisks and spatulas, set off a smoke alarm or two with burnt caramel and/or turn cooked syrups into rock candy science experiments.  My cursing vocabulary has increased by leaps and bounds.

Other times I plot and plan out a recipe worthy of troop maneuvers.  Diagrams take on crazy illustrations with arrows pointing here and there and circling back around in dizzying configurations that any high school football coach would be happy to have in his play book.

Miracles do happen and occasionally I sail through a recipe, victorious and triumphant with all ingredients added in the correct order. It doesn't happen often.  

My daughter has asked  me on more than one occasion  "Is this really worth it?  Would an average baker do this?"  The most cutting question of all "Would grandma bother with this book?"  

My answer is yes.  Yes it is worth it.  It is worth using every pot, pan, bowl, whisk and spatula I own and then having to wash them again before the cake can be finished.  It's worth it to me and not just for the resounding applauds and compliments that come my way.  I still can't quite accept those.  But they still keep coming and apparently the week's baking project is hugely anticipated by those with whom I share the calories.  Baking from this book has been better than a college course.

Would my mom, an amazing home baker, bother with this book?  Oh, yes, I think she definitely would.  I think she would have loved nothing more than to knock the socks off the ladies in her bridge groups with one or two or more of these cakes.  More importantly, she would have taken on Rose's precision baking practices and embraced them, once she got the hang of a scale.  She was a great baker because of her precision and perfectionism.  There wasn't an ounce of devil may care rebellion when it came to baking.  Or anything else really.  Clearly that trait did not come down the DNA.  

Why do I muddle on each week, never sure if a cake is going to be the final straw which contributes to a complete emotional breakdown after babysitting three granddaughters under the age of nine, two puppies under the age of six months, with the baby needing to be driven to her mother's office twice a day?  Because baking along with everyone around the world truly is a joy.  Reading each baker's post is a  treat.  I get inspired, entertained and awed by the dazzling accomplishments.  I'm uplifted with some sort of  group energy when I don't think I can possibly make a seven page cake.  And when the little granddaughters elbow their way in and commandeer the pastry brush, I am delighted.  They will never find weighing flour on a scale mentally taxing because they find it so fun now.

                                          Puppy teething on Rose's Heavenly Cakes 

What have I gained from baking out of a book which raises the bar on baking methods?  I would never bake any cake without cake strips encircling the pan.  I cringe when I now attempt to bake something and the weights aren't given.  My wish list for Christmas this year?  A new instant read thermometer. I pay attention to my ancient oven's temperature, know more about the various types of sugar than anyone should and spend more on chocolate than I do on vegetables.  

I can't say baking with HCB has given me confidence, per se, but I am no longer intimidated.  Now, if the same could be said for yeast and pie dough, I will consider it a life well lived.

Thank you Rose.  Thank you Woody.  Thank you Marie. And a special heartfelt thanks to my fellow HCB'ers.


  1. Oh Vicki,
    I envy you all the babies and puppies, but I can say for sure that my book's just as beat up. My mother was watching me cook the other day and she kept nervously wiping down the pages as I spilled things on it.

  2. Vicki, you could not have said it better - your words speak to the feelings that I have since joining HCB (my first year is coming up as well). But the biggest thing is knowing that while I'm cursing and screaming, I know that I have company from another baker that is doing the same thing over a stove, oven or bowl.

    And we can hold eachothers hand when it comes to pies and yeast!

    Together we CAN!

  3. Vicki - Lovely lovely recap! It is beautifully written. Thanks for sharing the pictures of your wonderfully worn book. Mine has also gone through use - I have flour dust, cocoa, oil stains, water marks - in numerous sections.
    I just celebrated my 1 year too - and feeling bittersweet. Totally not regretting joining and am proud to say that I have learned leaps and bounds.

  4. Well said, Vicki. I love baking with this group, even though I started baking later (due to my kitchen remodeling project at the time). It's been a fun ride so far. Looking forward to another delicious year :o)
    Also, glad I met you thru HCB, otherwise, I might not have had the pleasure to have you be part of ABC :o)

  5. Oh, what a gorgeous summation of our year. Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Also, please email me your postal details (nlblackler at gmail dot com). I have a certain xmas something that has been languishing in my cupboard for over a year. It needs to find a home more useful than a padded postage bag. I declare you the winner!

  6. Vicki, my friend, well said! Congratulations on a wonderful year.

  7. vicki, this was a lovely post! i loved all of it--your photos of your battered book (with signatures!) and all the behind-the-scenes action of baking in your home. i'm with you on the yeast and pie dough too. we can do it!

  8. Such a beautiful post, and just what I've been thinking. We've accomplished so much, and somehow we've become not just cake bakers, but a group of friends who bake cakes together.

  9. Happy blog anniversary! I agree it's beautifully written. And i have to say, for me, it's the increasing number of bottles of alcohol i have. My book is a bit worn out too compared to the rest of my other cookbooks but knowing how OCD i am, it's still in quite good condition..:P

  10. ב''ה

    Nice post. Congrats for all your efforts. Your baking efforts inspire weekly. My book looks like that too! :)

    It has been a fun time.

  11. Oh Vicki - I smiled and laughed throughout this whole post - loved every word!!! Congratulations on a job well done (and without having a nervous breakdown in the process).


  12. Congratulations to your 1 year celebration with HCB! What a journey, I can only imagine. Just think of how far you have come from that first Rose recipe =).