Don't Let Them Eat Cake?
Who cares what people think, bad baking is still baking.
Tina Fey says that the most important rule of beauty is this, "Who cares?" And thank God for wisdom like that, because when it comes to baking, "Who cares?" really captures the aesthetic I'm (not so purposefully) going for. My work is not elegant, or beautiful, or even consistently tasty, it's more the product of a woman who gets into the kitchen and wings it while drinking wine and blowing off steam. Not everyone loves what comes out of my oven, mostly because it’s either burned or according to my daughter, tastes like “sweet dirt” (whatever princess), but that's what's great about being an amateur baker like me. You pretend to be learning, until you can go fake pro. And even though I believe I’m ready now, people tell me I still need to work out some of the kinks. It's hard to understand the logic entirely, as I’m pretty sure that Duff guy bakes a salty cake every now and again, but fine, I’ll be patient. Taking the time to solve why my biscotti taste metallic, isn't the worst idea ever.
So why do I do it if I’m not any good? A couple of reasons. The first, because I have to. My cute little mouth idiom is no joke. This sweet tooth is ruled by a formidable power that needs to be kept happy. I remember when I was a kid, my mom had this ornament from her wedding cake that she kept stashed away at the back of the buffet. The thing was decades old, but had icing on it, so I would get on a chair and steal it, so I could eat the icing out of its nooks and crannies. We’re not talking normal icing here, that you could just lick off. We’re talking rock hard, discoloured, probably moldy icing, that you had to gnaw at like an animal. That’s how much I need sugar in my life. The second reason, is because baking makes me happy. Sweets make me happy and I enjoy making them. This life we live is full of love, loss and everything in between and baking is a good way to deal with it all. If I need a safe and peaceful space, where I can have fun while turning off the world, baking is going to give that to me. It’s calming, creative and therapeutic. Every deformed scone that comes out of my oven, is still the product of quality time spent with my besties, sugar, flour and butter.
Chefs on tv always say that baking is a science and measuring needs to be exact. Regrettably, I have to admit this 100% true and these people know what they’re talking about. Winging it is not an advised method and the reason they have successful shows on Food Network and I clean charcoaled batter off the bottom of my oven every week. But baking isn’t about following order to me, it’s about doing what you want to do. Prison rules, baby. It’s mixing three different colours of food colouring together, just for trysies. Or throwing a few chocolates from your Pot of Gold on top of a cake before it goes into the oven, to see if it forms a chocolatey crust- it doesn’t, they sink to the bottom and burn your pan - but you get my point! It’s about having fun. And when I inadvertently learn that eggs are essential if you want something to stay together, or that rust is not a pretty colour for a cake, well, I also know that icing covers all of that up (pro-tip, you’re welcome). I don’t have the patience to read every recipe all the way to the bottom. I over mix, under bake, omit ingredients and generally pay no attention to detail, but who cares because I bake with love and have fun doing it. No judgement. My oven doesn't say, oh no, she's back every time I turn it on. It says, come on in girl, let's see what happens when we bake something 10 degrees hotter than we're supposed to.
I have a career, child, student loans I’m still paying off and anywhere from 3 to five thousand little things I take care of everyday. And those things aren’t going anywhere. So when I want to remove myself for a little reprieve, I go into the kitchen and I bake. And as I’m doing so, I feel happy that I can make love, edible (no, I didn’t put that word in quotations, what are you, a lawyer??). And I think about when my daughter turned 4 and I baked two giant cookies that I cut and iced and made to look like a rabbit. Or when she turned 9 and I baked 37 cakes in a pizza tray, that became the tallest cake in the world, layered with pudding and marshmallows. I also remember that both of those did not turn out at all - the rabbit’s face looked like a melted candle and the cake was lopsided - but not to my daughter, who only remembers the best birthday parties ever (definitely to everybody else). So yes, I’m a bad baker and yes, I should probably go on that show Nailed It, but none of that matters. If I’m willing to accept that icing always slides off my cakes because I never wait until they’ve cooled, or that uncooked rice whirled up in a blender is not a substitute for flour, than the world can too. So what, that my empire of baked love is built with rock hard, spit out muffins? That's all ok, because I'm following the most important rule of beauty, Who cares?