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Monday, March 24, 2008

At Least It Wasn't Pear Tart

We were invited for Easter dinner at the house of some good friends. In preparation, I dressed Daughter in her new powder pink finery -- a cashmere sweater dress that's been hanging in her bedroom closet since she was -6 months old. Yes, I bought it while I was pregnant, in the hopes that she was a girl, thinking if she was not, I would give it as a gift to some friend or other; someone I know was sure to have a daughter some day... Anyway, the dress finally fits, so on it went.

The hair "pretty" lasted all of 45 seconds, which is why it' s not in the photo. We cozied her up in some tights, everyone was as presentable as we could muster, and then "time for shoes!" sang out Mama. I tried to put her in her cute tan leather ones that have a bit of pink trim. "No," Daughter insisted. "Bown ones." I again offered "puppy shoes." "NO!" she said even more firmly. "Bown ones." If you don't think an almost-two-year-old can insist on something so strongly that there is simply no winning that fight, then you've never had a child this age. And if you have had a child this age, then you know that there are some battles not worth fighting. And so, she went to the party dressed like this from the waist down. Charming, no? And, oh, so fancy.

But our friends, no matter how much better dressed they are than we at pretty much every moment of every day, are parents themselves, so they chose to interpret the sneakers-with-party-dress look as charming.

Then it came time for me to unveil the dessert. I had spent quite a long time on Saturday making a pound cake. I even borrowed a pan from my sister, so that the cake would be particularly lovely. Here was my vision: a spring-like, buttery golden, flower-shaped cake sitting on a pretty platter, next to a cut-glass bowl of raspberry compote for spooning over individual slices.

Okay, so, got the vision in your head? The golden loveliness of a perfect pound cake juxtaposed with the juicy redness of raspberries? The kind of cake that calls for two sticks of butter, three cups of sugar, six eggs, a cup of sour cream (no low fat imitation stuff here!). A rich, dense, delicious, made-from-scratch concoction. And because our friends were going to have both set of their parents there, as well as two sets of aunts/uncles, I was particularly concerned that it look nice. Especially since the last time I took a dessert over there--for a much larger party--one guest said to me, "have you tried these little cupcakes? They don't look like much, but they sure taste great!" I did not reveal at the time that I was the baker of "don't look like much" cakes, but I was resolved this time to make something that not only tasted great but also looked like a million bucks. So, are you ready for the unveiling? Here is the lovely, flower-shaped wonder exactly how it looked when I turned it out of the pan:

No, the dog has not chewed it. No, these are not the leftovers. No, the pan is not hand crafted by monkeys with hammers. This is just how it came out (I used that verb loosely) of the pan.

You see, my sister--the baker*--told me that I should let this cake cool at least 30 minutes before trying to turn it out because a cake will set a little as it cools. And with an intricate design like this one (look closely at the photo, and you'll see what the design is supposed to be), you don't want to turn it out too early, or the cake will crack. [Got it.] And, she said, you should leave it at least two hours before covering it, so that it cools completely; otherwise, it will get soggy. [Check.] And, she said, (yes, she, the baker*), since this is a non-stick pan, as long as you coat it well before baking, you can leave the cake in the pan overnight so it won't dry out, and then turn it out at the party right before you serve it. TA DA!

Now, wouldn't you be proud to serve such a cake? At a friend's house?! After you'd promised to bring a dessert for 12 adults and 6 children? And you'd taken pains to make it especially beautiful?

Just in case you're even remotely temped to follow the "let it cool in the pan overnight" advice yourself, let me tell you what we tried to get it out of the pan. Keep in mind that the lovely molded shape of the flower, all ridged and intricate, made it completely impossible to run a knife smoothly around the circumference of the cake like any normal pan would allow. So, I loosened the top edge all the way around; tapped on the bottom of the pan; shook it; banged on the bottom with a knife; carefully inserted the knife into the pan at points all the way around; shook it harder; pulled more firmly on the edges of the cake; inverted it onto a plate and pounded on the bottom of the pan; soaked the entire pan in a gigantic bowl of scalding water for 10 minutes; inverted and tapped again; pulled so firmly on the edges of the cake that it began to crack; gave up on gorgeousness; stuck my fingers down along the edges of the cake to pry the buttery goodness out of the cold, dead hands of the pan. The pan won.

Fortunately, my friends are as gracious and classy as they are kind and fun. So when I asked for a large glass bowl, they pulled one out without question. Uncle L dashed off to his house for a tub of whipped topping, and I finished manhandling the hunks of pound cake into smaller chunks, layered it with the lovely raspberry topping and hastily-procured white whip, and voila! TRIFLE.

Which is, of course, exactly what I'd planned on making all along. It tasted scrumptious.

And since, as my lovely friend said, "no one should leave Easter dinner with a twitch," I'm just going to pretend that my contributions to the evening were gorgeous. Or at least, that they worked like the clowns in a Shakespearean tragedy -- a little comic relief against the backdrop of fabulous rack of lamb and asparagus goodness that the real actors turned out without even breaking a sweat.

And because I know said friend reads this blog, let me say publicly: Thank you for an amazing dinner and some truly wonderful friendship.

And for not laughing at my cake

* * *
* Let it also be known that the sister of baker fame pretty much knows everything (else) there is to know about baking. She's totally my Baking 911 hotline. And so I write this partly for her, because I know she'll laugh with me, and partly in fond memory of the most hideously inedible, legendarily abysmal pear tart that ever graced a Christmas dinner table. Which is the only other time I've ever known her to make a baking error. And I had a major hand in that one too...which might tell you something.


MultiplesMommy said...

If it makes you feel any better, my dear, I had a similar experience with Husband's birthday cake this year. His favorite cake is lemon, which I've always made it the traditional 2-layer variety with vanilla frosting. This year, however, he said, "you know, that frosting is so heavy. Maybe you could do one of those thin glaze frostings instead?" And since it was said with such hopefulness, and it was, after all, his birthday, I complied. I, too, used one of those super fancy flower shaped bundt pans. And, strangely enough, mine looked EXACTLY like yours when I got it out of the pan. And lucky me, since I made it the morning of his birthday, I had time to send the in-laws to the store for more ingredients on their way to our house, and I whipped up another one before he came home. In a much simpler pan. :-)

MIQuilter said...

I am SOOOOOO sorry!!!! Next time you want a gorgeous pound cake in my flower pan, I'll make it for you - it's always turned out for me in that pan..... which I'm sure it has NOTHING to do with the fact that I don't have 2-3 toddlers running around whining and wanting to "hep".

And yes, nothing can beat a pear tart!

joshenry said...

Great post! The pound cake was amazing and it made no difference to anyone what form it took (or didn't take!). So glad you all could come!

lattemommy said...

Well, the cake may not have come out of the pan nicely, but it sure did look tasty! And that was a lovely trifle - I'm sure everyone enjoyed it.

Tell the little miss that I think the shoes *made* her outfit. She's sassy, that one!

Glad you had a lovely Easter dinner with friends and family. Next year you can come to my house for Easter pizza. Well worth travelling a couple thousand miles...

Lisa said...

Your little girl is ADOREABLE! Had to laugh about how she had a very clear vision for her footwear.

Was drooling when reading about the pound cake. Combining Coop Whip and putting it into a bowl was a fabby idea! Yeay you.

Motherhood for Dummies said...

oh those tights are soooo cute! Please tell me where you got them!

foolery said...

We must be on the same page -- both writing about horrible pound cake experiences in the same week. You saved your with much more grace and dignity than we did, however.

MommyTime said...

I have to tell you, Laurie, that I was longing for your pound cake recipe perfection somewhere in the middle of that trial. I couldn't stop thinking of it. At least you had the good sense to make yours ahead of time AND get it out of the pan!

MommyTime said...

Motherhood for dummies: they're from Old Navy. Can you believe it?

Lisa, thanks.

MIQ, really, don't feel bad. It was funny. And only a teensy bit mortifying (kidding). But I might ask you to make the next one...

Joshenry, thanks -- as usual.

LatteMommy, you are very kind. And yes, she's sassy that one!

MM -- ahh...thank you for making me not the only one. Though I am sorry for you. :)

Mr Lady said...


Second: It looks so good I'm drooling.

Last: Have I ever told you about me and COOKIES?

Sara said...

Last year I was supposed to bring desert as well and my strawberry short cake fell which made it all smashed up. It was too late to stop by the store... I wish I would have thought more like you!

MCmommy said...

I'm laughing so hard over here...because the exact same thing happened to me with a Christmas gingerbread cake! Who knew there was such a fine line between letting cakes "set" and them becoming superglued to the pan?!!!
p.s. You get major points for your "recovery"!

Amy said...

The sweater is precious, the daughter is precious, the shoes are funny, the cake is hilarious! But did it taste good? Because that's all that matters! And you made it into a trifle? That's just genius! And I'm so impressed, I always just pick up something from the grocery on the way.

Betsy Bird said...

I have a friend who had a very similar experience with a turkey-shaped cake she made in a Williams-Sonoma pan last Thanksgiving. Actually, hers came out of the pan; it was just raw inside and collapsed with the first cut. Maybe cakes are trying to tell us they like your basic flat, circular pan?

Love the dress and shoe combination. She made that outfit her own!

BusyDad said...

Good save! And actually the final product looked more "dig in with both hands" delicious than a fancy slice with compote anyway. Have you ever read the book "Don't Try This at Home"? It's a compilation of stories from famous chefs of their early days. Most of the stories are about turning disaster into triumph - like this.

MommyTime said...

Oh, BusyDad, I love that you can turn this disaster into a compliment. I must go check out this book. And, it was tasty, if I do say so myself.

Mr Lady, I want to hear about the cookies.

And Sara, McMommy, and Betsy -- it's nice to know I'm not alone in this. Thanks!

Mr Lady said...

Honey, here you go....



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