A hopeful baking disaster

Heatwave conditions today; it’s baking outside. Morning tea at work tomorrow, so I’m baking inside. After my recent foray into my Gran’s cook book and the production of an unexpectedly successful pavlova, I’m feeling emboldened.

Today, I reach for my own recipe folder. It’s been a long time. I remember a savoury cake last made about a decade ago; I’d like to try it again.

At the supermarket, relying on memory, I add two apples, a zucchini and two oranges to the cart. Typing this, I realise I forgot the carrots but managed to remember that the colour orange should be involved.

Perhaps a little scary is just how much consideration I gave to pairing oranges with apples and zucchini, but I’ve decided that Serendipity purchased oranges, so I will devote myself to the flourless orange cake.

Serendipity is my favourite word. The two recipes are even stuck to the same page.

They bob and bounce in the saucepan. A not-so-sweet smell of orange is filling the kitchen. It is an unfamiliar smell that is both orange and not.

If I’m getting back into baking, I need to invest in a food processor. A blender is not a food processor. This fact has been reconfirmed again today. I own a food processor, purchased cheap over 10 years ago and now sounds very sad. Yet it succeeds where the blender failed.

The mis-steps are piling up. Wrong ingredients. Wrong equipment. And now this warm mass of orangeness preoccupies my mind because surely I cannot be adding it to eggs. One disaster averted at least; there’s the instruction, tucked away at the end of a paragraph, “let cool”.

I need cooling off as well because everything is getting very messy. Wrong sized bowls. Unnecessary washing up.

It’s out of the oven and out of the pan. Some of the edges are stuck to the baking paper. An opportunity for a taste and … ultimate disappointment.

Baking is a precise affair, and I must have fudged the sugar content.

The sweeter the oranges, the less sugar required. The pithier the oranges, the more sugar the cook will need. These were not sweeter and had too much pith. I understand now why some orange cake recipes include a sugar syrup to drizzle over and seep through.

But disappointment can be short lived. Having given up on a nicely presentable cake for tomorrow’s morning tea, I cut into the soft centre and discover it isn’t as bitter as I thought … except, hang on … no, there’s an aftertaste. Not nice.

I am a stumble-along baker. The memory of my first baking calamity is still vivid, not the actual mixing of ingredients, that is lost to time, but the image of the tray ladened with lack lustre, ‘why-aren’t-they-cooking’ biscuits staring back at me from the oven. I remember the panic.

I panicked because they were to be a surprise. Not the actions of a loving daughter making biscuits for her hard-working mum. No, it was a selfish act designed to demonstrate how clever I was. The aim was not to please but to elicit praise, making the failure severely embarrassing. To be fair, I was not yet 10.

It was perhaps the only time as a child that I tidied up after myself in the kitchen. Evidence had to be to eliminated before Mum returned home. The uncooked biscuits were wrapped and pushed deep down into the bin. No-one said anything.

I’m still a stumble-along baker who now occasionally stumbles her way into a presentable offering, even if sometimes it’s only a combination of different dessert items in a bowl. In the search for balance, the shortcomings of one can be overcome by the gracefulness of another; the combination of bitter and sweet at play on the palette.

So I’ve sliced and diced, packaged and popped that bitter orange into the freezer because there is always hope for a disastrous bake. I await the next family afternoon tea because I wouldn’t dream of taking it into the office!






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