This is isn’t exactly how it looked at the end.
Now, generally speaking, I trust Martha. Her recipes are, for the most part, pretty good. Sometimes they’re not as perfect as say… Ina Garten’s, but let’s face it, Martha (or rather, Martha Stewart Omnimedia) is a slightly larger business model than Ina’s. So we’re cutting her some slack. And plus, that cake looks outrageously good.
So I made it.
I’m not one to shy away from confectionary challenges, so I was definitely going to go for it. Plus, it’s my birthday cake and I figure: go big or go home.
It was all going so well.
Ok, it was all going moderately well.
The caramel sauce (all 4 ½ cups of it) came out just right on this first try. Even after a potentially disastrous moment in which the candy thermometer, coated in boiling hot melted sugar, leapt from the pan, ejecting it through the air and narrowly missing the mama, who was just inches from an almost disastrous fate. But other than that, it was so perfect that even I, a perfectionist when it comes to pastry, was pleased from the get go.
The cakes, which can now be fit all on one rack because of our giant new oven, also turned out pretty good. They may have looked a little burned on top and I’m pretty sure the temperature of said brand-new oven is still in question, but for all intents and purposes, the cakes were acceptable.
Another factor is time. I can’t even begin to tell you about this cake situation without the factor of time. Generally speaking, I don’t like to rush making a cake. Especially not a six layer monster that I’ve never made before.
I told you it was my birthday. I’m kind of a fan of doing something different on my birthday, given the fact that I can manage a night out on the town with my friends relatively easily these days. Last year there was jumping on trampolines. And while some might call it a disaster (namely my friend who spent four days in the hospital after destroying his ankle on a failed back flip), I’d say it was alright. This year, I wanted to hike. Having been locked in an icy, gym-less dungeon known as France for several months, I thought it would be nice to get out and about.
I’d like to point out at this moment that time was running out. Hiking takes up a good portion of the day and if you’re going to have food at the end you’ve gotta plan for that. And plan we did. But the point really is that, after having hiked all day, without so much as a semblance of physical movement in five months, I was supposed to assemble my monster cake in record time. Exhaustion may have been a factor here.
I really thought I might pull it off.
Imagine it now: me in our brand new (read: clean) kitchen, just returning home from a long hike, fatigued and with almost no time to do something I’d essentially never done before. I’m guessing the odds weren’t really in my favor at that moment. But I soldiered on and started to finish that cake.
As I scurried to make the frosting, level and slice the layers and fill the insides, things began to melt.
Ok, this isn’t a disaster, I tried to reason, I’ll put it in the fridge to cool down.
This technique had worked before.
Cake assembled, I rushed it to the fridge and closed the door right as the doorbell rang. Just as I turn to reorganized my things - my confectionary accoutrement if you will - and amongst the sounds of gests arriving, I hear the softest thump from the refrigerator area.
I rushed to the (brand new) refrigerator, threw open the doors and found the cake completely toppled over inside.
Let’s just say that there was a lot of yelling and running around. I won’t go into details.
But here it is. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words:
So what did I do? The guests had arrived, the kitchen was a mess and we still needed a dessert.
I did not throw it away. I did not melt down (not my style, anyway). Friends, I made trifle.
I didn’t manage to get a proper photo (as utter and complete exhaustion from the hike began to settle in), but you know what, it was still pretty darn good.
So that’s life for you. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you expected and sometimes things fall apart. They’re bound to, if you’re pushing yourself to do more. How would you ever know the limits of what is possible if you didn’t at least try to do the thing you’ve never done before? But when these things (inevitably) don’t go as planned, what we can do, it seems, is to pick up the pieces and make it work. Patch it together and go to plan B. Because even if life isn’t perfect, if we make the best of the moment and see the good, life can still be a sweet, sweet treat.