I Am Not a Professional

While I was wallowing in a land without contacts, I was not idle in my misery. Oh no, I decided to eat a lot.

For me, writing is never just one way. It can be excruciating or energizing. I can collapse into a nap, or be ready for a night out.

What is always horrible, though, is editing. Editing a book leaves me in a puddle of exhaustion that nothing but several episodes of the very best British murder mysteries can fix. And it takes so long! No joke, editing a chapter takes about five times as long as actually writing it.

But, this is my passion. For writing, I wake up early and stay up late, ignoring family, husband, and friends. And it is what I willingly put myself on the brink of internet humiliation for because, well, I darn like this story and I think other people will too. And there is no true story without a painful amount of edits. It is the most critical part of writing.

So, naturally, I avoid it as much as possible.

I do other things, telling myself that it is “research.” In this case, “research” turned into “bake a cake.”

(I feel like I should warn people here: if you came to this page to see beautiful cakes, then leave now. There is nothing but failure ahead.)

How does this sound? A double-layer Genoise filled with lemon curd, fresh strawberries, strawberry compote, and lemon whipped cream, and then lightly iced with more lemon whipped cream, decorated with candied lemon slices and fresh strawberries. To me, it sounded awesome. Even better, I had basically made all of the components before!

(Full disclosure, no I had not. I had made lemon curd, Genoise, and whipped cream. But, I had never attempted lemon whipped cream, candied lemons, or actually anything this big. Plus, at the last minute, I decided to add some lemon flavor to the Genoise as well.)

I performed the first step perfectly – if the first step is doing nothing except telling a bunch of friends that “yeah, I’m totally making this cake and I’ll bring it tomorrow for everyone!”

Then I ignored responsibilities and watched Sherlock for a couple hours.

Finally, I lifted myself from the couch and headed to the tomb of disaster (a.k.a. the kitchen). It was probably about 9:00 p.m. at that point. And I knew that this was going to take a several hours, but that fact was inconvenient, so I ignored it.

First, the lemon curd (so I could snack on it while doing other things). I have done this before, and it turned out okay.

Next, the cake. I have made Genoise before with some success, but this was NOT one of those times. Of course, I didn’t know it then.

I was slightly concerned that the center was sunken, but I chalked that up to over beating the cake and opening the oven door a few too many times. Not a problem, I reasoned. More room for the filling!

After a few minutes, I removed the cakes from the pans. It did not go as planned.

Exhibit A:

That’s okay, I thought. The crack will be covered up by whipped cream, and it’s going to get broken when people cut into it anyway.

On to the whipped cream!

At this point, my kitchen was approximately the same temperature as Mercury. Does that do something to deflate whipped cream? Maybe. Or it might have been the lemon zest I added. Both seem reasonable. The whipped cream did whip – but it didn’t grow. There was barely enough whipped cream to cover the middle layer, let alone disguise the cracks.

What would Mary Berry do? Probably have a gin & tonic, but I’m not British enough for that (read: not British at all).

I was tired at this point, and decided to fridge the cake, get more heavy whipping cream tomorrow, and finish it up in the morning.

Day 2:

The day before was disappointing, but I was confident that this could be salvaged. I went to the store down the block at an uncouthly early time and started on the whipped cream the moment caffeine hit my system.

Realizing that I hadn’t made the strawberry compote yet, I did that next. And forgot to get a picture of it, which was a shame, because it was a beautiful color.

While the compote was cooling, I set about making more whipped cream . . . too soon . . . the caffeine hadn’t fully blossomed in my system . . . and . . .

I learned how they make whipped butter. Turns out, not so hard. All you have to do is forget about the whipped cream for an extra minute.

I was desolate. In despair. My cake was ugly, and there was no cream to cover it up!

While the cream was turning into butter, I had put the top layer on, and this happened:

Exhibit B:

It was a total failure. Zero points for prettiness.

Attempting to be a responsible adult, I tried to console myself with cake. I ate one of the crumbly cake bits.

And then I tried another – but not because I wanted to.

It tasted like particularly astringent cleaning solution. Not soapy, but oddly bitter. Which is not fair, considering I had to run out for more sugar before baking the Genoise the night before!

So, I tried a slice, acknowledging that this was likely a failure.

And here is what was wrong with it:

  1. The cake was under baked.

  2. The whipped cream (from the night before) was bitter.

  3. The lemon curd and strawberry compote canceled each other out and I couldn’t taste either.

  4. The fresh strawberries were under ripe.

It was, in totality, an expensive disaster that went straight into the garbage.

And, my kind friends never asked about it. Thanks guys.