As part of a random ongoing cooking relationship with a few of my friends from the Vermont Studio Center, I set to work making Christine’s lemon bundt cake. I really feel like I was accidentally included in this group, like I was mistaken for another pregnant woman at some point, because I’m not exactly a baker. Christine showed us a photograph of her bundt cake: perfect shape, lemons so yellow tucked in the cavernous center of the bundt shape.
I didn’t have a bundt pan. I was holding a baby and I couldn’t also carry the Cuisinart to my station in the kitchen, so I tried to blend ingredients with a spatula. I didn’t have enough lemon juice. The baby started crying. I stopped measuring and started throwing. Some egg shells fell into the batter. The oven wasn’t fully preheated: I threw the batter in the bread pan into the oven anyway. I forgot to set the timer. When it came out of the oven, the rusty bread pan left cancerous silver nonstick flakes all over the bottom of the cake, which Steve scraped off while I nursed the baby.
My friend Jennifer invited me to her house for dinner and I said I’d bring a bundt cake. She said I couldn’t, I had a new baby. I said it was so easy! It was! Christine’s recipe had no order — you gathered the simple ingredients and threw them all in the blender at once, then poured that into the pan, and voila!
The first cake was gone too fast. Steve and I each had two slices while we watched a movie that night. Rosie ate some when she came home from her activity, and it’s possible she ate some in the middle of the night, and then we all had some for breakfast. It’s lemon, right? It’s not chocolate. I could have poured them into muffin pans and called them muffins, right? Baked goods aren’t safe at our house, which is why I rarely make them. The most boring cookies will be gone before the oven’s cooled. Steve asked that, while I was making one for Jennifer, could I double the recipe and make one for him, too?
So I went to the store with the baby and bought more lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar and eggs. I bought a real bundt pan for $26.99 at ACE– so expensive! The baby was quiet while I bought the bundt pan, but he cried inconsolably at the grocery store while I raced through the aisles. I wanted to go home and take a bath. I wanted a drink. That crying is the most heartbreaking, sanity-destroying sound, especially while driving when there’s nothing I can do.
I made double the batter and preheated the oven. But how do you butter a bundt pan? It has so, so many crevices. I did my best with crisco and a paper towel, but really the pan looked so nonstick to begin with. I poured half of the batter in the bundt pan, put it in the oven with a timer, cleaned up the kitchen, asked Steve if he could take the cake out when the timer went off, then I jumped in the shower.
When I came out of the shower, the cake was destroyed. I hadn’t made the pan nonstick enough and Steve, trying to be helpful, had tried to take the cake out of its mold and it emerged in pieces. Thinking that maybe it was because he hadn’t let it cool enough, he washed the pan, didn’t nonstick it, and poured the rest of the batter in. That second one, surprise, came out in pieces, too.
I went back to the store to buy nonstick spray–a genius idea–and more sugar and eggs and lemon juice. I made the batter again. I sprayed that pan until it dripped with oil. Within an hour, the cake slid right out, a perfectly browned empty-volcano shape.
Four bundt cakes sitting in our house in one weekend. And a husband, and a nursing wife, and a teenager and her food-loving friend — who sat next to the cakes, right up on the counter, and dug in — and a Jack. And, apparently, two hungry cats, who got blamed the next day by the teenager for some suspected midnight snacking on the third cake. The second cake was unabashedly eaten by Jack, who first used a fork and then just his hands. At first it was fun — we never have baked goods in the house, let alone four cakes in two days, and we’re so sensible with food all the time that it felt like some sort of holiday, or like a shopping spree, and things have been a little tense sometimes with a new baby and his sleep-deprived parents — but after I said enough and he went back for more, the game was over. And then to wake up to the whole cake gone, every last lemony crumb, it definitely wasn’t a holiday anymore.
Only one cake was eaten on dessert plates with forks, the fourth one, at Jennifer’s house. Or at least I think so. I had to leave to get home to the baby just as it was being served.