Saturday, June 5, 2010

Food for Thought: Homemade Philosophy

I've realized that I yet to have a thought for anything under my absolute, weak-in-the-knees, sugar galore category of food: cake-HOMEmade cake.

I grew up in a house where store bought cakes were an insult. My mother believed that if you didn't bake it yourself you 1. didn't love the person and 2. were lazy.

I will never buy a cake for someone I love.

Now one of the greatest perks of living with a baking mother is the smell. I will never believe you if you say you don't love the smell of warm vanilla. If you don't then you are like my dear friend Jaime-smell-less. Jaime, in a small accident, lost her sense of smell. Farting to her is obsolete. Lucky woman.

But I'm not here to talk to you guys about gas, I want to talk about warm vanilla aromas. If you bake anything in your house or apartment or studio, no Glade plug-in or candle will ever match up. (Even the ones that say like "vanilla cookie" or "fresh-baked cookies." That is a fake smell and baking deserves better from you and your honesty)

I looked forward to every birthday. And my sister's birthday. And my other sister's birthday. And my dad's birthday. Birthdays were good days. No matter how tired my mom would be-8-hour work day, 2-hour L.A. traffic commute-if it was one of our birthdays, the cake would be baked. And with love.

That's the thing about baking: it's only as good as the heart you put into. As essential as butter or eggs, baking needs heart. As many cups as possible. I'm not talking about teaspoons here readers. Baking will be useless in the hands of the evil and the hated. I convinced that no good psychopath would be able to bake you a decent pie or cupcake. If Kathy Bates' character in Misery had to make a batch of snickerdoodles, we be toast.

How Martha Stewart is such a damn good baker is beyond me. I'm sure she cheats.

But with love, my mother would whip the eggs, melt the butter (never oil. my mother taught me that oil over butter-always. and trust me, it makes the cake. oh, and milk. milk over water. cake is not meant to be healthy and if it tries to be it's loveless). So the butter and milk: key ingredients. And whether you whip it yourself or whip it by hand, add a little extra milk. Just a pinch. My happy accident with extra milk made one of the best cakes of my life by far. My mother got jealous, it was that good.

I like to go with a simple vanilla cake most times, and I let the frosting be my flavorful flair. Sprinkles, decorative frosting tubes, flowers, smiley faces, even the shape of the cake can be a major part of the flair. I love using shapes. I will be buying the giant cupcake cake mold that I've been eyeing at CVS (they always have a great collection of "as seen on tv" products)

Baking was a way for me to drag the sweetness out of whatever foul mood I was in, especially in high school. Naturally in my adolescence my temper had no boundaries. Free to roam and scare the shit out of many, including myself. But the baking helped. My parents would come home smelling those warm vanilla waves and shake their heads and smile at me. I would get an extra tug in my hug from each of them on those days.

Like my mother, birthdays were big baking days for me. I would bake the night before school, heart-shaped mold buttered and floured and the next morning skip to my lucky birthday girl or boy and say "hey, i love you. here's some delicious cake."

Nowadays, my baking days are few and far apart. Partly because I lack the necessary tools to really make a spectacular cake, but I make do when important days come by. My older sister is getting married at the end of September and she has registered for some good baking items. I told her baking dates between her and I will have be initiated.

Baking, then, will take on a new level of love. It's one thing baking by yourself, thinking of that special person for who the cake is for, humming to yourself because you are so content in making this for them, with love. But to having a baking partner, someone that you love (friend, sister, mother, father, brother, cousin, etc) than the baking experience is changed for the better.

Cakes are underestimated in the bake shops. And the bakery at the grocery stores. That, readers, is secretly because the cake is meant to be homemade-that's my cake philosophy.

So grab a heart-shape mold, line up your eggs, milk, and butter, and make sure to get good vanilla extract (Trader Joe's has a great one) and bake. Because you care. And you're not lazy.

Some jobs are meant to be done by us. Not them. Never forget the power and love of your own sweat and burns.


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