Drug warning labels need amending ASAP. Henceforth, labels need note: do not operate heavy machinery OR bake cakes while under the influence of certain medications.
Bakers, take heed.
I learned this painful lesson firsthand last Friday night at 11 p.m. Needing to bake a birthday cake for a friend’s birthday, I began preparations while, as they say, “under the influence.” It was a prescribed influence, but still …
Time was running short. My friend’s birthday was on Saturday. It was, as noted above, in case you weren’t paying attention, 11 p.m. Friday.
I had planned to bake the cake that morning, leaving plenty of time for it to cool and to ice it with my mother’s famed chocolate icing, made with just a hint of coffee.
Drug Warning Labels Need Amending
The problem: I had pulled a muscle in my back on Thursday. I was in screaming, roaring agony — the kind of agony that made me reach for two muscle relaxers AND a pain pill.
Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I am a medication and alcohol lightweight. Three sips of wine cause uncontrollable giggling, then yawning, then an immediate need to nap. The effect of a sleeping pill? Something akin to narcolepsy: an almost instantaneous droop, then drop to sleep!
So, as you can imagine, the combo of muscle relaxers AND a pain pill had quite an impact. It’s true, the back pain was gone, but so was I, replaced by a drooling, idiotic, giggling (always with the giggling) Raggedy Ann version of me.
But after sleeping a day and a half, I was sort of awake, and, in panicked recognition of the need to bake that cake, I tried to “snap out of it” and get moving. Mostly I sat around, staring at the TV, contemplating my navel, the meaning of life, and my cake options. “Go-buy-a-cake,” a voice kept whispering softly in the back of my head. Maybe it was Handsome Hubby. Maybe it was the TV. Or maybe I was hallucinating. Whoever, whatever. I should have listened.
The Clock is Ticking
At 11 p.m. HH said good night. After sitting there a few seconds more, I rallied. I decided to get cake cooking. I could do it.
Into the kitchen, I staggered. I dragged my seldom-used Kitchen Aide mixer out of the cabinet, taking extra care not to wretch my back again. But I need not have worried. I was still so zonked, I probably wouldn’t have felt anything even if I had.
And about that zonked-out feeling, I might note that nowhere on my prescription bottles’ drug warning labels did I reading anything about the dangers of baking a cake. Oh, if only such a warning had been given! Man, I would have been saved a lot of heartache and confectioner’s sugar!
I started mixing the ingredients of my tried-and-true chocolate cake recipe. I had trouble remembering all the ingredients and the dosage — I mean measurements — but I winged it.
Groggily, I clicked the mixer on at high speed. Dry ingredients went flying everywhere including onto my face! Practically blinded, I just blinked and baked on.
Mishaps and difficulties continued.
The oil was congealed; the butter wasn’t soft; eggshell got into the batter and played a winning game of hide ‘n seek.
Stay Calm and Cook?
Determined, I continued, but whether you’re in the camp that considers baking a science or an art, you’d have to admit things really weren’t going well in Kitchen Karen.
Finally, at 12:07 a.m., I put the two cake tins into the oven, set the timer, and waited.
To my amazement, both cake halves were done to perfection. After 10 minutes on the cooling rack, they slid out of their tins easily, leaving not a crumb behind. They looked beautiful. The culinary gods were finally smiling at me!
But then, I tempted those same culinary gods. I was impatient. Also, sleepy. Instead of leaving the cake halves to cool properly, I rushed to finish, so I could go to bed.
I whipped up the famed Dorothy Galatz icing and slathered away. In record time, I finished. I stepped back to admire my work … only to … only to see …
The Cake Craters
The top had a crack. No, it had a canyon, the cake equivalent of the Grand Canyon. The cake, of course, hadn’t cooled enough when I started icing it and had buckled from too much handling too soon.
Desperately, I started spackling the canyon-y center with icing. I spackled and I spackled, until it dawned on me, the weight of the icing was causing the cake to separate even further apart.
What to do? What to do?
It was 1:45 a.m. Too late to call any of my cake-baking maven friends for advice.
I decided to prop up the worst-looking side with my glass cake cover. I knew this meant that the one side would stick to the glass, but I figured I could re-ice it in the morning.
Cake thus stabilized, I staggered to bed, but couldn’t sleep.
Plan A and Plan B
In the morning, I re-iced the damaged side of the cake as best I could, although a second split had appeared during the night. I added sprinkles trying to mask the entire mess. But still, the cake looked ridiculous, more hungover PacMan after Mardis Gras than pretty birthday party cake.
So, I rushed to the market; was fifth waiting outside before the store even opened, and grabbed the cutest little raspberry mousse cake you ever saw — iced, of course, to perfection.
And FYI: this trip to the store was no small deal. It was the first time I’ve been to the market since the California shelter in place order was issued in March.
Back at home, Handsome Hubby had just woken up. He sympathized with my cake pain but at the same time, could not stop laughing. When he thought I wasn’t looking, he took pictures and sent them to a friend!
A Friend Indeed
I brought both cakes to my friend’s house. I had no shame thanks to my status as a middle-aged muddler and certified cake klutz. All I wanted was for her to see I had tried.
And my friend’s a true sweetheart. “This cake’s not a disaster, she declared. “If people make and post pictures of toilet paper cakes, then this one’s a work of art too. It honors our California home and earthquake propensity. It’s a high caloric seismic homage!”
And you know what? Forget about how it looked. It tasted just great. All that extra spackling, I mean, icing just added to the flavor. I even brought a piece home for laughing Handsome Hubby!
But still, pharmaceutical companies really need to amend their drug warning labels!