Cooking

Cake Challenge Update

Have you been wondering about my cake challenge? Maybe you’ve been excited for progress. Maybe you’ve been doubting I’d be able to keep up. Either way, you’ll be pleased to know that we’re half way there. As of July 1st, I’m half way through! Mainly I’ve been able to keep to the book above, Vintage Cakes, though I had two or three times when I needed to turn a cake out quickly so I made one that I knew was easy. But here we are, 27 cakes in and I’ve learned so much.

Clockwise: Pink Champagne Cake, Jam Cake, Banana Cake, Wacky Cake

I began this cake challenge for three reasons. One, to learn more about baking from scratch. Two, to find a balance of work and play and give myself a little time for self-care every week. Three, to share sweet things with other people we know and love! Let’s go over each one in particular because there is so much to say and lots of cake pictures to share! Try not to get hungry.

First, I’ve learned a ton about baking from scratch. I’ve learned that a slightly under-baked cake will taste better than an over-baked one. I’ve learned how to make caramel sauce that’s delicious. What egg whites are supposed to look like at the different stages. Icing isn’t absolutely necessary. Sometimes, Crisco is necessary. Even though it says 2 TBSP of a certain alcohol, it’s important to the flavor. Baking with the correct ingredients will be so much better than substitutes or worse, omissions. Read the directions before the store trip, the night before baking and again right before baking. Grow rhubarb if you’re going to bake with it. Baking Banana Cake is the BEST smell in the whole wide world. In the end, go with your gut.

Clockwise: Rhubarb Pudding Cake, Grammy Cake, Quick Strawberry Cake, Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake

Two, taking the time for self-care. It hasn’t been all cake fun and games in the Watkins kitchen. Some weeks I really didn’t want to bake. Some weeks I had to finagle a cake in on Thursday instead of Sunday because there wasn’t time in the jam packed weekend. But no matter the circumstance, I was always always glad that I baked something. And I’ve learned a few things about myself in the process. I’ve learned how to be confident in my baking skills. Just because a cake looks hard doesn’t mean it is and even if it is, that doesn’t mean I can’t make it. I’ve learned how to say no to certain things, whether on Sunday afternoons or during the week, to make time for the commitment I’ve made. And that the thrill of putting the last bit of icing on the layers is worth it, even if it’s at 10:00 at night. I’ve learned that I don’t like molasses at all but I do like rhubarb. I’ve learned to give myself grace when the calendar says that the cake has to be easy instead of a planned masterpiece. Or when I take a bite of the masterpiece and it’s dry as a bone. I’ve learned that I love to bake when I can share it with the people I care about.

Clockwise: Berry Long Cake with Ginger Crumb, Nectarine Oat Upside Down Cake, Afternoon Lemon Cake, Blitz Torte

Three, sharing cake with family and friends. I’ve been so blessed this year to share my bakes! During the winter, most of the cakes were eaten up every Monday night by our small group. I took several of the cakes to birthday parties, including my own, and it was fun to choose a cake that I thought the person we were celebrating would like. I also made cakes for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day! Some gave me tips or compliments but just seeing their faces enjoy my work was worth it. It also cemented my theory that it doesn’t have to be fancy to be appreciated. A simple chocolate cake can easily make someones day.

You wanna know about my one big cake fail? Of course you do. It was the Coffee Crunch Roll. I made it twice. The first time I baked the cake in the wrong pan so it was much too thick and you couldn’t roll it up. I also burned the coffee crunch candy coating. Because I still stink at making candy. So I layered the cake with the coffee icing I made and while it tasted good, I was disappointed. I made it again because I was determined not to let it defeat me. The second time was much better! I think the crunch coating was a tiny bit overdone but it was hard to tell since the coffee flavor is so strong. In the end, it was my favorite cake!

Half way through, we’re on the down slide now. I’ve made almost all the berry cakes during peak berry season and I have an apricot upside down cake on the docket this month. I’m excited about continuing to use my skills for me, Dearest Carl and the people we love. Nothing says “I care about you” like a slice of cake. Maybe I should cross stitch that on a pillow…

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