The first time I made a cake from scratch, I cried. They were not tears of happiness, but from pure and utter defeat.
At age ten, I was a die-hard Roald Dahl fan. I mean, who can resist books about chocolate rivers and farting (or whizpopping, to use the correct vocabulary) giants? I was overjoyed to receive Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes cookbook for Christmas. The first culinary challenge I wanted to tackle was Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake from Matilda.
If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know the story behind this cake: Bruce Bogtrotter, “an eleven-year-old boy who was decidedly large and round,” stole a piece of his headmaster’s decadent chocolate cake. As punishment, he is forced to the eat more of the cake, but not just a slice. He has to eat an entire cake, 18 inches in diameter!
My cook book only called for an 8 ½ - inch round cake pan, but I was still excited to transform this literary confection into a scrumptious reality.
From years of watching my dad bake fresh bread, I knew how important exact measurements are in baking.
Ingredients: 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, 1 ½ sticks of butter (o.m.g.), 1 cup sugar, ¼ cups all-purpose flour and six eggs separated.
Not to many ingredients, not too much chance of error … or so I thought. I was a bit nervous about folding the stiff, whipped egg whites into the chocolate batter, but it was no prob. Into the oven went the cake, and I started cleaning up. That’s when I saw it: my premeasured ¼ cup of flour. I looked at the oven, then back at the flour. I don’t think I cursed as a fifth grader, but I think my inner monologue went something like, “Shiiiiiiiit!”
The cake had already baked for about ten minutes at that point, but I still yanked it out of the oven, dumped in the flour, mixed it quickly and put it back in for the rest of its baking time.
Twenty anxiety-ridden minutes late, I opened the oven and there it was. A crater cake; a sad, concave baked good. Tears ensued.
My dad walked through the kitchen at that moment, comforted me and then pondered the situation.
“The sides still look good…” he said.
I sniffed and nodded, as he produced two spoons. We both sampled the outer edges of the collapsed cake straight from the pan. It was DELICIOUS. Bruce Bogtrotter would have devoured it. Fifteen minutes later, all that was left was the sunken center and chocolatey smiles on our faces.
Who knew failure could taste so good?
Sidenote: We never told my mom how much cake we ate J