Life Beyond Real Estate

My son was born on Halloween. I had always bought the coolest Halloween cakes for his birthday but this year I was determined to make a cake from scratch. I love to cook, but baking was foreign to me. My son loves lemon cake and that is what I was going to deliver!

I booked my night out to make this cake. I knew it would take me most of the night. During the two weeks prior to October 31st I had Google’d dozens of lemon cake recipes, received advice from all the cooks and chefs in my life, and then went shopping for all the required ingredients and items.

I was told that Meyer’s lemons were a must. Sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons and what timing; Meyers lemons were just coming into season. After calling several Mariano’s and Whole Foods I found one in Chicago that had the 8 I needed.

I bought my first bundt-cake pan from Target but couldn't find a lemon zester. Borrowed a lemon zester or "microplane" from one of my Live Here Chicago employees who used to be a Chef. He told me that I absolutely could not zest the white part of the lemon or the cake would taste bitter. Noted.

Fast forward to 6PM on the Friday night before Halloween. I set out all the ingredients. I measured the required sugar and put it off to the side and began "creaming the sugar." I mixed together the sugar and the butter. WOW! There’s a lot of sugar and butter in cakes.

I began mixing the two when I noticed that amazing smell of sugar and butter was turning into a burning smell. The next thing I knew I was throwing the mixer away from me. It was on fire.

Are you kidding me?? I killed my beaters. I am new to this. Why doesn't it say somewhere that it would be a good (no, essential) thing to cut the butter in small pieces first? I was now in full-blown panic mode.

I called and texted anyone that I thought would have a mixer. Finally, one of my sisters told me my niece was currently at Target getting a costume (perfect timing!). Sarah, my niece rescued me.

At 8:30PM she arrived with a new hand held mixer. We sat and talked about her current dilemma surrounding the gumball machine costume that she and my other niece were both interested in being. After a good 45 minutes of chitchat and mixing, I had everything combined together and put in the bundt pan.

I said to Sarah, "Doesn't that texture look a little funny?" She agreed but as neither of us are bakers we both shrugged and put it in the oven. Sarah and I continued to discuss options for the gumball costume. At this point she was resigned to let her good friend and my other niece be the gumball machine. It had been about two minutes since the cake was in the oven and I started cleaning when I noticed a large bowl of flour sitting on my counter.

"Oh Please No!" I said to Sarah. I forgot to add the main ingredient! Who does that? I grabbed the cake out of the oven and poured the contents of the mix into the flour bowl, mixed it together and put it in the oven. No wonder the texture seemed wacked!

One hour later I pulled the cake out of the oven and followed all the directions. No matter what I did the cake would not come out of the pan. I steamed it, tapped it and even tried to slide a narrow plastic spatula down the sides. Nothing was working. Finally after a second steaming the cake came out...with the top quarter of the cake stuck to the pan. Brilliant.

You have got to be kidding me. At this point it was almost 10:30PM and my sons and husband were now sitting in the kitchen watching this all unfold.

I had only sprayed the bundt form rather than meticulously buttering and flouring (like EVERYONE insisted that I do) and this is what happened. My family watched as I slowly removed 3-5 inch pieces left in the pan. I patched that cake together like the pro that I wasn't. Thank God for the clear lemon glaze. I used that as my glue and put the whole thing back together.

The next day I drizzled the cake. It was good but I had to go further. I am an overachiever and this cake was going to be over the top. I wanted fruit, whipped cream and Twizzlers as my decorations. I made the whipped cream from scratch. I then "bloomed" some gelatin to make sure that the cream did not run.

Did my son love the cake? Yes. Was I proud that I not only attempted to make a cake from scratch, but I also saved it from disaster? Yes. Will I be quick to bake again? Absolutely not.

I now walk by the cakes and pies at the grocery store with awe. Worth every penny they charge.

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