Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I did not knit at all yesterday. It was bizarre. I can't remember a day when I didn't at least pick up a project in the past year. I did, however, have a great, quiet, alone day. Mark took his parents to the Museum of Flight, leaving me free to turn off the heat and open all of the windows, leave the TV off, and not talk to anyone. I have finally realized that most of my problem when they are here is just due to sensory overload. Thinking back, I had a very low sensory-input upbringing. The TV was only on for an hour a day, and my parents rarely played music. No one wore any sort of perfume and cologne, or used scented bath products. My dad has a beard, so of course there was no aftershave smell. The only time my house had any sort of smell was when my mom was cooking, and it didn't really stick around. The only noise was when one of us was practicing an instrument, and once the basement was finished that could be avoided completely by staying in my second floor bedroom. We had conversations, but mainly at dinner, and everyone was involved. Even visual stimulation was low since the entire house was essentially variations of white and brown!

Needless to say, this is not the story with Mark's family. His mom wears perfume and his dad uses both cologne and aftershave. I can't even go in the room or bathroom they are using; or at least have to hold my breath as I duck in and out. This isn’t the Middle Ages, people, we bathe now! The TV is on constantly, very loud. No one can understand why I keep turning it off when the room is empty. If nothing else, don’t these people pay electric bills?! On the rare occasions that the TV is not an option, like, say, in the car Mark’s dad talks. Constantly. Without taking a breath. This is not a conversation, it is a monologue of rambling, interconnected stories which never repeat. Why couldn’t he have had a boring career like accounting or something rather than this series of adventures flying around the world? Apparently Mark and I don’t talk much in the car, because it is all I can do to keep from screaming “JUST STOP TALKING!” I just want the occasional silence.

To make up karmically for being so mean to Mark’s parents behind their backs, and because I’ve been wanting to decorate a cake again, I spent all today making an anniversary cake for them (their anniversary is Thursday).

I should make clear at this point that although I decorated cakes for three years, I never made or frosted them. I think this was the second cake I have made in my entire life, and I am very proud of the results. Therefore, you get a slide show of the process.

I am incredibly picky about cake. I fact, I generally just say I don’t like cake and leave it at that. There have been two cakes in my life that I have liked; the raspberry torte at Café Latte in St Paul (displaced Minnesotans may whimper in longing now) and our strawberries and champagne wedding cake from Das Meyer Bakery in Denver (note to Coloradans: you too may experience this bliss any Saturday, as they do free tastings of all their cakes). Before starting this cake, I called Café Latte and asked what type of cake they used. It turns out that I like sponge cake, but I’m suspicious that having it in thin layers with filling between is also key.

Armed with the crucial information, I pulled out The Joy of Cooking to find out what a sponge cake is. Soon I was feeling very proud of myself for working out a sort of sifting technique even when I own no sifter. I separated all seven eggs without a problem and soon had a cake in the oven. And the sort-of-sifted flour on the counter. Hmm. Although looking promising at first, this creation soon collapsed and was basically a very sweet omelet. I guess just like knitting the second time you bake something it’s easier…

After cooling the cake with all ingredients included on the porch (how domestic am I?), I began the hair-raising process of cutting my success into layers. This went so stunningly well, I had to take a picture before it all went to hell as I expected it must inevitably:

Isn’t that amazing and flat and wonderful? I cannot describe my surprise that this worked. Somewhere around this time I looked about the kitchen and saw this:

Mark hates when I leave the odd cupboard door open. He wasn’t home, but I’m sure he was overcome by inexplicable twitching at the museum.

What was even more incredible was that it continued to work. Even the custard turned out and spread evenly on the layers. When I ran out of blackberry jam to add between the layers, I fortunately found blackberries in the freezer

At this point I was shaking. The cake was going well, but all I had eaten all day was frosting. And I haven’t had sugar in about a month. It was pretty crazy. Considering my shaking hands and the fact that I haven’t decorated a cake in three years or ever frosted more than one, I don’t think this turned out half bad.

Here’s a cutaway view:

And it tasted great.


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