Thursday, January 22, 2009
Cherry-ty (Over Chocolate) Never Faileth
Of course, if its a birthday we're celebrating, I should bake a cake. Or should I? Its been twelve years since my last attempt. And it wasn’t even for me, it was for the Relief Society--only Heaven and Sister T know why. “Providing refreshments” was at the time rock bottom on my ‘favorite-things-you’re-blessed-to-do-in-the- Church’ list. (Ask four years of Seminary students who still hold a grudge.)
I protested Sister C’s reminder about my Homemaking Food Committee assignment with a squeaky: “I don’t remember signing up...”
“Well, you did!” she said with a vehement flair. And I knew if Sister C said I did, well then, there it is.
“And since you like to bake, you can make something really chocolate… drippy…gooooooey…something wonderful!”
Hm. Well...I could follow a recipe as well as the next sister. I determined then to peruse the recipe books in-between my responsibilities as Stake YW President that week, which were many: “Honoring Our Teacher’s” fireside, Stake Scripture Mastery, Youth Dance, Stake Youth Council, two ward visits, Stake Auxiliary Training, Stake Council, and a Laurel luncheon...all before the end of the month!
And now. I hafta bake a cake.
Instead of the Ensign at lunchtime, I poured over dessert magazines, but they all seemed too conservative in the drippy and gooey categories. As D-Day drew near and my list of rejected recipes grew, my little dream of wowing the Relief Society began to wane. At this point there was only a couple choices left me: hope for a tragedy which would excuse me from the assignment (it would have to be a bad one to elicit Sister C’s sympathies) or.... fake it.
Since my imagination was so entertained elsewhere in the execution of my "real" church responsibilities, I decided to forgo orchestrating a sudden adversity, which meant I’d have to pretend to be the culinary-genius-of-all-time.
Betty Crocker cake mix. Heinz “Homemade Style” Whipped Icing. Canned Cherry Pie filling. Cool Whip. As I tossed each ingredient into the grocery cart I wondered if I really was being deceptive and if I’d need to confess it at my next temple recommend interview.
It was 4:15 p.m. when I returned to the kitchen. Homemaking Meeting was less than 3 hours away with 8 people and a cat to feed between now and then and three different kids to pick up from two different schools. Resentment filled my otherwise Christian heart. It was at this point in my vulnerable physic that my mother-in-law, still ignorant of my illustrious contribution to the food committee, breezed through the kitchen.
“We’ve got Homemaking tonight, Mona.”
The open cupboard hid my expression.
I'd heard about the agenda for Homemaking Meeting that night... there was some kind of book review, and then they were making either door-stoppers that look like milk cows or bath oil bottles with dried weeds inside. WHY in the world was I even going?
The cake. Remember?
I crated out the bowls and beaters. Oh boy, I sighed...I don’t even know what I’m making.
It must have been a loud sigh because suddenly my husband, Dale, was perched beside me. As I cracked the eggs he was watching closer than I was and noticed a “large chunk” of shell disappearing into the chocolate swamp. He pointed it out. My finger dove in.
“No! No!” he protested. “Let me! I saw exactly where it went.”
With the delicacy of an archeologist he dredged the murky mass of powder, egg white, and oil. After several unsuccessful attempts to raise the unwanted shell--and amidst visions of Sister C biting into it--we gave up.
“The sisters need calcium,” I assured my husband.
“And it was just a tiny piece,” he agreed.
I’ll admit, my negative feelings had blossomed to the point now where the presence of the hidden shell in my “exquisite” dessert gave me more a touch of glee than remorse.
Dale took over. While he whipped up the cake mix, I stirred together the Cool Whip and chocolate pudding.
“Oh oh,” I breathed, “this doesn’t look right.”
“Did you make up the pudding first?”
“Was I supposed to?”
The bowl of white topping was overwhelmed by the dry grains of chocolate. It took a lot of muscle, paper towels, and fancy spooning but I finally had a frothy looking cream.
Dale was the first to taste it. “Kinda grainy,” he said carefully.
My taste buds confirmed his verdict. Oh well, I decided, I’d use it as a filling instead of a frosting...it’ll go with the egg shell. I continued to froth, brow furrowed, as I was now forced to reinvent my masterpiece.
Suddenly my peripheral vision caught the whoosh of a wooden spoon going from mix to mouth and back again. I squealed.
“Dale! What if the sisters knew?!”
Then I thought of Sister M, the member of the Primary presidency who was suffering strained relations with my Bishopric-counselor husband over a point of doctrine in the Primary handbook.
“I’ll wait till Sister M takes a bite and then tell her your “cooties” are in it!”
That little thought gave us both a good giggle and--for a moment--I felt optimistic. Perhaps this thing would work out after all.
Our joviality was interrupted however, as we both noticed the clock, and I hurried out the door to pick up the kids. Dale seemed to be enjoying frothing so much, I felt confident he could handle actually transferring the batter to cake pan to pre-heated oven by the time I got home.
And he did. Except there was one out of four cake pans left empty on the counter when I returned.
I plunked down my purse. “What’s this?”
“I don’t know -” (how do men look simultaneously guilty and innocent?) “the batter only filled three pans.”
“But I doubled the whole thing!”
“I know. It must be the mix?”
“You overfilled the pans!” I accused.
“No! No! I didn’t!” he cried in defense.
“You must have!”
“No! No!” he continued to plead, but it was too late. As Chief Baker, I had opened the oven door. And there they sat in all their golden glory: three rounded cakes pushing over pan edges, huge bloated mound in the center of each. It was too much to bear.
“How?!” I whined full bore, “How will I make enough now to feed all the poor sisters? And how can I layer layers that are too round on the top? This -- is -- terrible! And I don’t even want to go!”
I dismissed myself to the bathroom for a long shower. By the time I was done, both I and the cakes had cooled, and my good mother-in-law was leaving for the stake center. I’d never get to the meeting on time now, so I sent Mom on her way with a promise to follow cake-in-hand. What kind of cake was anybody’s guess.
As I sat in a stupor, stumped by the sight of the cakes-turned-mole-hills, my tainted white knight offered to rescue me once more: "Why not slice each cake in half and fill it with the chocolate cream?” he said.
Methought I saw in my mind’s eye……..a three-layer cake...each layer filled with a somewhat grainy froth...finished on the outside with store-bought fudge icing...chocolate syrup swirled on the top, cascading down the sides, running into a mote of cherry pie filling at the base. Hmmm.
Personal revelation is a mysterious thing.
We began. No team of pastry chefs ever worked with such vision. Dale cut. I plopped and swirled. And something...some strange and wonderful something...began to rise from the yellow plastic plate.
It was -----
awful. Sagging on the sides, billowing with brown goo like a little volcano.
“The cherries on top are a nice touch.”
Dale’s fake compliment must have been an attempt to assuage his conscience, as this last stroke of culinary genius had been his.“Let me take it to the church,” he said.
I winced as he carefully maneuvered out the door, leaving a dribble of cherry juice in his path. There was nothing to do but don my jammies and sulk in bed. They were sure to revoke my D.U.P. membership. I was so UNworthy!
Dale wisely avoided me post-mission-accomplished, but my mother-in-law did not. She burst in with that “I’ve-just-been-to-a-historically-glorious meeting-and-you-missed it!” look. I endured her happy report, waiting gloomily for the punch line about Sister C choking on an egg shell.
“And honey!” her voice run up the scale with excitement. “The sisters LOOOVED Mona’s Chocolate Cherry Cake! EVERYONE wants your recipe!”
My mouth was agape. They’d given it a TITLE.
It may be true that our standards are higher than some others, but it is also true that no one judges more hopefully of our weaknesses, and no one is more patient while charity does its perfecting work, than the chocolate-loving women of the Relief Society.
(1 Cor. 12:26, D&C 25:9 )
Check this out! Stephanie, in addition to being a fabulous "Nephi's Wife" in With Mine Own Hand, makes fabulous cakes and all things sweet! AND! I just discovered we have the SAME BIRTHDAY!