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’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.

And then...

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!


Evan said...

Happy Birthday! We'll be there for cake at 6.

Hold the cherries (and the eggshell).

The Crumb Crunchers

Now, where's our CD?

Elisabeth said...

That was great! You gave my husband and I a laugh. When are you going to write a book? Or have you already? I don't care what you write about, JUST WRITE! And Happy 50th Birthday!

Hannah Banana said...

I will never tire of that story! Remember the time we were making cookies and i thought part of the mixer fell into the mix? You and i searched and searched for it, getting all gooey, until I found the piece sitting on the counter right next to the bowl!


And remember, you never know when a sister will come back to church after many years, just to eat some good chocolate cake. ;) LOVE YOU!

pcNut said...

Happy, Happy Birthday Aunt Mona!

This post made me laugh and so I thought I would share.

A little over a year ago my best friend introduced me to the book, “For All Eternity” by Dr. John Lund and encouraged my husband and me to listen to it on c.d. together. Taking advantage of the already prepared “lesson,” my husband and I used it for adult family home evening—you know, the ones where “Once There Was a Snowman” isn’t the opening song. It was in these “lessons,” or tracks, that my husband and I learned about the concept of owning expectations, or “taking responsibility” as you put it.

We had a good discussion which led my husband to reveal one of his secret “expectations.” In two and a half years of courtship and four years (at the time) of marriage, my husband didn’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me his views about…socks. SOCKS!? In my husband’s opinion, only same color, same style socks should be matched. Everything else is just, “tacky,” as he put it. And this was significant because, apparently, as the person in charge of laundry, I didn’t do that. If it was the same color and approximately the same length, that was good enough for me.

I laughed my head off. For four years I did something that bothered my husband just a little bit. I would have gladly changed it had I known what it meant to him. The point is not about the socks. The point is about taking responsibility.

My husband’s an observant and kind man—he can tell when people have trimmed their hair, purchased new clothes or when someone is just plain struggling. But every once in awhile, for even things as small as washing the dishes, when I need it, I tend to tell my him, “Okay sweetheart, I’m about to show you something really important to me, so this is the part where you ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah,’ alright?”

Even if those lines are fed to him, I still want and often need them, so I tell him. And he’s pretty good about accommodating.

I can’t say we’re great at this expectations/responsibility thing—we’re practicing—but it’s a step in the right direction ...with matching socks at least.

Love you!

Anonymous said...

happy birthday mona! what a post, i couldn't decided if i should cry, laugh or cry lauging! hope your week is wonderful, full of loved ones and some more wild cake.

Bubbles said...

Ramona, I don't know how to add as a follower! I'll figure it out. Happy Birthday!

John and Laura said...

This is Evan's sister, Laura.

That was hilarious! And you are a great writer.

I've learned that the more I advertise my birthday, the more fun I have! And no one feels bad for forgetting it. Happy 50th!

Stephanie said...

I knew that story had to have a happy ending. All things cake related seem to have a happy ending. I sure do love reading these posts. They seem to be just the thing I need to hear on a Sunday night. And you're birthday is the 27th right? Now I know why I love you so much. Sharing a birthday is most definatly a special bond. Happy Birthday! And don't ever let anyone forget again!

Sara Lyn said...

Happy Birthday, Aunt Mona! Here's my new favorite cake recipe:

This is mom's favorite of my cakes. It's a sheet cake, but even people who normally aren't fond of sheet cakes love this cake. (Except those allergic to nuts.)

My funny cake story goes like this. Since I like making cakes, I decided to make Morgan a really special cake for his birthday one year. We were going to go to his family's house for cake, so the day before, I went shopping and even bought special pans to use, since I didn't have the right size. This was one of our president's favorite cakes. (John Adams, maybe? I can't remember. Blocked it out, I guess.) It required eight lemons and four oranges. (Morgan LOVES lemony stuff.) I juiced and zested my heart out. I even borrowed a flour sifter, which thing I had never used before. I worked on that cake ALL DAY. (Took about seven hours.) Finally, I put the four nine-inch cake pans into our small oven of dubious temperature. While the cake baked, I made the filling. After a while, I noticed a slightly burned smell. I opened up the oven to find two of the cakes burned with the other two underdone. I pulled out the burned ones. I turned them over onto the cooling racks. After much agony of thought, I trashed one and tried to salvage the other. I manage to save the middle third, after peeling off a top and bottom layer. The other two layers looked perfect when I pulled them out and left them to cool.

Now came the fun part. Putting it all together. I decided to put the ugly layer on the bottom. Then I covered that with half of the goopy filling. I added another layer and the rest of the goopy filling. I balanced the last layer on top and spread the frosting. Ah. A perfect cake. Until the frosting started to run down the sides. It didn't stick to the filling which was oozing out from between layers. So my four layer cake was two and a half layers, without frosting on much of anything except the pan I had built the cake on. I tried redistributing the frosting with no luck. (I should send you pictures of the poor, pathetic thing.) I decided maybe I should make a chocolate cake to go along with, so back to the store I went late that night for my never-fail chocolate cake. (A different one from the link above.) The next day when Morgan tried his first bite of cake, he nearly choked. It was SO STRONG! Maybe I should have left off some of the filling since I was a layer and a half short of the original recipe. Everyone took a polite slice of my orange/lemon cake (except the nephews) and then indulged in the chocolate cake. So much for all the tears and sweat that went into the first. :) Now that it's been a few years, maybe I'm ready to try again.

Then again, maybe not.

Danio said...

Happy Birthday!

I love your stories, thanks for sharing them. I have to remember not to take myself so seriously, most things turn out in the end.

Rebecca said...

Heheh hahaha! Happy Birthday--you do NOT look 50! I hate making desserts too! Not cause I don't like them, but why tempt myself? But, Dan DID make the best oatmeal raisin cookies last night and I had to be grateful, which ended up being a positive thing to be. I'm finding our personalities to be quite similar. So, maybe I have hope...

Judy said...

I rebel when children of my stake youth days hit milestones like a 50 year birthday! "It can not be!" And yet it is and all the years inbetween is what has given you polish and shine. I take great joy in you.
As to the cake and Relief Society, I am on my third time pres. (once stake and 2 ward). To this day if anyone gives me a food assignment, I trade for the clean up committee.
A Very Happy Birthday to you!

On Tour With Steph's Posse said...

You are awesome for even sending the cake! I should learn from that. Every time I make food it's ugly but delicious. Kind of lame when everyone else has beautiful home made goodies and mine are too embarrassing to show up with. Or at least I think they are. I should just bring them and let the taste do the talking. Although, I am trying to be more patient these days with my cooking so that it looks edible too! (I just think it's a bummer to spend time making beautiful food when chewing it is so destructive.)

Happy Happy Birthday Mona dear! I am glad to know you another year!

Sylvia0037 said...

Happy Birthday sweet friend. I wish that I could be there to help you celebrate. I love your "musing"; I can almost hear you speaking...

Miss you!

Birthday Hugs,


Sharon said...

This was right on the money! I feel like a fly on the wall watching you and Dale (and Mom) go through this whole scenario! HAPPY CHOCOLATY BIRTHDAY MONA! Love, Sharon

Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grant said...

We just laughed and laughed mom! I had forgotten this story. We love you hear and miss you. Happy happy happy Birthday. If I could I'd bring all the Vocal Point guys up there to sing to you. ;)


The Whittle Clan said...

Happy 50th Birthday to you today. You are an awesome lady. This story was awesome. I hope you have a great birthday today.

P.S. We love the CD that you sent Zachary. Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness.

Shewinn8 said...

Happy Birthday Mona! I had to say that I like your attitude about letting everyone know about your birthday. I get so sick of people expecting everyone to read their minds for what they need. I tell my kids if you want the biggest cinnamon roll then ask for it. People should never be reduced to mind readers. I always let my husband know when I get a haircut too then he can come home and just rave about my beauty. lol Enjoy your day.

Sharon said...

This is Sue's Mom speaking! Happy Birthday to you Mona! I'm so glad Sue told me about your "Musings" - I have enjoyed reading them so much - you are amazing! And I want to take this opportunity to thank you so much for being Sue's kids adopted grandma and for all you do for their family, it's so hard to live so far away and so wonderful to know that they have a constant grandma there close by, and grandpa too! Thanks too for the offer of your CD, Sue already gave us one or I would definitely jump on it, it's so wonderful! Love you and your family!

Michaela Stephens said...

HILARIOUS!!!!! When I got to the line about everyone loving your cake I laughed. It was that "oh-my-gosh-no-WAYYY" laughter.

Marci said...

Happy Birthday!! Thanks for that story. So Funny! Looking forward to seeing what else you write on your blog.

Danielle Logan said...

Happy Birthday to you!! Happy Birthday to you!! Happy Birthday, dear Ramona! Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jen Benson said...

Happy Birthday! I learned a lot about you, not already knowing you! Thanks for the inspiration! I was told about your blog from Rebecca, she says she reads your blog as a priority. That says a lot about you!

Olivia said...

WOW!! Have a Happy Birthday, by the way...
I had no IDEA you had a blog! It's awesome! I love it. Thanks for letting me know about it. I am a blogger too and unfortunately spend probably too much time reading others blogs!! I am not ashamed. :)

I am glad to know you. You are one amazing woman. It's somewhat of a comfort that I am not the only one who is too hard on themselves. Why do we do that anyway? Sheesh!!

Kelly(M&M) said...

Hi Mona,

I have never met you but had lurked your blog after seeing you comment on Carrie and Rebecca's blogs. I love your posts-you are an incredible writer and make me think! The cake story was pretty funny. I heard great things about the play, although I wasn't able to see it. So, I would LOVE the CD. I look forward to many more of your posts.

Happy Birthday!! What a fun idea!

Kemp said...

Happy Birthday! Your 'musings' have been thoughtful and nicely done; it's good to hear from you!

Emu Monkey said...

Mona, I am so glad that Sue told me about this site. What great information you have. I love reading it. I have to get the kids to school this morning but will come back to look at older posts this afternoon.

Happy Birthday to you!

Sarah said...

That story is worthy to be on the inside page of a cooking magazine. It's great! What a sweet husband--with you until the end. That was my favorite part of the story.

The Fifes said...

no funny cake stories here, but i love desserts. Fun blog! Glad i was referred! Happy birthday-- just sent you an email! have a great day!

Lolli said...

Happy birthday! I know I'm a little late (saw your comment on Mormon Mommy Blogs) but it was totally worth it to come for that story! My son (3rd child) was just baptized last night, and I thought it was all a disaster. I mean, hide in the janitor's closet kind of disaster. But everyone else thought it was wonderful. It's all in the perspective.

Rob said...

Looks like this was a bad week to miss you blog post :( Happy birthday! You're a great friend and a wonderful inspiration.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am way late to the game, but I can still wish you a happy birthday :) !! Hope your whole month and the rest of your year is ultra fabulous!

Terresa said...

Better late than never, but Happy birthday!

PS: To the "chocolate-loving women of the Relief Society" I'd add Primary, too. (I'm currently Primary Prez & pass out more chocolate in this calling than I ever though humanly possible...)

Bhren said...

Oh Mom... This is a wonderful story! I wish I could have tasted that cake as I'm sure it was delicious. I love you and miss you. I'll give Taylor kisses from Grandma.