Trifle with Fortunes
On M’s birthday In November, I got a recipe from the lovely yogini, and then gathered with another lovely yogini, whom I sometimes call Cake Boss, and we made what is quite possibly the yummiest cake ever. It weighed 11 pounds, and each of those pounds contained chocolate, sugar, cream, and other richness worthy of a 21st birthday.
So when a fund raising dessert event came along recently, I thought I should make that very cake. I didn’t have Cake Boss to help, and probably due to this, the cake, all three layers of it, got stuck to all three pans. With the first layer, I thought, meh, it doesn’t really matter -- I can fill in the gaps with frosting. So I frosted it with rich chocolate creamy buttery goo and used raspberries to fill in the deeper canyons.
When I got to the second layer, also stuck to the pan, I again solved it with frosting and berries. By the third layer, this was just the way I did business. I was accustomed to solving problems in this manner. In fact, I was feeling cocky, like, bring it on, world. There isn’t a problem that can’t be solved right here, right now, with frosting and rasperries. I squished the crumbs out of the bottom of the pan and pressed them onto the place where I had hoped the cake would be, and began to frost this loosely smushed together collection of crumbs. I wanted it to look festive. Not to stray from the topic, but this reminds just the tiniest bit of my life. I won’t go into that here, though.
|Note how I've carefully used parchment paper around the base|
of the cake to keep the plate free of crumbs.
Anyway, you know how it goes when you do that smoosh thing on unconsolidated cake bits. I’m not a real physicist, but there’s something about the way most objects are strongly attracted to the butter and cream in frosting that makes this procedure fail. The crumbs follow the frosting everywhere, leaving air in the space where there was formerly cake. For some reason, this triggered a major laughing fit where I couldn’t breathe. That’s pretty rare for me, the laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe-when-home-alone thing. (I say that just so you know. I’m not like that. I’m not that person you see outside the bus window, standing alone on the corner, laughing.) I was laughing because I had a flashback to another time when I used the same unsuccessful strategy.
My kids were little, young enough so that R. still took naps. M. and I decided to make Christmas cookies for our new neighbors during his nap one day. The nap is only mentioned because it helps you understand the urgent conditions we were working under. At any moment, a cry from R. would mean we'd be done cooking. I still had hope for friendship and shared bowls of soup with these neighbors, because it was before they cut down the tree that I planted on the day we moved into this house, and before they got that half cat/half cougar pet that strikes fear in all of us, and causes the UPS man to deliver their packages to my house because he’s too chicken to get out of the truck. Yes, it was before all that.
I wanted to have a really special plate of treats, the kind that marks the beginning of a long neighborly thing. We made brownies, and then tried to create the round buttery white balls that you only see at Christmas time. We mixed the ingredients, rolled them into eyeball-sized globes, and put them in the oven to bake, and they did what any scientist could have predicted. Butter melts at high temperatures, so they flattened onto the pan, and devolved into a thin crispy mid-western landscape of butter, nuts, and sugar.
Some people would have tossed them, but M. and I decided, hey, it still contains all the proper ingredients. Is it a problem if we form them into the balls again after they’ve been cooked? No, of course not. So we scrunched the melted, semi-burned buttery mash into sweet orbs of goodness, rolled them in powdered sugar, made our cheerful little plate, and delivered them next door. It wasn’t until later that evening that I thought back on it and realized that it was the wrong thing to do. The cookies didn’t look at all like something shouldn’t be given as a gift to a near stranger. M. and I seemed to realize it at the same time, which is a little pathetic because she was about four and I was about 34, and I'm guessing that the epiphany should have come to me way before it came to her, which was part of the reason for my own hysterical laughter. At any rate, it became one of those things where just the mention of it could make us laugh uncontrollably. A week or so later, I got a note from the neighbor saying, “The brownies were delicious,” confirming my concerns. And then the rest happened – the tree, the angry cat, etc., So maybe I started it.
But back to this cake. I hunted down Cake Boss, because I know where she can be found on Saturday mornings. “Trifle,” she said. And she’s the Cake Boss, so that's what I did. I chopped the cake into chunks, layered it with whipped cream and more frosting, dressed it up with raspberries, and our lowly little cake fetched a goodly sum. Cake Boss is like that. She sees the potential goodness in everything, and teaches me that it's all about reframing things, or in this case, refrosting them.
I like to claim that the cake fetched $195, but really, it was on a team of cakes that earned about $1,200. If you’re not a very accomplished baker, it’s good to do the cake auction as a team sport, and try to get on a team with delicious chocolate mousse and lemon meringue pie and other yummy things.
"This delicious trifle is for people who either are joyful, or wish they were. It’s a cake about making the best of the large and small disasters that come into your life, and not just making them into lesser disasters, but into something magnificent. This is the cake that represents how life is really much better after the problem than you ever knew it could be beforehand. It’s full of fine quality chocolate from a far away land, and butter, and raspberries, and cream. Not only that, but this cake comes with a story, and 10 table fortunes, one for each of your dining companions. So if you ever were a child, have an inner child, or have heard the word child, you should probably contribute generously to claim this cake. Although the name says trifle, think not about sad English sponge cake soaked in sherry, but rather, about a highly-evolved, multi-stage culinary event. Something you wouldn’t, or let’s say, couldn’t even begin to duplicate at home."