Baking is finicky business. You have to be precise in your measurements, read everything carefully, use name brand everything (because fats in butters vary from the good stuff to the mediocre, and store bought sugar is heavier because it’s sifted more…which you would think would be a good thing.)
This is three cups of sugar, six eggs, three cups of sifted flour, three sticks of butter, a block of cream cheese MESS. I have rarely been so disappointed for anything in my life. I have also rarely been as ill-prepared.
Here was the trouble: I’ve been kinda sick. Not like, throwing up, circling the drain sick, more of the snotty nosed variety that induces whining. I had promised to make the following for Christmas dinner: mashed potatoes, sausage balls, and a cream cheese pound cake. Nevermind that I have never made a pound cake in my life. I had bought a huge box of Philadelphia cream cheese at Sam’s Club a few weeks before Thanksgiving in preparation for the upcoming sausage ball making holiday ahead. But I forgot I had done so, and found it on sale at Food City so I bought the requisite three. Imagine my dismay, er, surprise, when I went to put it in the cheese drawer at home. So all there was to do was make a cheesecake.
Have you ever actually made a cheesecake? Or have you only ever selfishly devoured them without regard for the hours they spent in construction to become the glorious silken dessert you can’t cram in your mouth fast enough?
Turns out making a cheesecake is a real pain in the hind end. You have to put the dang thing in a water bath or some such nonsense, but it can’t get wet! And it takes, like, six blocks of cream cheese! Holy crap! While that would have saved me from the too-much-of-a-certain-ingredient blues, I don’t possess that kind of patience or willingness to learn something new. Plus, have I mentioned I had a snotty nose and probably nobody would touch it with a ten foot pole, anyway? Johnny teased me that I was just baking a cake so people would like me. I know my family. They’re germaphobes. They probably wished I would just stay home.
Back to the pound cake, which seemed like way less aggravation. And everybody likes pound cake, right? So I had This One on my Pinterest board and decided to give it a whirl. It seemed simple enough, and I had all the ingredients on hand.
I follow recipes exactly the first time I make them, especially baked goods ones. I go so far as to level off my measuring cups with a knife and all that hoopla after figuring out some years ago that’s actually important. I know, it makes my eye twitch, too. I obediently cracked one egg at a time in my measuring cup to add only once the previous egg had mixed thoroughly. I sifted my flour, as per the instructions.
Now, here’s the thing. I didn’t do my usual research of checking this recipe against similar recipes. I didn’t realize I was lacking mix time at what speed. KitchenAid appliance people are quite thorough, and like to tell you what speed to blend for x amount of minutes. I didn’t look into this. I blindly accepted “medium until well mixed”.
So wrong. So tragically wrong.
If I had been feeling better, no doubt I wouldn’t have glossed over this significant lack of detail. I would have been my normal anxious self, searching frantically for the true definition of “medium”.
I poured the batter into the greased Bundt pan (mine is the actual brand, but I didn’t see a link for them. Plus, you don’t want one like mine, it doesn’t have handles and turns out, they’re fairly important). I did pause with the thought that perhaps I should put a cookie sheet under it incase of spills, but nah…I didn’t want it to be undercooked on top. The dish wasn’t all the way full, anyway, and the pound cakes that I’ve seen haven’t looked like they rose much. Not like an Angel Food Cake. Roll on.
I decided to vacuum while I waited for the cake to bake. I hadn’t gotten very far when I smelled the cake already, which was unusual. I decided I better check it.
Sure enough, the blasted blanket-blank had risen over the sides and was dripping all over the racks onto the bottom of the oven. I had no choice but to pull it out while I cleaned the mess. Hopefully it hadn’t cooked long enough for this to be an issue. I had it out for several minutes, the darned thing had even bubbled onto the oven window! I got goopy batter all over my good oven mitt and an abysmal potholder. They would both have to be washed. I hoped the oven mitt would survive. It has a grippy part at the fingertips. I replaced the racks, and this time, upon returning the pan, I set it upon a cookie sheet.
Breathe in Jesus. I went back to my housework. Well, wouldn’t you know it, about this time, my long-lost bestie texts wanting to know when would be a good time to come over. I haven’t seen her in almost a year, we’ve drifted apart quite a bit, due both to location and lifestyle. But it’s always good to see her. I warn her that I’m in desperate need of a shower, that I’m covered in flour (sifting is messy business), and I have vacuum cleaner dust in my hair from cleaning the filter out on the front porch and the wind was not in my favor.
She doesn’t care, like a true friend.
She shows up, nonplussed by my appearance, perfectly accessorized. Supposedly she had a cold too, but there is no evidence of it in her voice and lack of Kleenex, permanently on display in my hand and on every surface.
I proceed to almost fall when reaching for her present. “I’m telling you, I’m not well,” I say, to make up for my clumsiness.
She got me a journal, as always. It’s gold and glittery and perfectly fabulous, and the cutest light up ornament ever in the history of the world.
I got her a owl blanket, an owl trinket from Etsy, and some kitchen towels. I’m not as thoughtful as I could be. But she says she loved them all, and almost bought the blanket herself a few weeks ago, so I guess I did okay.
The timer on the oven goes off and we make our way into the kitchen so I can check it. It looks like it could use a few more minutes, so I reset the timer and we go back to chatting.
Ten minutes later, it goes off again. I pull it out and check it with a toothpick, which pulls out clean. I cool it on the neck of a wine bottle, because that works better for me than the wire rack.
Also because I am too lazy to dig out the wire rack.
The cake isn’t pretty, but I was fairly sure it would still be edible until we went to tip it out ten minutes later and found it….deflated, I suppose would be an adequate word.
“Dude, it didn’t look like that ten minutes ago,” Lisa helpfully says.
I could care less. The damn thing already took up way too much energy that I didn’t have to spare. I dumped it on a big plate and regarded it dismally. The pound cake looked sad, too, like it had let me down on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus.
I made the potatoes, which were lumpy because I was in a hurry. I was never in any danger of making the sausage balls since becoming sick-too much hands on. I stayed away from everybody all night and tried not too talk too much because it makes me cough. What a Christmas.
I later looked up other cream cheese pound cake recipes and found that I should have let it whip three minutes between each egg, and probably close to seven before adding flour. I think my pound cake making days are over. I’ll stick to sugar cookies.