I have never baked a cake that was fit to be seen in public. I follow the directions, I bake as directed, let it cool in the pan the time specified, and then – disaster. My cakes stick in the pan. Not just a little bit that could be repaired, but half the cake stays in the pan while the other half is in some mess of crumbs on the plate. I’ve tried boxed mixes, “no fail” recipes, recipes that people pressed on me. I’ve buttered, greased, sprayed the cake pans. It is as through a cake devil sees that once again I have been lulled into thinking that I might be able to bake, and casts a curse on my pans, while my kitchen witch looks on. While others pull golden, level layers from the oven; layers that will pop out of their pans like a dream, I’m tapping the bottom of the pan, trying to convince it to release.
My grandmother was a baker. She turned out beautiful cakes that were always the hit of the bake sale or eagerly consumed by her guests. People complimented her on how beautiful they were, not to mention light and airy. I remember one time she baked a lemon cake for a bake sale, put it on a gold box, and it looked like it glowed. I watched every move she made in the kitchen from the time I was very young, until I was a young wife, and she made it all look so easy, but for me, her magic never transferred.
I guess I got my mother’s baking gene, which is to say non-existent. She could not bake, but then she never tried. She always said that there was no reason to put forth effort into something she could just as easily buy. I don’t even think she owned cake pans and it did not bother her a bit. Other mothers make cakes and cupcakes for their daughter’s class, but when my mother showed up, it would always be with store-bought baked goods.
After years of hope that this time will be different, only to have my hopes dashed by inedible layers, I have given up. I have accepted that there are just some things that I am not good at and baking cakes is one of them. This is a disability here in the South, when one is expected to show up with home baked good to every gathering, where people will exclaim and swear it is the best thing that they’ve ever eaten. Anything I bring will be store bought and switched onto one of my very own cake plates, but no one will be fooled. No matter how beautiful the cake plate, my cake is destined to be left behind and the hostess will no doubt ask me if I want to take my cake back home, bless my heart. She’ll say something encouraging about how there were just too many cakes to be eaten, but this will only be to try to spare my feelings,in the way that Southerners do. The other women will leave with their empty cake plates and their heads held high, while I slink out the door with my pathetic uneaten cake that I will slip into the first trash can I see.