by Miller Murray Susen
In just 18 (easy?) steps, you too can kind of impress your book club with a cake-like dessert.
1. It's time again for your book club's annual potluck dinner. Open the Google doc sign-up and ponder your options. The dinner is on Wednesday — crappy schedule day. Dessert it is! Attempt to salvage your desserty lameness by grandly signing up to bring a rhubarb cake with ginger crumble, like your friend who's an excellent baker made you one time. She thoughtfully shared the recipe, too, something you never remember to do when people ask. Sigh. Like, BE BETTER, self. Start by making a nice cake for your book club.
2. Buy the only three stalks of rhubarb in the store. You thought it was rhubarb season, WTH? They are enormous, like slender tree branches. And you've never baked with rhubarb before, because, duh, it's RED CELERY. Well, whatever. It's in cake, it's not going to suck. Cake is delicious.
3. The crumble recipe calls for candied ginger, but all you can find is soft, chewy ginger candy. Close enough. Because cake. Toss it in the cart.
4. Put the cake together while you're also doing the dinner dishes, talking to a cousin who dropped by, and monitoring two kid piano practices and showers. What could go wrong?
5. Sugar the hell out of the rhubarb after barely managing to hack it apart with a cleaver. Sugaring it is not called for in the recipe, but, yikes.
6. The recipe instructs you to freeze the crumble made with melted butter while you put the cake together. So, you do. But after putting the crumble in the freezer you spend 15 minutes at the piano, comb and braid your daughter's wet hair, chat to your uncle when he comes to pick up your cousin, and load the dishwasher. Then you make your cake batter. Then you retrieve the crumble from the freezer, and it's frozen solid.
7. Microwave the frozen crumble. But not too much! Damn.
8. Manage to "sprinkle" the half-frozen glob, half melty-hot-sand crumble over the cake pan of batter. Admire the way it looks in your cute heart-shaped pan. Is the heart-shaped pan a 9-inch pan, per the recipe? Oh, probably. Prepare to put the cake in the oven in triumph.
9. Wait, what the fuck are those two eggs doing sitting there?
10. Frantically scrape crumble globs off of batter. Yell to your son that you will, "BE RIGHT UP JUST A MINUTE!" Dump cake batter back into bowl and whisk in the two eggs as best you can. (Don't overmix! Ha!) Maneuver bright yellow slimy batter back into cake pan and redistribute sticky, wonky crumble mess on top. Aaand into the oven it goes!
11. Read bedtime story to son while chuckling to self. Consider if you will tell the book club the tortured tale of the cake's provenance, or just let them eat it in blissful ignorance. No doubt it will taste fine. Cake is delicious.
12. Upon exiting son's room, notice the house smells like burning. Shit.
13. Dash down to the kitchen to find the cake running over the cute heart-shaped pan, dripping onto the heating coil, and smoking out the whole kitchen. Guess that pan isn't nine inches! Luckily, you have another oven!
14. Open the oven door and the kitchen door to air out the kitchen, and put the cake into the other oven with a cookie sheet underneath it this time. Cross your fingers, reset the timer, and head up to say goodnight to your daughter.
15. Come down to find the timer going off, and realize upon checking the cake that you never turned the second oven on. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
16. Turn on the second oven and just leave the stupid cake in there instead of pre-heating and just reset the timer for an approximate amount of time and just let the stupid cake do its stupid best in there. Do the cake-related dishes. Fume.
17. Pull the cake out when the timer goes off. It looks NOTHING like the cake your friend made — hers was pillowy and pale and crumby, yours is flat, crisp, and deep brown. The crumble has flattened into the batter while it cooked, or maybe it all ran off into the first oven and there IS no crumble made with ginger candy instead of candied ginger. The cake smells a little singed, but the small taste you break off is inconclusive. It's sweet, certainly. It probably tastes horrible. Burned and dry and crispy and horrible.
18. Take the cake to book club. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Miller Murray Susen is a hyphenate whose enthusiasms include writing, acting, teaching, directing, storytelling, lady arm wrestling, and child wrangling (the last two are actually distinct items). She currently works as communications maven for The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative and tweets in this extreeemely professional capacity @thebridgepai