After finishing last week’s column, I realized that I have more to say about cake. Particularly, I want to tell you about the first time I baked one.
When I moved to Searcy 17 years ago, I joined a young adult Bible study. This was back when I could call myself a “young adult” without people snickering. Anyway, the group loved to have potlucks and themed parties, but I was gun shy about preparing food. I had learned my lesson after a fit of culinary hubris many years before.
Back when I lived in North Carolina, the young adult group at the church I attended liked getting together for parties, too. One year we had a Halloween bash. Everyone had to come in costume and bring something to eat. I had the brilliant scheme of making Twinkie slugs.
I did not find this idea on the internet. In hindsight, I now realize that when an idea is not even good enough for the internet, it is a bad sign. Anyway, here’s my original recipe:
Buy a package of Twinkies and unwrap each one. Then stick two toothpicks into one end of each pastry. A marshmallow goes on top of each toothpick. Using a tube of blue cake icing, put an eyeball dot in the center of each marshmallow. With a tube of red icing, draw a smile on the end of the Twinkie, right below the eyes. Carefully place the cheery slugs into Tupperware.
“How can this miss?” I wondered.
Not a single person ate one of my creations. It seems there is a very short window between the time a Hostess product is unwrapped and the time it becomes stale. Years passed before I had the courage to be creative again in the kitchen.
Back to the Searcy young adult group. Just a few months after I moved here, the gang planned a dinner with a Caribbean menu. Hesitantly, I volunteered to bring something. What I had in mind was napkins. I now realize my blunder in making the open-ended offer of bringing “something” instead of the less stressful offer of “napkins.” Another rookie potluck mistake.
I was asked to bring a “Grenadian” spice cake. I had never made a cake before. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to bake one. I wasn’t even sure where “Grenadia” was.
I found a recipe online and then went to Kroger to buy the ingredients. There was one thing on the list that I had never heard of, so I asked the teenager at the check-out where I could find the lime zest. She said, “I think it’s in the soap aisle.” I thought, “This cake will be awful.” But before I could head that way, another shopper kindly stepped in.
She had overheard the entire clueless exchange and explained that while Zest was indeed a brand name for soap, I wanted lime zest, which was made by grating the peel of a lime.
Moments later, I had everything I needed and headed home. But when I got to my kitchen, I realized that I had no idea what to do next. So, I called Wadene.
Wadene was a lady at church in her late 70s, and she had been the first person to invite me to a meal at her home after I moved here. I remember that dinner well. I was at the table with her family and other guests, enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon. At some point, I asked Wadene to pass the butter. She was sitting three chairs away from me, and the next thing I knew, a tub of butter was airborne and landed right in my mashed potatoes. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to like this lady.”
So in my panicked state, I called Wadene and said, “I have to bake a cake for tonight, and I don’t know what I’m doing.” She said, “Come on over.” I boxed up the ingredients, went to her house, and we baked it together in her kitchen. It took all afternoon. When it was all done, we sprinkled some powdered sugar on top, and I used markers to create a small paper “Grenadian” flag, which I glued to a toothpick and stuck in the cake. I told Wadene she was a lifesaver, and I went on to the party. The cake was a hit.
I think it was three or four weeks later that we had a Care Group meeting at church, and Wadene was in charge of the sign-up list for refreshments. So, I called and asked what I should bring. Her response was priceless. She said, “Honey, why don’t you just bring some chips.”
I am still available for potlucks. Let me know if you need any napkins.