A Hot Mess


My oven is so old, it has forgotten what ovens do. The first sign that we had trouble  around the corner was when we cooked a pizza at 450 degrees and it forgot what “off” meant. I punched the button in frustration, while the oven blasted away like a fiery furnace. Finally I tricked it by lowering the temperature to get it to simmer down and shut off.

Shortly after that, wails of disappointment accosted my ears as my little bakers cried over burned biscuits that remained gooey in the middle and quiches that never firmed up. While I had wistfully pined for a new oven since the day I met this hot mess that came with the house, and especially since the split pea soup explosion that managed to get inbetween the glass on the oven window, there was not a chance in the world that we could have a new one in the house before Hope’s sixth birthday. 

What to do?

I considered inconveniencing my neighbor or a good friend, but decided to make that Plan B, after I at least attempted to make a Rapunzel doll cake at home. I mixed up a double batch of batter from a recipe I had used before and crossed my fingers. Leaving the oven light on, I sat down with a pot of Earl Grey and watched the cakes for potential trouble. I didn’t have to wait long. 

Even though the oven thought it was at 350, the batter soon began to boil. Bubbles in the layer cakes rose to the surface, enlarged, and turned brown before bursting like hot lava. The doll’s dress, poured into a Pampered Chef Batter Bowl, expanded like a mushroom cloud. I turned the temperature down and the convection fan on. 

Long after the cakes were supposed to be done, I tentatively took the two layers out to cool. Slightly crispy on top, they finally tested done in the middle. 

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When I dared to pull out the batter bowl, I learned cake testers can lie. After cooling for perhaps ten minutes, the cauliflower sized mushroom cloud suddenly and dramtically collapsed. But Plan A still had potential. Since I had to cut a hole in the middle for Rapunzel anyway, I scooped out the goo inside, leaving a slightly overbaked shell, which I filled with whipped cream. 

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                                        Notice Rapunzel waving at 5:00.

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Loaded with whipped cream, the crispy cake softened up nicely.

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When Hope requested this cake her siblings called her out. “You just want another doll! We know! Well, don’t pull her head off like last time.”

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Sadly, Rapunzel developed a massive headache and died two days after the party.

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                                                                It was good while it lasted.                                                                                 

I tried to pop her head back on, but this is a delicate surgery, which I am not qualified to perform.

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Both cakes are the same recipe, but you can see they are a different color and they also had different textures and flavors. Odd.

Hope’s birthday was on a Monday, but we celebrated on the Saturday before so Grandma could join us. Not celebrating on a young child’s actual birthday has the advantage of curbing the Spoiled Brat Effect. Since it is not really their birthday yet, they don’t think they can get away with shirking their chores or not minding their manners. Then when it really is their birthday and they try any of that, you can always say, “Knock it off! We already had your birthday.” These advantages came to my mind once or twice,  as Hopesie pushed the boundaries, but overall she was a very happy birthday girl. 

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Grandma gave her a bike, her first. Ethan, who has always had a decided disinterest in learning to ride his hand-me-down bike, suddenly wanted to take a spin on Hope’s wheels. 

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Her other Grandma sent hot pink sparkly shoes, Hopesie’s signature color.

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We gave her a real Bible, since she has recently learned to read, and one more surprise.

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Mike secretly worked on his gift to her for several days. Everyone except Hope and Ethan knew what he was up to and kept the two of them out of the work zone. Finally Ethan asked in bewilderment, “How come everyone knows what the present is except me?” We all laughed then, because Ethan has never managed to keep a secret in his whole life. 

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When we finally unveiled the surprise, Hope floated around the corner and found an old fashioned see-saw. There were a few kinks to work out. 

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Mike had to go back and add a second board to make it strong enough for teen-aged brothers to play with their little sisters. Also, Hope and Ethan had to learn how to fall off without getting hurt. This just takes practice.

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Grace gave Hope a can of silly string, which Hopesie aggressively chased each of us around with, laughing maniacally. She blasted most of the backyard, and any family members who were slow to move.

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What goes around comes around.

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Despite the cake drama, Hope’s birthday had more ups than downs.

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Lucky for Mike, all this happened before his birthday, which is right around the corner. A perfect coconut cake is essential for his special day, and might be one reason why he barely flinched when I set aside my usual frugality and suggested we invest in a high quality oven replacement.

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We bought a double oven so we can cook twice as much at once, and keep everyone happy.


© Being Fruitful, 2012