As I’m about to share this and the title came to me thanks to a quick exchange with my bestie of adult-mom life, the parable of talents popped in my mind. She said that the talent of baking had always been inside of me, so… yeah, maybe it has but that seed had never been poured and it seemed to be wasted since nothing ever grew out of it until now. But… why an useless seed and when was it planted? I’m happy to say that I can tell exactly when that happened, it is a blurry memory but still it got imprinted on me: I was like 10 and went to visit a friend of grandma with her and my mom. That woman baked a chocolate cake right in front of me. She showed me how to do it, I don’t remember how involved I was in the process but I can recall that she was very kind and happy to show me her art. I remember that yummy seductive smell of the chocolate being baked and the moment of putting the cake into the oven, one of those old ones that were white. I also remember a bit of the entrance hall and the moment we walked away and waved good bye while the fantastic baker waved back standing at her door. She planted on me the seed.
However, growing up with certain commodities like a lady in charge of cooking and housekeeping, I never really had the necessity to jump into the kitchen and till recently you could say about me that I didn’t know how to cook. Why? Well because the lady who helps is still at my mom’s and I usually spent most of the day there, while my husband is at work. Cooking to me is something that I rarely do and usually on special occasions with recipes from the internet. The knowledge I got from my mom or what she basically taught me, as a child, you know, in those pre-teen years, was: to make rice and cook chicken (boiled in water with garlic, onion and tomato). But the practice of those two things wasn’t so often.
Then, I’m not sure whether it was during my last years of college or after that, I start to really get engaged watching cooking programs such as Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars, Hell’s Kitchen, Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped, among others but the first two were the ones that I loved the most. It really amazed me the creativity that was put on those cupcakes, to decorated them after a theme related with an event where the winner of the contest will have a fantastic showcase with a thousand cupcakes all of them perfectly decorated and with different amazing flavors. And then, you got Buddy Valastro doing the craziest, biggest, personalized, fantastic cakes. It left me open-mouthed over and over again. So now I was a lady who didn’t know how to cook but enjoyed watching cooking programs on the TV and was willing to jump into the kitchen whenever the opportunity came (to me just special occasions as I mentioned before).
Because of Buddy I started to pay for getting personalized cakes done for the birthday of my loved ones, it was like my biggest bet and I really liked to leave them fascinated with this little surprise. And at the same time I cooked for them, usually dinner, following a recipe. Well, last year was my mom 60th birthday and that was a bit different, a higher “bet” that included a big number of family plus some friends at a restaurant and a beautiful cake with some photos printed around from different times of my mom’s life including her childhood years and a cake topper representing her holding my baby, her grandchild. Everyone loved the whole concept. It was really beautiful.
But also, last year, a couple of months before my mom’s birthday I met Sarah, my baking master brilliant friend of whom I wrote before and the one who pointed out that the talent for baking had always been inside me. So when she told me she loved baking I thought it was my opportunity to learn by her side. Sarah let me do all the steps of the different yummy things we baked during the year as our friendship evolved: cinnamon rolls, chocolate chips cookies and my husband’s birthday cake. However, although she has a great disposition to teach, it is really hard to keep it all in your memory for trying to do it on your own next time, yet she passed me the cookies recipe and now that I’ve gained confidence I may give it a try. Cooking/baking with Sarah is more about getting engaged in the process and sharing together, our hearts, senses and minds focuses in that instead of the real teaching/learning process.
This year our first baking project was supposed to be my baby’s birthday cake. I wanted a birthday smash cake photo session since she was just turning one. But, sadly, Sarah had a family emergency that made her flight to the US with her husband and children. They spent almost a month over there. So although I wasn’t able to count with her, I decided to dare to do it all by myself. And so the baking seed/talent started finally to be poured and sprout some roots… -maybe even grow a tiny stalk, cause still has a lot more to grow-. I decided to go with this recipe that I found online and went to buy all the ingredients and the stuff needed to bake like the pan, the thing to put the frosting in and decorate the cake, the thing that goes on the tip of that among others. I don’t know the words of this stuff in English and at the moment I can’t access the translator. Still I like to recognize my lack of knowledge of this and how in spite of not knowing many words in English related to bake and cooking, I really like to follow recipes in this, my second language, is like and extra reason to get excited and feel challenged cause there’s this cognitive process going on while at the same time focusing in doing the cake.
So how did the cake go? Well, first at all I gotta say that I left out some ingredients that I didn’t consider necessary for my baby (no cinnamon, no nutmeg, no sugar, no milk and no vanilla extract). The cake went really nice and it grew pretty (curvy) thanks to the baking powder. However the amounts of the recipe fell short for the size of pan I had bought. So the next day I did it again with double quantity of everything. This time it also went well but I didn’t think of the fact that the cake was going to grow inside of the oven and since the pan was full when I put it in, the batter outgrew. But anyway still was beautiful and my husband helped me to cut out the curvy top so to get a flat one ready to be covered with the frosting. That part was a real failure: I completely failed on my first attempt to do the frosting. I started by whiping the butter with the electric mixer but, silly me, the butter wasn’t soft so it got stuck and it was really hard, almost imposible, to take it off, well it finally did came off but with water and soap in the sink and ready to go to waste… actually the wire sponge had to be thrown away. Then I added the cream cheese that although it’s great for its consistency, I didn’t really liked it for its salty flavor. My idea for the frosting was it to taste like carrot. But the carrots I used weren’t enough and they weren’t really minced and with all the juicy flavor but just thin strips that with the cream chease and the purple coloring turned into a weird brown mix… it didn’t tasted bad since I ended up covering the cream cheese with banana (I didn’t want to use sugar) but it’s appearance was not nice and I preferred not to use it. The next morning it was the day before Salo’s birthday and I remember that Laura, my neighbor and friend who lives in the next door, likes to cook and had a time in which she sold cupcakes, so I texted her and she was able to help me out with the covering. We started from cero, I gave in with the sugar, she helped me a lot and it all went well. Using the pastry bag (ok, now I used the translator) was really hard for me, I’m kind of clumpsy so Laura was in charge of decorating while I helped to prepare the mix under her direction. So finally, with her help, the cake ended up looking like this and it was perfect for my baby girl and the photo session.
Sarah and her family came back to Colombia on the first days of February, and my grandma was also here. It was very important for me that both of them tasted the cake so I did it once again and they both liked it. However I noticed that it was a bit dry although they didn’t say me anything. This second cake was without covering, but the opportunity to make the third one came when my childhood friends and me agreed to gather on Sunday to celebrate Tavo’s birthday. So I decided to bring the cake and repeat the recipe with all the ingredients and no restriction. It was absolutelly delicious. In the process of doing the batter I came to the realization that the reason why it had been too dry before was because the recipe says on cup of oatmeal into the blender and I was getting the whole cup of pulverized oatmeal so it was a bigger ammount, added to the two cups of flour. It felt nice to realize of this by myself and to correct this part when pulverizing the oatmeal. For the frosting, I chose blue coloring since is my bestie’s favorite color. And this time it went perfect by following the recipe, starting with a soft butter that didn’t got stuck into the mixer. So my third attempt was the real perfect one, my friends loved it and I really felt happy and proud of myself. The numbed talent woke up and it’s ready to roar. This year I’ll be making several cakes for my loved ones and I hope to keep improving little by little and try different things, recipes and flavours. Maybe attempting to emulate that marvelous chocolate smell (cake) that I remember although I was told that with chocolate is a bit harder, but hey, why not give it a try?