Cake soup

I love baking.  I am not very good at baking, and I don’t like the clean up time after, but I love baking.

Last summer I learned angel food cake, chiffon cake, and semi-learned pudding.  Pudding is finicky.  I like baking from scratch.  I like the feeling.  I feel pioneerish.  Plus (and more practically), I try to stay away from artificial things and as many chemicals as I can.  So I like baking from scratch.

There is an unbelievable, yet simple, art to baking that makes it either extremely easy or extremely hard.  It’s called practicing the directions.

It isn’t enough to read the directions.  I have read directions I didn’t understand.  I realize I didn’t understand them when, say, my chocolate fudge blows up and becomes as hard as, well, cooled lava (igneous rock), in a matter of, say, four seconds.  (This really happened to me, by the way.)

And it isn’t enough to understand the directions.  I understood the directions for angel food cake, to gently lift the batter with the spatula, scraping along the outsides of the bowl and folding.  That was a bunch of hooey, I thought, to make baking ‘more harder’ that it needs to be.  I thought that until my angel food cake came out of the oven as an angel food pancake.

You have to practice the directions.  There’s something about practicing the directions, though.  You have to pay attention. It’s very hard to know whether you have or haven’t followed the directions if you haven’t been paying attention.

Baking soda, baking powder, flour, cream of tartar, and cornstarch have a striking resemblance to each other.  They look like quintuplets all sitting together in the mixing bowl.  And salt and sugar?  Why, they’re twins with very different tastes.

When these sixsome are sifted together, my goodness, but they all look like one big happy family.  And they won’t tell you if you’ve put too much of one in or too little of another, of if you’ve forgotten one altogether.  And if you’ve used two eggs or four eggs?  You can’t tell once the mixer’s on.  And did you remember the almond extract?  You won’t have a clue.

Unless you’re paying attention, you just won’t know until you pull it out of the oven.

You might just wind up with an angel food moat with an unangelic lake in the center.  It’s happened to me before.

And here comes my latest story.

A couple days ago I started using a new cookbook–not new to my house, but new to me actually using.  It’s an 80’s cookbook, I think, so it has to be good.  Lots of good things were born in the 80’s, especially ’83.  Anyway, I was going to make the first layer cake I’ve ever made.  I was going to have custard filling and chocolate whipped cream frosting.

(The custard filling turned out pretty well, but after what happened to the cake, I, well, I snacked on it.)

I measured out all the ingredients, but I was listening to the TV in the background.  Now this was really dumb on my part, because I know that I tend to mismeasure ingredients when I’m watching the TV in the background or talking on the phone or anything else.  But I tend to feel like I’m using my time more effectively if I multitask and destroy the cake, I guess.  I must feel that way, because I keep doing it.

I don’t know for sure where I went wrong.  I think it was with the flour and the cornstarch.  I think I mismeasured.  But of course I didn’t know it, because it made a very lovely batter.  I was very proud of the batter.  The batter smelled delicious.  Batters almost always smell delicious, even when they are not going to work.

I placed the two cakes in their oven racks (multitasking, two cakes at a time–two cakes, it turns out, ruined at a time), and pressed the timer until 25 minutes came up.

I didn’t look at the cakes for about 20 minutes or so, I guess.  When I did, I knew what was going to happen.  I hoped I was wrong, but I doubted in 5 minutes the oases in the centers of the cakes were going to turn into fluffy deserts of desserts.

I am sorry to say I wasn’t wrong.  I took the cakes out and the edges shot up like a giraffe’s neck.  The centers stayed in pools.  Then, quick as a flash, the edges collapsed.

It’s hard to think of anything useful to do with cake soup.

I don’t know what happened.  I read back through all the ingredients, and the best I can figure is it was probably a measuring mistake.  But I wasn’t paying attention, so I don’t know.

Sometimes in life, it’s hard to figure out where we went wrong.  Something happened, and then another something, and even though everything looked like it was all right at the time, the result, the aftermath, the outcome . . has been a disaster.  Sometimes my life looks like a train wreck, and I can’t always trace back where I first went wrong, or how I should have dealt with things differently.  I’m not talking about problems in life unrelated to personal fault, like getting sick or stolen from that are general consequences of the curse of sin, or the sin of others, but the problems that I am directly responsible for, or take a part in, causing.

I guarantee you that the cake recipe was not wrong.  Somewhere along the line, I wasn’t paying attention.  That’s all it was.  I just wasn’t paying attention.  And I paid the price with a flopped cake.

The same thing can happen in life–but with infinitely worse consequences.  I don’t want to wind up at the end of life to see that what’s pulled from the oven is a sloppy mess.  I don’t want to find that I missed the greatest opportunities God had for me, simply because I wasn’t paying attention.  I don’t want for God’s directions to sit unopened on a shelf in my house.  I don’t want to merely read His directions and stop there.  And it’s not enough to only understand what He wants for me, but not act.  For my life to be anything other than a disaster, I have to practice what I understand in what I have read.  But I can’t understand without God’s wisdom.  And I can’t follow God’s directions without His power.  And I can’t have His wisdom or His power without His grace.  And I can’t have His grace without His Son.

It’s pretty pointless to have a recipe book with guaranteed recipes in front of you if you’re not going to follow the instructions.  And it’s pretty pointless to read God’s Word without any desire to act.

Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.

(God, quoted in Isaiah 28:23, NIV)

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