Beating Up the Answers to Life and Death

baking, chocolate chip cookies, the answers to life and deathThe day begins with anticipation, which makes me chuckle.

Gone is the time when I looked forward to a young man arriving at the doorstep for a date. Now, I’m anxious for the arrival of a 7-year-old boy and hours of Uno and giggles.

Sure enough, 90 minutes into my grandson’s visit, the score is Madre 540, genius boy 35.

The winner is the one with the lowest score.

This kid is killing me, particularly as he rubs his hands before each new game and says gleefully, “The cards just love me, Madre,” with a shrug and a wink. Continue reading

Non Random Acts of Kindness

karen-sanderson-word-shark-blog-graphicThis past weekend, I brought the wrong cookies to my mother, and I attended a Writers’ Conference in Delaware.

Believe it or not, these two disparate comments belong together.

Flattered to be invited to attend and speak at the  Word Shark Writing Conference organized by Karen Sanderson, editor, writer and blogger, I accepted after realizing I could combine the trip with a visit to my mom, who lives just a half hour away.

A few days before the conference, I worked on my presentation while also baking my mother’s favorite chocolate chip butterscotch oatmeal bars.  My mom doesn’t have a big sweet tooth, but for some reason she absolutely loves my bars.

writing, cookies, antique plateAt 5:30 a.m. on the day of my long train ride to Delaware, I grabbed the special bars from the freezer, where I had stored them. Seven hours later I gratefully unloaded my bag with the special treats, basking in my mom’s gratefulness.

But as I pulled the bars out of their freezer bag onto one of her antique flowery dainty china plates, I gasped. Continue reading

The Simplest Hardest Cake in the World

love, birthdayWhen we’re first in love, we’ll do just about anything for the new apple in our eye.

Even bake a cake. A cake from a 100-year-old recipe.

At least, that’s what I grumbled lo those many years ago when I began to date the man I now call my guy.

We met in September. He lived in one state, I lived in another, so we dated by commute. But by the end of November, he asked to stay for a weekend in mid-December. I said yes, and in the next breath he said, “Oh, and by the way, it’s my birthday.”

I skipped only one beat and said, “I’ll take you out for dinner.”

He skipped no beats when replying, “Um, what I’d really like is my grandmother’s birthday cake.”

WHAT?

Turns out, since my guy was a little boy, his mom made him a cake from a recipe his grandmother discovered long ago in an old magazine. My guy loved that cake, and wondered if I’d like to bake it for his birthday.

Before I could say, “NO,” I opened my mailbox to discover a sweet love letter, with a yellowed piece of thin paper inside: the recipe for ye old Ski Cake.”cake, grandmother's recipe, birthday

The day before he arrived for his weekend visit, I followed the directions to the last teaspoon, creaming the butter and sugar while “working in” the milk and sifted flour (back in the grandmother’s days, the cook had to sift her own flour). I beat the egg whites and made a meringue and folded it into the cake, per instructions. As easy as ….cake.

Granted, as soon as I took it out of the oven it flattened half its size, but still, I figured that’s how cakes looked in the olden days.

I frosted and set it before my dimpled date on his birthday, and with bated breath waited for him to take a bite.

He bit, and he chewed, and chewed and chewed, before he finally swallowed. Twice.

Averting my eyes, he said, “Delicious.”

I took a bite. The cake was as hard as a rock and tasted like stone.

Despite my failure, we married within a year, and on his next birthday, I tried again.

With the same results.

On our third anniversary, I had a new oven in a different state with a state-of-the-art mixer.

But the same results.

A week before our fourth anniversary, I called my guy’s mom and admitted my dilemma.

“I follow the old recipe exactly, each time, and each time, it’s a bust!” I moaned.

A small effervescent bubble popped between the phone lines. A few seconds after the pop I realized the noise was my mother-in-law’s chuckle.

baking, cake, birthday, ingredients“No one can make that recipe work,” the sweet woman explained. “On his birthdays, I’d race to the store and buy a Betty Crocker white cake mix. He never knew the difference.”

I didn’t find it as funny as she did, but you can be damn sure that I ran to the store and bought that cake mix, and the night before his birthday, in secret, baked the best Ski Cake my guy had ever tasted.

He said so.

And every December, he enjoys my home-baked, best simplest hardest birthday cake in the world.

birthday cake, recipe, Betty Crocker

Ski Cake