Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Comfort Hobby

After possibly the most bizarre day in recent history (during which my new computer at work not only mysteriously broke itself for three hours but also magically fixed itself), I needed to do something productive, as watching tv, moping or simply complaining about the weirdness of the day do not count as "productive."

So, I decided to bake. I've had a hankering for lemon cake, and I have a long standing love affair with a cake my grandmother called chiffon but is a far cry from the real chiffon cake. For years, I've been trying to recreate whatever it was she put in that slice of heaven. This lemon sponge cake comes pretty close.

I love the comfort I find in baking. The house was relatively quiet. I just let the mixer do its thang and create perfect egg whites. Since childhood, I've been fascinated by the fact that all you have to do is leave egg whites in the mixer long enough, and they magically turn into little puffs of egg white goodness.

I love that the recipe told me to "fold" the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. I love the picture that pops into my head when I read that I have to "fold" anything in a recipe. I picture a mother in the old west, a French pastry chef, a 1950's housewife, my mother loving making a birthday cake. I love to "fold" the mixture.

I filled up the cake pan with the batter, put it in the oven, baked it for a perfect 55 minutes (the recipe and my oven agreed for the first time in two years). Sponge cakes have to be turned upside down to cool. Apparently, none of the bottles in my house are thin enough to slide through the hole in the center of the pan, but I did happen to have one bottle that was big enough to fit the center of the pan inside of, so all was not lost.

I felt so, well, proud when I found a way to cool the cake, and the cake didn't fall out of the pan. I really needed this cake making to go well, for the baking to work its magic on my nerves.

Once the cake cooled, I could enjoy the look of it. English major that I am, I still find it amazing that simple things like eggs and vanilla can result in something so yummy and delicious. Plus, sponge cake doesn't require icing, so I don't have to pretend to know what I'm doing with an icing knife. I think that the cake was a success in my house, although any yummy thing at 10 o'clock at night seems rather appealing.

The baking did what it was supposed to. It calmed my nerves, cleared my mind and made me feel like I do know how to do something other than type e-mails and sometimes break computers.

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