Monday, February 21, 2011

Ode to Cake

Some people meditate. Others go for a walk, or a jog, or a swim. I lack such virtue. When life gets overwhelming, I head to the kitchen to make something. If you've been reading this blog for more than, say, an hour, you'll know this to be true. When time is short and my need for comfort particularly great, I bake a cake. Nothing fancy, just a simple recipe that always works and is guaranteed to bring my life back into order.

How comforting to cream together that stick of butter with a cup of sugar. Already I can feel the chaos subside. Each egg I crack in and patiently mix, each cup of flour with baking soda and salt, each slosh of vanilla, each dash of nutmeg pulls me back to the present. With my hands, I amalgamate these humble ingredients into a dense, smooth, flavorful bowl of potential.

I pour the batter in my favorite cast-iron baking pan, give the top of a swirl for good luck, and slide it into a hot oven.

There. Like burping a baby, all those difficult emails, unclear decisions, and stressful thoughts have been temporarily released from my mind. I've put something in motion that will come to fruition in a matter of minutes. Not months or years, but minutes.

I take my time putting away the ingredients, washing the bowl, wiping the counter. Soon the kitchen fills with that comforting fragrance of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla, and nutmeg. I peek through the oven window and smile at the transformation of that yellow goo into a fully risen cake that's starting to brown on top. Success.

How civilized to sit down with a cup of tea and a little piece of cake still warm from the oven. I feel like I'm visiting with my grandma or with one of those characters you read about in books, you know, the ones who always had cake and tea at the ready for visitors.

The rest gets divvied up among friends or stored in the freezer for another rainy day. For me, it's not so much about eating the cake as it is about creating it. Kind of like spinning a pound of Shetland fleece or turning a perfect heel, only it takes less than an hour and you get to eat the results.

I hate to admit that such a simple thing can lift my spirits and bring comfort and order into my life, but it does. I've been extremely preoccupied lately as I prepare for some big changes to what my day-to-day life looks like. They're all good changes, but changes nonetheless. Yesterday afternoon I finally went on strike and made myself another little cake. For anyone who doubts the awesome and mysterious powers of cake, take heed -- they are real.


Valerie said...

What a tease! No recipe?!

Lorna's Laces said...

Hope you adjust to the changes swiftly and easily!

Anonymous said...

That cake sounds good! Would you please consider sharing the recipe?

Kate said...

That's exactly why I baked 2 cakes a week ago and invited friends over. Cakes were an excuse to have guests and guests were an excuse to have cake.

akabini said...

Big changes to your day-to-day too, eh?
We should sit down over a piece of cake sometime and compare notes.
I'm good at eating it.
Just sayin'.

besshaile said...

Oh Oh Oh! I read that kind of book too!

miss you
mean it

Dawn said...

I could almost smell the cake batter! Did you ever read any of "Miss Reads" books? they always had a cake in a cake tin when people stopped in for a cup of tea.