Sunday, March 6, 2011
The Boulevard of Sunken Cakes
When life gives you lemons and you make lemonade, only it's actually lemon cake, and the cake emerges from the oven with a deep ravine running down the middle...you eat it anyway.
Every time I make this cake, it starts out beautifully in the oven and then, just when I least expect it, the center takes a nose dive. I put up with the sunken center and ask no questions because it's a delicious cake, especially after you douse it in a dense syrup of lemon juice and sugar right after it comes out of the oven.
But over the years I'll confess that I've developed a bit of a complex about this. Because this particular lemon cake is one of the few cakes I bake in bread pans, I'd pretty much concluded that I carry some type of curse that will forever cause the center to plummet.
The person who gave me this doomed but delicious recipe so long ago happened to be visiting this evening. She heard me lamenting the belly flop and proudly insisted that her versions never did such a terrible thing--feeding my secret neurosis even further. So I pulled out the recipe and showed it to her. I pointed to the part where she wrote "1T baking powder" and "1/2T sugar." Very clearly a capital T, which, as we all know, means tablespoon.
In a voice that suggested I'd been putting rat poison or liquid Drano in my cake all these years, she blurted, "There's no way on earth you'd put a whole tablespoon of baking powder in that cake."
Well folks, mystery solved. Which would also explain the cake's strong salty tang, too. So, on behalf of sunken cakes and neurotic bakers everywhere, I'd like to make a little public service announcement. When writing down recipes for friends, would you please be a doll and remember that capital T means tablespoon, and lower-case t means teaspoon, and to form each letter verrrrrry carefully? Thanks ever so much.