Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Brandee!

It was Brandee's birthday. Dan, her fiance, had emailed me (and everyone else) to coordinate a mini surprise birthday party for her. We had the time set. 10:30pm. Place set. Rooftop deck of her apartment. And the people set. About 10 of us.

Karen and I already made plans to watch our 4th symphony the same night. (More on that later). So unfortunately, the surprise had to be later on in the night. I checked my schedule for the day, and I happened to have the day off. So what do I do? Attempt to bake the birthday cake.

Dan had emailed and texted me several time to double and triple and quadruple check that I would show up with a cake. He made it pretty clear that there has to be a cake. I told him that if I couldn't make one, then I'll buy one.

After much recipe searching, I decided on a lemon chiffon cake.

I love chiffon cakes. They are light and airy.  I would make the lemon curd extra tart because I know that's the way Brandee likes it.
I figured I had all day. I could bake it twice if I needed to. I took my time shopping for all the ingredients and even stopped to pick up a green tea latte. I hadn't eaten much for lunch but I figured I'd be home all day so I have plenty of time to snack...

My mom had gone to an acupuncture appointment after giving me all the warnings of all the difficulties in making a chiffon cake. You can't over beat the batter or all the air bubbles will go and your cake will deflate. Don't mix but fold. Make sure you put the cake upside down once you take it out of the oven or it will sink. Don't open the oven door when baking or the temperature will change. Etc. Etc. Etc. I knew the drill... and I've seen her bake it a million times before. I'll just be extra careful.

Using my brand new micorplane to zest the lemons.

Extra careful I was. I read the recipe over a million times. Making sure each step was measured right and techniques done properly. I'm not usually a perfectionist when it comes to recipes, but... Dan did text a few times that there's got to be a cake.

I folded the fluffy hard peak egg whites into the batter. I did not mix. I measured every ingredient to the tee. I was so careful. Once the batter was ready to go in the pan, I was pretty happy with it. I was getting excited on how it would turn out. And then...

... I poured the batter into the tube pan...

.... and out the bottom of the pan the batter ran.


What a mess.

I was skeptical about using my mom's 25+ year old pan. Not because it was rusty or dirty or even old looking. But the bottom of the pan, after going through all the heat, has become a bit ripley. I should have gone with my instinct.

At that point, I was panicking. The first thing that ran through my head was Dan's messages... there has to be a cake.

Oh crap.

I thought, just stick it in the oven anyways. Maybe once it starts to bake, it won't leak. I don't know WHAT I was thinking. I wasn't. I stuck it in the oven... and watched it through the window... where the batter continued to drip to the bottom of  the oven. Okay. No. This is NOT going to work.

I took the batter out of the oven while it continued to drip all over the counter and floor. WHAT a mess. If anyone else stepped into the kitchen at that moment, I'm sure they would say, "For Christ's Sake, what is going on in here?!." But I had to laugh at myself.  I texted Dan the entire progress of cake making... now was the time to report, "There may not be a cake! Disaster!".

I quickly jabbed my feet into my shoes and grabbed my keys and fled out the door. I have to buy a new pan. NOW. I was in such a rush that I hadn't even realized that I had stepped into batter on the floor... and now.... in my shoes.... oh.... dear. But, there were more important things at stake.

I bought a new tube pan, rushed home, and stood in the kitchen for another five minutes thinking ... what the heck have I done. Now, do I start from scratch? I figured, even if I've lost 1/3 of my batter by now, I shouldn't let the rest go to waste. So, I transferred it to the new pan. All I could think of was how my carefulness went to waste. With all the transferring of the batter, who knows what condition it may be in now.

I threw it in the oven and started to clean up my mess. Once the kitchen was cleaned up, my mom came home. I told her about my whole fiasco, and then she says, "I have a second pan you know." Umm. Ok. Tell me now?!

Didn't matter. No more time to waste. By then, I had about an hour left. I could only cross my fingers that the cake would turn out. I started making the lemon curd and icing.

I followed all the directions and put the cake upside down to cool. With about twenty minutes left, I had no choice but to slap everything together. Literally. I took a rubber spatula and literally threw on the lemon curd and icing to the cake. Who cares what it looks like at this point. There is at least a cake.

Upside down cake cooling on top of a chinese bowl.

Adding the filling.

Let's just say... there is a LOT of room for improvement on the presentation. It was the ugliest cake I've ever seen. Seriously. Grossly unappetizing even. But, there is at least a cake.

When 10:30pm rolled around and we surprised Brandee on the rooftop, her first reaction to my cake was, "What the hell is that??". I laughed to myself. I would have asked the same question. Hahaha. I'm laughing as I type this post.

But, everyone gave me their honest opinion and said the cake tasted really good.  Don't worry. I tasted it myself and it wasn't so bad if I could say so myself. I kicked the chiffon part in the butt! It was light. And fluffy. I'd totally make it again.  The lemon curd was tart. (I had squeezed a bit more lemon juice than what the recipe called for). I even saw people going back for seconds.

Wasn't until I got home at 2am that I realized I hadn't eaten all day since lunch.

Who's birthday's next???? Ha ha.

Happy Birthday, Brandee!!

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