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A Page From Betty Crocker’s Cookbook
Recently, while sitting in my chair drinking the last of my breakfast coffee, a thought staggered into my mind. I must confess most thoughts are quite lonely once they enter my mind, but this one had a nagging element to it. Experience has taught me I should never give in to these strange trespassers. Every time I entertain any of them, I’m the one getting burnt. This time was different. Don’t ask me how it was different, or how I knew it was different, it just was.
Of course, looking back I could have been wrong. The thought: why not surprise my wife by baking her a cake? I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing when this suggested itself to me. But, the more I thought about it, the more delightfully delicious it sounded. How can anything go wrong if I am doing it for my wife? The only question I needed to answer was what kind of cake should I bake.
After a long period of ruminating, I settled on a lemon sponge cake with peanut butter icing. This was going to be the best surprise my wife has ever received from me. Sitting in a prominent place in the kitchen is my wife’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. I don’t know how long she has had that book, it’s been in our kitchen for as long as I can remember — which really may not be that long when I come to think of it. I took the book, sat in my favorite chair and opened it. How do you read a cookbook? As I leafed through it, it did not have any rhyme or reason to me. In musing on the book I said to myself, how important is it to follow directions? Placing the book back in its revered spot, I concluded that since this was my cake, I didn’t need help from anybody else, particularly Betty Crocker. This is the difference between men and women. Women need a lot of directions, while men enjoy the liberty of doing their own thing. I knew exactly what I wanted.
A lemon sponge cake, with peanut butter icing. What could be simpler? Retrieving a large mixing bowl, I assembled all the ingredients I needed; flour, sugar, eggs, milk and baking powder. Everyone knows you cannot bake without baking powder. I have no idea what baking powder is, except when you bake you use baking powder. I put everything in the mixing bowl. The only thing I wasn’t quite sure of was the measure, but how hard could that be anyway? Betty Crocker mentioned a cup of this and a cup of that, but never defined what she meant by a cup. I went to the cupboard and looked at all the cups. There were all kinds and sizes of cups and I did not know which one to use. I eyed a large coffee cup and said to myself, this will do just fine. I dumped 6 or 8 cups of flour into the mixing bowl, I can’t remember how many.
Then I cracked a dozen eggs and put that into the mixing bowl as well. Pouring a quart of milk into the mixing bowl, I whipped everything into a nice batter. This was to be a lemon sponge cake but I could find nothing marked lemon in the cupboard. I opened the refrigerator, and as luck would have it, I found a quart of lemonade. I poured this concoction into the largest cake pan I could find. As I was about to put it into the oven, I remembered the baking powder. How is this cake going to bake if it doesn’t have the baking powder? Setting the cake pan down, I grabbed the baking powder and liberally sprinkled it on top of my batter. I have no idea what baking powder does but I put enough on my cake so it would do a good job. Into the oven the cake went, and with a flick of the wrist I turned the temperature to 450 degrees. Remembering this was a big cake, I readjusted the temperature to 650.
The bigger the cake the hotter the oven, is what I always say. Now all I needed to do was wait for my cake to bake. As I was waiting, I heard rumblings coming from the oven but just chalked that up to a good cake baking. I guess I fell asleep, because the next thing I knew there was a strange odor permeating the air. It smelled a little smoky and then it dawned on me. My cake, it’s done. What I pulled out of the oven did not resemble any cake I had ever seen. It looked like a burnt pancake, twice the size of the cake pan, with some kind of disease on the surface. No amount of peanut butter icing in the world could camouflage this disaster.
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