It was a bright morning. My friends were about to come home for a giggly girl gossip session. Going by my choice of words, I am sure you would have figured out that this incident dates back to my teenage years, back to a time when having giggly girl gossip sessions were considered ok. Of course, now we call them venting sessions for lack of better words, or plain old anger. I had gotten up early on that day and was feeling particularly open to hard work. It was a new feeling, especially during the summer holidays where the days used to be laced in a blur of endless eating, drinking and sleeping.
I had decided to make chocolate cake that day. My friends were(and still are) special and I was in a mood to soak in some compliments from them on my baking début.
One swift move and the apron was on. I opened a cook book which had pages that looked so delectable that I wanted to start licking the pages.Thanks to the concept of 2D and 3D , no such calamity befell the recipe book, which lay glistening with all the glory of the beautiful dishes which people often got tempted to lick off from.
As all recipes go, this one also had a (rather long) list of ingredients. I started collecting all of them, scurrying into the storage room next to the kitchen ever so often.
Do you recall the last baking show that you watched? Does it resemble anything that you do in the kitchen in real life?
The answer for me is no.
Baking shows make it look effortless and beautiful, with transparent bowls and everything neatly arranged before the camera starts. They don’t show a teenager darting off to different corners of the kitchen and store room using curse words that she has recently learned if she is unable to find the ingredients. No, those women are the power ladies(or teens).
After gathering all the ingredients and instructing everyone to stay out of the kitchen, I started preparing the dough and mixing the ingredients. Portions were carefully measured and the flour was washed off from the hands ever so often. Everything was perfect. My friends would be home in around an hour and the cake would be ready by then, shining in all its glory. After using all my muscular power to mix the dough properly, I carefully emptied out the contents into a baking tray brushed with butter so that the cake would not stick to the tray.
Note: I did not taste the batter.
As I often do, as soon as the batter was popped inside the oven, I started staring at the dough, almost pressurising it to rise. It did ultimately rise, flaunting its spongy golden brown fluffy texture. I was mighty pleased and was mentally preparing for an acceptance speech. My heart started beating faster as the time to take out the cake from the oven approached. I was gleeful, to say the least.
After what seemed like an eternity, the oven went ‘ting’. ‘Ting’ is always a sign of completion, a sound of achievement. But it is often accompanied by goofititis( coined by me- fear of goofing up). I picked up a fork and smoothened out the cake, leaving behind some crumbs for me to taste.
The cake crumbs went into the mouth. Even today, I recall everything from picking up the crumbs to putting it into my mouth in slow motion. That was where the illusion of having baked a perfect cake was shattered, and that tiny moment determined whether I was a good teenage baker or not.
“Aargh.” I shouted, blinking my eyes quickly as if to make sure that I had tasted the cake properly.
My mom who was just outside the kitchen came rushing in, realising that the earlier rule of no one inhibiting the kitchen but me could be broken.
“What happened?” she said.
“The cake.” I said.
“What about it?” she said.
“It is salty.” I said.
“Are you sure?” she said.
“Yes.” I said, now snorting like a pig.
She could not taste the cake because there were eggs in it and she is a vegetarian. But this was an acute baker goof up. How did the tv shows get it so right, I thought, my face turning a little green due to jealousy and due to the contents of the cake.
My logical brain ( which I think I possessed back then) came into action, trying to make sense of the situation. I looked at the recipe again. Did they intend us to make salty cake? You never know what trends pick up and suddenly you are the uncool one not knowing that salty cakes are being eaten all over the world. The ingredients however did not reflect anything of that manner. It was meant to be a boring old sweet cake.
What in there could I have goofed up?
Of course, I had put in salt. But what had I not put in? The only two contents that were white were flour, rice flour and sugar. I knew what sugar looked like – grainy. I was specifically given the jar for the all purpose flour from the storage room by our cook. The only thing that I hadn’t seen before was rice flour. I remember having opened the cabinet in front and picking out the first white thing I saw thinking it to be rice flour.
“Mom. Where is the rice flour?” I asked.
She went to another cabinet and showed me a jar. My worst fears that had culminated in that 10 minutes had come true. Instead of a cup of rice flour, I had used a cup of salt. My friends were to arrive in half an hour. I tearfully threw this cake into the dustbin, with a sense of valour rising up in me.
At least I know what rice flour looks like, I thought, my head held up high. (If you wish, you can imagine some motivational song playing in the background to blend in with the sense of valour that had risen in me.)
I took in a deep breath and some tea and started again. My friends thankfully(and predictably) arrived late. I had a cake ready for them by the time they came. Needless to say, the cake’s name was fancier than the actual cake. But at least it was not salty.
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