Saturday, March 26, 2011

Slice of Life: Happy Birthday Helen - March 26th

My Mom turned 87 on the 19th of March, still in the hospital, creeping ever so slowly towards death. We decided to have a small celebration, considering that we thought she wasn't going be here by this point. My Mom was a great cook before she decided to hang up those apron strings, "I'm too old", but her cakes were second to none. In light of many bedside conversations about the "old" days when she baked cakes for church functions and her lady prayer partners, she spoke of her Springtime Chiffon Cake as being one of her favourite cakes, and it certainly is one of mine. So I dragged out my handy dandy Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and made her the cake, a light, 3-tiered lemony concoction, filled with lemon curd and frosted with an ethereal mixture of whipped cream and some more lemon curd, and a blanket of shredded coconut. It is a divine cake. My first mistake was in the choice of baking pans. It needs to be baked in an ungreased angel pan, which I didn't have. I have a non-stick pan, which if you grease, then flour, gives the eggy batter something to cling to. However, try to invert that after baking so that you keep the height, and you will have a disaster. So I cooled the thing in the pan, which resulted in a flattened cake with a waist line where it collapsed. Undaunted, I made the lemon curd, and of course for whatever reason, I could not find the instructions. I remembered the "decrease" by 1/2" pertaining to water, so that's what I did, decreased the water from 2 cups to 1 cup, and after it was cool and congealed, found the recipe, which said to decrease the water by 1/2 cup. Out with the boiling water, and the hand blender, but then I had a runnier curd that wouldn't firm up the same way as if I had added the correct amount of water in the first place. When I folded the required amount into the whipped cream, it was a bit soft, but no matter. I filled, frosted, and coconut-ed the cake, and other than being a a bit vertically challenged, it looked beautiful. The cream icing sagged a wee bit, but it nicely settled into the waist, where the cake would settle on me. I took it and a bottle of the wine my Mom has been drinking for years, unopened, from her fridge, to the hospital. I figured we really needed to celebrate. We even had an extra guest, the lady in the bed next door, on the other side of the curtain. She was no bother, really. She was dead.
After a swig of the Banrock Station non-oaked Chardonnay, my Mom decided it wasn't her wine. I showed her the bottle, of course partook of it myself, but, "I don't care what it says on the bottle, it's not my wine." Okay. Then for the cake. "This isn't like my cake." Well, anything of hers that I have ever tried to make is never 100% like hers. For one thing, she frequently tweaked recipes, and would neglect, not on purpose, to tell me about the tweaks. However, being a veteran cake baker, I knew her changes to this one. So, wanting to hear what I hadn't done, I asked.
"It's not chocolate."
And so the Hurricane blows on, sometimes a Category 5, other times just a tropical storm. Bless her little 87 year old heart.

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