My British Muse and the Foolproof Fruitcake

By: Jeremy Keith

This week I took on a challenge that in the past I have only dreamed about. It took courage, fortitude, preparation and all the self-confidence I could muster, but I did it— yes, I baked a cake! I am not talking a Betty Crocker mix here. Mind you, I am not making fun of Betty Crocker because in the kitchen, she is my best friend. No, I am talking about a scratch cake.

Yes, I went to the grocery store and searched that mysterious aisle where they keep all those baking supplies. I do not normally head down that aisle because that is where all the really good housewives hang out. This is an intimidating crew. They know the difference between self-rising flour and the regular crap and they know things like how to use sifters and how to separate eggs. The first time a recipe told me to separate eggs; I took the eggs, divided them up, and put them on opposite ends of the kitchen counter. When my mom came in the kitchen and asked what I was doing, and I told her, she said I had to take home economics in school next semester.

Anyway, this desire to bake is because of my Twitter friend, Andy, who hails from Great Britain. Last week he was telling me how he likes to bake, and I was entertaining him with the horror stories that describe my baking experiences throughout my life. He had a recipe for a fruitcake that he said was foolproof. Now, many people have tried to give me foolproof recipes before. Some of these recipes do not even require baking, but guess what? They are not foolproof. They can be ruined.

After much encouragement and a lot of double daring from Andy, I decided to try out his recipe. Now, I know that we in the States and the British speak the same language, but when I first saw Andy’s measurements in the recipe, I got scared. It was in the metric system. In a panic, I told Andy that I couldn’t do this baking project, as it required more scientific knowledge than I possessed, but being the gentleman that Andy is, he offered to convert the metric measures to the backwards United States measurements, so that I could bake this cake.

I gave Andy the exact day and time I would start this project. Despite the six-hour time difference, he stayed on Twitter to encourage me through the process. I even took out my apron for the occasion. I know—an apron. I asked for one for Christmas three years ago because I thought it would inspire me. Until the cake-baking day, it had only managed to inspire the inside of my pantry.

I pre-heated the oven. Well, first, I had to read the oven book on how to do that, but I did it. Then, I meticulously put together all the ingredients that Andy emailed me. He was true to his word. The recipe itself was not that complicated. I didn’t have to worry about folding stuff in or creaming anything. All I had to do was mix. When I finished combining all the ingredients, I popped my batter into the oven and waited.

I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the responsibility for the cake’s outcome now fell squarely upon my oven’s shoulders. I set the timer (again, I referenced the owner’s manual) and dashed to my laptop to tell my friend across the pond that everything seemed fine.

“See, I told you that you could do this!” he exclaimed. “Now, you have to watch the cake because it will rise. Do you have a steel or glass oven door?”

Why was he asking about the integrity of my oven door? A momentary panic set in.

“Is it going to rise so much that my oven door explodes?” I inquired.

“NOOOOOO!” He yelled in all caps! “Just watch that it doesn’t get out of hand.”

“Well, that is up to the oven now, isn’t it?”

So, I planted a chair near the oven and watched. Luckily, the chair was next to the brandy that sat on the counter, so I treated myself to a taste or two of that as well. I think all bakers should have brandy while they are waiting for their creations to cook. Anyway, ninety minutes later, my cake was done. I took it out of the oven, put it on a cooling rack, and stared at it. I was going to take a picture, but I couldn’t find my camera. Besides, it looked so good that I decided to take a little bite. Andy was right, I didn’t screw this up. The cake tasted really good. I should never have doubted Andy because the man does come from the country that brought us scones, and if you can bake scones, you are tops in my baking book.

When my husband came home that night, he asked, “What is that smell?”

“Do you mean that in a good way or did-one-of-the-dogs-have-an-accident-kind-of-way?” I asked back.

“No, a good way! Have you been baking?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes, I baked—a cake!”

“No fires, smoke, or other damage? The dogs are fine?”

“Smart ass! Everyone is fine. Taste this!”

Well, he was hesitant, and I don’t blame him because in the past eating my baked goods have come with inherent risks that ranged from spoiled taste buds to intestinal attacks of the worst kind. But being the sport he is, he took a sample and before I knew it that cake was almost completely gone.

Yes, my cake was a success on so many levels, and I told that to my British baking coach. He was happy for me, and I was proud. Will I bake a lot more in the future? Nah, this fruitcake was my Mt. Everest. However, this experience did give me the confidence to take on new challenges. Next time, I plan to go cave spelunking. Yeah, that’s probably less dangerous.

 

(This piece is about a year old. We never posted it on HO before. My British Muse could not find it in cyberspace as the original site no longer exists, so we resurrected it so he could have it in his blog. Hope you enjoy!)  

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7 thoughts on “My British Muse and the Foolproof Fruitcake”

  1. Way to go, Donna! It was nice that he converted the metric measurements for you. Two of the most confusing things ever to exist are the metric system and Dewey Decimal System.

  2. Congratulations!

    Baking is a deep mystery that only a privileged few can decipher, and that only after great suffering, some of it on the part of whoever has to eat the results.

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