Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Let them eat cake

The two older daughters have always been interested in baking. However, I have been reluctant to indulge them since usually I am the one who has to clean up the resulting mess. Just how does every mixing bowl, measuring spoon, and rubber scraper in the house get dirty in creating one little cake? But feeling the weight of not giving them enough experience in the kitchen, I decided that 2008 would be different. Anyway, what does cleaning a few dishes matter in the full spectrum of life, especially when experiencing the creative process in the kitchen - and spending quality time with my daughters - is what is at stake? So on Sunday evening when they got the baking itch, I let them scratch it. And scratch it. And scratch it. The result was surprisingly delicious, but not at first.

True to her artistic inclinations, the 12 year old had a vision of what she wanted to create and sought out a recipe to match that vision: a two layer lemon cake - made from scratch. Only her version would be iced with white icing and topped with candy sprinkles. I was fairly confident that she could follow the recipe on her own (for heaven sakes - the 12 year old and the 9 year old have baked soft pretzels from scratch six or seven times over the past year all by themselves). So I helped her gather the necessary ingredients, and then I left her on her own.

As I casually went in and out of the kitchen over the course of the next hour, she appeared to confidently have everything under control - careful measuring, adding the eggs one at a time, softening the butter, etc. But her first taste test revealed that - possibly - there was a slight problem. "Hmm, it's a little salty, Mom." A finicky palate? As I went in for the taste, I wondered if we could save the batter by adding a little more sugar to counter a slight saltiness. The batter tasted horrible! Like home-made playdough salty. Like licking the rim of a margarita glass salty.

"Uh, just how much salt did you put in here?"

"I put in what the recipe said to, Mom!"

"Well, how much was that? Come over here and show me."

Annoyed, KC pointed at the ingredients list on the page and quipped, "Right here - 1/4 cup."

"One fourth cup! Try "teaspoon." TEASPOON. Here's a little tip," I suggested, "there isn't any edible baked good where the recipe will require you to add more than a half of a teaspoon of salt."

"Oops. Sorry mom. I must have looked at flour measurement when I added the salt."

I softened my facial response and wondered if it would be a blow to her esteem if I ran and stuck my mouth under the faucet of the kitchen sink in order to get the lingering icky taste of the batter out of my mouth. Instead, I casually suggested that she start over as I walked over to the trash can and scooped the salty batter into the trash.

"It's okay, honey," I encouraged. "We make mistakes and we learn." All the while, we laughed hysterically about her mistake.

Nevertheless, for "take-two" I decided to hang out in the kitchen and watch a little more closely. At least until after she measured the dry ingredients.

And this time around, the batter passed the taste test fantastically.

Afterward, the nine year old and I baked brownies - from a mix. Although I did give her liberty in creating her own frosting concoction. Which also tasted fantastic.

In the end, I told KC that I was proud of her for making her cake on her own, but I was more proud that she did not give up after the first attempt did not turn out as expected.

The sink was full and overflowing with dishes at the end of the day. I happily washed them too.

1 comment:

Ch@ndy said...

I've given AJ pretty liberal run of the kitchen now that she has taken cooking at school. Wow, am I thankful for that class. The coolest thing being that the teacher taught them how to read and follow a recipe...I think she flunked the cleanup part of the class.