Grim Determination

12 Apr
Up to my knees ‘n’ knuckles in dirt, braving grubs, worms, beetles, and creepy-crawlies of every description, I spent the last several days starting brave little seeds and preparing garden beds. It’s Forget Every Lesson I Ever Learned About Gardening Projects Week, also known as Spring Break. My cuticles are stained a lovely shade of topsoil brown, my body is sore, and on top of everything else, I decided to celebrate having successfully planted various invasive plant species by baking a cake. 

Not just any cake, either. I wanted a sheet cake, nice and thin, with lemon filling between fluffy layers I didn’t have to slice: an easy, light and refreshing lemon treat.

It started well enough with a recipe from my vegan cupcake book. I curdled the milk, mixed the agave syrup and vanilla, salt and… where’s the flour? Fuck. I used the last of it making cupcakes last week, and being the brilliant strategist I am, decided that we could go without processed grains for a while. (Imagine here the crashing sound of that notion being chucked right out the window.) There was some bread flour in the pantry so I used that instead. I knew the cake would be tougher because of it, but I firmly believed that delicious lemon filling would distract from the cake even if turned out to be a mass of stale, soggy fortune-cookie flavored foam.

Turns out that a recipe for twelve cupcakes doesn’t make enough batter to fill a sheet pan.

Generations of Catholic matrons before me have perfected an expression of such grim determination that grown men hide and children weep when they gaze upon it. It signals imminent shoe-throwing, pot-slamming, chore-stacking wrath, and anyone who values their skin or their leisure time learns quickly that the only recourse is to dive into a bunker and wait until the storm has passed. This is my legacy; their blood is my blood, and I can tell you this is the very face I wore as I spread that cake batter out in the tray. As Cinderella’s stepsister once said, “I’ll make it fit.” It may have had the thickness and texture of shoe leather, but that damn cake fit the pan.

Have you ever used moleskin? About 1/16th of an inch thick, made of compressed bandaids and pencil erasers? Imagine a whole cake made of this. On the plus side, it only took ten minutes to bake.

It’s all right, I thought to myself. The filling will save this cake.

Stubborn–flippant even–I googled “lemon filling.” The first recipe had excellent reviews and called for a cup and a half of butter. I had none. Ooookay. Martha. Good ol’ Martha, don’t let me down, okay? I need this to work and I have no butter. Deliver unto me thy recipe of divine I-don’t-need-any-fricking-butter.

Two tablespoons of butter, Martha said. That’s less than six tablespoons, and coconut oil is exactly like butter anyway, right? Only it’s not. Whatever. Close enough. I measured out the lemon juice and cornstarch, then found myself short a cup of sugar. Grim Determination returned. Powdered sugar is just sugar blended with cornstarch, I reasoned, so I dumped in a bunch of that. This will totally work, I thought, my face twisted into a rictus of denial.

Somewhere deep in my psyche, Reasonable Voice repeated its calm, soothing mantra of “you know, this partially-finished cake will keep in the fridge until tomorrow when you can go buy the ingredients you need,” while Grim Determination crammed a pillow over its face shouting “CAKE! CAKE NOW! CAAAKE YOU FUCKING CUNTNINNY BITCH CAAAAAKE.” 

While the “filling” heated, I stripped three eggs of their yolks and whisked them into my pan, obediently set to medium-low. They promptly turned into scrambled eggs. At this point my husband paused his movie to ask if I was okay, careful to stay well out of stabbing range. “I’m fucking peachy,” I said as I smashed the filling through a sieve. Ten minutes later, I was still whisking the lemon abomination over low heat, waiting for a thickening that would never come.

Lessons learned: Do not cave to the whisper that says “it’s only a few pansies and basil, how bad could it be to plant a few pots this year.” Baking after midnight is a very bad idea. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t play substitution games with your food unless you’re sure it’s a good idea. Cut your losses before your failure eclipses the sun.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, anyone want some cake?


13 Responses to “Grim Determination”

  1. louhish April 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    I’m more of a night-owl, so baking after midnight is fine. What isn’t fine, is baking first thing when I wake up- TWICE I’ve coated the kitchen in batter because the blender needs to be firmly seated. It’s not quick and easy when you’re scraping batter off of surfaces and deciding whether they were clean enough pre-batter-coating to dump that spoonful of batter in a muffin tin.

    Not to mention the frying pan incident that led to blackened cabinets. I’m just no good in the kitchen till I’ve had coffee.

    • Bika April 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      Oh no! I feel your pain, I once forgot to put the lid on a blender full of liquefied basil. Green on white cabinets was super-fun.

      Also I kinda want to know what happened with the whole frying pan thing.

  2. Caulle April 13, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    You are far more determined than I. I’d be in the car off to buy what I needed so fast!

    • Bika April 13, 2011 at 7:38 am #

      The combination of impatience and limited 24-hour groceries makes for some really terrible impulse-bakes. xD

  3. Tami April 13, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    That was hilarious.

    Also, my mental image of you is now that of a mogwai.

    “Do not feed after midnight”

    • Bika April 13, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      MOGWAI! He was one of my favorites, I even had a little mogwai action figure thing. Also I look exactly like one IRL.

      Thanks Tami!

      • Tami April 13, 2011 at 7:57 am #

        I KNEW IT!

        *chases after you with a water balloon*

      • Bika April 13, 2011 at 8:28 am #

        You wouldn’t hit a girl wearing glasses, would you? :<

  4. Mom April 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    I belive I just pooped my pants….

    • Bika April 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      Was it the cake?

  5. Verdus April 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Bika: “Our failure will blot out the sun!”
    Me: “Then we will LOL in the shade.”

    • Bika April 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      Yesss. We’ll have margaritas. No cake.


  1. Grim Determination « Bika Central - April 13, 2011

    […] I’ve got another post up at Seven Deadly Divas. It’s full of homemade crazy, cakes, and cussing–sorry, my inner dialogue (no, you […]

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