On Christmas Eve, I tossed a hot, bubbling berry pie from Marie Callender all over my kitchen floor. The Hubs and I literally stood over it in a moment of silence before we sprang into action to clean up the boiling goo before one of the three cats singed off their bean toes.
And you’d think that after all the cooking for Christmas that I’d give it a rest. But, somehow, one must continue to eat, even if one is sick of cooking.
Or no good at it.
You’d also think a pre-made angel food cake wouldn’t cost six bucks. I mean, I already threw an eight-dollar pie on the floor. I’m not spending six on one, even if it means fading visions of the fresh strawberries I was going to put on it.
But then I found an angel food cake mix. On sale for a buck.
Betty Crocker, even.
And the front of the box said, and I quote, “Just Add Water!” (With the exclamation point and everything.)
Alright, Betty. We’ll give this a try a long as water is all it will take to satisfy my sweet tooth. And I saved five bucks, I did, I did.
So, I pull out my round pan that I only use at Christmas when I make pull-apart monkey bread (I did that job okay, but it’s been years of practice to get it right) and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Like you’re supposed to.
I grab my handy-dandy measuring cup and my mixing bowl.
Here we go.
Step 1: Rearrange the entire configuration of your oven so the cake will set as close to the bottom heating element as possible.
Well, that’s a step I’d not seen before. But, okay, Betty. Oven racks all over the place… The cats think we’re moving.
Step 2: Preheat to 325. Do not grease the pan.
Oops. Apologies, Miss Betty. I should’ve read through this first. Wash the Bundt pan.
Step 3: Beat the mix and water in an extra-large glass or metal bowl.
I look at my bowl. It’s not glass. It’s not metal. And it’s not extra-large. It’ll surely be okay, even though there’s a little nudge from my mind's dark, dusty recesses where I stored some of my chemistry classes… I bet the make of the bowl is important, but I don’t have what I don’t have.
Now let me tell you, if the Betty Crocker company went to the trouble to tell you to use an extra-large bowl, use it. That mix frothed up like it had rabies. Then it continued to rise. But alas, my plastic medium-ish large bowl seemed to work fine. Don’t know what the glass/metal thing had to do with it. They should give explanations on this stuff. Teach a fool a thing or two. Tell me WHY.
They should also explain that raw angel food cake batter DOES NOT taste the same as regular cake batter. Fun Tip: Skip licking the beaters…
Step 4: Pour into the ungreased pan you just washed because you greased it when you weren’t supposed to.
Step 5: Measure your pan. It can’t be smaller than 10x4.
That would’ve been nice to know right up front. Like on FRONT of the box, Betty.
Step 6: Bake until the top cracks and browns, is not sticky and do NOT UNDERBAKE. (Literally all caps on the box, people.) I feel good about this step. I tend to crisp and burn everything. Underbaking is not my problem.
Step 7: (Here, it’s my own steps until #14, when we get back to what Betty said to do). Set the timer and grab lunch. Forget your drink, return to the kitchen five minutes later for it and turn on the oven light.
Step 8: Freak out and ask two friends on opposite ends of the globe if my angel food cake is going to blow up. You know that scene in Ghostbusters when the Stay Puft marshmallow guy did his thing? Yeah… that was happening in my oven. The batter grew before my eyes, and I watched for it to sprout limbs and ears and noses and such.
I paced a little bit until France Friend says, “It looks good.” So I relaxed. She knows what she’s doing.
Indiana Friend knows, too, but nothing from her yet.
Step 9: Cue Stella to begin wailing the first verse of “We’re All Gonna Die!” in deep, sorrowful meows. Actual fire. In the oven. The cat knew it before I did. (Poor thing has the opportunity to sing this tune at least once a month… She’s looking into having her adoption revoked.)
Step 10: Send photographic proof to France Friend that it really did blow up.
Indiana Friend finally chimes in with sad emoji and the too-late advice: “pan’s too small.”
Nooo… You don’t say?
Right here, I want to say I did not measure my pan back in Step 5 because I’d ALREADY PUT THE BATTER IN. Besides, the BACK of the box said tube pan or two loaf pans. I only have one loaf pan, and that frothing batter didn’t look like it wanted to wait to be baked. It was becoming sentient at that point and demanded heat.
But, I suppose, if the Betty Crocker Company took the time to write the pan size right there in step whatever, that you should probably measure your equipment. My bad.
I still think something like this should be up there on the FRONT with the “Just Add Water!” remark, but hey.
Step 11: Turn on the vent and crack some windows. Cue Stella to start her second verse, where she sings that Mom should crack windows and open vents long before she turns on the stove. This verse is longer and louder than the first, so add extra time for this step and take some Tylenol.
Step 12: Finish your lunch because you’ll need the energy to clean the ENTIRE oven later. The Marie Callender method is much easier. Step One: Pie into the oven; Step Two: Pie on the floor.
Step 13: Remove the pan from the oven and get your oven mitts all messed up from the overflow.
Step 14 (Back to Betty’s suggestions): Immediately turn pan upside down onto a glass bottle to cool.
See, Betty. I don’t have a glass bottle. All of mine are plastic. I don’t have a metal bottle, either. This is yet another piece of equipment that should’ve been listed on the FRONT. Along with a difficulty level of 5/5 for fools like me who don’t kitchen well. Just add water my foot. That’s like telling a writer struggling with their manuscript to “Just Add Words!”
Step 15: Spend way too much time trying to create a contraption to allow my mutilated angel food cake to cool upside down. Mumble under breath that it’s easier to write novels than bake a cake. Upside down on a glass bottle… what a precious snowflake.
Step 16: Turn off the vent, close the windows, and toss Stella a turkey-flavored Temptation for her agony as she finishes the third verse of “We’re All Gonna Die” where, alas, the family lives, but an ominous note at the end says this will all happen again next week. Dig into the Christmas candy for a white chocolate Reese’s for my own agony, because I won’t likely be eating cake.
The cake—if you can call it that—is now cooling, hanging upside down from a spatula anchored into my Yeti thermos. There’s nothing at all angelic about it. It’s the food version of “What Not To Wear.”
Step 17: Glance at the box. The very last direction says to cut with a serrated knife using a sawing motion or use an electric knife.
Hey, Betty? Don’t tell me how to cut my cake, k?
You don’t see Marie getting all pushy about her pies, do you?
It’s my cake. I’ll cut it how I want.
Come to think of it, Betty, I may not even cut it at all.
I may just sit with it in the middle of the kitchen floor right there where I dumped the berry pie a few weeks ago and eat it with my fingers. Even if I did have a white chocolate Reese’s already. Don’t judge…
I spent a whole dollar on it, after all. It’s mine.
And I don’t have time to search for a serrated knife, anyway. I have novels to write—which from start to finish take fewer steps than Crocker’s cake mixes.
And my books don’t make my cat cry, Betty.
I don’t care if I did save five bucks…
Never again, Betty. Never again.