When I was a kid....
Every year, about a month before my birthday, I started my research. I poured over the book....the book...Supercookery!, 1976 edition for hours at a time. Nearly every recipe had a picture. From bread to bunt cake, all in full, four-color glory, so perfectly rendered my teeth would ache from the anticipation of the sugar rush.
I delineated my favorites with strips of notebook paper and whittled away at the choices, making pro/con lists, until I could narrow it down. Down to one, splendiferous cake that embodied everything it meant to turn 9...10...11...12......
One year it was a Bûche de Noël; another, a maple-nut tower; one required a chocolate collar of alternating white and dark stripes. Always the most decadent, complicated one I could find. And always—always—my mom accepted the challenge with a smile.
It’s only now, a decade or two later, that I’ve come to realize her smile was probably closer to a grimace.
My love of baking (or rather, having things baked for me) began in those early years watching my mom wrestle with Génoise, but it evolved over time to an actual love of the labor. (Coincidentally or not, it also happened around the time my mom declared herself done with the hobby.)
For me, baking has become something more than dessert. It's restful and rewarding; therapy that ends with a big slab of cake. I’ve baked my way through break-ups, job searches and wedding-planning woes. I’ve experimented on friends, family and co-workers. I’ve made wedding cakes for dear friends with fear in my heart and the same smile plastered to my face that my mom used to wear. I’ve even taken and subsequently interned for a professional pastry course.
To what end?
I don’t know yet. I think that’s part of why I’m writing this blog with a third of the content devoted to the combination of eggs, sugar and flour—to figure out where this passion will ultimately fit into my life.
But until I come to some conclusion, I’ll be content making the people I love full and happy. A fine goal, I believe.